Friday 30 August 2019

Berry Happy Nature Friday!

Greetings friends. Today we are going blaeberry picking!

Due to my lack of opposable thumbs, it will of course be Gail who does all the work.

To be frank, it is not very exciting, watching your human pick berries that she, but not you, will be sprinkling on her breakfast cereal.

So I think I'll go and play hide and seek.

Who can see me?

Hoping that you too are enjoying Nature Friday with our dear friends Arty, Jakey and Rosie

Wednesday 28 August 2019

Crying into my EU flag neckerchief...

In anticipation of my October trip to Germany I have been proudly wearing my EU flag neckerchief these last few weeks.

What a good job it was handy, so Gail could wipe the tears from my eyes (and then her own) when we heard the news from Westminster today...

Monday 26 August 2019

One has one's standards...

So Gail came back from her Sunday morning bicycle ride and announced that she was now ready to take me for a walk.
About time too, I thought.

But then I noticed the state of her calf and pointedly waited until she had cleaned herself up.

One has one's standards you know.

(Fellow pups, does your owner spend more time grooming you than they spend grooming themselves? No? Just me then!)

When Gail had finally made herself presentable, we drove 15 miles up the coast the Forvie Sands Nature Reserve. I'm so pleased to report that the weather in NE Scotland has taken a turn for the better. On arriving at the entrance to the reserve, we spotted a new sign, thoughtfully placed at dog height and which, being a Good Dog (mostly), I was happy to obey.

You can't beat an empty Scottish beach on a fine (~21ºC/70ºF) summer Sunday afternoon! 

Thursday 22 August 2019

A pep talk from Bertie

Advice in Verse

(especially applicable to those enduring the Scottish summer...)

Why fret about the wet?
Don't be cowed by too much cloud.
There is much to gain from lots of rain,
Why fret about the wet?

Don't grizzle when there's drizzle,
And if it's dreich, stand tall, look chic!
When skies are grey, go out to play,
Don't grizzle when there's drizzle.

A blizzard can be wizard!
And ice is rather nice.
In heavy snows, just wear warm clothes,
A blizzard can be wizard!

There is no doubt, we won't have drought.
Evapo-transpiration's low in this location.
Enjoy walkies through mud when everywhere's humid.
There is no doubt, we won't have drought.

Yes, why fret about the wet?

Monday 19 August 2019

The wrong kind of rainbow

The weather forecast for Torridon last weekend was mixed. Gail has a tendency, inherited from Human Grandad, to look on the bright side, and claimed, as we headed west to our cottage on Friday morning, it would at least be excellent rainbow weather.

On arrival we walked up the road and passed the local farmer who greeted us with his customary "nae a bad day".

But as the skies darkened, and the last vestige of brightness fell victim to a pincer movement obliterating any hint of a cloud break, even Gail had to concede that her optimism might, on this occasion, have been misplaced.

As you know, I am not one of those soft southern pups who disdains to to venture out in rainy weather. 

"Why fret about the wet?" could be my motto.  

At least the wind was strong enough to keep the midges at bay. 

And eventually, on the road up the hill from the cottage, I did spot a rainbow of sorts...

Friday 16 August 2019

What they don't tell you about summer in Scotland....

On Wednesday morning, normally an office day for Gail, I was surprised to see her loading up her backpack with a picnic lunch, flask of coffee, waterproof clothes, insect repellent etc. and surmised that she had the day off and was going to take me for a nice walk.

So initially I was disappointed to learn she was meeting some other volunteers in Glen Tanar, and together they would be conducting something called a 'habitat survey' as part of a wildflower conservation project for Plantlife Scotland, and that "dogs are not invited".

Disappointment turned to relief when she later showed me the photos of the volunteers er, 'enjoying' their lunch break in the company of a few million members of Scotland's most prolific and notorious form of wildlife, Culicoides impunctatus, aka the Highland midge.

Apparently if you walk at more than 4 mph the Highland Midge cannot keep pace.

But for once, I was not unhappy to have been left at home.

Happy Nature Friday friends!

Thursday 15 August 2019

No dog is an island? Wrong!

While Gail has been busy at work this week, I have been pondering the question of why so many of my fellow canines hereabouts are named after Scottish Islands.

The thought was prompted by a recent encounter with two pretty cocker spaniels named Skye and Iona. These are of course two rather famous islands, perhaps known even to some of my more far flung readers.

I have Vizla friend in Edinburgh called Harris, after that island of barren, austere beauty on the far northwest fringe of the UK, source of the famous tweed.

Nearer home in Aberdeen, we know of an Arran (Jack Russell terrier) and a Lewis (Lab). Yes you've guessed, both islands* too - look them up in the atlas!

A lady in Gail's book club who was raised on the Orkney archipelago (off the north coast of the Scotland) has a border collie called Rousay. This is one of the Orkneys and a great place to visit if you like archaeology and wind.

Not a million miles from Rousay, but closer to the Scottish mainland, you'll find on the map a wee islet called Stroma. I'll confess that the only thing Gail and I know about Stroma is that it's also the name of our next door neighbour spaniel.

When Gail eventually got home from work I asked her if she had ever considered giving me a Scottish island name.

"Oh yes, quite often Bertie. Sometimes I think your name should have been 'Muck' and sometimes I think  'Yell' would have been more appropriate."

