Sundays and Nature

My Grandfather was the person who started my interest in Science and Nature. This Sunday I thought I’d write about the latter. He used to take us walks along the river even at night. I remember him pointing out the first shooting star I’d ever seen. He also took me fishing. He was also a head gardener for a rich Mansion owner. He had 2 large steam heated greenhouses with exotic fruits and flowers. Jim (my grandfather) would take me on a Sunday to help him. On a winters day it was amazing to work in the warm in a glass roofed room when there was snow outside. He made the local front pages as he was the first local man to grow a pineapple from seed. Add in his Encyclopedia Britannica set and that was me. I was going to love nature and do science.

Yonks ago I bought a Nikon D70 camera and started pointing it at things. I’m too lazy to do photography and sitting quietly for hours on end isn’t my thing. You always hear how camera clubs are so competitive…….

‘That’s a beautiful photograph Johnathan. Lovely. Might have a winner this time’

‘Thanks Tarquin. I sat in the forest pre dawn everyday for two weeks in minus temperatures to capture the deer. It stood with the sun behind just looking at me. What are you entering this month?’

‘Well. As you know I was in Namibia last year and captured this picture of a leopard in mid air leaping from a banking toward an unsuspecting gazelle standing at the waters edge. The two crocodiles fighting each other in the background was just a bonus. All pin sharp too. Anyway, lovely deer photo…………’

So, my first picture of nature taken with my D70 was some daffodils…… ☺️

My Trumpet daffodils

You learn things from simple activities. Did you know there are 13,000 different types of daffodil? Might try planting more varieties his year!!

Each summer since we moved here housemartins and swallows have arrived each summer to brighten up the skies around the house.

wee beauties under our conservatory roof

These housemartins travel across the Sahara in the Autumn and live in the tropical rainforest before somehow deciding to return to Dumfries! Swallows go all the way to South Africa!!! They can travel 200 miles a day. Makes my inability to rise early from my bed on a Sunday morning even more embarrassing ☺️

Although there are none of Tarquin’s leopards around here I have captured quite a variety of birds and animals. A pair of owls resided in a tree at the bottom of our little field until unfortunately a large part of the tree fell down. Fortunately the pair moved a few hundred metres away to a small farm just along the road.


It’s a shame the tree fell down as the owls let us get quite close and watch them in the early evening, plus the two of them kept the mice and vole population under control!! Their view from the tree was beautiful as well…..

Owlies view of a snowy Blencathra across the Solway from their tree (well the bottom of our field ☺️)

I laugh at people who think we live in the middle of nowhere. We used to travel across the border to walk hills like Blencathra on a Wednesday evening. Leaving Dumfries around 4pm, we’d be on the hills by 6pm, walk the hill, have fish and chips and a beer (apart from the designated driver!! ) and be back home for midnight.

As I make my way through my photographs I realise just how many different birds and animals visit our surroundings. Every year there’s a pheasant shoot about 2 miles away up the hill. No matter what your view is on such things, one benefit is the arrival of pheasants in the trees around our home. We’ve had one male for 3 yrs now who roams the patch, but always returns to roost in the trees next to our shed. This year he had an entourage of 3 females. We now provide corn for them via a grandpa feeder in the field. They’re not long in learning to stand on the treadle to lift the lid to get their dinner. ☺️

Heading across our garden to the Grandpa feeder

PHEASANT FACTS – I didn’t realise this but there are over 50 varieties of pheasant all over the world. Some captive for food and shoots but some live in the wild as far away as Asia.

Not my picture unfotunately but silver pheasants (which I never knew existed) are even more beautiful than our local ones!!

silver pheasant from South East Asia

Even here in Southern Scotland nature gives us a wide range of weather. The lowest I’ve seen was -12 deg C one winter. Our road out was blocked with snow, so I had to walk 2 miles to the main road to get a lift to work. I had wrapped up but having never experienced -12 deg C I wasn’t prepared at all. After 50 yards I walked back to the house and stuck another 2 layers on, a wooly hat to go under my hood and another pair of gloves!!

our shed in -12 deg C

Waking up next morning, I realised more snow had fallen. I got up for work, but was in for a shock when I opened the curtains. The snow in places was above my waist. The picture below shows me standing on the country road that leads down to our only exit to civilisation. I’m a big child when it comes to snow so I phoned work and said I’d be taking a days holiday 🙂 After 3 days our local farmer managed to go cross country in an ATV to ask us if we wanted food as the main road had been cleared. We took up the offer, only realising afterwards we hadn’t asked him to get us some wine 🙂

me enjoying the big snow

About 6 weeks ago we were in the conservatory, when my wife jumped out of her skin. A bird of prey was trying to get into the housemartins nest under the conservatory roof. She managed to scare it off. A while back I managed to capture one sitting on a post a few feet outside our kitchen window. This one even looks cute but I wouldn’t want to be a vole with that chasing me!!

Sparrowhawk on my garden fence

We see a wide variety of birds around the house. Robins are my favourites but we see all sorts of lovely birds. Maybe not the exotically coloured birds of the Amazon rainforest, but beautiful in other ways. When I upgraded to my Nikon 810 with a 600mm lens it allowed me to take decent pictures from a distance without disturbing the birds. The robin below is actually sitting on the remains of the tree we were forced to take down where the owls lived. My wife tells me it’s not a proper nature photo as I baited the tree stump with dried mealworms 🙂

beautiful robin

I remember my first visit to the USA. I was working in Virginia fora few days. One day we were taken to a cafe beside the river and sat outside in the sunshine. At one point a large red streak flew past me. I ducked and said….

‘what on earth was that?’.

‘A robin’ came the reply

‘But it was huge!!’

‘just a robin’

I asked ‘If that’s a robin what size are the flipping crows!!’

A Thrush on our dyke
He’s looking at me

I was quite pleased with the above photo but a ‘Tarquin’ professional photographer told me the dangling out of focus twig ‘detracted’ from the photo. You can see why I don’t join a photography club ☺️

I like this picture of a hare treading carefully through our flower patch. Love seeing the male and females together grazing in the fields around our home.

hare from the bedroom window
beautiful wings
ducks in my neighbours pond

I took the above with my D70 yonks ago in my neighbours pond. Never seen any since!!!

yellowhammer at our bird table

Around 5 years ago we discovered a stoat was living in the eaves of our house. I didn’t know it was a stoat until I discovered they have the black spot on their tail. I wanted to get traps to catch it only to find you’re not allowed to catch, transport and release them somewhere else!! So, they are still with us and keep the mice and vole population down. One day thought I saw it with a starling in it’s mouth which is not pukka. It’s that bit of leaving nature to take its course versus interfering.

angry chaffinch on our patio 🙂

We see red squirrels occasionally as well. I put a nut feeder up for this little chap.

Whether it’s animals, clouds, flowers, sunsets. Nature surprises me all year round. There are always surprises round the corner. It’s an amazing place to live.

flower in the garden
Autumn leaves
starling at the fatballs

I hadn’t realised until I put this together the amazing variety of life that surrounds our little acre of land. It’s amazing. Only last week I captured a fieldfare for the first time. It’s probably been there loads of times at this time of the year but I never looked.


I leave you with a sunset I captured 2 weeks ago. Living high up a hill gives us something you don’t get when you live in a town or city. It makes you appreciate life and nature a little bit more.

Until next time make sure you look around you. You never know what you might find.

‘Sundays and Nature’ was brought to you by David Linden via the @qosfc1919 on Twitter email ©️Dodo Productions 2020

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