David Adam ..... Scottish creative artist ...... author of Wildsketch ..... social realist in Postcard from Brechin
Studio and Wildsketch journal
Studio and Wildsketch journal
Dawn to dusk on the hills of Glen Esk marked my wanderings in nature's time today. The black beauties croaked a welcome to the warming Sun that lasered a path up the frosty glen and all was still within a nocturnal chill. Crossbills nibbled at Larch cones in a light that threatened to not come at all, and a Common Buzzard pierced a hidden call into the cold void that beckoned solar light to invade.
Fallen Bracken fronds, in faded brown, were stitched together by sparkling, white frost to form a lattice work crust with soft decay below, and stepping through was like wading into a gigantic pie with puff pastry on top. Sugared flowers of Ling and Cross-leaved Heath brushed a sprinkling of frost into the air at each step, and distant Red Grouse cackled with joy to the coming of day.Waiting for eagles, only to find a blizzard of tiny Snowflakes tinkling a tune o'er the high hills was godly, or magical, or mystical. That delicate spirituality soon dissolved to earthly, freezing fingers that eventually warmed in sunshine; a shine that dazzled the rest of day away with experience proving that large raptors and bright, windless skies do not mix.
A paddling, butterfly splash sees a replete Goosander belly flopping down a cascading mountain burn without recourse to flight and the wonder that Brown Trout are here at all, mystifies once again. Red Deer glow orange with the morning light; some are still reclining on their Moon shadow beds and shuffle round to bathe flanks to the rising Sun, and not the only ones on the moor with comfort in mind.
Mountain Hare love sunbathing and, if a photo stalker lines up the dazzling Sun behind, a blinding approach is gained until that point of close encounter makes the hare realise that danger is near enough to bolt into its peaty burrow, but not before a portrait session ends! By the way, Sparrowhawks use the same trick when stooping on prey and, incidentally, so did fighter pilots during the Second World War.
Red Grouse curiously flip from side to side when in flight, possibly to confuse a pursuing raptor, but that mechanism seems to stem from the high position of their head when flying and their natural inclination to look backwards over each wing in turn as they flush from the ground in an escape. Grouse will flee before an eagle and this is often the first tell tale sign that an eagle is hunting yet, in contrast, a hunting Peregrine will make grouse cower under the heath.
Personally, I have no doubt that Red Grouse are truly wild birds despite the anti-shooting, agenda promoted notion that they are effectively 'farmed' for shooting sport. To actually observe Red Grouse surviving winter conditions alongside high mountain dwelling Ptarmigan reveals their tough nature and adaptability; respect is due to these native birds no matter what shadowing association follows them.
The Scottish government has pre-empted the advice derived from the Werritty report into grouse moor shooting and management by outlining their intentions to pursue the plan to license grouse moor estates before the report's advisory 'wait and see' five year term is up. Questions over raptor persecution (including the very disputable 'vanishing' sat tag events), hare culling and muir-burn have precipitated the government's action despite many reports proving a scientific contradiction to some of the reasons for this licensing scheme.
In my opinion the licensing proposals are unresolved, impractical, impossible to police and unfair to shooting estates that have a historically low or no history of raptor persecution. Alternatively, shooting estates that have had a history of persecution should be on a licensed 'red' list for future improvement that would be independently monitored and, similarly, shooting estates that do have suitable habitat for nesting raptors that are absent or have had nesting raptors at one time should be included in a licensed 'watchdog' list with independent monitoring.
The Angus glens of Isla, Prosen, Clova, Lethnot and Esk all have suitable nesting habitat for Golden Eagles and Peregrine Falcons, and from that list I would currently include two of these glens as hosting shooting estates that would fall into a 'watchdog' licensing category. Historically the glens of Ogil, Lethnot and Esk have had 'dead bird found' persecution events within the last twenty years and from that list I would currently include three shooting estates on a 'red' list and only one is listed in both categories ..... in my opinion mind!
Licensing in the hands of, and, under the direction of certain organisations or individuals can only be a blindfolded recipe for disaster where ill advised cooks plop all their favourite things into a pot hoping for success; the result will undoubtedly be distasteful to the 'guinea-pig' few, but flavoursome to the voting masses who are not aware of the potentially poisonous recipe.
I do wonder at what will happen when a satellite tagged raptor is found dead on a persecution innocent estate ..... will that automatically mean the unjust withdrawal of a licence, and for how long? Large raptors can ingest toxic poisons (and in some cases survive the likes of Carbofuran when treated in time) yet are still able to travel some distance before succumbing to the effects, so a bird could be poisoned on one estate and end up across the march on a neighbouring estate's land.
The variations of alleged persecution circumstance are endless, but at the end of the day those who do not want raptors on their land will find ways to get round any licensing or illegality problems ..... a minority have done so in the past and will continue to do so into the future.
All text, photographs and sketches done on the 28 November 2020 and subject to copyright - no reproduction.
My er web pages;
David Adam Sketchbook
My new book 'Wildsketch' is available from Blurb bookshop
Income from book sales will form a donation to CABS (Committee Against Bird Slaughter)
If you are inspired to go out into the hills and glens of Scotland please leave it as you find it, respect the environment, do not litter or discard so called 'biodegradable' fruit and especially if you are a dog walker keep your beast on a lead and do not bag up its waste then chuck it by the wayside. I recently came across one black poo bag neatly hung on a tree branch for someone else to take home and also a bright blue one thrown in the moorland verge .... why?
Moorland birds like Curlew, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Dotterel, Red and Black Grouse, Ptarmigan and many raptors nest on the ground, it is advisable to keep dogs at heel or preferably on leads when walking on the high plateaux of the Cairngorms during summer months.
Please be aware that it is illegal to disturb nesting eagles or other raptors and you may do so inadvertently in your journeys into the highlands. Observe protected species at a respectful distance usually from about 1000 metres and for short periods of time only.
No wildlife was unduly or knowingly disturbed by my presence or for the purposes of this web page other than what would be expected on a normal hill walk. Many geographic names and location recognizable photos have been omitted to prevent persecution or inquisitive disturbance to named species.
Canon camera 200D with optical zoom lens EFS 55-250mm used; please note that the zoom range distance if given is calculated by OS map from subject location to camera.