Attracting the birds up on the hill

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As SUMMER blends seamlessly into autumn, the countryside takes on a whole new face and if the weather is kind, a simple walk can be filled with interest and beauty.

Selkirk Hill is at the opposite end of town for it to be my first choice of walk, but my infrequent visits are set to increase following a recent early morning stroll.

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In late August and September the glorious colour of the heather tends to dominate, but in between the purple patches, other late summer flowers are vying for attention. Huge areas of black knapweed with their deep pink brush-like flower heads, were interspersed with blues and purples of harebells and devil’s bit scabious.

Here and there, the whites of yarrow, sneezewort and eyebright stood out against the autumnal browns of the withering grasses.

Red fruit abounded from the laden, introduced apple trees to the wild rosehips, haws and rowans. Much of this bountiful harvest had attracted large numbers of birds, which were difficult to see in the still leafy foliage, but I had a cunning plan to see what was there. I used the birdwatcher’s trick of “pishing”. This simply entails forcing air through the teeth to make a loud hissing noise, which seems to fool birds into thinking it is some sort of distress call which young birds often make. Sure enough, within seconds I was closely examined by a group of long tailed tits, a coal tit, two goldcrests, a chaffinch, a nuthatch, two willow warblers and a blue tit.

The old skating pond provided some more wild flowers in bloom including water mint and greater spearwort which is tall buttercup-like flower. Beside the path near the pond, I paused to take some flower close-up pictures when I noticed a beady eye watching me intently from deep within the grass. A huge frog was trying to become invisible and almost succeeded, but I did manage a picture before it bounded off for the safety of the water.

Towards the end of the walk, I was approaching the car park, when I noticed a lovely piece of fungi growing in the grass by the footpath. It was about six inches high with a shiny orange cap about four inches across. The stem was white, flecked with dark brown scales. It had no gills under the cap but a spongy texture, which immediately identified it as one of the bolete family.

A quick look round at the immediate vicinity and the proximity of some birch trees, confirmed its identity as the Orange Birch Bolete. A nice end to a wonderful walk.