Sunday, 25 April 2021

The View from a Hidden Glen: Part 2 - The tale of a keeper and oystercatchers

Mike Colling continues to describe the view Glen Bruar Lodge in Perthshire illustrated with drawings I made in this wild and special place in 2017. 

We live in splendid isolation, with one exception. Behind our lodge is another house, Dominic’s house.  Dominic Morrogh Bernard head keeper on the Bruar beat. He guards and tends 15,000 acres, rising from 1,500 feet up to 3,557. He is a particular man, I have never in all my years met a stalker halfway like him. A perfect educated Englishman. Better spoken than you or I dear reader, with cut glass accent and vocabulary as wide as the ocean. And stick, stick thin. Heavy estate tweeds just hang off him. Legs that drive him up the hill at pace seem like spider slim and delicate. But he bounds like a spaniel, with a quiet joy about him, and will talk of cabbages and Kings. 

Bruar Lodge, inside there's talk of cabbages and Kings

            As we arrive the sun dips behind Sron na Faiceachan, the great lump of granite that dominates the skyline in front of our lodge. And our last view of the day is of our hinds, quietly working their way down to the river for shelter and water as night falls.

The Bruar River 

            The view the morning brings is restricted. Officially it may be spring, but it seems no-one has told our weather. Snow hammers sideways up the glen, driven horizontally by a bitter south west wind.  The “whyt, whyt, whyt” of Oystercatchers can be heard above the snow, but even their luminous orange beaks are invisible behind the curtain of white. An hour later and Bruar once more proves it provides weather and not climate. Sun illuminates a snow-covered glen from innocent blue skies dotted with fluffy white clouds. A mile walk north is the loch, reservoir that feeds the hydro back downstream. Here the oyster catchers can now be seen as well as heard. Whooper swans honk their warning calls, lifting teal, eider, wigeon, and finally lapwing from the reeds at waters edge. Grey hens also lift, but in response to another alert. Three hen harriers circle high above, on winter thermals. They flush the grouse who chose to take to flight rather than hiding still in

Coming off the hills
deep rank heather. 

For a brief ten minutes the view is of spring reigning supreme. The air is full of mating flights. The oystercatchers chase each other and call upon the wing. Mallards race, with three drakes in hot pursuit of just one duck. And then no view at all. The wind howls, and snow once more is driven horizontally up the glen, blinding me as I lean into the storm, and head home. On days like these the best views are from the fireside.

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