After a series of utterly exhausting days packing, lugging, visits to the tip, anxious choices applied to the retention or rejection of possessions, "the day" finally loomed large when my departure from Islay was imminent. The removal men duly arrived and then went off to the mainland on the last ferry with the vast majority of all my wordly goods leaving me to a final night surrounded by space and a somewhat strange silence !
Pre-dawn saw me up and completing the very final arrangements before departing for the first ferry. A rather detached feeling in many respects. I spent the immediate time before and after dawn simply standing outside taking in the sounds and sights, the silence and atmosphere. Would you believe that, after what I have felt to be a winter of absence, a series of bizarre noises only Barn Owls' can be responsible for came from the nest box within the barn !! A farewell I shall treasure following the unique experiences of last summer when I could watch these resident birds repeatedly visiting the barn to feed their young.....and all from the comfort of an armchair in the lounge. All too soon, the light began to lift and Common Snipe, Skylark, Lapwing and Curlew added their calls to the pageant of goodbyes from the nearby fell. A convenient experience not to be repeated in some senses and all the more valuable for that.
Soon I was on my way with Woodcock rising from the roadside, a large Red Deer cascading from the roadside in front of the car, and, at least for some time into the future, groups of Barnacle and Greenland White-fronted Geese arriving into their feeding grounds. Emotional, yes if I'm honest, but also testament to the privilege of being able to be so close to a resource of such simple value. But similar experiences lay ahead, undoubtedly different, but evidence in themselves that we should not take such things for granted as a fulfilment of our own vicarious pleasure, but to view such as a special privilege and fight for their retention and defence at all costs against the pressures of our increasingly complicated world. Whilst my return, at some point is in no doubt, I was also looking forward to what lies in front. Better contact with family, travel abroad, more varied birding and access to a whole plethora of other diverse benefits.
After a long and somewhat arduous journey ( try the M60 at 1700 hours ) I finally breasted the high point of the Pennines along the A628 that allowed me to look eastwards into Yorkshire ( Braveheart returns to Yorkshire I mused ! minus the kilt let it be said ) and descended towards my chosen base at Millhouse Green adjacent to the boundary of the Peak National Park. The move was over ! The next few days saw a not dis-similar pattern to the period of preparation.....lugging boxes, choices of location re possessions and visits to the tip with the empty boxes ( I never want to see a cardboard box or parcel tape again!! ). Finally , and for a break, some form of compensation appeared with a visit to the East Coast and good views of the male Surf Scoter in Filey Bay. The commencement of a new beginning!