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Wounded two ducks sitting with my first barrel, and had not my second slipped off by accident, would have killed the mallard in all likelihood. Dick, the retriever, secured one of the wounded, the other made away. The next chance was a flying right and left out of the old watercourse of the Fruin. Killed a duck, and mortally wounded a drake. Both long shots. Marked down the drake, which separated from the flock. With my glass, I perceived a fine phalanx of wigeon, closely wedged on Fruin Point. A bare and difficult approach over the long promontory, and very few bushes to hide me. Could not get nearer than sixty-five yards. Had to fire lying flat on the ground. Only one lay.
Rested for an hour, to give the fowl time to come in shore for the evening feed, and then returned over the same ground. Keeper discovered, with his telescope, a mallard, near where the wounded one pitched. Had no doubt it must be him. A very difficult approach. When I neared him, found he had a couple of ducks with him, so was sure it could not be my victim. In attempting to get a fair sitting shot, they saw me, as the ground was bare, and flew up at sixty yards. I did justice upon the polygamous chief by killing one of his ducks. Did not obtain another chance till near the end of the beat, when I saw a couple of wigeon feeding in a weedy creek, and killed both at one shot. Six head and a heron.
Thursday, 27th. Clear hard frost. This morning a fine fleet of dun-birds sailed into Rossdhu Bay, the first that had appeared there since the winter began. The keeper and I were soon on the qui vive. They were diving within a near shot, on the opposite side of the bay. When I succeeded in getting within fifty yards, a piece of white
ice gave way under my foot. They did not see me, so only ceased feeding, and paddled out into the bay. I knew they would soon return, so kept my post. Unfortunately, they neared the shore further down the bay; and, as I saw they would not move from the plentiful table that had attracted them, I dodged back, and came round above. Fired right and left; a longish shot. Four lay, one only wing-broken. Dick retrieved the trio, but I only got a glimpse of the other close to the beach.
We now started for Mid-Ross. Spied a trip of five wigeon from Auchintulloch Brae; they were greedily feeding a few yards from shore, close to a fine screen of whin. Waited long for three in a line, as they were scat tered. At length I succeeded in getting them placed fair. Only the centre bird lay; the swelling waves saved the others. By aid of telescope, saw a fine batch of teal on old Fruin Point again. Precisely the same stalk as yesterday; the teal were, however, nearer than the wigeon. Killed four, and did not see any wounded. Gave the customary hour's law of rest, and then returned. Keeper perceived a duck and drake in the first bay after crossing Fruin Water, on our way home. A good shelter within forty yards of them, which I easily reached. Killed the mallard sitting on the beach and the duck flying out upon the loch. Only one more trip of wigeon on the shore; a very long shot from the nearest ambush. Fired right and left, sitting and flying, without bringing down a bird. Ten head.
Friday, 28th. A heavy snow-storm all day. Did not leave the house.
Saturday, 29th. Keen wind and hard frost. Snow a
foot deep. A famous day for water fowl. Thought the weather sufficiently severe to bring the fowl to Altochly, Camstraddan, and Luss shores, so determined to try them before the islands. Saw three wigeon feeding on the green surface food in Rossarden Bay. As they were out of shot did not wait, intending to give them a benefit on my return.
A couple of moss ducks were grubbing in Altochly Bay, two yards from the land. With difficulty, obtained a long right and left. The first I fired at sitting, the other flying. The No. 4 flew all about the sitting bird, but she did not seem hit; the other fell dead, to Dick’s delight. Proceeding a little further, we were encouraged by a distant view of the dun-birds busily at work in Camstraddan Bay. A long, intricate, and dangerous crawl, from the birds being very scattered, brought me within a run. Sorry to see that they were diving upon a bank at an uncertain distance. Selected the nearest two, and made
my rush. Fired the moment they topped the water; both fell, one dead, the other fluttered away into the waves, and was soon lost sight of. Keeper, meantime, had got his eye upon a solitary morillon, a short way off, which was under water when I fired. The ice prevented his getting so near the shore as he evidently wished. Easily stalked him, and made the first dead miss since the commencement of my sport.
Meant to shoot him on the wing, but he would not fly until I was in the act of taking a poking sitting aim; spread his wings at the critical moment of pulling the trigger, and, in fact, flew away from the leaden shower before it reached him. Did not waste my second barrel upon so worthless game, but had a good laugh at his escape. When we returned to Rossarden,
two of the wigeon had fed pretty close to the shore, the other remained in the deep. Stalked the pair from Rossarden Wood, and strung them both at a shot.
Embarked for Inch Moan. When about a mile off, saw two small flocks of moss ducks, one on the north and the other on the south side of the island. Of necessity, we must put up one flock by stalking the other. Made choice of the southerns. When I neared them on hand and knee, they were so dispersed that I could only pick off a bird with each barrel. Wounded both badly, but one flew out into the rough water before it dropped. Dick retrieved the other with difficulty.
A crowd of wigeon were collected in the north-east bay of the island. Made a long and careful approach. Got within a fair shot, and dropped four to my two discharges; secured three. Dick had the fourth under his paws, but it managed to escape. It was now almost too dark to spy our game; we, however, twigged a couple of morillons in Inch Connachan Bay. Got to the nearest point without difficulty. Both popped up their heads at the same moment; I killed one, but the other flew into the dark shadow of the island. Nine head.
As will be seen from the above sketch, the rough weather drove the wild fowl into the shelter of the bays to-day; also the waves prevented the wounded from being either seen or retrieved.
Monday, 31st. Delightful weather for wild sport; keen frost and calm. The same range as yesterday. Only a solitary duck on Rossarden to-day. Poor thing, she was taking advantage of the few slant rays of sunshine for a siesta! A massy rock, which towered about forty yards from her resting-place, was easily gained. She was stand
ing on one leg, with her bill under her wing, the very picture of repose, which I don't think I broke, as she never moved after she fell off her green cushion into the water. Saw the dun-birds, but they were also at rest midway between the islands and the shore. Settled to pay them visit at dusk, when we were sure they must be at supper in Camstraddan Bay. In the meantime to search the islands. Saw some little black lumps on Galbraith, and, with my telescope, made out a small flock of ducks. It always inspirits us to see them on this island, as, with good management, a fair shot can generally be obtained. We pulled silently past, until we got the castle between us and our quarry, and then, by slow and noiseless strokes, reached the strand. The brushwood was so thick that, although I had only about twenty yards to creep, it took me near half an hour before I was placed fair for my shot. They were quite dispersed and asleep; so, as my second barrel was useless, from the thicket in which I was inclosed, I picked out a fine mallard, and the rest escaped scot-free. No fowl on Inch Moan to-day. Spied a flock of dun-birds, however, in Inch Connachan Bay. Got to the nearest ambush on the shore, but they were diving on a sand-bank in the middle of the bay. Lingered an hour in vain, as they would not leave their feeding-ground. Was obliged, at last, to content myself with a morillon, which opportunely fed round between them and me, just when my patience was exhausted. To make up, keeper, in the meantime, had a noble chance in the straits, all ready for me. Wigeon, tufts and golden eyes were all within easy distance from the snow-covered rocks. With great caution, I neared the white rampart, placed my white cap on my head, and peeped cautiously over. It was some time ere