Thursday, 26 November 2015

Gazing out

Four fabulous panoramic vistas (yes I have just discovered that button on the camera!) high up in the hills of southern Scotland. I'm sat just watching the clouds, the changing colours of landscape. And the birds too of course - best place in the world to be, when the weather god smiles kindly on ya! Every so often there is a moment when the winds drop, the sun glints out across the valley, and then the magic happens: ravens appear from no-where, calling, she throws out her cry "knuk knuk" to her mate who give a deep "rRAkk" and throws somersault after somersault along the windswept ridgeline; the cries of buzzards wheeling far up the river drifts down to me long before they do, and I am spellbound by the glimpse of a hen harrier hunting silently across the slopes below me; happy days!


Friday, 13 November 2015

More river musings

A mist hung over the valleys as the long-forgotten sun rose yesterday morning. The river had lost its angry look and on the hill above the larches looked golden in the warm sun. For about an hour. And then it all changed and by early evening the trees were wild things lashing about, tugging at their moorings, water poured from the a black sky and the roads were awash. And the rivers once again rage seawards...

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Mystery no more - hedgehogs!

Did you guess right? This month's Mystery Pic was a indeed a hedgehog, a hedgehog mushroom, also known as Pied-de-Mouton! Growing in variety of woodlands, most of my hotspots for them are under mature beech and in early to late autumn, right up to the first frosts. Superb to eat, you can see where they get their name - those soft, downward pointing 'spines' are very distinctive and quite unlike the pores or gills like other fungi, hence their name.

Top tip: let them dry for a few hours on a grill in a warm oven or on an Aga first before cooking, this concentrates the flavours and stops it all running out into the juices

Note: Please do be very careful and only eat fungi you know are safe.
If in doubt, leave wild fungi well alone!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The colours of breathing

In the wild, wild woods there are treasures to be found. I pause to sit with my back against a cool, smooth beech bole, listening to the emptiness all around me. A fistful of leaves drifts down into my lap. Barry Lopez's beautiful metaphor for the breathing of a landscape comes to mind; the forest breathes. We know that. But I feel that it too has a slow, seasonal breathing. Lost in thought I shuffle through piles of crisp beech leaves until I come to a carpet of sweet chestnut and begin to gather handfuls of the cool, serrated leaves, looking for the most perfect ones to use for what I do not know; compelled to touch and gather in an inescapable child-like wonder at the forms and colours on the forest floor; this sycamore leaf was unlike anything I'd ever seen before.

Monday, 9 November 2015

"The river is everywhere"

"The river is everywhere."
" “Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?" That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”  
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha 
The Tarras River is in flood, its peat-stained thundering waters in a great hurry to leave this gathering place. Oozing off the hill from every sphagnum pore, streams scramble down around the foot of each hill and it is here they learn to smash deep mahogany reds into milky tea whites as they rush to to forsake the wild emptiness of the moor.

Mesmerised by the crashing waters I stare into the endless tumbling,  strangely soothed by the myriad variation of wave-forms, patterns and hues. The many tongues of the river babble endlessly, they do so with one voice and with hundreds, I am lost in it all and time becomes irrelevant. 

Mystery pic

Ok, here is this month's Mystery pic - what ya reckon?

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Barnies and beeches

Our efforts from last weekend: another three top-notch, all-weather proof barn owl boxes up and ready for go! Later the farmer phoned to say a barnie had been seen hunting very nearby so fingers crossed for next year. Until then, they will be greatly appreciated for roosting in.

Further down the wood I noticed this tall beech tree with a some curious 'growths' halfway up. Closer inspection revealed what was going on: co-dominant stems have grown up with the classic jutting 'included' bark. This creates a weak union; chuck a very strong wind from the wrong direction and you would expect catastrophic failure at this point, however, it looks pretty good for the time being!

Sunday, 1 November 2015

The midnight turkeys!

Ok, so this is not one of Mathews Midnight Turkeys (a great kids book if you haven't got it!) but this is more than likely who has been feasting in the middle of the night - see previous blog Who has been a-visitin under the cover of darkness - and you'll agree, he is a real beauty! 

Meet Jack aka a jack snipe, the winter visitor and smaller cousin to our resident common snipe. Not only are jack snipe shorter in the bill department and also generally smaller and stockier, also check out their hypnotic bobbing feeding motion HERE and HERE - this is something I really want to see! This pic was taken today a 1st year bird as ID'd from Javier's amazing ID site.