Field Notes: Autumn in the Highlands
Skye Conservaton Ranger Cathryn Baille celebrates the sights, sounds and smells of nature readying herself for winter
The days are getting shorter and the temperature has definitely dropped. I can’t help but love autumn in the Highlands - the colours, the sounds, the smells...
Everywhere is ablaze with orange and red. The hillsides turn to rust and the glens echo with the sound of the rut. Flocks of fieldfare and redwing dance around the woodland edges and, high above, skeins of geese and swans honk as they make their way south.
The mornings can be tough - waking in what feels like the dead of night to make the long drive to work. When its dry you can smell winter coming on the breeze. The sunrises can be so achingly beautiful that sometimes I have to pull over and watch as the reds and golds unfold and turn to blue over the distant hills.
The smell of wood smoke fills the air once more and chainsaws are busy in every wood. Both people and animals share a hint of urgency in their preparations and I love to find the time to sit quietly and watch as nature readies herself for winter.
It’s a busy time of year for the Skye and Knoydart team too. Stalking season is in full swing and that means plenty of venison to take care of. We have a lot of land to cover and trips to Knoydart (pictured above) are a regular undertaking at this time of year. It is usually a long and pretty brutal day, the deer we shoot in Knoydart must be carried off the hill by ourselves. There is no access for ponies or ATVs, the terrain is steep and unforgiving and the deer are usually as far from the shore as it is possible to get. I still love it though. Knoydart is a special place with very few people around and the incredible beauty and remoteness of the place take my breath away every time I visit.
Around the farm there is plenty to be getting on with. John is busy in the woods, clearing and burning brash and extracting firewood for the local community. I have been kept busy with wildlife surveys and preparations for tree planting season. This year, I’m looking forward to having a group of local school children help me as part of their John Muir Awards.
There is a definite buzz about the place as we try and complete as much as possible before the weather turns and winter sets in - hopefully, by then, we will have a long list of inside jobs to keep us busy until spring!