One of the joys of living at 58 degrees north, a mere 475 miles south of the Arctic Circle, is that seasons are very distinct. When I grew up, summer and winter were markedly different, in that it rained in winter and was windy and hot in summer, but autumn and spring were so short, they were easy to miss. But here, when spring then summer come, we have tourist season, when people from all over Europe and beyond come to this part of the world to see its wonders. It's not only people who come. We get huge skeins of geese flying to and from the feeding and breeding grounds in Greenland. I once picked up an exhausted scaup that had been blown clean across the Atlantic, but which sadly eventually did not survive its ordeal. We've seen a hoopoo here, which last I saw in South Africa, and which in this case apparently came from the Mediterranean. Much other wildlife is documented at the Assynt Field Club web site, which you can find here.
But this blog post isn't about these significant and impressive sightings. It's about a tiny little bird, the smallest we get, the wren.
We've had some interesting encounters with wild life here. We've even had to look after an otter cub in our kitchen one day. We've had badgers and deer in the garden, and so on. These encounters bring you closer to the world around you and when there is an interaction with a wild animal, it leaves a sense of connection which is hard to define, but uplifting.
Now Helen hand-dyes knitting yarn for a living. She does this from a shed in the garden, next to which is a clever drying tent. designed and built on the Isle of Mull, which she uses to hang the soaking wet yarn to dry.
A few weeks back, she found some moss on one of the skeins of yarn, which we thought had got there as a result of my using the strimmer on the grass. But a few days later, another skein had moss entangled in it. Eventually we understood - a bird was trying to nest in the yarn. So Helen left that skein on the line, and soon it was looking quite built-out.
We have had to peg the yarn to ensure that the nest does not unravel. But who was responsible for this? Yes, that tiniest of birds, the Jenny wren. We know the wren loves to call at this time of the year, and the volume of sound coming from such a tiny bird is impressive. In calm conditions, he sits on the top of the wind turbine blades to ensure he sings from the highest point. The turbine is about 1.8m in diameter so the tiny wren is hardly visible.
But here he is on close-up
So I sat down to photograph the wren. Helen works in her shed all day, and is in and out all day, but the wren now knows there is nothing to fear. Here is the wren on the ground, under the drying tent. I was perhaps 3m away when taking this, simply sitting on a camping stool.
He had some moss in his mouth, and eventually climbed from one tier of washing lines to another, using some other yarm as staging posts.
And finally, to the new nest
We've had local ornithologists around to look at the nest. But the main thing is the sense of responsibility with which this event leaves us. The wren has come into our world, and if it finally nests there, we will feel the urge to do what we can to keep it safe and undisturbed. It's "only" a tiny little bird. It doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. And yet it does.