Highland JourneyWild West Yorkshire nature diary, Scottish Excursion, Tuesday 11th May 1999
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 trees, birds, hills and buildings that make this train journey so different from the trans-Pennine route.
With a couple of distilleries and a few highland cattle, you could hardly think you were anywhere else in the world. Crows are the most characteristic bird but Oystercatchers are more eye-catching as they flex there crisply marked black-and-white wings. This far north the lambs seem a few weeks younger.
I notice snowboards on the roof of a station and what looks like a ruined kirk on a hill. The old cottages have a particular low, solid, look to them that makes you think of them as crofts.
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.
'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!'