Today’s guest picture is not sent by a guest but is a tribute to our own guest, Mauri, Mrs Tootlepedal’s mother, who is going home tomorrow after her two week stay with us. She is a remarkable lady of 97 and truly fits the description of Special Grandma.
Since it was Granny’s last day with us and the weather forecast was superb, we took up a suggestion of Sandy’s and went to visit the Galloway Red Kite Trail near Castle Douglas, taking Sandy with us as our expert guide.
We were just getting set to go when Sandy remembered that it was his day to fill the Moorland bird feeders so he went off to do that while we enjoyed the morning sunshine in the garden until he returned.
We took a cross country route on our way to Dumfries and had to spend a good deal of time dodging potholes with varying success but once we got to the main road, everything was plain sailing, especially as they have now finished the road works at Carrutherstown.
The traffic was so light and our way so smooth that we had time to drive right round Loch Ken when we got to Castle Douglas. The loch was looking sensational and I don’t think that I have ever seen its water looking as blue as it was today.
Loch Ken is long and narrow and our plan was to drive up to the top of the loch, have lunch and then drive back down the other side to the kite feeding station. Apart from not seeing any red kites as we drove along, the plan worked well. We had a light lunch in the Ken Bridge Hotel…
The man at the hotel told us that he had been watching an osprey on the opposite river bank earlier in the morning but the only bird that we saw as we had lunch was this wagtail on the hotel lawn.
As we drove down the west side of the loch after lunch, I remarked that even if we didn’t see a single kite, the day would be worthwhile for the beauty of the scenery alone.
When we got to the Kite Feeding Station at Bellymack Hill Farm, we did see a red kite.
We also saw a variety of goats.
Red kites had almost disappeared from Britain and they have been the subjects of determined conservation efforts in several places. One of the places where red kites have been introduced is in the Chilterns in southern England not far from Granny’s house and we have seen them there when on visits. The first red kites in this area were released in 2001 and the introduction has been so successful that on a good day you can see as many as a hundred kites when they are fed. The RSPB expert told us that we were looking at about 70 today and there certainly were kites to be seen on every side.
The lady who runs the farm where the feeding station is began feeding them for fun but now she has a good business going and there must have been about thirty people on her viewing terrace, many of them with impressively fierce looking cameras covered in the camouflage material that indicates the serious bird photographer.
My pictures and words cannot convey the wonder of seeing so many of these glorious birds circling above our heads.
Promptly at 2 o’clock, the farmer fed the birds.
She was very brave because within seconds, the kites were swooping on the meat.
And for some time all that could be heard were gasps from the onlookers as the birds turned, dived and soared and the thunder of twenty camera releases in continuous firing mode. I contributed to the clicking myself. I append a tiny fraction of the resultant pictures. I will have to work hard at trying to get these shots a bit sharper in future but they give a flavour of all the activity.
We stayed for about half an hour until the food had gone. I hope to come to this spectacle again in the not too distant future and if I do, I might well leave my camera in the car and enjoy watching the birds for their own sake rather than as photo opportunities. With my eye glued to the view finder, I missed a lot that would have been well worth looking at.
A day of glorious sunshine, green rolling hills, blue waters and exciting birds was rounded off with a very well judged route choice on the way home. Our stop for afternoon tea and scones happened to be at the Loch Arthur Community shop at Beeswing where the discerning purchaser can buy really excellent cheese. I was that discerning purchaser today. Sandy also dipped into his pocket and texted me later to say that his choice had been worth every penny.
I chose to drive home by main roads where the scenery was less rewarding but the potholes were non existent, a good bargain at the end of a long day.
I finished the day by making a few pots of blackcurrant jelly from the juice which had been steadily dripping into a bowl since last night.
Sadly, all this activity left me no time to capture a flying bird of the day. I will try to do better tomorrow.
You can see Sandy’s pictures of the day here.