Spring, having sprung, is rolling into summer here at the ‘Byre. The trees are now aquiver with fledgling birds screaming “feed me, now!” at harassed parents. Cats are aquiver with thoughts of fledgling birds and whingeing “let me out, now!” And your author is less than aquiver with thoughts of painting the outside of the house. The downside of white-painted cottages is that they have to be painted. White.
We seem to have a pair of swallows building a nest on the joists in the woodshed. There’s no signs of previous nests so I suspect they may be first timers. I worry that it will end in tears. The chances of it staying warm and sunny (!) and them not being disturbed if we need wood is slim, although I have got a small stockpile in the garage and will build up that store for the moment. Mainly though, the woodshed is not cat-proof, and the roof isn’t very high. One swallow doesn’t make a summer, but it might make a tasty snack…
We are on the route for the local brown hares (or at least one of them) to cross over to the fields in the evening to feed. There aren’t many places where you casually look up from your evening meal, look out of the window, and spot a hare equally casually wandering down your drive, across the front of the house, and around the garage. It’s even more surprising to be sitting on the bench in front of your house reviewing photos you’ve just taken (a process known as ‘chimping’) to look up and see a hare, totally oblivious, six feet in front of you. Of course, in raising the camera it suddenly becomes aware, puts a wiggle on, and is gone (see below!) Piano and Puzzle have spotted one once, but it was gone before they really took it in. Not that there would be an issue. A good-sized hare would be roughly their size and would leave them standing in a sprint as hares can get up to 70 kmph. Anyway, the The Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011 introduced closed seasons for the killing or taking of wild hares, which for brown hares runs from the beginning of February to the end of September, so they are out of season!
Down on Ose Point if the tide is right you can watch the grey seals hauled out on the rocks. And, if you are lucky, an otter, although they are somewhat camera-shy, but I will keep trying. Even so, it’s wonderful just to be able to see them. I haven’t seen an otter in the wild since I worked in Ireland on Sherkin Island doing seashore surveys over 25 years ago. The seals are old friends from that time as well.
Unfortunately, it is also the season of possibly the most famous animal in Scotland. I refer to none other than the Highland midge Culicoides impunctatus (Meanbh-chuileag in the Gaelic – tiny fly apparently). The target of more ‘patent’ repellents than any other animal in Britain. I favour anything containing industrial strength DEET† (I always do) even if it does melt plastic and strip the waterproofing off canvas, but I reserve the right to change my mind over a full season. Apparently the favoured patent repellent is dry oil body spray from Avon’s Skin So Soft range, which midges are supposed to hate. From my extremely limited experience of Avon cosmetics I suspect this may just be a demonstration of good taste among Scottish midges! The idea that midges won’t attack indoors, that I have seen being peddled on more than one ‘advice’ page on the interwebs is rubbish. If they can get in (and they are devious little blighters) they have moderate humidity, lowish light levels and no breeze – just what they like – and I can assure you they will bite, but you will have to take my word for it, as I’m not posting photographs of the evidence!
*Sprungwatch is copyright OldByreSkye. Any resemblance to titles of network television programmes is entirely in your imagination, although we are Humbled by any association.
† N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide. Usually thought of as interfering with the sense of smell in insects, behavioural studies in mosquitoes have shown that they apparently just don’t like the smell!
Currently listening to: My Halo at Half-light – Snakefarm