In my role as an indulgent and dependable boyfriend, I’m often called upon to do things that are, frankly, quite irritating. This evening, I was called to pick up my girlfriend from a party in the town – when you’ve spent a day filling the woodshed and killing sitka spruce trees (a favourite pastime of mine), all you want to do is sit infront of the fire with a dog on your lap and read a book. Sadly, it’s not always that simple, so with a heavy heart, I headed off to the car.
It’s ten miles into Dumfries, and there’s always something to see when you drive the distance late at night. I routinely see barn owls and tawny owls, but I was proud to be able to identify a long eared owl on a fencepost as I drove past at twenty five miles an hour, and prouder still that I came away with a picture of it. I think long eared owls are great, and this is only the second one I have ever seen. Their eyes are the giveaway, and there is something sinister about the peculiar orange glow they have, even in dull weather or partial darkness.
Within a mile, I had stopped the car again when an awkward little shape shuffled out in the road infront of me. You very rarely see hedgehogs in Galloway, and it’s been a while since I even saw a dead one on the road. There are probably lots of reasons why we don’t have the hedgehogs we used to, even in my lifetime, but I think that badgers must have some part to play in it. I’ve found the remains of hedgehogs which were killed by badgers, and I’ve always thought that the predator/prey relationship between the two is a little unfair. All very well, a hedgehog’s spikes are enough to deter the effeminate approaches of a fox or a cat, but when they come up against an animal that is as brutish and ignorant as a badger, they don’t stand a chance. Badgers really are thoughtless, meat-head bastards. I picked up the hedgehog, which was quite a small one, and dropped it over the dyke so that even if it wanted to get back on the road, it would have a difficult job.
Neither of these species are particularly good news from the perspective of a gamekeeper, but it’s easy to forget that there’s a great deal more to the British countryside than gamebirds.