I opened the door, stepped out into the morning sunshine, and heard it.

A satisfying “snick” – the sound of a cog tooth settling into a new groove.

Everything was in a new groove. Overnight, the wheel had turned and the season had changed on Tiree.

Looking towards The Maze and basking in the first glow of the new season!

The modest croak of larks in the stubble had blossomed into the fullness of their spring song.

The birds were scarcely visible as their tiny pounding hearts powered them relentlessly, mercilessly skyward.

From whirring chests and gaping bills, sound pours down like cool rain on a hot day.

Larks fly impossibly high to sing. Nothing more than motes of dust, they are scarcely visible as you strain to find the speck of them against the sun.

The smell of the air felt richer. More herby. Thickened by the subtle perfume of drying grass.

Parties of twite and reed bunting pecked for seed among the gravel of croft tracks. Their feathers were bright and smart; ready for breeding.

One of three male Reed Buntings, foraging directly outside my kitchen window at Barrapol. 

Incredibly, as I cycled through Sandaig, I realised that the resident starlings are already working corncrake calls into their repertoire – weeks before the birds actually arrive.

The prodigious lapwing flocks have broken down into discrete territories. Every wet flush rings with irritable “wheets” and testily swotting wings.

Lapwings roll and stall with astonishing aerobatic skill during their display flights. 

Cattle doze in hairy lumps of contentment – pregnant tummies bulging at awkward angles.

About them, tangles of silage drift across the road or hang from barbed wire like limp party banners.

As the black bales warm, the distilled sweetness of summers past leaches out; musky like pipe tobacco and eager to be free of its winter wrapping.

Enjoying a dose of beach life! 

In years to come, when I am old and retreating gently into memory, I know that the smell of silage bales will bring me tumbling back to Barrapol.

Its rusted, chicken-scratched, higgledy-piggledy charm has nurtured a sense of deep happiness and contentment.

The place is bursting at the seams with nature – and for some reason, the little red hens and farm cat are absolutely hellbent on getting into the house.

My wee house, with views down over croft land to Loch a’ Phuill. 

The cat has succeeded at least once: Confirmed by the presence of a sacrificial (and sadly deceased) shrew at the foot of my bed.

I shudder to think what “gifts” the hens will leave behind when they eventually get in. It’s only a matter of time.

But often it seems, beautiful days are tinged with sadness.

The swans are leaving.

I have seen them in the evenings, flying north like silvery ghosts in the moonlight.

The number of distantly bobbing blobs on Loch a’ Phuill seems less. Those that remain call restlessly; hearing the secret siren whisper of taiga pools, and yearning to settle back into their reed-lined nest cups.

Whoopers are so full of grace. On long summer evenings, when the corncrakes rasp and the warblers trill, I will sip wine in my garden and long for the first glorious trumpet of their return.

The squeaky geese will be gone soon too. Of course, this isn’t their proper name: They are Greenland white-fronted geese. But I have come to think of them as the squeaky geese because of the curious sound that they make.

One of the bays at The Green – full of gulls and wading birds in the late afternoon. 

Last night, as I carried heavy coal sacks to my porch, a dozen of them almost skimmed the thatch of my house.

I could clearly see the hap-hazard bands of dark feathers on their bellies, and the elegant snow-white tiara that sits above their bill. They are shy creatures.  Their timorous calls trailed all the way to the northern flank of Ben Hynish.

The “Golf Ball” and moon sat side by side in the purpling sky.

I closed my front door behind me and tipped coal onto the fire.

These clear spring nights are still chilly, after all.

Stephanie Cope

Tiree Ranger

The Wheel Turns
Tagged on: