Birds & Animals
In the beginning of our known world the hand of the creator gifted us with many varieties of birds. It is not known where, or when, live species actually evolved, but they must have come soon after the chaos created by the ice melt and tectonic plate activity. Ever since, birds have been an integral part of our lives. Their beauty, colour, plumage, dazzle, flying ability, flying patterns, and speed, make us feel insignificant. In our area of Scotland there was a plethora and today, as since time began, they appear at different times of the year.
We do not have room in this book to enumerate them. In these photographs I have described some with a thumbnail sketch. Readers may wish to add to this collection. It is a paucity compared to the vast number of different types. There are probably 300 to 400 different types of birds in our region. All of the following photographs were taken from the Wikipedia collection.
Golden Eagle–Aquila chrysaetos - this magnificent master of the skies nests high in Glen Lednock and over Loch Boltachan and to see one takes patience and no mean skill as a hill walker. My friend, Jim, once came across thirteen of them on the ground and regretted all his life that that was the one day he did not have his camera. They hunt over a wide swath of land looking for small rodents, snakes, rabbits and hares, and maybe even a young deer. Their eeries are always high up in the mountain side and very difficult to approach. They have huge talons. To see an eagle soaring on thermals is truly a gift. Sadly the only enemy they have is mankind who sometimes lays out poison for them.
Golden Eagle–Aquila chrysaetos
Hawks–there is a vast variety of birds called Hawks. Many are in several sub families. In our area they consist mainly of Kites and Kestrels–Falco tinninculus.
Kites and Kestrels–Falco tinninculus
Common Buzzards–Buteo Buteo
Peregrine Falcons–Falco Perigrinus – they can travel at 200 miles per hour!
Peregrine Falcons–Falco Perigrinus
Goshawks–Accippeter gentitlis – they became extinct in the 19th century but are being re-introduced. Hawking used to be the sport of kings and the nobility, and no self respecting scion of the day, would be seen without one on his or her arm. Originally they were used for hunting small game such as rabbits and hares, moles and voles.
There are various types of owls in Strathearn
Tawny Owls–Strix Aluco
There are also Barn Owls–Tyto Alba. Like all owls they only come out at night. They are very short sighted and use sound to locate their prey. They are fast moving and deadly accurate.
Barn Owls–Tyto Alba.
Bats–They are a protected species. Human kind often thought they were associated with evil because they came out at night. In the late 19th century they were viewed as having Dracula-type characteristics. Human beings were very superstitious and many believed Bram Stoker’s book about them. My father read this book by the light of a flickering candle at his home in the Ross. Most people do not know that bats feed at dawn and dusk on small insects, with midges being a high target insect. Bats eat them by the thousands and anything that knocks off a midge is fine by me! Songs have been written about this flying insect.
Amongst the gang are the ever pleasant song birds of which the following are a few.
Skylark–Alanda arvensis–they hover about fifty feet of the ground and sing their glorious song to all below. They demand attention when in full throat and sometimes are so high up that one can only see a little speck in the sky.
Mavis–Turdus philomelos – sometimes known as a song thrush it is a member of the thrush family. In Burn’s beautiful song “Mary of Argyll” his opening lines are “I have heard the mavis singing, its love song in the morn” That really sums it up. Sadly Burn’s love, Highland Mary, died young. It is sometimes called a Song Thrush. The mavis winters in Ireland, and some go to Portugal. So do a lot of Scots!
House Sparrow–Passer domesticus. Thousands of them provide the Dawn Chorus, and to awaken to their sound, as the sparrows greet the new summer’s day, is to be transported to a different place. It was an overwhelming noise letting all know a new day had dawned. The cacophony is now sadly reduced due to the use of chemicals of one sort or another but still, when heard, allows one to stop and realize one’s smallness. The sparrow was immortalized by that late classic man, Duncan MacRae, when he sang at New Year “A wee cock sparra sat on a tree, a wee cock sparra sat on a tree, a wee cock sparra sat on a tree, chirpin awa’ as blithe as could be”. They are also known as “Speugs”, pronounced “Sp uugs).
Curlew–Numenius arquata – they nest on the ground and are waders in streams and at the side of rivers. They are also called “Whaups” and they have a wailing, bleating sound which is very distinct.
Finches–Fringilla coelebs – this is Britain’s second most populous bird. There are numerous types of finch such as Bull Finch–Pyrrhula pyrrhula,
Scottish Crossbill–Loxia scotica
Gold Finch–Carduelis carduelis
Green Finch–Carduelis chloris
Capercaillie–Tetrao urogallus – sometimes known as the Wood Grouse the Capercaillie became extinct in the late 18th century. They were re-introduced from bird stocks in Sweden. They have a very distinctive Caw-Caw sound - the sound is much shriller than a Crow. One of my friends whilst trying to photograph one was bitten by it between the thumb and the fore finger and it took months to heal, so beware a close encounter. The capercaillie is the largest of the grouse family.
Carrion Crow–Corvus corone
Peewit or Lapwing–Vanellus vanellus
Wren–troglodytidae-Britain’s smallest bird
Red Grouse - lagopus scoticus
Male Female Pheasants–phasianus colchicus
Add to this water fowl such as ducks, water hens, swans and geese, plus many dozens of other birds and bird species, and it makes for a busy place. I hope that readers will go out and look for additional species to add to this rather meagre collection. Remember, it all adds to our collective gold mine!