A Quiet Life? A wee perusal of my Balintore garden

sparrow and robin in treeThe warm weather has brought a burst spring activity and birdsong to Balintore as I prepare the garden for holiday visitors to Easter Ross in the Scottish Highlands.

I remember complaining about my mothers holiday plans when I was young. She would take us ‘up north’, to the country to ‘detox’. I used to moan that it was too quiet if we went to the country. There was nothing to see or do. 

I was brought up in an industrial town in the central belt. It seemed that it was never quiet! Traffic noise, the sounds of industry, dogs barking and people chatting on the street at all hours. There were even freight trains to be heard when I was quite young.

Now I live in the country ‘up north’. Well, just at the edge of the village of Balintore in the Seaboard Villages. There is a road to the front of my home but the traffic noise is not what disturbs me now.

To the north, south-east and west of my house there are birds – lots of them. Nothing scary like Hitchcock’s birds, just common garden birds. Though I do think one or two of them might be out to get me.

Garden robin, BalintoreMy birds don’t seem to be able to tell time. Their ‘dawn chorus’ seems to start whenever they feel like it. There’s a cheeky wee robin that sits as close to my bedroom window as it can just to make sure I hear him. He was awake at 5am the other day.

There are three robins around the house. One seems to stay near the pond, one in the bit of scrub land to the east and one who lives in the gorse across the road. But they all come to eat at the bird table.

Very occasionally they meet at one of the feeding stations and bicker about which one owns which part of the garden. it’s quite funny watching them squabble, though I believe they can be quite vicious.

StarlingsStarlings have been around all winter in a small group of 8 or 10.They are like feathered locusts – the thugs of the bird world. They come out of nowhere when I top up the tables and feeders and gobble up every scrap. I have to shoo them off sometimes to let the little birds get their fill. They are very verbal and chatter and argue with each other for ages. Some have found their way under the eaves and are keeping warm in the loft.

Sparrows in the bachelor treeAll year round the ‘bachelor tree’ is full of sparrows. This small willow tree was christened by David. The sparrows seem to really like it. They chatter and party all day. They sit at the top of the tree and watch the world go by. When they are startled they just pop down through the tangled branches and wait till danger passes. Then they pop back up and pose and preen, pretending that nothing had scared them. I’ve counted 17 birds on the tree but I know there were more inside.

I get lots of pleasure watching all the different birds who visit the garden. The nesting boxes are ready for another year and are being checked out by the sparrows. There are blackbird, starling, coal tit, blue tit, goldfinch, robin, doves , wood-pigeon and others.

Sparrows in the birdbathLater in the year they will be joined by house martin, swift, swallow, wagtail and who knows what all popping in for a look, or some food or a wee wash in the bird bath or pond. The doves and pigeons like to bathe at the edge of the pond and leave an oily residue on the water.

Blackbirds will follow me around as I do the weeding and their mates will get under my feet looking for worms and grubs. They will pull the basket liners to bits to make their nests and they will poo on everything! Above all. They will make noise, from dawn to dusk, and I just love it.

Eight and a Half John Street, Balintore is an ideal location for a bird-watching holiday. Visit the RSPB reserve at Nigg Bay to see curlew, lapwing, pintail and widgeon, watch buzzard, sparrowhawk and red kite hunting across fields and woodland or take a boat trip along the coast to see nesting seabirds.