Dawn comes to me in sound today. The stark staccato of an oystercatcher, then - its avian antithesis - the fluid freedom of a robin in the still dark. With the first of the gloomy light (I'm earlier today, up since half-past-two, and yesterday's moon is clad in plumbeous cloud) there come the sharp-winged shapes of common gulls above and the river's plain is peopled by the signal rumps of deer. Among them here and there the black-beyond-black of grouse and all the while and all the where the cry of curlews fills this lone place.
This morning I sit on a horizontal fallen pine, where a jutting stony beach gives a view upriver and down over grassy flats and heathery banks and, if there is one, I am sure to see my cat. So I wait. The deer do not see me and graze by, neither the oystercatchers which land close on the river's stones.
I wait. With each Swarovski scan something new. A mountain hare crouches in the grass, almost for a moment a cat. A grouse fans his petticoat, bowing his black head. A mistle thrush rattles from the pines to join him.
For two hours I scan and I scan and it is light. So I walk in the wet woods, wondering whether I will see a capercaillie. I do not. But I hear the joyful pebbly rattle of a redstart and the calls of crossbills. I am too southern to know by sound whether these are Scottish or parrot but I listened with care to the parrots which wintered eighteen months ago with our North Norfolk common crossbills and I know from their call that these are bigbills not small.
There are sand martins where the river has collapsed a headland and tree pipits feeding in my path. There are goldcrests piping tinily in the pines and deer, more deer, more deer.
Dawn comes to me in sound today. And joy. Lone damp joy by a highland river.