Fighting coots.

August 2022 - Heated encounters

The hottest temperature ever recorded in Scotland left us all sweltering last month. I was driving on the quad bike around Dundas Castle estate in a T-shirt and shorts while the internal temperature gauge in my car around 4pm was registering 43 degrees centigrade! I don’t know if we’ll see such weather repeat any time soon but climate change continues to be gathering pace.

Life on Dundas Loch has been steady. The cygnets continue to grow and some moorhens are still feeding young. I witnessed one territorial spat between a couple of moorhens which produced a violent fight and chase. They have long claws on the end of their large feet which are raised and used to rasp at any opponent. One bird managed to better the other and I was sure tried to drown it as the likely victor stood on top of the other keeping it submerged beneath the water. Fortunately, the victim managed to free itself and make good its escape. Earlier in the month, the male swan lost patience with a canada goose gosling while being fed by a member of the public. The cob charged at the gosling, grabbed it by the neck with its beak and attempted to drag it into a bamboo bush. Fortunately some of us were on hand to rescue the gosling from the swan and return it to its family. It brings home just how brutal nature can sometimes be.

I have been looking to see what has been happening in the woods at Dundas and placed a couple of trail cameras out. Footage has revealed the presence of a fallow deer and fawn, roe deer and fawns, badger, fox, hare and grey squirrels. Next step is to put out a camera trap to see what I can catch. Meantime, I have been tracking the estate’s white squirrel and enjoyed a half-hour session in its company. The squirrel is an albino grey and is not that common so it was satisfying to have spent some time with it.

I managed a couple of evening trips during the month - one to East Lothian and the other to West Lothian. It was good to return to Tantallon Castle and the Bass Rock for some sunset shots from a beach that is seldom visited. I had the place to myself and was able to enjoy the tranquil atmosphere. On a more sombre note were the carcasses of several gannets that lay around the high tide mark which I could only assume were victims of avian flu. It has had such a devastating effect on the seabird populations this summer and I only hope the birds can somehow recover over the forthcoming years. The trip to West Lothian allowed me to photograph the Kincardine and Clackmannanshire bridges set against the hills of the Trossachs. I have taken this scene before but I felt the images were dominated by the bulk of Long Gannet power station which, of course, has now been demolished. After sunset, I went further on down the road to capture a few pictures of Grangemouth oil refinery which worked nicely against the orange, post-sunset afterglow.

August is not the best of months for wild flowers and I shall need to look at photographing harebells. A stand of rosebay willowherb caught my attention and I immersed myself amongst it - along with a variety of bumblebees - to grab some images. It is often referred to as ‘fireweed’ as it was the first flower to emerge from the rubble caused by German bombing during World War II. I imagine it would would have stood out beautifully as a splash of colour amongst the derelict ruins.