Yesterday was one of those Argyll days which call out ...walk..walk...walk. So we did - along Loch Striven side. This is a single-track road with occasional passing places, and it doesn't go anywhere. So it's usually quiet, except for the odd driver taking granny for a hurl to look at the view. The view itself is worth a look, having all the elements - water purling down the hillside after the recent heavy rain, a heron flying up the loch, the bracken a wonderful rich brown, rose hips red against the dark of a hill, the low sun slanting through the branches.
Slanting through the branches and illuminating the frenzied scurrying of hundreds of pheasants. As we walked, new crashings in the undergrowth would warn us that yet another family of birds was about to charge out in front of us, or whirr past on creaking wooden wings - for that's what they sound like: wooden toys. Flying seems to be such hard work for them that it's easy to look, to admire the colours, the tail feathers. And, presumably, to take aim and fire. For these pheasants are bred here in huge numbers, fed from blue plastic containers on short legs among the trees, free to rummage in the hedgerows and die in a splatter of feathers when they play chicken on the road. This we know.
But I still wasn't prepared for how I felt yesterday as a procession of black Range Rovers drove us into the ditch. I stood and glared at the grinning, loden-green occupants, and knew why they were there. This was confirmed by the last but one vehicle, an open-backed truck with a frame holding gently waving rows of dead birds. Behind them was what looked like a wartime military lorry in which sat two rows of young boys and girls: beaters, presumably. They looked like conscripts, or maybe refugees.
And I felt that the afternoon had lost some of its light.