open country

After the track wound its way through the green carpets of plants on moor and hill, there was long wet grass.

This was necessary in order to reach the old listed bothy. It had started life as a plain farmhouse and in the early 20th century had an extension built to make it look like a miniature Highland residence.

It is because of the extension that it was listed the year that I was born.

The buzzard came out of the trees, soaring noisily above my head, her young shrieking in the cover of the canopy. She circled, watching where I went. Then there were tall, straight, dark trees that stood in front of the sun.

I left the austere and quiet house behind, following the track between the two small woodlands. The squawks began again, but they were higher pitched. I saw the sunny open landscape again as I came round a bend.

A bird alighted on a fallen tree, just metres in front of me. I could not believe it showed no fear. It was innocent. It did not feel the dangers around it, despite its mother’s protestations.

For a bird of prey, it had a cuteness about it – not quite fully-developed, curiosity had the edge on awareness.

Bright yellow legs held up a still fluffy chest. I was face to face with a young kestrel. He held me in his dark eyes. He was unsure whether to stay and captivate me. He flew up into the trees, landed on a branch and turned to look at me. Like all children, he was showing off what he could do.

That moment with that bird is tangible and full of value. I cannot replicate it. I cannot buy it. The emotion it evokes transcends any human interaction. The memory cannot be sullied or dulled – it is perfect. Without touching it, I can feel the softness, the increasing sharpness of talons and beak.

When I was at Corsewall Lighthouse, I went for a walk with my new binoculars, a gift for my 40th from my sister and her family. I leant on a rock that loomed above me. I could see a bird up on the steep, dark bank. Through the glasses the slate blue and amber brown of a male kestrel were sharp and crisp.

The most incredible part was the black teardrops. The phrase is my chosen wording. However, the correct term to describe this mark under the eye is a black malar. The malar bone is the cheekbone or zygomatic bone.

The young kestrel had the suggestion of its black malar – a delicate mark unlike the adult on the Dumfriesshire coast who stared hard back at me. Designed to kill, there is a dichotomy in the emotional response to a bird of prey’s aesthetics. They look like efficient killers, but their streamlined shape and striking markings make our eyes incensed with their beauty. Their fragility is greater than their instinct to kill because man has made it that way.

West Linton was cloaked in a low grey, the air full of incessant light rain.

I could not say the weather was harsh. However, I believed that no-one would want to come on my guided walk today.

I was wrong.

A vaguely familiar face appeared from a grey car. A friendly lady in a pale grey fleece asked if I was the leader for the day. I imagine that I did not look like an energetic guide, already droochit as I was.

Maggie was determined to go for a walk and it was my job to accommodate her wish.

Within the next five minutes we had two other hardy walkers – Gordon, who had phoned earlier in the week, and Philip, also known as Trig.

We made a balanced and happy group, even when the rain turned to a downpour in the late morning.

The craggy top of Dunsyre Hill disappeared. Secretly, we walked by where I had been face to face with the young kestrel the week before.