Monday, 13 October 2014

Stalking with a difference

This flock of Jackdaws flew over the fields in front of the house today.  Daughter heard them and it reminded her of visiting friends on the east coast of Scotland, surrounded by woodland and arable land.  It is quite an unusual sight for us, and amazing to see them with a buzzard.

As it was such a beautiful day, I just had to go out with Farmer when he went to check the hill sheep. He was looking, in particular, for a tup lamb that J had picked out, at marking time, as looking promising as a future tup for breeding.  But since then, somehow, he has gone missing.   The reduction in daylight hours is the trigger for ewes to come into season, but it suits our climate if we keep the tups separate from the ewes until mid to end November. So the last thing we want at this time of year is a handsome young male on the loose amongst the ewes!

We didn't find him. But we found something else very exciting.  But remembering the amazing experience we had last summer watching the stags during the rut, we set out to walk up to the top of Ben Duill, and as we got higher we heard a guttural roar of the stag.  Farmer made the dogs sit, whilst he and I crept up towards where the roar came from.

We could smell him.  An earthy musky muddy smell.  We could hear him.  Crawling up behind a rocky outcrop, suddenly there he stood. With hinds and calves in between us and him.  Probably about 15 metres away from us.

The hinds were quicker to react than he was.  

It was a totally magical experience!  This is almost exactly the same spot we were in last year, watching the rut, overlooking the ruins of Achnacoille.   It is almost a bowl, the hillside, and we could see several different groups.  The views to Iona, the Ross of Mull and the Paps of Jura beyond were stunning too, as well as down Loch Tuath to Ulva Ferry with Ben More behind. 

Farmer went off in continued search for the missing tup lamb and I walked home above the deer fence. I came across another group on the skyline and could see another lot further away still.

This ruined building, probably a shieling, was hidden by bracken until last year when we aerially sprayed parts of the hill.   Tommy, who used to work here, had told us there was a whisky still up in this area of the hill, so sometimes we wonder if this was the ruin of the still.

It was an epic afternoon.  The beautiful views took in the islands of Rum, Skye, Barra, Mingulay, South Uist, Canna, Eigg, Muck, Iona,  the Treshnish Isles, Staffa, Gometra, Ulva and Jura.
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