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Surprises Through My Zeisses / 10 Rescued from Cliff and Bog! (1 Viewer)

Troubador

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You are welcome to join me on this tenth of a series of articles taking a look back over my shoulder at some sightings that have not only delighted us but startled and surprised us.

To many of our members I am sure sheep are simply farm animals kept in fields, but to anyone who has roamed the hills and islands of the west of Scotland, sheep are creatures that you meet out on the open hills and coasts, often far from farm buildings and obvious fences or walls. In other places, and especially at or soon after lambing, sheep can be seen in enclosures closer to farms. The sheep up here behave more like wild animals and can climb stone walls with ease and squeeze through gaps in fences, apparently driven by a curiosity to discover what grazing they can find.

In 1973, on our very first visit to the Western Isles, we were on Lewis, staying in the town of Stornoway and on the day in question we went for a walk across town and around the grounds of Lews Castle, through its woods, towards more open countryside. We stopped to have a break and eat our lunch, but not the one that had been supplied by our landlady at the B&B where we were staying. Unfortunately her food was not fit for a dog, and I can say this with absolute certainty, because we fed the lunch she had provided to a black Border Collie that had accompanied us from Stornoway to enjoy the walk, and it promptly vomited the food back up.

We walked out of the woodland to the coast, and in front of us there was a small headland. We were scanning the sea for divers (loons) and seals when we noticed a tiny, plaintive sheep voice, bleating piteously and continuously. At first we ignored it as being just part of the background one expects in the vicinity of Scottish hill-farming. But the little voice eventually demanded our attention so we began searching for it using our binos, me using my very first Zeiss Dialyt 10x40Bs. Eventually we spotted the poor creature, a tiny lamb, on a ledge just down from the top of the cliff.

I made my way around to the cliff top and peered over the edge and since I have arms as long as a gibbon’s I thought I could just reach it by lying down on the cliff edge and inching a little bit over it. I was definitely not going to do any heroic cliff-climbing, and thank goodness I was just able to grab hold of its woolly back, and since it was such a tiny creature I could simply lift it up, roll over and place it on the cliff-top path. It immediately ran to the barbed wire fence surrounding a field full of ewes and their lambs, bleating madly and I grabbed it again and hoisted it over the fence and onto the grass at the other side.

Now the most extraordinary thing happened. As soon as the lamb was in the field, the ewes there began leaping into the air and kicking their legs out, just as if they were lambs all over again. It was an amazing sight as the lamb ran to its mother, to see the joy and relief these animals must have been feeling. We have never seen ewes leaping like this again and at the time it brought a lump to my throat. This was our first glimpse of the fact that there is more to sheep than meets the eye, if the only place you see them is placidly grazing in a field, and it leads nicely on to a much more recent incident.

In 2016, again on the Western Isles, but this time on North Uist, we were heading out across the rough moors south of Sidinish looking out for Arctic Skuas and Red-throated Divers. Scanning the ground ahead to plan a route through the bogs and around the lochs, I could see what looked like a good route to follow and I noted there was about half a dozen sheep grazing in the distance. We got side-tracked for time, looking for Lesser Twayblade orchids under some leggy old heather, and when we eventually resumed our trek, a quick look through my SF 10x42s revealed that most of the sheep had moved away, leaving just one on its own. A few minutes later we are getting fairly close to the sheep but it wasn’t moving and it wasn’t even looking around or grazing. By now we were wondering what was going on? When we got to the sheep the reason was obvious. Although the wet ground there could clearly support sheep walking calmly along, as evidenced by the many footprints, our sheep must have jumped off the top of the nearby tussock and landed heavily on the boggy ground and all four of her legs had sunk deeply into the peat and she was trapped. From the look of the pile of sheep poo under her rear quarters she was frightened and had been there for quite some time.

We couldn’t walk away and leave her, so I took off my backpack and jacket and got down in the bog with her. She bleated half-heartedly and I wrapped my arms around her belly just in front of her hind legs and slowly lifted her up and clear of the mud. I really thought she would panic at this point, and begin madly trying to run away from me, a stranger. But no, she stood still and I moved to her front end, and again, with my arms around her chest I lifted her front end up and her front legs came out with a sucking noise from the mud. She immediately tottered forwards and up onto the nearest tussock, but instead of fleeing she turned around and looked at us.

