The most predominant animal presence one might encounter around the Greenock Cut visitor center, save for some strayed sheep approaching the grounds in search for nourishment of one kind or another, frogs lying under stones of adjacent walls or random hares warily venturing near the buildings, is that of birds.
One could evidently observe from afar, usually with the help of binocular, lone buzzards circling around and ready to fall on their preys, hen harriers, ospreys, merlins, flights of Canadian geese in V formation or black birds and crows. But those rarely, if ever, land in close proximity of the center. Although, one has to admit, black birds and crows do.
Other members of the avian race, however, such as wrens, swallows, chaffinches, and robins, can be seen fluttering about and, often enough, stay for a few instant on a branch of nearby trees or land on the bird feeders interspersed all over the estate. But while they are more intimate to human activity, they can still be startled and scared off by observers getting too close.
What if one could observe birds without frightening them, what if one could use a bird observatory of sort?
It was the end of October, deeply grey and cold. a feeble drizzle suffused the air. Shreds of mist shifted continuously, driven by a faint breeze, and kept the summit of Dunrod hill hidden from sight.
We headed to the north side of the parking lot whose edge meets with the path that leads to the pond, cutting through unkempt wild grass and shrubs of brambles. A small fence had been erected at the start of the path on one side and the first section of a bird hide screen stood on the opposite, fashioned by fellow volunteers on the previous saturday; an activity which an unfortunate disposition, in a word: the flu, had prevented me to partake.
While one team reinforced and extended the supporting strut, we began to modify two old wood boards to fit as a bird blind. We removed a few of planks and sawed parts of other panels to create observation slots. Once it was done, we managed to nail the planks that had been removed on the other side of the wood panel to cover the small spaces between the slats of wood.
The first board was raised and we held in place while one vertical post was dug in firmly into the earth with the help of a sledge hammer. We secured structure to the post with nails and screws. The same operation was repeated for the second panel. Finally, we added supported struts to the vertical posts in order to strengthen the whole set against the wind.
In the afternoon, the mist lingered. It moved slowly and erratically, as if at the whim of a playful wind. It gave the eerie sensation that the place was wrapped into eternal isolation, reinforcing, somehow, its remoteness from the rush of modern life. A world of its own, seemingly out of space, out of time, where nature, at once frail and majestic, thrived in a pastoral tranquility. the woods had began to bloom into an hues of crimson, gold and copper as the trees put on Autumn’s magnificent mantle that even the muted light of the day could not subdue, and the vegetation had assumed earthly colors.
I found myself, on the Kelly cut, an uneven path of silt and stones, interspersed with puddles, smeared with prints of shoes and dog paws, and fringed with gorse shrubs, long grass and clumps of heather whose blooms were coming to an end.
The Scottish moor was all around, open, unprotected from the unrelenting assaults of the wind and the rain. I trod on the steps of those who preceded me by a few yards, Mike, Alan, Eddie, John, Briege and Julianne, another photography enthusiast, as we were on our way to the place where we had built a retainer wooden wall just a few weeks before. The path dominated a scene which would have reached the Clyde river, had not the view been obstructed by the opacity of the mist. The wooden walking board sliced through an area covered with brown brackens to join the nature trail under the trees. Beyond the woods lied farmers fields where sheeps grazed at leisure, seemingly oblivious of the elements.
We arrived at the section of the path that had previously flooded by the hard rain. The retainer wall was still standing and the level of the water had significantly decreased.