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.

The lion and the lamb

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If it comes in like a lamb it’ll go out like a lion.

So it is often said about March.  Okay so we’re actually into April now, but only just.

This post should probably have begun with “Oops, where did the winter go?” to reflect the fact that I had, erm, not been very active with postings.  That is true of course; I had been busy with other things and neglected these pages over the winter.

March began mildly and, despite a few chilly days, continued in much the same vein.  Then last week we had unseasonably hot weather for over seven days including record-breaking March temperatures of 24 degrees Celsius.  Suncream and T-shirts in March, in northern Scotland.  Now look at it; snow everywhere.

It’s really hard to over emphasise the contrast.  Scorching sunshine (for here) one week, then 15-20 cm (~6 inches) of snow the next.  In the open field it was up to the knees in places.

Despite the cold the snow delivered its usual beauty.  The forest was transformed back into a giant Christmas card and uneven and unkempt surfaces were smoothed over with a perfect layer of icing sugar.  Plus of course the dogs came back from walks spotlessly clean (although carrying saddlebags of snow).

One of the pleasures it brought was watching the snow showers move across the landscape on the bitter wind.  The cold Arctic air gave periods of cobalt blue sky followed by intense grey-white curtains of snow that swept across the terrain.  It was great to watch the blizzards obliterate a distant farm whilst standing in the sunshine, then scuttling back to the log fire before the next one reached where I was standing unsheltered in the field.

And how I wish I could wield a brush well enough to paint those skies.  Maybe one day.