Tales of yore
Bats and Bobs
As a kid growing up in and around Dunkeld, as you may well imagine, I had a real integration with nature. One family holiday I remember with cherish was a get away to Kinloch Rannoch. One of my dad’s police pals, Bob White and his family were stationed there. As I remember it, we were staying in a tent or caravan on the South side of Rannoch village and we went to visit the White’s at their home in the village. On our way back, bats were spotted, Daubentons if I remember correctly as we were close to water and that is a habitat they love. I pleaded with my parents to let me walk back through the village and back to our camp site, if nothing else just to wonder at these amazing flying animals. Mum, it must be said wasn’t too keen but dad stopped the car and let me out but told me to take our faithful Beardie, Susie. Now it must have been no more than a 5 minute walk back but we took an age taking in not only the whizzing night mammals, but also the unpolluted skies of Rannoch moor. To have these wonderous creatures doing their night manouveres no more than a few feet from me was totally incredible and a joy that I will always treasure. I think in all, it took us near 30 mins to return to the campsite and as I was arriving I was met with dad, big smile on his face at seeing my more than obvious joy at being at one with the “creatures of the night”.
Dunkeld, is an awesome place and where I regard myself as being extremely lucky in spending 3 1\2 years as a teenager, and I still regard it as where I fell in love with nature. My parents are really lovely people and generally gave me a free rein when we stayed in Dunkeld, as we knew everyone, everyone was known by us, I was trusted and I rarely abused that trust though I probably pushed the limits more than a few times. One such occasion was when I told my folks I was away to play footy at the park but actually went to the Hermitage to do a bit of fishing with my mates. As any of you know that have been there, fly fishing ain’t easy due to the trees. However, my pals and I had realised we could incorporate “fly” and “course” fishing by attaching a floating bubble to the end of the line with a cast of 3 flies before the bubble. So we cracked on, my pals and I through the late afternoon into the growing dusk. Now, the one thing about this particular “tackle set up” is, if you are standing higher than the water (which IS a given) as you are reeling in, the flies will leave the water early. Bats love flies!!!! So for those of you that haven’t guessed already, I caught a bat, thankfully the fly missed its mouth and I caught it on the upper part of the wing. Not knowing all of this due to the darkness, I thought I’d caught a half decent trout going by the initial “take”, but when no fight was evident I knew something was amiss. After reeling this poor wee beastie in, I almost freaked out at seeing my “catch”. My pals were adamant I should just knock it on the head with a stone as they “all” carry rabies, but that is not my style. I wrapped the wee guy up in a rag, making sure pointy things were covered, and unhooked his wing. I did get a wee bit anxious after that as my pals were shouting out things about “Count Yorga”, “Dracula” the “undead” and such like and to my shame I did throw the wee guy to the ground. Thankfully however, he rose from the “dead” lol, scrambled across the rocks and took off into the night. My ordeal was not over however as I arrived home around 10 that evening (Sunday school night) and was totally given a real bolloxing by both parents. Ah happy days 😉
When Gill and I moved into the house we are in now, we started to see a lot of “screachers” overhead, and to to those that aren’t aware of their other acronym, they are swifts and suitably nick-named. I used to set up a bbq or fire of an evening and I’d settle down with the kids to toast some bread or marshmallows whilst watching the swifts performing their aerial display. but as dusk approached, the screachers would be replaced by wee pipestrelles. We would watch them carrying out figure of 8’s, dive bombs and every other maneouvre that a Spitfire pilot may have accomplished, and I must admit, I and the kids loved it. I still sit out on a balmy evening and watch these masters of the skies perform and totally love it.
