Our Lass and I ventured south at the weekend, ostensibly to attend the 2nd Scottish Dragonfly Conference in Perth, but with plans to meet up with friends and relatives along the way as an added bonus.
We took the early boat across to mainland Scotland and had a leisurely drive southwards, stopping off in Helmsdale (tea and hot cross buns) and Tain (pitstop for a bunch of flowers). Y'know, I bet Formula 1 would be much more interesting if the drivers had to choose a bouquet during routine tyre stops.
"Hamilton's switched to the intermediates... that's a clever strategy. Er, hang on, he's chosen the chrysanthemums... oh dear."
After a lunch and a chat with friends near Inverness (plus the addition of Blue Tit and Coal Tit to my year list), we dawdled through the Cairngorms and arrived in Perth at about tea time.
Our evening meal was shared with family who had travelled up from Fife to meet us. The night was somewhat enlivened when we realised that our hotel was also the base for several teams competing in the Perth Ladies International Curling tour event.
The dragonfly conference also featured lots of damsels, as well as dragonflies!
In fact, the well-attended event was notable, at least to my mind, for the number of younger folk who were prepared to spend their day gettin' all odonatological with it. So many groups we know are populated by an ageing membership, with no new blood coming through to carry on the good work. It was heartening to see plenty of students and post graduates in attendance, which bodes well for the future, I hope.
Following the conference, we wandered into the centre of Perth for a bit of retail therapy and then found a lovely Italian restaurant, where we were able to share a bottle of wine (neither of us were driving, yay!) and an excellent meal.
The trip back north on Sunday was in unremitting rain. However, the day was brightened considerably with a few unexpected wildlife surprises. Firstly, as we scooted along the A9 near Dalwhinnie and as we drove past a small lochan not far from the carriageway, we spotted a male Smew. It took a few seconds to register what we'd seen, by which time we were well away up the road. Not having either bins or camera (I know, can you credit it?), there didn't seem much point in turning around.
Our second nature moment occurred at that well-frequented watering hole, Ralia Cafe. As we walked towards the building, I noticed half a dozen millipedes climbing up a wall. Honestly, you never see one for ages and then six turn up all at once.
The intervening days since our trip have been filled with work but, for the last few evenings, we have been able to watch a Short-eared Owl flying up and down in front of the house, hunting for voles along the grass verges of the road.
Spring is inexorably pushing north, bringing Summer migrants and warm-ish days. And in two months it will definitely be odo season.