Sunday, 21 April 2019

BTO Breeding Bird Survey hill count above Garelochhead, 20th April 2019

transect 1:
meadow pipit 5
skylark 3
raven 3

transect 2:
meadow pipit 10
skylark 4
crow 2
buzzard 1

red deer
fox signs
lots of sheep



After the count, walking to the highest summit Beinn Chaorach 713m.  Stop in the hollow between Beinn Tharsuinn and Beinn Chaorach. Lie on my back. Weak, tired, head on my rucksack, valley before me as a vast mountain punch-bowl. Dark Fairtrade chocolate, nuts, an apple, oatcakes, coffee. 

11am, text update to Jennifer then close my eyes, see what happens, thinking of Nan Shepherd and Robert Macfarlane and their naps in the hills. Wake up, look at watch, 11.10. Start to write, then I'll sketch. Why does starting writing almost always feel easier than starting sketching?

No sign of ticks this time but keep trousers tucked to socks anyway, and t-shirt to trousers, and despite the heat. Brittle dry underfoot, fissured peat.

No sound of humans except now and again the rumble of a plane. 

A few small dark black flies and some larger with long abdomens and eyes glittering black, legs and mouthpiece yellow, orange red touches on leg segments closest to body, especially hindmost legs. Long antennae. Perches (do flies perch? Is it a fly?) on my writing hand, pause writing, don't damage those legs.

Skylarks around and now one rising in song flight right behind me. Meadow pipits peeping calls, close and far, a parachute song flight.

Drone and buzz of bumblebees. I've seen quite a lot up here. The five or six I've got close to have all been white-tailed. Rarely I see white-tailed and often when looking at buff-tailed think, "is that a white-tailed?" Seeing these today I realise that their tails really are clean white, not buff, their two yellow bands really are cool bright yellow, not gingery like buff-tailed.

Flying towards me, a dark thing with orange. Closer... a cockchafer? Closer... close... a ladybird! Passes a foot from my nose. Red wing cases raised and open. Where has it been? Where is it going?

Now sketch.



1 comment:

  1. I think that your white tailed bumblebees will probably be queens of either Bombus lucorum or Bombus cryptarum. So far this year I have found a dead B lucorum (Hopes Valley on Saturday) and seen a couple of white tailed queens at Saughton Park. Also white tailed queens in the hills where they outnumber buff tailed queens. No B monticola or B jonellus?