Golden Eagles, Hen Harriers and a Peacock

Not new additions to The Chookery, but a selection of the birds seen on one of the Hebridean islands, where work took me today. Catching the ferry involves an early start and this morning I was up at four o’clock and on board the ferry long before dawn. In fact, dawn came only as we sailed into the island itself. One of my visits was to an RSPB reserve where the warden showed me a distant blob through his binoculars which, he assured me, was a golden eagle perched on a distant coastal crag. While there, we also saw a hen harrier quartering the moor as well abundances of small brown jobs. The peacocks were in the road out to the reserve, along with a colourful assortment of chooks of similar types to my own, but a red cockerel of jauntier step and brighter eye than my old boy. It was later on that I got a better view of a golden eagle as it flew up from the moor close to where we were driving.

The weather today was, for Scotland, sunny, in that there was only intermittent rain and cloud and shadows were cast that could be caught by a quick eye. Well, that’s a little unfair; visibility was about forty miles across the sea and the clouds realy only came down on the higher peaks on the islands.

There is a real magic about the islands in the Hebrides. There is a different light, a different sense of space and the people are passionate about their places. The colours are astonishing and unexpected to the newcomer. Beaches are white to golden and the sea takes on an endless palette of metals, sea-greens and blues, particularly with the light beyond the water. Even the bare trees are riots of silvers and reds, contrasting with the russets and golds of the grass and heather. Time did not permit me to stop and photograph as much as I would have wished.

I spent some time talking to the manager of one of the local estates and discovered that we both knew the Quantock Hills in Somerset. The estate keeps a red deer herd and a stag with a good head was visible from the car as I hurtled alonf deserted roads to keep an appointment.

The only downside of a day trip out to the islands is the long day. Some people manage to do some paperwork on the return ferry; all I can do is fall asleep and try to make up for the previous short night.

Took some pleasure in writing and sending postcards from the island to the Queen of the Chooks, family and old colleagues in Somerset. If the Royal Mail gets its act together, the cards could even arrive in the west country tomorrow, going out on this afternoon’s plane to the mainland.

One un-mentioned consequence of the recent storms has been that I have been without FM radio, so bereft of my regular fixes of news on Radio 4 and music on Radio Scotland. The good news today is that the transmitter was back on the air, so I’m writing this accompanied by gaelic folk music from Radio Scotland.

So, what of the chooks and geese? Well, back late and the chooks all tucked up for the night and one small white egg to thank PTC for all his efforts. The geese had finally sussed the broken gate from the paddock and had helped themselves to the feed in the chooks’ pen, so no breakfast for them (the geese) tomorrow. The usual palaver with directing geese back through to their own paddock, but all safely gathered in in the end.

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