I am sketching out a bestiary, based on a species count of animals in Threave House near Castle Douglas. Only a few can be shown here.
There is a pride of lions, sometimes only their paws evident from under the furniture. Perhaps we, the visitors, are being stalked.
There is a disparate pack of dogs, finding diverse places to reside.
One canine is partially visible in the blue and white china cabinet.
Others are busy with a favourite quarry.
Eagles are arrayed in reflective and imperious stances
while horses bend as they gallop, or rest after the chase.
Looking upwards, you can see a salmon leap
and close attention is rewarded by a pair of swallows.
Domesticated animals each find their situation
while others take opportunities as they can.
Some are hard to classify, with nondescript forms.
Only with expert assistance, could I detect bats at roost – around a Chinese good luck sign in the Blue and White ceramics cabinet.
Survey conditions on a July day were wet; the duration was three hours covering each floor of the hunting lodge. Species included stag, cattle, shells (conch, scallop) eagles, dogs (terriers, hounds, lapdogs, retrievers, spaniels), hare, heron, horses, lions, linnet, sphinx, salmon and other fish, lion, butterfly and other insects, sheep, goat, mermaid, bittern, rabbit, cats, swans, snake, swallows, linnet, pochard, trout. An ornithological hotspot (courtesy of Donald Watson) yielded mallard, pochard, goldeneye, dipper, grey wagtail, hen harriers, grouse, teal, shelduck, tufted duck, snow bunting, goosanders, puffins, gannets, great crested grebe, barn owl, red grouse, black and grey geese, herring gull, dotterel. A second hotspot in the basement yielded frog, tawny owl, blue tit, slug, bee, roe deer, wasps, ladybird, herons, dragonfly, red squirrel.
Threave Estate is an exceptionally diverse Estate in the care of the National Trust for Scotland. A Scottish Baronial House was built as a shooting lodge for what is now a 1,600-acre estate supporting farming, forestry, horticulture, wildlife conservation and outdoor recreation.
Importantly, Threave is the first Bat Reserve in Scotland, with 7 species of bat: Bandit pipistrelle, Soprano pipistrelle, Daubenton’s, Brown long-eared, Noctule, Natterer’s and Whiskered (the last species is very rare in Scotland).
My grateful thanks to staff at Threave and to the organisations facilitating this project with a visual arts award: