Highland Journey

Wild West Yorkshire nature diary, Scottish Excursion, Tuesday 11th May 1999

braes AFTER AN ALL DAY MEETING in Elgin it's good to get on the Aberdeen train with a cup of tea and some highland shortbread and relax in my traditional way, making thumbnail sketches of the treestrees, birds,crow hills hillsand buildingstower that make this train journey so different from the trans-Pennine route.

With a couple of distilleriesGlentauchers and a few highland cattlehighland cow, you could hardly think you were anywhere else in the world. Crowscrowcrowcrow are the most characteristic bird but Oystercatchersoystercatchers are more eye-catching as they flex there crisply marked black-and-white wingsoystercatcheroystercatcher. This far north the lambslamb seem a few weeks younger.

I notice snowboardssnowboard on the roof of a station and what looks like a ruined kirkkirk? on a hill. The old cottages have a particular low, solid, look to them that makes you think of them as crofts.croft

I draw a variety of willows and conifers,conifer as the trees pass I try to form an image in my mind and draw it in a few seconds. Of course there is really no choice when you're on a moving train, but I think the exercise is good for improving my visual memory. treeAnd it's a good way to take in the thousand and one things that make a particular area different from any other particular area. For instance I notice that the characteristic umbellifer along watercourses and hedgerows in this part of the world is Sweet Cicely.sweet cecily There doesn't seem to be nearly as much Hedge Parsley as in West Yorkshire.

I get a good view of a pair of Redpolls on the airport perimeter fence. I usually see Redpolls as flight silhouettes bouncing over young conifer plantations. I always wonder if I'm seeing Linnets, another streaky brown, reddish-breasted bird. To me the Redpoll has a stockier look and the markings on the head, if you can see in close up, give it a more determined expression than the rather bland-looking Linnet.

clouds, Aberdeen to Manchester flight
The taxi driver tells me of this recent trip to the Punjab to stay with relatives. 'It was too hot for me, I measured the temperature at one o'clock one day and it was 125 degrees, and that was in the shade. There are no swimming pools, but the river is always cool, there is a lot of snow on the mountains in India, but the current's very strong, I soon got out.

'When I got back here three weeks ago, I had a few days off but I felt so cold that I went round to my brother's house and sat there with the gas fire on all day!'

Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

E-mail; 'richard@daelnet.co.uk'

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