Sunny Sunday stroll reaps rewards

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Last weekend couldn’t have been more contrasting in weather conditions.

On Saturday a dreary walk through Bowhill woodlands in the mist and rain produced virtually no birds, a couple of grey squirrels and a fleeting glimpse of a roe deer as it disappeared into the murk. With only dripping hair and squelching feet to show for a three-hour outing, it was a bit of a let down.

On Sunday however, the skies cleared and it was lovely and mild. Conditions underfoot were still on the boggy side, so Tweedbank beckoned with its network of tarmac footpaths – perfect for a Sunday stroll.

It was strange to think while walking along the path laid on top of the old Waverley line that it would soon be dug up and reinstated to its original use as a railway. I’m sure it will be greatly missed by the many cyclists and dog walkers encountered, but that’s progress.

Even before reaching the sandstone bridge linking Tweedbank and Galashiels, I had seen more species of birds in the adjacent shrubs and trees than the entire walk the previous day. There were goldfinches, bullfinches, goldcrests, long-tailed tits and many more. At the bridge, I cut down to the river to join the way-marked path for a short distance, as far as Lowood Nursery. At the river a lone heron stood vigil at the water’s edge, several goosanders dived for fish, while mallards dabbled in the calmer eddies near the banks.

While walking through the small settlement around the nursery, I paused to look at some ivy growing up a roadside wall. It was in flower and clearly demonstrated just how valuable a plant it is for wildlife, particularly at this time of year.

It was swarming with insects, attracted to the pollen produced on the easily overlooked green flower heads. A late small tortoiseshell butterfly was joining in, but it was the hundreds of hoverflies which were to the fore.

There were several species, some bee-like and others waspish and I spent some time watching and trying to photograph them. One particularly attractive one which I managed to snap was later identified as Episyrphus balteatus, pictured above.

Sometimes called the Marmalade Hoverfly, each year in the UK their numbers are greatly boosted by migrant flies from further south – they sometimes arrive in exceptional numbers, causing alarming but harmless swarms in some places.

The autumn colours around Lowood were absolutely stunning and provided a lovely backdrop to a most enjoyable outing.