Thursday, 31 December 2020
Thursday, 24 December 2020
In the small hours of Christmas Eve I took a look outside....to see heavy snowfall on a northerly wind, just as forecast. We'll have a white Christmas here in Aberdeenshire!
The landscape is completely transformed to dazzling white - just in time for a Christmas which will be very different for most people, including us, with limits on travel and the family one can meet with.
Chores done, logs split for the fire and a few last minute errands run, I took a long walk around the local area. It was cold with a biting wind and a promise in the sky of further snow. Bennachie looked very fine, dazzling white in the low sunshine just before sunset - at 3.25pm.....
The woodburner is lit, the tree awaits a delivery of gifts by Santa Claus.....
So it just remains to wish you peace, health and happiness wherever you may be spending Christmas.
Wednesday, 23 December 2020
A wider view shows just how perfect this morning was as we paddled under the sweep of Ben Trillieachan (hill of the sandpiper - though many climbers who've had experience of the famous slabs on the north end of the hill would claim it's "sandpaper"!).
Monday, 21 December 2020
We had little time to dwell on the fact that the brilliant autumnal sunshine had been replaced with a sheet of grey cloud. As we paddled along the shore we became aware of two Oystercatchers and a gull going absolutely bonkers and dive-bombing a patch of beach. Such behaviour usually indicates the presence of a predator, and in this case it was two of the most spectacular predators.
We were able to paddle slowly up to get really close views of two White Tailed Eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla) before the huge birds lifted off. But, amazingly, they landed just a few metres along and seemed completely unfazed as we drifted past. We thought that this was an adult and one of this year's young, the juvenile bird was mostly brown....
...while the adult was grey around the wings and mantle with the distinctive white tail of a mature bird. We were treated to several minutes of very close encounter with these impressive birds and it was clear that they weren't at all bothered by us as long as we kept a comfortable distance and stayed quiet.
Eventually the juvenile bird got fed up of being dive-bombed by an irate gull and took off over the loch, followed by the adult bird which gave us a great fly-by. Wildlife encounters like this are such a privilege - and to be treasured. As it turned out, our wildlife experiences were far from over for the day.
We'd started looking for a good camping spot from fairly early in the afternoon; this trip was never about clocking up distance and all about an exploration of a sea loch all of us have walked above and along but not paddled. We settled on a spot on the shore with good level ground around a stand of Alder trees, got the tents up and split up to scour the shore for driftwood for a fire. We were surprised at the amount of wood along the tideline this late in the year but reasoned that for months through Spring and Summer there had been no visitors until the lockdown restrictions were lifted.
After a superb dinner of home-made casserole (accompanied by a rather good red wine - no point in suffering!) we got a fire lit below the high water mark just as darkness was gathering. As it turned out, I'd put the fire a little too far below the tideline and we had to move the whole thing up the beach as the Spring tide rose and rose!
Our other wildlife experience began as dusk was falling. This trip was done in mid-October and the Red Deer rut was in full swing, stags roaring all around us. As darkness gathered the wind had dropped to nothing as can be seen by the sparks and smoke from our fire, and the bellows of these impressive animals echoed across the water and from the hillside above the camp - it was very atmospheric! We turned in late in the evening thinking that the stags might settle after a while, but the iconic sounds continued right through the night. The stag with the deepest, hoarsest, loudest roar of them all seemed to be holding ground on the hillside just above our camp - and thankfully stayed there. Stags fired up during the height of the rut can be a fearsome prospect and we didn't fancy coming up close in the dark!
After a Spring and Summer when we hadn't been able to get out in the kayaks it felt that we were getting the most special of experiences.