12 Apr 2010

Lambing season in the Scottish Borders

Drive through the Scottish Borders this month and you will pass dozens of fields in which new lambs are jumping, running, butting heads with their siblings and endlessly torturing their mothers in their quest for more milk.

Even with a zoom lens, it took a lot of patience to get these photos. It’s not just a matter of wandering past a field and pointing the camera at the first lamb you see. The distrust that flows from the eyes of the ewes as they lead their little ones away is humbling.
I stood for a long time on the other side of the wall near two ewes and their lambs, quietly watching and waiting for them to feel comfortable enough to continue feeding. If I moved suddenly it startled them and off they would run. I trained my camera on one lamb who seemed to want to nibble on just about anything. This included her mother's horns and later a stick, which she gnawed on for several minutes.
After some time I wandered down the field and was very lucky to get a photo of a lamb resting in the sun beside a stream. I love the way her little ears have flopped down as she sleeps.
The best moment came when I was leaving Kirklands Farm (as I later learned it was called). As I approached a bend in the track, I noticed a lamb that had gotten through the gate and was now separated from his mother. I needed to walk past to leave but every step I took made him panic and try to hurl himself through the bars of the gate, to no avail.
Just then the farmer drove up on his ATV, from the side of which he pulled a long shepherd’s staff. That was how I met Mr. Clark, a farmer with decades of experience and for whom the rescuing of one small lamb is just a blip in another long day. He was kind enough to let me take his photo before lifting the lamb towards me and asking if I wanted to "give him a cuddle.”

So I did, massaging my fingers in the fleecy coat and, at Mr. Clark’s urging, smelling it to see if he still retained his “new lamb” scent. Unfortunately it did not - Mr. Clark said this lamb was a little too old and already smelled like the other sheep. Which means it is still on my list to find out what exactly a newborn lamb smells like.

With some regret I handed the soft bundle back to Mr. Clark, who popped him over the fence. We watched him he run to his mother and stand next to her, immediately calmed. Tragedy averted.
It would be sad to let an entire Scottish spring pass by, without making the effort to get out to a farm and see and hear the lambs. Spending time watching their playfulness and innocence can put life's priorities in a new perspective.

Now off you run.
(I forgot to add, today marks the one year anniversary of this blog. WooHoo!)

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