Observers’ Dillemma

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Now and again those who regularly enjoy observing Nature find themselves witness to some animal or other in a state of peril.  If the danger is man-made, such as an animal entangled in plastic, then the justification to provide assistance is to me at least pretty clear.  If on the other hand I witness an animal in peril from a predator then, as brutal as it is, I do not interfere.  (An exception is a wild animal at risk from a domestic cat which I consider not to be part of the ecosystem.)

Seems pretty straightforward doesn’t it?

I thought so to, until yesterday.  Walking along the forest road I encountered an unharmed but motionless smooth/common newt apparently in the process of crossing to reach a drainage channel.  (The newt is circled in red in the image.)

So what?  This is normal behaviour in the Spring – waking up from hibernation and wandering about to feed and find a mate.  But then I ran smack into the glass door of a philosophical dilemma; do I just walk on and leave it to it’s fate at the wheels of the next logging lorry, or pick it up and carry it across the road?

It could be picked off by a predator in the wet grass anyway, so why worry?

I walked on.  Then after about 40m I turned around, went back and picked up the animal between two clumps of wet sphagnum moss and carried it across the road.  (The wet moss was used to cushion and protect it from my hands.  Amphibians are cold-blooded so the heat from human skin can be a shock.)

I had decided that the logging road was man-made and shouldn’t have been there anyway.  Although the common newt is, well, common, I didn’t think I’d be doing much harm giving it a little helping hand.  And it meant I could continue my walk in peace from my conscience.  🙂

First Cuckoo

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I heard my first cuckoo of the year this morning, sitting in some distant pine trees and flooding the sunlit hillside with the sound of Spring.  Alongside the sound of a woodpigeon cooing, a distant lawnmower and the smell of cut grass I’m not sure what could be more evocative.

Just as one swallow doesn’t make a summer I suppose one cuckoo doesn’t make a Spring, especially given the recent Siberian weather.  Still, it was great to hear and it certainly gives hope.  A pity their stay here in the UK is so brief – typically gone by late July/August.

So enjoy them while you can.

The persistent visitor

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Winter here is behaving like a distant relative who comes to stay but then won’t leave.  We expect the usual April showers (which in this part of Scotland means endless curtains of rain), but the return to sleet and snow is a little depressing.

I do love to see snow as much as the next person, and being a skier I welcome it more than many people.  However, there is a limit.  Some nice warm sunshine about now would be nice.

So in the meantime I will just have to accept the passing snow showers and embrace the re-wintered landscape.

Glenlivet hills towards sunset, powdered with snow.

Passing ruins

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I’ve passed this ruin quite a few times and it’s on my list of targets for a winter dawn patrol with the big camera. Despite that I’d never actually stopped for it before.  It could easily pass for a ruined mill in Northern England but in fact it is the remnants of Bognie Castle, otherwise known as Conzie Castle.  Once the seat of Clan Morrison, the four-storey building probably dates from the late 1600s.

Conzie or Bognie Castle

The light wasn’t ideal (it was only an opportunistic grab shot after all) but I liked the clouds and the passing bursts of sunlight so decided the BlackBerry’s camera would have to do.  I’ll come back and try to make a better job of it another day.

Easter eggs

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I thought I’d tie together two separate images in this post; one found today and one found over the Easter weekend.  The one today was a pheasant egg, lying all alone in the grass at the edge of the little copse of trees by my house.  I’m pretty sure it wasn’t there yesterday or certainly not the day before.

The crows and jackdaws will soon spot it and make use of it.  In fact I’m surprised I saw it before they did.

The second set of eggs were of the aquatic variety.  This not brilliant photograph is of three clutches of frog eggs.  Looking like bunches of submerged grapes these were coated in a dusting of silt, the after-effects of the recent rain.

I’m always amazed that any of these can actually hatch given the silting that is prevalent in these drainage ditches.  No doubt many die from lack of oxygen or some other problem but, yet, many do hatch into tadpoles.

The water here is rich in iron (hence the brown colour) and in dry periods this can lead to some quite toxic conditions for the tadpoles and young froglets.  Yet survive some of them do and each year there are new eggs waiting to take their turn in facing the significant trials of life.

The last of the winter (maybe…)

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Well, there is still snow lying in the shadier parts of the forest.

It isn’t all that unusual to have lying snow in Scotland at Easter, but I still think it’s nice to see.  In my opinion the Scottish hills eclipse even the Alps for beauty when partially clad in snow yet basking under Spring sunshine.  And off piste skiing at this time of year, to the sound of the grouse and ptarmigan in the heather, is an experience not to be missed.

The Spring is welcome, but it is worth reflecting that the winter here does give us some pleasures too.