Posts Tagged 'Bute wildlife'

Requiescap In Pace

dead bird

“Oh dear”, said the spouse as he made coffee at the Buteshack on Saturday, “there’s a dead bird over there beside the planter on the seafront.”

I rushed to the window to see if it was Pegleg. My favourite gull has been missing, presumed dead, for several months now, but it turned out that this wasn’t him.

“Looks like an oystercatcher”, I observed mournfully from behind the net curtain. The forlorn mound of inky black plumage on the verge next to the road had a distinctive flash of white, and I could just about make out a hint of vermilion leg against the green of the grass.

“Poor thing”, I said, “it’s a bit undignified lying there next to the bus stop… I’ll put it down at the low water mark once the tide’s gone out. It’ll be like a Viking funeral but without the flames. Or the longboat.”

“You’re on your own with that,” said the spouse, shuddering.

Later, once the tide had ebbed to reveal the familiar rocks dotted about the exposed sea bed, I approached the deceased bird with great solemnity and more than a little trepidation, since I had no idea how long it had been there. On getting close, however, all solemnity was lost when I realised that I had been planning a burial at sea for a discarded black baseball cap with a white emblem on the front.

Time to make that overdue optician’s appointment…

The Wanderer Returns

“Wow, look at that rainbow!” shouted the spouse as he rushed to get his camera at the Buteshack this morning. I put down my tedious attempt at writing a project for the students and leapt to the window.

“Never mind the rainbow, Hun”, I shrieked, “Look! Pegleg’s back! HE’S ALIVE!”

My eyes tracked a familiar dangly-legged gull as he swooped across the fleetingly sunlit scene. I’d been looking out for him for months with not a single sighting, and feared that he’d finally gone to the big lamppost in the sky. Only that morning, I’d come across a perfectly preserved single gull wing attached to a bare ribcage on the beach, and had speculated with sadness that it could easily have been Pegleg. “You’ll never know which one’s him unless you find the legs”, said the spouse a tad unsympathetically.

I was now glad to know that the unfortunate wing on the beach belonged to some other gull and that I could look forward, once again, to plenty of Pegleg spotting opportunities when out and about in Kilchattan Bay.

Llamas…on Bute?

“Look at those funny looking sheep over there”, I said to the spouse as I ground to a halt on the bike, glad of an excuse to stop on yet another uphill stretch of road. As we drew closer I was rather surprised to see that the sheep was in fact that rare beast, a Scottish llama. It was noisily ripping huge chunks of Sticky Willy out of the spiny hawthorn hedge and munching it with a crazed ferocity which made me feel slightly nervous. Especially when I noted the low height of the fence.

The llama is apparently a small camelid, but as you can see from the photo, it’s actually part giraffe, part dog, part goat, part sheep, a hint of emu, a touch of deer, and the face of a kangaroo. Cute…I think…

You Can’t Keep A Good Gull Down

“Oh no!” I gulped as I spotted a seagull with a broken leg perched on top of a lamppost near the Buteshack. I looked away quickly, feeling slightly faint. One of his legs was straight, but the other was twisted, and jutting out at a horrible angle. His white neck feathers parted gently in the sea breeze as he watched his friends diving for fish, and I felt sad that nature can be so cruel sometimes. I reckoned he’d be dead before long and hoped he didn’t suffer too much.

Well that was five years ago, and I am pleased to report that Pegleg the seagull is still very much alive. His distinctive silhouette (pictured) makes him easy to spot in flight, because his now paralysed leg dangles uselessly from his undercarriage instead of being tucked neatly into his tail feathers. He commands the skies over Kilchattan Bay at feeding times and, although he doesn’t do much walking these days, he’s just like all the other gulls and can spot someone unwrapping their fish supper several miles away.

Tweet Twit

Spring has definitely sprung, and it’s been birds, birds, birds all weekend on Bute. Big ones, small ones, ones that sound like birds, ones that sound like squeaky gates and car alarms, and ones that sound like cats miaowing. One of these days, I’ll find out what type of bird makes each sound, but matching the sound with a sighting of the bird is tricky, especially when one keeps looking in the wrong direction. The soaring gull high overhead today that sounded like a plane was an entertaining collage of ears, eyes and confused brain which made me realise that, with my defective sound locating faculties, I’ll never be able to get a job as an air traffic controller.