I put on my jacket and backpack and we turned to continue our interrupted roaming. A glance behind showed me the ewe was still watching us, and a few minutes later I could see that she was grazing, a good sign. A quarter of an hour later, looking back using the SFs, I could see she was still in the same place, and still looking in our direction. I would have given much to understand what was going through her mind at that moment. She hadn’t panicked despite being man-handled by a stranger, and hadn’t run away when freed. She seemed to understand we were benign beings and no threat, and she appeared to be interested in us long after we were so far away that a sheep would normally have ignored us. Don’t tell me sheep are only dumb animals!

Lee
 

Troubador

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Hello Lee,

Thanks for a wonder read.

Stay safe,
Arthur
Thank you Arthur. In seven weeks we will be on Islay and surrounded by ewes and their lambs and in the early mornings and late evenings the will be Brown Hares.
Stay safe yourself.

Lee
 

delia todd

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Scotland
Two beautiful stories Lee. Many thanks for this heartwarming story on such a depressing day of news.

When I led treks in the 70's and 80's I often encountered 'backed' sheep (in full fleece they sometimes roll onto their backs and are unable to right themselves) so had to hold the trek up while I righted them. A couple of times I came across one with their horns wrapped around fence wire. A far more difficult job and I would need to ask the strongest male on the ride to come and assist.
 

Troubador

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Two beautiful stories Lee. Many thanks for this heartwarming story on such a depressing day of news.

When I led treks in the 70's and 80's I often encountered 'backed' sheep (in full fleece they sometimes roll onto their backs and are unable to right themselves) so had to hold the trek up while I righted them. A couple of times I came across one with their horns wrapped around fence wire. A far more difficult job and I would need to ask the strongest male on the ride to come and assist.
Sounds familiar Delia, especially the one about sheeps' horns getting tangled in fence wire. Some of them just can't resist forcing their heads through the wire to nibble at something.....

Lee
 

Troubador

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That is a wonderful double story Lee and it put a huge smile on my face. If only the world acted like you!

Hello Lee,

Thanks for a wonder read.

Stay safe,
Arthur

Two beautiful stories Lee. Many thanks for this heartwarming story on such a depressing day of news.

When I led treks in the 70's and 80's I often encountered 'backed' sheep (in full fleece they sometimes roll onto their backs and are unable to right themselves) so had to hold the trek up while I righted them. A couple of times I came across one with their horns wrapped around fence wire. A far more difficult job and I would need to ask the strongest male on the ride to come and assist.
Here is another story, almost a rescue but not quite.

We were driving on a single-track remote road in west Scotland with open moorland in front and to the right while on our left was a big fir tree plantation with a big fence around it. In the distance we could see the road turned sharply around a corner of the plantation and so we slowed right down in case of traffic coming towards us. Just as well we did because just around the corner in the middle of the road was a sheep with its two lambs. I slammed on the brakes and stopped but for a moment we couldn't see the sheep because of the nose of our car. Then the ewe bounded up the bank on the right and turned towards us. We waited a moment or two for the lambs to follow but they didn't so, not daring to move the car, we got out to investigate. There was no sign of the lambs. It was like black magic. They had disappeared. Fortunately logic asserted itself and hardly believing this could be possible we got down on our knees and looked under the car. There they were, side by side, shivering in fright. We spoke softly to them and reached out to touch them gently and they crawled out from under our car and cowered against our legs, pressing against us, still shivering after their fright at the car looming over them. Even our strangers' legs were comforting after the fright from the metal monster that had loomed over them. This might have been their first sight of a car they were so tiny so very young. With some difficulty we herded them to the back of the car so their mother could see them and instantly she called them and they transformed from shivering cowering things to jet-propelled demons, dashing madly up the bank to their Mom, both of them going to a teat and pushed her udder for milk and comfort. The Mom reached around with her head and nudged them both with her nose, making little sounds to reasure the young ones. Phew! We watched for a while and when we were sure they were settled we departed. We will never forget that moment when we stepped out of the car but couldn't at first see the lambs,,,,,,

We watch sheep and their curious behaviour and they watch us too. See the pic below.

IMG_0184 - Copy.JPG

Lee
 
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