A trunkful of treasure on a winter’s day

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I normally scoot round the three lochs which I visit monthly to count the wildfowl by car, but last Sunday, I decided to do them on foot as it seems to be the thing in early January to try and do things in a healthier manner – bad idea!

As I set out, the first flakes of snow were falling and soon it was quite heavy. At least it was dry snow and I was clad for it, so I soon began to enjoy the fresh air and exercise.

The first loch, at Smedheugh just outside Selkirk, yielded a spectacular herd of 27 whooper swans and one lonely immature mute. As they moved into the middle of the partly frozen loch at my approach, their strange yodelling honking calls got louder. Not wanting to spook them further, I did a quick count and headed off for my next loch.

It was much larger and more difficult to count as reed beds round the margins provided cover for the huge numbers of constantly moving ducks.

I hadn’t really paid much attention before but waterfowl can be extremely vocal and their calls are very distinctive. As I tried to count them I listened to their amazing range of calls – rasping, wheezing goldeneye, croaking tufted duck, whistling teal and wigeon, quacking mallard and the piercing “kep” call of the coot.

As the snow started to become more persistent, I headed for the shelter of the hide at Lindean Reservoir and a warming cup of coffee from my flask. Birds there were few, with only a trio of mute swans on the water and a solitary robin in the lochside hawthorns. Suitably refreshed and warmed, I headed once more out into the wintry wonderland and made tracks for home.

I hadn’t gone far when I noticed that a recently felled beech tree had an unusual, colourful fungus growing on the exposed trunk. It was growing in tight rows with wavy bright yellow margins. The upper surface was brown and roughly hairy and on close examination was really quite attractive. On a dreich day when there was little to see, it was nice to happen upon something so colourful and unusual. I spent some time photographing it, which wasn’t easy in the conditions, but I was later able to identify it as something called hairy stereum – not particularly rare, but a new one for me.