Mysterious cuckoos and close encounters in Appin

Keith Broomfield with a kestrel chick.

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A new book exploring Scotland’s wild secrets – A Scottish Wildlife Odyssey: In Search of Scotland’s Wild Places – features Duror and Appin and their wildlife.

Authored by nature writer Keith Broomfield, and published by Tippermuir Books, A Scottish Wildlife Odyssey is a five-month voyage of nature discovery that includes familiar and lesser-known wildlife locations.

It is a personal journey written in Keith’s engaging style as he seeks out Scotland’s more unusual creatures, including those found under the sea.

An otter at Ardsheal by the shores of Loch Linnhe between Duror and Kentallen.

In his chapter on Duror and Appin, Keith writes: ‘It was a natural scene of intriguing incongruity: the temperature was barely five degrees centigrade and fresh spring snow dusted the hill tops of Appin, and yet a cuckoo newly arrived from the dark and impenetrable forests of central Africa was calling its celebration to a Scottish May.

‘The cuckoo’s call is such a hypnotic and entrancing sound – ‘coo-koo, coo-koo’ – a wild and echoing resonance, with a pitch and tone that easily drifts for a couple of kilometres, especially within the imposing amphitheatre of a Highland glen.

A speckled wood butterfly, Ardsheal.

‘The frigid air suggested winter, but the heart of spring was all around at the foot of Glen Duror, including willow warblers delivering their sweet cascading songs and swallows weaving over nearby sheep pasture.

‘Cold springs are an ever-present hazard for early arriving migrant birds, but on this bitter morning by the village of Duror, the warblers, sand martins and swallows were as active as ever, shrugging-off such inclemency with apparent ease. I suspected, nonetheless, they were struggling to find insect food and survival depended on the temperature rising over the following days.

A beadlet anemone in Loch Linnhe.

‘It was the cuckoo, though, that captured my senses more than anything else. Its flute-like call penetrated every fold and gully of the hillside like a creeping mist, an evolutionary adaption that maximises the chances of attracting a female.

‘The cuckoo paused and called again, a seemingly benign and haunting deliverance, but one that potentially sounds the death knell for the soon-to-hatch chicks of some unlucky ground-nesting meadow pipits.’

An oystercatcher near Cuil Bay, Duror.

Commenting on his new book, Keith said: ‘The book is a wildlife travel journey through Scotland, starting in the south-west and then zig-zagging my way across and up through Scotland, alternating between west and east, heading northwards all the while, until the trip ends in Shetland.

‘This five-month journey was a snapshot of Scottish nature and a random dip into its deep riches. I hope it will open readers eyes to what a wonderful country we live in. It is easy to take our nature and landscape for granted, which is something we should never do.

An otter at Ardsheal.

‘I also hope it inspires, and if the book leads to even a handful of people becoming more interested and active in nature conservation, then I would be delighted with that end-result.

‘Whilst the book is a celebration of Scottish nature, it also highlights the very difficult environmental challenges we face to ensure we can live a more sustainable future, where both nature and humanity can prosper.’

NO_T16_A Scottish Wildlife Odyssey_02_Keith Broomfield_Kestrel

Keith Broomfield tuckles into a kestrel.

NO_T16_A Scottish Wildlife Odyssey_06_ Ardsheal by the shores of Loch Linnhe between Duror and Kentallen

An otter at Ardsheal by the shores of Loch Linnhe between Duror and Kentallen.

NO_T16_A Scottish Wildlife Odyssey_03_Beadlet anemone in Loch Linnhe

A beadlet anemone in Loch Linnhe.

NO_T16_A Scottish Wildlife Odyssey_05_Oystercatcher near Cuil Bay, Duror

An oystercatcher near Cuil Bay, Duror.

NO_T16_A Scottish Wildlife Odyssey_01_speckled wood butterfly, Ardsheal

A speckled wood butterfly, Ardsheal.

NO_T16_A Scottish Wildlife Odyssey_04_Otter at Ardsheal

An otter at Ardsheal.