We imagine we live in a semi-rural area at home in the Southeast – we see a wide range of garden birds, occasionally some raptors, foxes, the odd badger, hedgehog and so on; we also have horses and sheep grazing just up the road alongside other wildlife. Orkney however does countryside in an altogether more rustic way, especially “out in the sticks” on the Deerness promontory where we are currently staying..
Fierce farm cats prowl the lanes and sometimes busy roads looking for prey in the adjoining fields. They swagger about like Scottish Wildcats and I certainly wouldn’t want to meet one up a dark alley at night.
A bird roosted on the rotor of our nearby wind turbine on the day the wind speed dropped to zero recently. Perhaps not rustic but definitely enterprising.
We are surrounded by fields, of which probably half are arable – mostly growing grass for winter silage – and others support cattle and sheep. Goats, the odd pig and numerous poultry are kept loosely around the farmhouses. Mucking-in with this lot are lapwing, curlew, oystercatcher, smaller gulls, skylarks and all the meadow birds you can imagine.
Most if not all of the farms around here are owner-run, ie they are not tenant farmers. The farms are relatively modest in size but appear to prosper for it.
There are other very obvious differences from the Southeast too:
Oystercatchers root about on our front lawn like sparrows and dunnocks.
Curlews in the field next door chatter away most of the day and half the night.
Hares loaf around in the field opposite, often sitting right next to a bird.
Hens snooze in the drainage ditch at the bottom of our front lawn – every time we go to drive off they leap out and run wildly up the lane ahead of us – behaving very nearly like headless chickens.
The ducks and geese wander about at will and especially like to squat in the road any time there is a bit of rain.
It reminds me very much of “The Darling Buds of May”, set in our home county of Kent, not that we consider ourselves to be Ma & Pa Larkin…