So not funny.

On reflection, I am quite happy with my 'official' Kennel Club name, Granddach Beinn Alligin - more elevated to be identified with a mountain, don't you think?

*Just to head off any geographical pedantry - Gail and I are well aware that Lewis and Harris comprise, respectively, the northern and southern parts of the same Outer Hebridean island...

Sunday 11 August 2019

Clouds and cloudberries


Sometimes, in the face of weakening resolve, our humans need a bit of gentle persuasion, don't you find?

On Saturday morning Gail announced that she thought the cloudberries near the summit of Morven (our favourite Aberdeenshire hill) would be ripe and it was time to go for a forage.

Fine by me.

But when we reached the parking area, rain was splattering against the car windscreen, the top half of the hill was hidden under a thick blanket of cloud, and Gail came over all hesitant, muttering something about maybe a lower level walk, and picking raspberries instead.

Well I just gave her a 'look', which she correctly interpreted as saying:

"Raspberries are easy to find, and really not special at all. And by the way, the clue is in the name, CLOUD-berries. I think we should ascend as planned."

The rain ceased shortly after we set off up the narrow steep path through the heather. We met no other humans. The rounded summit was alive with ptarmigan and mountain hare, although when I moved to make a meal of one (no longer living) hare, Gail firmly pulled me away, asserting, "I didn't mean that sort of foraging Bertie!"

I'll admit I'm not the most patient of berry picking companions, especially when kept on a lead because of poor visibility and enticing wildlife. But eventually Gail located enough ripe cloudberries to serve as an accompaniment to her home made 'no-churn' ice cream when her friends John and Françoise came round for dinner later in the day.

So all in all it was a highly successful outing, and I think Gail is now grateful I had earlier given her that 'look'.

Friday 9 August 2019

Nature Friday: Am I not good enough?

You know what?

I think I do a pretty good job when it comes to posing for my Nature Friday photos.

For example, yesterday Gail took me for an evening ramble around the headland at the mouth of Aberdeen Harbour. Despite a stiff sea breeze, I sat patiently, doing my bit as foreground interest to a variety of scenic shots.

Only once did my natural restlessness get the better of me, when I spotted another pup heading in my direction.

So I think you will understand why I felt a bit miffed when Gail tried to exclude me from a wee video of harebells dancing in the wind.

But don't worry. I made quite sure that my presence was heard, if not seen...

It is my blog after all, right?

Thank you once again to our dear friends Arty, Jakey and Rosy for hosting the Nature Friday blog hop. Do go and visit all the other great posts today.

Tuesday 6 August 2019

A corgi cushion: adventures at Balmoral

I'll be honest with you. I was a bit alarmed when Gail suggested yesterday that we take our lovely young (but camera shy) visitor Helen, who is up from England for a few days holiday, for a walk around Ballochbuie Forest.

Why the alarm?

Let me explain.

Ballochbuie Forest is part of the Balmoral Estate, and it is well known that through August our Royal Family take up residence at their Scottish home. And although we understand that the Duke of Edinburgh, age 98, has finally agreed to turn in his driving licence, one suspects he might still have access to his Land Rover keys, and be tempted to go for the occasional wee spin around the forest tracks on his private territory.

But it was a pleasantly warm day, and the threatened rain never materialised, and so despite the danger of near-centenarian drivers, we three all headed up through the forest, past the waterfalls, aiming for Gail's favourite lunch spot on the front steps of a secluded wooden chalet, hidden in a hollow among ancient Scots pines and heather.

In retrospect we should have realised the game was up when we approached the usually deserted chalet and saw smoke rising from the chimney. And even more so when we passed by a 4WD vehicle in which was sat a hefty chap wearing a suit and tie and shades, and a stony faced young lady in 'country tweeds'.

But ignoring all this, Gail and Helen made for the chalet steps and started unpacking their picnic lunch (in which of course I took a close interest). But no soon as the squashed cheese sandwiches had seen the light of day than the tweedy lady approached and, awfully politely but quite firmly (us pups recognise these nuances of human communication) said we all had to move away from the chalet, as "visitors" were about to arrive. Oh yes, and could we please eat our lunch somewhere out of sight?

As Gail, ever the obedient subject(!) made to move, the lady opened the chalet door, and I seized the opportunity to enter. What did I see inside? A table laid for four, logs glowing in the wood-burning stove, and on the sofa a cushion decorated with a picture of a corgi.

I was politely but firmly ejected before I had time to investigate further.

As we ate our lunch a discreet distance away up this hill - I was given a pig's ear to chew - we spotted another large black 4WD vehicle heading towards the chalet.

A few minutes later, we heard a dog barking.

I'll swear it was a corgi.

The walk ended with a refreshing sip from the River Dee, and relief that we had arrived back safely...

Friday 2 August 2019

A Potentilla moment

Do you even have one of those weeks when your human is super busy at work and the only 'nature' you see is the shrub in front garden which is in your line of sight as you stare forlornly out of the window waiting for her to come home?

PS Our Potentilla is having a bit of a moment this year, having miraculously survived a near-death experience at Gail's hands during our uncommonly dry summer in 2018.

Look, here it is in close up.

Thanks you to our dear friends Arty, Jakey and Rosy, for hosting the Nature Friday blog hop. Do go and visit the other posts - a great read is guaranteed.