Myriad of wildlife on my stretch of the Ettrick


The beauty of having a regular walk which you do all the year round, in all weather and at different times of the day, is that not only do you appreciate the changing seasons, but the variety of wildlife encountered is massively increased.

This was demonstrated on my own stretch of riverside along the banks of the Ettrick just last week.

It was around 8am and drizzling when I decided to take our dog Treacle for a walk up the river.

It was so wet I decided to leave my binoculars at home (big mistake), to protect them from the weather.

I had walked as far as I intended and was about to turn when a movement on the opposite side of the river, by a shingle bank, caught my eye. I instinctively grabbed for my “bins”, which, of course, were at home.

I could see with the naked eye that it was a large otter cavorting in the shallows. I did have my camera, however, and for 10 minutes I watched it through the camera at full zoom. It was too distant for a photo, but I did manage a better view of it. The next day, I decided to go fully-equipped to the same spot, but this time at twilight.

It was a perfect evening with no wind and pleasantly warm. I could hear every rustle in the undergrowth and every trout rising to catch the myriads of flies skimming the surface of the river.

Just below the cauld, I counted 56 oystercatchers settling down for the night on a shingle bank. The breeding season was over for them and it was time to regroup.

Overhead, dozens of tiny bats – probably pipistrelles – were weaving in and out of the upper boughs of an ancient ash tree, chasing flying insects.

As I approached the location of the otter sighting, I stopped to survey the scene. For a few minutes there was nothing, and then suddenly a movement from the tall vegetation on the opposite bank caught my eye.

This time it wasn’t an otter, but a roe deer which emerged. It slowly waded into the middle of the river, had a long drink, and then casually wandered back into the undergrowth.

Despite the absence of the otter, it had still been a memorable evening.

In another section of my local regular haunt is an area which has been used by generations of local residents to dispose of garden waste. Recently, ongoing flood-protection work has disturbed the soil and the most amazing display of pink, lilac and red poppies has appeared.

The seeds must have been buried deep in the ground until brought near the surface by the heavy machinery, allowing them to germinate.