As I’ve alluded to earlier, my dad and I spent a lot of time snaring rabbits. It was on one such excursion that I came across my first experience of a wild honey bee nest. I can’t honestly remember all the details but I know it was a comical affair. On finding this nest in a hollowed out Birch tree (I think) my dad decided it would be a great idea to take the honey. Now, I’m not that sure how legal this would be in this day and age, and my father would never harm another creature out of malice, but he was determined to have this honey. So, after returning home to Perth he made various enquiries to his pals and appeared back at home with a varied amount of smoking devices that would put the bees to sleep and as you can imagine, my mum just shook her head in an all knowing way. Anyway, the day of truth arrived and Dad and I along with one of his pals descended upon the aforementioned tree and its hidden treasure. I can’t remember if there was a ladder involved but I do remember the numerous attempts at getting the smoker to work and the pumping of smoky fumes into a hole in the tree. I also remember the screams as dad was stung and the strange and rather weird language that I’d never heard before coming from his mouth and the bellows of laughter from his pal. After what seemed like an age, both the senior members of our marauding party came to the conclusion that the bees were now asleep or sufficiently doped up enough that they now could begin the extraction of the honey. Alas, this wasn’t the case and this time there was more weird language but this time from both of the oldies and it was me that was bellowing out the laughter. However, perseverance was the motto of the day and I’ll give dad his due, he managed to get a good few combs into a hessian bag and oh, was he chuffed? So, we headed back home with this liquid gold, the two older guys in the front boasting how brave they had been in getting the honey and outwitting a bee. All I could make out was, they both had a lot of very red marks on their face and arms and there was a distinct humming noise that was getting louder from the hessian bag in the back of the car! So dad, proud as punch handed over the days prize to mum. She laid the bag open in the kitchen and before we knew it, the kitchen now had more than a few rather irate bees looking for a target. It was then that I discovered that my mum also knew the strange and weird language that had dad had used to talk to the bees, only this time she was conversing said language towards my dad. It must have been a comedy language or something along those lines, because my last real recollections of the day was me laughing as I ran out the kitchen door. We did, EVENTUALLY, manage to get the honey out of the combs and I must admit it was nectar (boom-boom) though the odd dead bee, wing, bees leg or bit of comb on our toast in the morning was a bit unusual.
Horse of the forest
My dad used to do a bit of rabbit snaring for various estates and I used to love to accompany him, and I’ll impart a few stories about our going on’s. On this one occasion we were snaring around Findo Gask, and I’m talking 35+ years ago. Findo Gask was named after St.Finaca or Findoce Gask is officially named Findogask after St. Findoc, the patron saint of the parish church. Anyway, we were checking the snares and on one side to the west was a 3ft high dyke with a fence running a foot or so in front of it, to the east was a barley or wheat field over run with conneys. To the north, was a thick woodland that looked liked something out of a Tolkien novel, Tom Bombadil would have been lurking in there somewhere keeping the peace with the trees. So dad is setting snares and I’m getting royally bored, as a lad of 7 or so often does though unusual for me. However, the woods took my fancy, and I said to pops, “I’m away for a look dad”, no problem was the reply. On reaching the woods, the light was instantly consumed by murky darkness and a queer “pop, pop” (just like when you were a kid and popping your finger out of your mouth/cheek) sound started to emanate from the darkness. Being totally invincible at that age, I ventured forth remembering my dads mantra (nothing ventured, nothing gained) into the dank pine wood I went. The “pop pop” then changed to a “clop clop” and there in front of me was the biggest bloody turkey I’d ever seen!!! Now, I’m not joking when I say this thing was big, remember I was only 7 or so and I’m sure my parents had just told me and my wee brother that this was a Christmas turkey (a big chicken), so when I saw this bad boy strutting his stuff, I near bricked it!! It reared up, spread its wings and started walking forward at no slow pace I might add, I just never knew what to do but instinct was on board for once, “retreat” my infantile brain was telling me, so I did, gradually but not really wanting to back down to an over-grown chicken, hey, I was invincible remember! So this Caper, picked up the pace and was really gonna have me when the next thing I knew I was grabbed from behind by the scruff of the neck and pulled violently backwards with some words that sounded like ” Furs sake, yeh stoo pid lil hit, get away fae thae bar stewards” but that might not be the a direct quote, as it was a long time ago. Dad to the rescue yet again, he yanked me away from the rather irate T-Rex and we both ran like the blazes, but the bird stopped right on the edge of the wood, and obviously at the end of it’s territory. Absolutely brilliant experience and my maiden introduction to the fantastic Capercaillie. I still bare the scars to this very day 😉
Not my pic btw