Sunday, 13 December 2015

Of Swans and Geese

The farmer neighbour normally ploughs up the land surrounding us after harvesting the Barley, but this year the lands have been left fallow allowing the geese to come down to feed on spilt seed and graze on young shoots. We usually see the geese come overhead from Findhorn Bay which is about 1 hours drive North West of us. They leave the Bay to forage returning at dusk. They are instantly recognised by their Oinking/Honking calls and facinate us. They migrate from Iceland in September and October and return to breed by April or May the following year. Birds can live up to 18 years.

During this past week we have seen literally thousands of birds decending on the farmland. They are extremely noisy and constantly communicate with each other and often suddenly rise up in flight, before settling again. They don't like human activity and clearly are skittish as they are often shot.

What is abslutely amazing is to hear the wall of sound when they all take to the air. I have found a video clip which demonstrates this. In real life it is even more magnificent.

Next we have seen another amazing sight. Whooper Swans! About 30 swans in all. They only stayed a few days. These swans are truly massive birds, but fly with grace. they have a 2.5 metre wingspan an weigh about 11 kilograms.They have a whooping call, hence their name. They also breed in Iceland and come to Scotland around October. Only about 4,000 swans overwinter in Scotland and we have never see them this close before. They eat grain, potatoes, grass etc. They often seem to be on the same fields as the geese. The oldest ringed bird lived to 23 years old. These Swans are protected. Just imagine, they have been migrating here for hundreds of thousands of years! Wonderful.

A video clip is also attached below - just click on the arrow in the middle of the picture to see it.

Click on the arrow in the middle of the picture of the geese to view the video.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Scottish Autumn

This view is taken from behind us. This view is typical of this area. The Barley is seeded in Spring using tractors fitted with computerised GPS positioning which drive themselves (the driver just sits back!) and it precision plants each seed. The cattle go into barns for 7 month and the Barley straw is used as bedding and then the manure is spread on the fields in Spring. Nothing is wasted and no artificial fertiliser is used. Only the best Barley goes into Whisky.

 The above picture is of a tree outside our bedroom window.

Some wonderful pictures of Autumn in Scotland :

Migrating Geese facinate us. They come down from Iceland and other more Northern countries to escape the Winter. They travel thousands of miles and their destination is England. They land on the North coast near Findhorn and graze in the fields before carrying on their way. One can hear their honking noise as they fly high overhead.
To see flying Swans migrating is also amazing. A Bewick Swan arrived in England 25 days earlier than normal. This presages the possibility that we will be in for a hard Winter.

HRH visits Riding for Disabled

Princess Anne, Patron of the Riding for the Disabled, visited the Morayshire branch of RDA this month and was introduced to the children and helpers.

Paula also met Princess Anne and was impressed with her commitment.

Here are two pictures from the Northern Scot

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Blair Castle - an unusual story

The 12th Duke of Atholl inherited the title from his father, the 11th Duke. The 11th Duke was John Murray and lived in Johannesburg and practiced as a land surveyor. His son lives in Louis Trichardt, South Africa. The castle and titles devolved on these distant cousins who have hardly ever set foot in Scotland! The 12th Duke goes to Scotland once a year but does not seem much interested in keeping up tradition.


Walled Garden


Views of Warwick and Woodstock

Warwick's early Hospital

Typical old houses

We stayed in this Inn built around 1471

Woodstock is still largely unspoilt and lovely.

All time favourite - Rousham Park

Rousham Park was built c. 1635 and substantially altered by William Kent c. 1738. The garden is, apparently, the only garden which was designed by Kent that has been left intact. The formal part of the garden has no flowers and is surrounded by a Ha-Ha and wonderful sculptural views. The picture changes dramatically when one enters the walled garden.

Praeneste, Townsends building

Lower Cascade

Octagonal Pond

Upper Cascade

The ingenious water system which allows the water to flow down a gully linking all the ponds together.

Arcade by Kent

Heyford stone bridge built in 1255 and still carrying traffic today

Pasture with Ha-Ha and Hall in the distance

Dying Gladiator

Walled garden entrance

 House and dovecot

Garden with Norman Church c1200 in the background

Interior of the dovecot (pigeons were a vital source of protein in Winter)

Stable Block