In April I started a new area of work with the education department of the rspb. This has been at a location Cobble Hey Farm just north of Preston. Children come in order to explore food and farming in a number of ways. Noting the route from farm to fork and how the countryside has changed. They also discover how the farmer manages the habitats in partnership with the RSPB. This is a wetland bird hotspot.
This coincided with that very cold March which had slowed everything down. We noticed plants were late flowering and migrants later in arriving at their nesting grounds.
In May I took a trip north to visit some friends in Scotland. My first point of call was near Aberfoyle where I surveyed a field used by Glendrick Roost Animal Welfare Centre. A few of us on the ARUK holiday last year has promised to pray they would get the land. When I was asked to help on a survey I couldn't refuse. I do confess I enjoy surveys anyway. The highlight happened as I was trying to identify a plant at the river edge. I heard a splash upstream, and when I looked, there was an otter playing in the river less than 200 metres away. I almost stopped breathing. The other thing that has stayed in my memory was the sight and bouquet of the bluebells.. breathtaking!
The next few days were spent at Kincraig at the northern end of Loch Insh. Here I mainly rested and saw my first game of shinty. This was at the home of the most successful sporting team in the world, Kingussie Camanachd. In the years from1996 to 2004 they only lost two games. These were against their near neighbours and arch rivals Newtonmore. It seems to be a game with few rules. A bit like ice hockey on grass, with the physicality but without excess padding.
Further north to my friends in Spinningdale, near Bonar Bridge, Sutherland. Jim has been slowly building his own eco-house. I had gone to try to see two special flowers, single flowered wintergreen and twinflower. Both these usually flower in late May early June in a nearby wood. Sadly they copied all the other flora this year and were not yet in bloom. I did however see chickweed wintergreen, another life tick for my botany list. There is always something special to see in this area. Ospreys, crested tits, dolphins, red squirrels, Slavonian Grebes, divers, ptarmigans, pine martens and much more, so I couldn't be too disappointed.
My trips to the north of Scotland are always a delight. This is not only for the wonderful wildlife but also so many fantastic friends. I shall be back there soon