The early Corbie gets the warblers


At long last, some decent weather! Temperatures in the twenties, blue skies, wildlife in abundance – happy days!

On a perfect May day last weekend, I took myself off for an early morning stroll up my favourite stretch of the Ettrick Water near Selkirk.



By the time I reached its confluence with the Yarrow Water I had seen or heard six species of warbler and I had a tantalising encounter with a possible seventh, when I’m sure I heard the distant whirring call of a grasshopper warbler.

It was too brief to be sure, but the habitat was right and I have heard them there in previous years.

The spring flowers were out in abundance and I paused to photograph the beautiful Red Campion, backlit by the rising sun, which highlighted every detail of its hairy stems, dusted with morning dew.

The river has a unique smell on an early sunny morning and is evocative of childhood days when we couldn’t wait to put on our wading shoes and go paddling, lifting stones to look for Bessie Beardies and creepers.

At Murray’s Cauld, which is once again under reconstruction, a dipper, with beak full of invertebrates, sat at the foot of the fish ladder, bobbing rhythmically as it contemplated dashing off to feed its hungry brood.

Common sandpipers’ piercing calls echoed up and down the river as a female mallard swam across the mirror-like surface of a deep pool with two well-grown ducklings in tow.

On a rough area of disturbed ground was a single puddle left over from the previous week’s rain and here I paused to watch a group of house martins gathering mud to refurbish their nests in some nearby buildings.

I was back home by around 8am, but it had been a wonderful outing and I can heartily recommend the effort of making an early start, especially at this time of year.

On Sunday I was on duty at Hare Moss nature reserve near Ashkirk, meeting and greeting visitors, as part of the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s first ever reserves open day in the Borders. Again, it was a glorious day and although visitor numbers during my morning shift were disappointing, those who did turn up thoroughly enjoyed their own version of Spring Watch at first hand.

The afternoon, I heard, was much busier, with visitors from all over the Borders turning out to see round this much underused haven for wildlife.

The other reserve, which was open as part of the same promotion, at Bemersyde Moss near St Boswells, was also well attended.