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What do I see on my daily walk ?


For the last couple of years there's a walk I try and do every day, sometimes twice a day, in winter and summer. It's a popular walk, about three miles long, and you often see other people and joggers out, as well as all the farm and estate vehicles.  So you wouldn't expect to see much wildlife there - or would you ?

When I'm out, I see all sorts from new born lambs to field mice. The walk has loads of trees beside the path that hosts all kinds of animals. I often see red kites or buzzards gliding, stoats, squirrels and deer - and maybe even a kingfisher ! Read on to find out more.

The walk

Depending which way round I walk it, it starts on open farmland,  then skirts the edge of a wood, then up past several ponds, then through farmland again before turning back along the side of a river. It covers all the types of countryside round here except moorland. It is more or less flat, but to the north I can see the hills and the huge forest where I stalk the red deer, and to the south is the moorland where I filmed my first pine marten and saw the short-eared owls.

If I'm out in the morning on a school day, I'm usually out about 6am, and this time of year I see the shepherd on his quad bike with his dog.

Stoats are difficult to spot, but I've seen one running across the road about half a mile up the track.

The next bit of the walk is a long stretch, that has a forest on one side and fields on the other. That was when I saw this field mouse looking for food on the path itself. That seemed unusual since I've seen mice a lot on my trailcam, but usually only late at night.

The red kites

A little further up the same path is a red kite, tagged with a red/red tag (red on the left wing, red on the right) with the code A8. The red tags mean that it was born in 2012 in Central Scotland. My village has quite a few red kites, but I'm pretty sure A8 is nesting in the woods a short distance off the path, as I have seen it gathering sticks, and out with another red kite whose tags I couldn't see.

It's quite nice seeing A8 out, although it isn't active so much in the early morning, and I've only seen it a few times at dusk.

The ponds

Just off from the path is an old abandoned saw mill that is 151 years old and which I wrote about a few weeks ago. It was driven by water, powering a saw. 

A short distance up the hill from it is the mill pond, which would have fed water into it. I almost always see ducks, geese or other small birds there, 

I have only seen this bird once and it is one my favourite birds: the kingfisher ! I saw it perched on some rocks by the side of the pond once. Then it flew away so fast that all I saw was a flurry of blue wings. There are at least two, and I always look out for them.

At the edge of the pond I have seen a dipper (not this one !)

Another bird that is often there is the grey heron. It is often found by the side of the river, but can sometimes be found by the three ponds. Grey heron are really big birds, with a wingspan of between 1.6 - 2 metres.

These are oystercatchers in the fields. I usually see them in the fields because they like to nest near rocks because their eggs resemble rocks, but at the moment hey spend their time looking for worms and small bugs. 

There are sometimes geese on the ponds or flying overhead. These are Canada geese. They eat the vegetation like the weed and plants at the bottom of the ponds.

The hares

There are quite a lot of hares in the last field before the woods. They are easier to see at dawn or dusk, and quite different to rabbits because of their wonky back legs. There are hare bones at the start of the walk, anre much ld look like rabbits except they are much larger.

The roe deer and squirrels

After the ponds, the track goes east through farmland, then turns back down towards the village. As it turns, there are a strip of trees where roe deer and red squirrels can almost always be seen. I had my trail camera there for a while, and with watching carefully was able to work out there were at least six different squirrels.

This year, the dominant buck has an unusual growth on the left antler, more like the front tine on a red deer stag. Here it is with a much younger buck. I wondered whether this was a show of dominance, but I have seen the two together since, so probably not.

Back along the river

The second half of the walk is through the woods, and beside a river. It is more sheltered on this part of the walk because of the trees, and it can be really spooky in the dark. On this steep bank is where I left my trail cam to watch a small path to see if we could find otters or mink, but all I got was rats.

Just off from the road is this roe buck skeleton, but I left it for my brother to find ( he is getting interested in bones now ! ) Beside that skeleton is a stream that comes out the side of a tunnel, and the tunnel must be some distance, as I can't find the other end of it anywhere.

There are these big trees that are some kind of fir or pine. They are about 2 miles in to the walk on another long stretch and must be around 150 years old. 

On some of the younger trees is this fungi called Horses hoof ( Fomes fomentarius ) This tree was just beside the roe buck skeleton.

If you look in to one of the fields opposite the fungi and buck skeleton, you will see a part of a hollow tree trunk. When I first saw it, I went to have a look in it.

At first it just looks like some sheep wool, but if you look closer you can see that it is one of last years lambs - it must have died in the winter, and you can tell by the unfused ends of the bones that this was a juvenile animal. It must have got cold, climbed in here, went to sleep and never woke up. It was really sad seeing this.

The river wildlife

There is quite a lot of birds along this stretch of the woods, including chaffinches and tits, as well as more unusual ones, like this female grey wagtail, and other pied wagtails. Best of all is in the autumn, when salmon come to swim upstream, which I wrote about last year.

After this, the walk comes back to the village, and apart from the red squirrels and buzzards, there's not so much to be seen from here. And the red deer in the first picture ? I cheated a bit - there are red deer, but you need to go a bit off the main track in order to see them !

This just shows how much wildlife is in a walk, and having been exploring the other big estate near the village for the last six years, I have started to explore this one further, which I will write about another time.

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Alice Mae Lewis said...

What a wonderful and beautiful walk! After a long morning at work it was a real joy to travel along with you.Thank you so much for sharing!
I'll have to look up what sort of kingfisher lives in Scotland. There is a small swamp not far from my home with a nesting pair. Ospreys usually nest on the cell phone tower at the end of the street!! I enjoy watching them gathering sticks when they reinforce the nest... they eye a likely looking branch carefully, then they go over and break them off. Great birds! Thanks again and enjoy your walks.

Alison Cebula said...

I so enjoyed this entry with all the beautiful photos and your wonderful narrative. Thank you for the wildlife tour of your neighborhood. You live in an extraordinary place.

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