There was nothing wrong with the Darlington Premier Inn, although I won’t be rushing back there for the ambience and atmosphere. However, driving through the Pennine snow before dawn was more of an adventure. Sitting drinking coffee from a vacuum flask while watching three blackcock displaying was a delight. The males strutted with their tails outfanned. Their bubbling, cooing song travelled through the cold air as I drank more coffee and ate flapjacks.
At Caerlaverock the fields were full of small pretty geese – Barnacles. At one stage they all became alarmed and hundreds started walking away from a fence line with their heads up. Was it a fox? Some unseen person? Or maybe one of those panics that spread through crowds for no reason? They’ll be flying back to Svalbard fairly soon.
The Glenshee ski lift area was busy. The ski-tows and chairlifts were full of well-equipped winter sports enthusiasts – perhaps enthused by the winter olympics? The man organising parking spotted my binoculars and said I might see buntings further down the road and that there were Ptarmigan on the slope above the car park. I’d already seen the Snow Buntings flying around – their white wing patches on dark wings resembling the black and white of the hillside – white snow and dark heather. In one of the heather patches was a Red Grouse but I saw no Ptarmigan.
St Cyrus was a good deal colder than when I wardened it in the summer of 1976. Instead of Little Terns on the beach there were Red-throated Divers off the beach, but also Harbour Porpoises just beyond the white of the breaking waves – looking like dark tyres circling in the sea.
At Fisherrow Harbour there is the dual attraction of an attractive stone harbour wall giving views into the Firth of Forth and the Harbour Cafe which does excellent breakfast rolls. The wind threw sand in my face and rattled the rigging of the hauled-out boats. Standing on the harbour wall I heard an unmistakable noise but had to stand on tiptoe and peer over the wall to see the two male Eiders whose characteristic Frankie Howerd-like call had recently so amused BBC Radio 4 presenters on Tweet of the Day.
Life is simple in black and white.