Planting trees with a friend yesterday in a caustic easterly wind full of snow and misery, I looked up to see a strange shape passing down the line of a cleugh two hundred yards away. Following a moment or two of squinting and tooth sucking, it was revealed that it was an osprey. A look through the binoculars confirmed the sighting – black above and white below as it wearily worked its way down wind, heading almost due west towards Cairnsmore of Carsphairn.
There are plenty of trouty lochs in the vicinity to catch an osprey’s attention, and RSPB roadsigns inform us that a breeding pair has a nest overlooking the Dee near Threave castle, around ten miles away. But the appearance of this floppy predator over the great rustling expanse of the southern uplands somehow seemed extremely incongruous. I know that they migrate to us from Africa each year and it could well be that this bird was working its way north as part of its annual passage, but the langorous, idle way it seemed to be moving didn’t look very consistent with the popular impression of migration, which portrays swallows firing themselves frantically over the Mediterranean.
I must admit that ospreys don’t really do it for me, and aside from the occasional dramatic plunge into the water, I have found the time I have spent watching them pretty dull. Whatever this bird was doing and wherever it was heading, it certainly was not what I expected to see on a cold April afternoon in Galloway.