This was a double blow, since after this morning’s walk along the beach, a career in ornithology is now out as well. As I rushed to show the spouse this beautiful newly-hatched egg I’d found, I was rather disappointed to discover that it was actually a washed up ping pong ball.

Uninvited Guests

As I was squeezing into my wellies on the doorstep of the Buteshack on Saturday morning, our upstairs neighbour got out of his car and called the spouse over.

“Have you seen what we’ve got living out the back?” he said mysteriously. The rest was inaudible owing to his conspiratorial tones, but the spouse’s foghorn replies were coming through loud and clear.

“Oh my god!” exclaimed the spouse, “Cats…round the back? Where?”

Cats! My ears pricked up. Maybe they’ve got cute kittens, I thought excitedly. My imagination went into overdrive and I saw us fastening diamond studded velvet collars round little kitten necks. I hastily forced the second welly on, so that I could get to the other side of the road to find out more.

Our neighbour was already half way through his story when I joined the conversation.

“They’re living in the sheds”, he said in hushed tones, “it’s the bird feeders they’re after…we’ve put some poison out…seems to be working, I found a dead one on the path this morning.”

Dead! I had a flashback to crying my eyes out in the Mosspark Cinema in 1972, after seeing a basket of kittens being thrown into a river and swept away in Walt Disney’s The Aristocats.

“Yuk!” said the spouse, jolting me back to the present, “…what did you do with it?”

“Threw it over the back wall into the bushes…big horrible tail and staring eyes”, said our neighbour with a shiver. “It ate my golfballs, you know…”

Eh? I thought, before asking for a recap. Our neighbour obliged.

“Oh,” I said with relief, “rats…rats, I get it now”.

 

A nice bit of exercise

Looking to Arran from Birgidale Moor, BBC weather forecast: Light Rain

It’s been a bit quiet at Cookie Bite HQ recently, because teaching begins again in earnest next week. I have been busy on a series of high-profile academic assignments, such as filling the holes in the projection area of the wall with Polyfilla, and sticking hundreds of notices beginning with ‘Please DO NOT…’ on every available surface in preparation for the arrival of the new group of students.

As a bit of light relief yesterday, the spouse and I headed off to Bute with the intention of beating the Women’s Institute to the last of the season’s brambles. Once we arrived, the bikes were immediately dragged from the shed and we began the two mile uphill cycle to Birgidale Moor, crunching through seized-up gears and attired like a couple of scarecrows. Had we known that the Round Bute Cycle Race was on at the same time, we might have left it until a little later. There is nothing so demoralising as labouring your way up a huge hill as loads of Lycra clad whippets on intravenous energy drinks speed past. As I watched the spouse and the Tour de Bute team shrink to specks on the horizon, my thoughts wandered to whether the long leg might be hampering my cycle technique, in addition to tripping me up all the time. As I began mentally designing a built-up pedal arrangement to circumvent my biomechanical inadequacies, the noisy entanglement of a passing bee in my hairdo jolted me back to the present in a timely manner, and I spotted the spouse having a nice rest against a fencepost in the distance.

Once I eventually reached the top of the hill, the bikes were ditched and we set off across the moor in search of brambles. When we reached the track to the treasure, unusually, the gate was closed. By way of explanation, the spouse pointed out a rather large specimen of a bull about 50 yards further on, but fortunately it turned out to be on the other side of the fence. We carried on, admiring the bull’s generous proportions and customary nose ring from behind the safety of the electrified barbed wire fence. Suddenly, there was a loud ‘Moo’ and a cow jumped out of the gorse bushes on to the track in front of us, followed by the farmer in a quad bike and a woman in wellies waving a white rag. I had never seen a bull jump over an electrified barbed wire fence before, so when the bugger did, my first instinct was to run extremely fast. The spouse took fright at my unusual decisiveness and ran too, quickly overtaking me after approximately 2 yards. Amidst the yelling and flag waving, there was a flurry of snorting and hooves as the bull had his wicked way with the object of his desire, while we caught our breath on the other side of the gate.

Once the farmer had rounded up the bovine casanova, we were finally able to complete our mission to strip the hedgerow of brambles, taking in a bit of the nice autumnal view at the same time.


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