Portnellan is full of wonderful wildlife – in spring, when the trees are coming into leaf, the primroses and bluebells are beautiful, especially if they come out together.
There is a profusion of wildflowers throughout the summer. A bit later on, the ponds are full of frog and toad spawn, which the herons love watching until the youngsters hatch. After a shower of rain at night, hundreds of frogs and toads come out onto the road and sit croaking away.
Portnellan has many hedges that are left to grow to protect the wildlife habitats and many butterflies, bees and other insects live there. Early in 2015, a major bit of work was undertaken to replace many of the old hedges with a more species-rich mix of indigenous species; new fences have been put in to protect the new planting from the cows and also to prevent damage to water margins around the farm.
Bright green docken beetles are a faithful friend to us – because we don’t use weed-killers, many weedy docks grow in the silage fields – the docken beetles consume the dock leaves until they are little more than a lace doily. If you get stung by a nettle after the beetles have been on the march, it’s difficult to find a dock leaf for soothing comfort.
We also have roe deer, hedgehogs, foxes, pheasants, stoats and weasels. In 2005, the RSPB carried out a bird survey and counted more than 47 different species, including more than 20 ‘common species’ whose survival is giving rise for concern. There is an owl nesting box on the road into the farm and it’s obviously very inviting because it has seen both tawny and barn owls raise their chicks in successive years. The adults and fledglings can be very friendly when they start to fly with their hoots and whistly-throat-clearing hisses from the babies echoing around the trees.
If you are a bird-watcher, perhaps the most special events are the regular visits from ospreys – they come from near and far and Portnellan Bay is a favourite haunt for fishing – morning, noon and evening. We did have a visit from a young white-tailed fish eagle on route from Fife to Argyll – he stayed around for 4 days and we live in hope that another will visit us again.