Birds and a dog

Today we borrowed a black labrador dog from some friends who wanted a day out without him. Great. 'Kaylah Baig' (Gaelic / phonetic) is his name; 'Best Mate' in English. We struck off into the hills with him for our mid-day walk. He carried a stick all the way there and back - dropping it at our feet now and again so we could throw it into the tangle for him to retrieve - a born gundog.

Now and again it's good to get away from all signs of humanity and you don't have to go far from here to do so. We skirted a lowland field full of ewes on the way up. A few of them had delivered their lambs and looked might proud about it, perhaps even pleased to be relived of their burdens.

Well off the beaten track, we sat on a rock overlooking a loch for our soup (me), coffee (she) and sandwiches. The English name for this loch is 'gooseneck', for obvious reasons; think of a letter 8 with the top loop much smaller than the bottom one and squeezed together. Last year, from a different vantage point, we watched a pair of black throated divers teaching their three off-spring to fly. We supposed they had been born on a tiny islet out there. We're very lucky with divers. Black throated, red throated and great northern divers are all very rare but are all here. Clearly this pair wanted their progeny to take wing, to follow them down to the black throated divers' natural habitat when they're not breeding, which is mother sea. Time and again one or the other of the babes would start off in a flurry of white water, pedalling frantically for up to a couple of hundred metres to gain speed enough to get him or herself airborn. Time and again nothing doing. Then one managed it. You could almost feel its surprise and could certainly see its initial instability before crach landing back on the water.

On the way back from the hill, re-passing the sheep and lambs I said, "Look there at that at that buzzard!" But it was no buzzard. It was a beautiful golden eagle, the great bird swooping low over the field presumably hoping for an easy meal. This was a first year, as proven by its white underwing patches. Although distance lends nothing to apparent size you can always tell an eagle from a buzzard by its much slower wing beat and the relative smallness of its head.

I don't suppose our delight in the local wildlife will ever diminish. Hope not.

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