Looking back into 2018…

Deep snow

Last year we had it. We had a proper winter. The biggest I have experienced since I came to the UK 14 years ago. Why am I writing about the Beast from the East only now? Well, the past 12 months have been very busy. I worked full time in HR and opening the computer on return home was the last thing I could think of. At the weekends, on the other hand, I preferred to spend time outdoors and also had to catch up with everything else I was not able to do during the week. Now, I have some time to myself. I am currently on annual leave, waiting for the arrival of my baby due to come on the 10 March. See you soon baby!

So, looking back just before the Beast from the East hit us, we went on a trip up north. We stayed in Tomintoul, visited Newtonmore and on the way back visited Loch Garten. The ancient Caledonian pine forest stretches along the loch. The day was absolutely gorgeous. It felt like spring. Here is a picture.

Loch Garten ancient pine forest

A week later, I felt like I was on a different planet. In fact, I did not think that I would ever experience a proper winter in Scotland. Living where we live, in the countryside, I felt blessed. I was able to work from home and enjoy the snow. Having grown up in Poland, I am used to proper winters. And luckily, I can bake bread. There was a couple of days when going to the shops was out of the question. The wildlife was not having the best time though. Once the roads were manageable (in a 4 wheeled drive) we took a drive and spotted a barn owl searching for food at midday. Normally, you only see them at night time. It was extremely busy on the feeders in our garden. Goldfinches came back, there was a flock of long-tailed tits. There was a bullfinch. Blue tits, cold tits, great tits, chaffinches and sparrows, they were all there. Even the blackbirds who don’t normally go near the feeders were eating peanuts.

Here is a photo showing birds on the feeders

And here is a short video where it looks like it will never stop snowing!




The goldfinch came back

The goldfinch was back on the feeder. It was alone again and spent there quite a lot of time. Eventually, the woodpecker came and threw him off the feeder. So it patiently waited on the tree but then went back on to the feeder. Little blue tits were trying to get some nuts, but he kept pushing them off and flapping its wings. It must have been really hungry. And the same happened again. A woodpecker, this time a different one made it get off the feeder. It left. I wonder if it will be be back?

The blue moon and a goldfinch

The unusual blue moon, the second full moon in a month happened yesterday but it was too cloudy to be able to see it. However, this morning the moon was still very big and this is what it looked like where I live:

Moon over a field
With this unusual moon, came a very strong wind. And there was a little cute guest on a bird feeder, a goldfinch. Unfortunately, I did not manage to take a picture of it, but if you don’t know what a goldfinch looks like, there is one on Wikipedia. Goldfinch is a truly beautiful bird, with a red beak and face and yellow- black wings. I really need a camera trap to be able to capture all the amazing birds we get on the feeder. Unusually, it visited us by itself. Every other time goldfinches came as a group of at least four. It stayed on the feeder munching nuts for a long time. This made me think that it must have been very hungry. I wandered, why? Why was it so hungry and why did it come by itself… It is gone now. Hopefully, it is all right. Maybe it just got confused by the second blue moon this month.

Horses at Traprain Law

If you like horses and nice views you should get yourself to Traprain Law.     The hill is a volcanic rock. It does not take long to walk to the top  and as you walk, you will never be alone there, thanks to Exmoor ponies. Those beautiful creatures have been introduced there to graze and and help with improvement of the quality of grassland.

Horses Traprain Law
Horses at Traprain Law

They seem pretty friendly but I would not go too close to them. They might have been brought here by humans but they are still wild animals!

This is a fantastic project set up by a charity and you can find out more about it in this article

Keep walking to the top to see the whole of East Lothian… It is really worth it!

 

The view from Traprain Law
The view from Traprain Law

Uags Bothy

This was my first ever bothy trip. Toscaig was a start point of our walk to Uags bothy.  My boyfriend and I arrived there at 8 15 pm after a long journey through windy highland roads and parked the car. While we tried to minimize the size of our bags as much as possible and carried only necessities, they were still quite heavy. We aimed to get to the bothy before it would get dark.  The first part of the path was very boggy until it eventually disappeared.  Once we passed through it, we walked through moorlands and rocks. After around an hour and a half, we took a break, which did not last very long as we were getting eaten alive by the midges. Even the midge nets did not help as they were biting through them. It was starting to get dark and we were getting worried that we would not get to the bothy before the nightime. We had our tent with us just in case, but with either a boggy or a rocky terrain everywhere, it would have been pretty difficult to find a  good spot for camping. So we continued walking with hope of finding the bothy, admiring beautiful rock formations.

Eventually, we found the precious European oak woodland, which according to the map, meant that we were not far away from the bothy. As we came out of the forest, we looked down the hill. There was the bothy! We made it ! It was already pitch black and we could not even see how far from the sea we were. As we opened the door, a voice shouted at us: ‘What time do you call this?’ There were a couple of guys already in the bothy. One of them gave up his day job to travel around UK bothies sleeping in a hammock . The other guy was fireman who used to be a tree surgeon and arrived to the bothy on a sea kayak. Sea kayaking is something I have never tried before but would really like to.  It was an interesting evening, it is always great to meet like – minded people. As I went outside, all I could see was flashing eyes of deer, which were not far away.

The next day we woke up and went outside to have breakfast at a wooden table while looking at Eilean Mor and Raasay in the distance. After breakfast, we walked to the Northern beach. It was a glorious day and the sun was shining. I went for a dip in the sea but did not stay there for very long as there were jelly fish swimming around.  Once I came out, we sat there enjoying the perfect moment and the beautiful surroundings. It was my boyfriend’s birthday. As he said:

‘If only we could now see a sea eagle, this would make my birthday special’ a sea eagle appeared, flying above our heads and doing a little dance just for us.  This really made this day special and he could not have asked for a better birthday present. Later on, we went to explore the area a little more and enjoyed the sunshine.

View from Uags bothy

The next day, as we were packing to leave, another sea kayaker arrived. He said that he was a keeper of the bothy and that he came to pick up the rubbish. We were going to take the rubbish with us, so it was a great relief, knowing that we would have less to carry on the way back! We left the bothy around midday.  It must have been more than 25 degrees and I was wearing shorts and a sleevles top. I was starting to get sunburnt, so covered myself with a towel, as I did not have a thin long- sleeved top with me. Who would have thought that you can get sunburnt in Scotland!

Here is a little live photo – where you can see the view from Uags bothy

…and a picture of the bothy below

View of Uags bothy
Uags bothy

 

What an amazing idea mountain bothies are…They are free and for everyone. It feels so special being able to stay in a house in the middle of nowhere and have a fire on at night. Thank you for all those lovely volunteers and responsible tourists who help looking after the bothies. Will definitely visit more of them.