OK Whisper, I give in. You're clearly fine and need a walk!
Whisp was driving Chris, Fox and I crazy in the house and, since her leg was only suffering an infected puncture wound and nothing affecting muscles or bone I decided to let her have a gentle trip out to ease her cabin fever. The swelling has gone now and she hasn't shown any pain for days.
I had to take a trip up to the North Pennines in order to advise a landowner on habitat management for Water Voles and help him with his Agri Environment Scheme application. Farmers are given subsidies through these schemes based on managing their land in a wildlife friendly way.
Whisper and Fox enjoyed the ride as I climbed the steep zig zagging road up into the high moorland. At its highest point this road reaches 1903 feet above sea level. There is a fabulous view from the top. Today was so wonderfully clear that you could see right the way to the sea. I live down at the bottom somewhere towards those mountains in the distance.
While I talked with the farmer, Fox and Whisper had a great time exploring the streams and doing some vole hunting of their own!
Don't worry, they only sniff and never try to grab! They behaved very nicely. See? Butter wouldn't melt!
My poor fingers and toes were about to drop off by the time Mr Dickinson was happy that he had all of the information he needed. Very nice chap, but it is rather chilly standing about in a wet frosty meadow for two hours! I didn't let Whisper run about for that long by the way; didn't want her getting cold too!
Just as I was about to get in the car and head for home, I saw out of the corner of my eye, the familiar fluttering flight of a large pale coloured bird. Barn owls are unusual this high up in the hills, but funnily enough I had seen the barn down the path earlier in the day and promised myself that I would check it out sometime soon.
I couldn't possibly leave now and settled, leaning on a drystone wall, watching as it hunted the rushy tussocks. I ought to offer a prize to the person who can spot the owl on this photo. I didn't have my decent camera with me!
The owl beat its bouncing butterfly patrol up and down the field, quartering systematically. At periodic intervals it would suddenly fold its wings, twist, and plunge down into the yellowing grass. Almost always the owl sprang back up into the air immediately when he missed his target, so when he remained grounded for more than a heartbeat, I guessed that he had succeeded. He appeared from the grass and flew directly up to the broad branch of a Scots Pine where the unfortunate vole became dinner, head first, for a very fortunate owl.
Eventually the owl drifted further and further away and at last I allowed my poor nose to escape the bitter wind. Pausing only to admire the handsome Dales Pony stallion in the next field. He really looks the part up here in one of England's last large expanses of wilderness.