|28/06/2012||Filled under Carradale, Kintyre, Scotland|
Observing the wildlife, rabbits and birds large and small, as we sit eating a meal in our living room is like having a widescreen TV tuned to a wildlife programme. Naturally, without the breathy Attenborough commentary we don’t get the detailed explanations of what each animal is doing but this just means that we have to make our own interpretations of the behaviour we are witnessing.
Why do the rabbit’s ears point to the rear when it is head down feeding? Our explanation is that like us, it has a blind spot behind its head where it cannot see. So having large eyes covering the front and ears ‘keeping watch’ at the rear saves continuously head turning.
Why would a rabbit feel comfortable sitting on the pavement or in middle of the road? We assume that tarmac absorbs heat from the sun and probably feels warmer underfoot than damp grass.
We note that they seem to prefer sitting away from cover, presumably because a clear all round view enables them to see predators approaching. The road is ideal in this respect since motorised traffic past our house is rare.
Rabbits are now such regulars around the house that we are beginning to think of them as pets. They tolerate our presence at the window and are slow to move even when we emerge from the house so we have to remind ourselves that these are wild animals and their choosing to feed and spend time with us is driven by some advantage the place has for them and not by a desire to be friendly towards us. Perhaps our washing lines over the garden deter aerial predators and the large mesh boundary fence through which they routinely hop may be small enough to discourage cats and foxes.
The only piece of land we protect from their increasing numbers is our small front garden where we are growing a few herbs. Parsley seems to be a favourite of theirs and it would not last long if they were able to get at it. Some low reed fencing surrounds what we would rather the rabbits not devour and to date this has been successful in keeping them out. I speculate that as well as forming a barrier over which they cannot easily leap, the fencing prevents them from seeing what is beyond. Sooner or later they might decide to eat their way through and I hazard a guess that if food were scarce then holes would begin to appear in the fence. But so far, with a plentiful supply of grass and weeds in our neighbouring garden, our herbs are growing well. I did read that a single female rabbit can become 800 rabbits in one season, given the right conditions and in the absence of predation. This number might be more of a challenge for our fencing.
‘Old Scarface’ (formerly known as ‘Flopsy’ until we spotted the mark just above his/her nose) appears to nod off on the grass just outside our living room window, perhaps meditating upon which particular blade of grass or clover leaf to nibble next. Choices like this must be tough for a rabbit, tiring, exhausting even. This one found it all too much on a summer’s day.
Midsummer’s day, in fact. A day when the sun sets later than at any other day in the year. In Scotland it sets far into the north-west, barely leaving us long enough for the sky to darken before it rises again in the north-east a few hours later. A wander down to the harbour gave us a real treat, a sunset with a sense of calm and peacefulness. I took a few photos, which seemed to turn out fine, then I decided that the mood could only be re-captured with a bit of music. This is the result:
So Carradale Harbour does have its attractions (and its own website) after all. And since gentle strolls about the village are all I am permitted for the next few weeks while I am recovering from my operation, I find myself steering a course to the harbour more frequently now, by some devious path or other. One of these leads over the golf course, a place where there is grass trimmed to within an inch of its life on the fairways which exist side by side with untamed wildflower meadows. These are loosely kept in check by the feral goats which seem to have little interest in playing on the greens. For reasons I cannot fathom (without Sir David’s help) the goats seem to ignore the Heath-Spotted Orchids whose flowers are dotted around everywhere right now. The flower stems stand around bravely, each one displaying the most delicate of patterns etched on each petal by someone using the finest of paint brushes. I have always thought of orchids as exotic and rare things and it seems odd to see them growing so plentifully.
The rain we have had of late has made the vegetation lush and green. Bracken has reached shoulder height in places and the bramble stems seem to get noticeably longer each day, lengthening almost at walking speed. One damp morning at home we look out and spy our first deer, just beyond the garden fence. I can see she is heading for a patch of fresh undergrowth and manage to press the shutter just as she sticks her tongue out. But tempted as I am to think of her licking her lips in anticipation of the next juicy mouthful I fancy this human interpretation is not appropriate. I am aware that this deer is easily capable of hurdling our fence in one bound, were there something attractive for her to nibble on. Perhaps our herbs are less safe than they might think.
As it happens in our part of the world, young deer have their own natural predators
and later in the same day I spotted one of them, Aquila chrysaetos, gliding on the breeze as I drove north to Tarbert. Although not our first sighting, this was the first time one had come remotely close enough to take a photograph (eventually). Flying with wings held flat and the body hanging below like the fuselage of a plane, this distinguishes golden eagles from other raptors when their enormous size is difficult to judge. Their long primary feathers stick out beyond the end of each wing like thin fingers and when they are hunting, little is safe from them that lives out on the hills.