I’m just back from a week on Arran and I’m pleased to report that the snow has gone and the power is back on.
However, the weather was just as dismal as it has been here, with one gloriously sunny day, three unremittingly wet ones and the rest were cold and windy.
Undeterred, I did get out to do some “wildlifing”.
I was trying to beat my bird tally of 56 from my previous visit at the same time last year, but failed by five.
I blamed the weather, but I did manage a couple of good ones which I missed out on before, namely whinchat and tree pipit, both of which I got on the same walk near my base at Lochranza.
Every morning I was awakened by the call of a cuckoo from the hill behind the cottage and they seemed to be pretty well established in most of the island’s glens.
Last week I asked for readers to e-mail me with details of any cuckoos heard here in the Borders, to try and establish their distribution, after many years of decline. Early results look promising, with some readers having heard calling birds from areas where they have recently been absent. Keep your records coming in of the location and date of any birds heard calling to email@example.com
Meanwhile back on Arran, I saw four of Scotland’s “big six” animals and one in particular left me less than impressed and really quite angry. Seals I find quite boring to watch and ticked them off easily in the bay in front of the cottage, and cute as they are, the local red squirrels came in droves to feed on peanuts in the cottage garden, so they proved to be not much of a challenge.
Also in the bay near the cottage, I watched an otter for about half an hour as it sat on a rock, surrounded by a heaving mass of floating seaweed, devouring some sort of flatfish.
At the start of the week, the local red deer population had me more fired up, as the hinds paraded nightly through the village and the stags seemed to appear from behind every gorse bush as I explored the surrounding hills. I took loads of pictures and was thoroughly enthralled by them until my last evening. It was dusk and I was taking our aged arthritic collie “Tibbie” out for her final comfort stop of the day, when it happened.
There was a group of hinds by the roadside leading to the castle and as Tib skirted round them, I noticed two of them approach her.
“Photo opportunity,” I thought. I just raised my camera when suddenly the two of them launched into attackmode. In a split second the dog was upended and the deer were pummelling her with their hooves. A nearby tourist, alerted by her frantic yelps came running to help as I chased off the attackers.
Thanks to her thick coat she was relatively unharmed, but absolutely terrified. Not only had they given her a good going over, but they also must have urinated on her, as for the rest of the night she had a bestial stink which was almost unbearable.
The hinds had no calves, so their behaviour was a complete mystery. Even the locals had not heard of such an attack before. Thankfully, she suffered no lasting damage, but in future I will see Bambi in a different light.