The ospreys are back! It’s that exciting time of year in the Cairngorms when some of our most iconic species return for their summer breeding and the dawn chorus gets louder and longer each day. Spring is bursting at the seams, with lime green needles poking out on the larches, the willow catkins opening to a yellow fuzz and blossoms gracing the cherry trees. And as our quiet strath warms up like an orchestra, the bird-life on the loch becomes a daily show that I can hardly bear to miss.
The bravura performance, for me, is always the ospreys. I wrote about their return recently for the Guardian Country Diary. The oldest newspaper column in the world, with a daily article and dozens of contributors, it attracts readers from all around the globe. Here are two comments after my piece on Christmas Eve:
“I read Country Diary every morning here in my little corner of the States. You all have brought so much peace and comfort in a year that sorely tried us all.”
“You and all the other Country Diary contributors and commenters have given us all a window into a different world during these stressful times. You are all greatly appreciated.”
You can read my article here.
Nature and wildlife are also an important feature of my new novel, Of Stone and Sky. One of the characters, Alex, doesn’t like people very much but adores birds, taking as much time as possible to watch them on his own. This is the beginning of a chapter called Osprey, in the month of August when Alex is 14:
“Before the light, Alex was up, slipping slow and silent through the dark to the loch. The osprey chicks would fly for the first time today, he knew, he knew. He had studied them every day, perched on the edge of the nest as their father circled the loch in protection, swooped like an arrow for fish and brought it back, settling on a branch nearby to keep watch. Alex knew the little ones were ready and he would watch over them with their father.
When he got to the lochside, the dark sky was beginning to glow, turning green like a mallard’s feathers, green like the walls of Tess’s room, green like the inside of his head when he closed his eyes. He sat at the tree foot and watched till the black bulk in the loch became the island of trees and he could make out the nest, till the sun rose behind the mountain and the father bird rose from his roost. And he watched through his binoculars, heart leaping, as the two little ones fell from the tree and rose and fell and rose again. And he was alone with them and drank the air and fed on the light and breathed the smell of trees.
And in his listening and in his stillness he heard another thing. A wrong thing. There were people coming. Not quiet and slow like Bird People, but talking and laughing and pounding their feet.”
To find out why the people’s arrival brings even more distress than Alex could have imagined, and what happens when he strangely volunteers to help with shooting grouse, read Of Stone and Sky. The novel is coming out with Polygon Books on May 6th and the digital launch that day – 7pm BST – is free and open to all. I’d love to see you there! The Eventbrite booking is here.
And scroll down on this page for how you can get the book.