Just get comfortable and watch


You can walk for miles through the countryside and often see very little in the way of wildlife, but I have found that the best way to really see lots is to find a comfy spot, sit down and just wait.

I put this into practice recently at a small Borders lochan surrounded by trees and it really paid dividends.

I found a suitable spot out of the wind, which was quite well hidden but still afforded good all-round visibility, especially across the water. It wasn’t long before the first birds appeared in the willows round the water’s edge. A reed bunting came calling, quickly followed by a tiny goldcrest, a pair of chaffinches, a foraging wren, then the first of the summer migrants in the form of a singing chiffchaff, loudly proclaiming its name.

As the sun came out, I poured myself a coffee and sat back to watch the water with the help of binoculars. I counted five herons round the water’s edge, all having discovered that it was spawning time and there was a good helping of nice fat frogs to be had. The raucous calls of a pair of little grebes sporadically broke the silence, while a buzzard circled lazily overhead on an thermal.

It was the two most obvious birds that provided the highlight of the day however. The resident pair of mute swans had been feeding separately during most of my visit until I noticed that they were paying more attention to one another and swimming together.

As I watched I could see that their movements, at first quite random, were becoming more and more synchronised. Head bobbing, ritualised preening and upending were being copied by one another. Their movements were interspersed by rhythmic snorting and were becoming more intense and more rapid. It was obvious something important was about to happen.

Sure enough, the cob suddenly mounted the pen, grabbing the back of her neck in his bill, as she sank beneath the water under his weight. For a few seconds she was completely submerged. She then resurfaced and the pair of them faced each other and rose in unison out of the water, a loud call echoing round the still lochan. It was all over in a matter of seconds.

Both parties shook themselves, had a quick bathe and preen and went about their business as if a bit embarrassed by their public display of affection.

I had only ever witnessed this once before and the second time was every bit as awe inspiring as the first. I even managed to photograph the proceedings from my vantage point.

Yes sometimes just sitting around can produce dividends.