Birds on weather roller-coaster


During the past fortnight, we’ve gone from high summer to mid-winter and back to spring again. What a country we live in!

The early migrants are starting to arrive and one wheatear in particular probably wished it had stayed back in Africa. V.H. of Morebattle sent me a picture of a very bedraggled male which arrived in her garden last week in the middle of a snowstorm and hung around the house for the day, sheltering from the wind and catching insects.

Last Sunday, I decided to visit Spottiswoode Estate near Westruther, which is now a mere shadow of what it used to be. The mansion was demolished in 1939 because of structural faults, but evidence remains of a once more grandiose era, in the ornate field gates, spectacular archways and ornamental lake. The area now is virtually submerged in a sea of sitka spruce but here and there reminders of the past can still be found.

Those of us of more advanced years will probably be familiar with the song Annie Laurie – one of the daughters of Spottiswoode Estate, Alicia Ann Spottiswoode, wrote the tune!

It’s a few years since I was last there and I managed to get lost en route, ending up running out of road on a country lane. It wasn’t in vain however, as on the way back, I spotted a heavily pregnant ewe in a roadside field, lying on her back, legs in the air.

I knew this was no way for a sheep to relax and eventually it could prove fatal, so I leapt into action. She hadn’t been down long, judging by the state of the ground around her, so I gently rolled her on to her side and held her there for a few minutes to allow the circulation to return to all the right places. Eventually, I eased her on to her feet and she staggered off, limping slightly. A few minutes later she was fully restored and ran off.

Eventually I found the estate and the loch, where six mute swans were in residence. They must not have been of breeding age as they would not have tolerated one another at this time of year if they had been. On my last visit, the spruce trees were quite small and there were still open views, but now it is becoming quite claustrophobic and not such an interesting habitat for wildlife.

Nevertheless it had been an enjoyable outing with at least one sheep feeling the better of it.