Algy decided to investigate the forest behind his back, so he turned away from the great loch for a while and flew in under the trees. Here the tree trunks grew straight and tall, and very close together in places. The forest floor was mossy and soft, but surprisingly dark. Just a wee bit further on, Algy could see a bright, sunlit clearing, full of flowers and light, but in the permanent twilight beneath the trees everything was hushed and calm. He perched for a while on an old log, listening attentively to the quiet rustling of the tree tops high above him and the tiny sounds of unseen insects scuttling about among the old leaves which covered the ground. It was certainly pleasant to rest quietly in the dimmed stillness of the forest before venturing out into the dazzling light beyond.

The fine weather didn’t last, of course. The clouds rolling in from the ocean pulled a great blind across the sky, and all the shadows faded away, so that everything suddenly seemed dull and listless. It wasn’t long before it started to rain: just a very light drizzle at first, with a gentle drop here and a gentle drop there. Algy knew that the rain would quickly grow heavier, and the wind stronger, but in the meantime it was not entirely unpleasant, albeit somewhat damp. So he found himself a sheltered spot underneath a stand of Marram grass at the edge of the dunes, and perched there for a while, watching the raindrops begin to fall…

[For those who like wildflowers and their reflections, there is a closeup GIF of the pretty Marsh Marigolds near Algy’s feet on jennychapmanartwork.]

The wind on the dunes felt unpleasantly sharp as it whistled through Algy’s feathers, so he decided to move to a more sheltered spot. During the winter months, excessive rain had caused the normally shallow burn to carve out a deep channel as it wound its way across the beach to the sea. In the process it had created wee sand-cliffs, which formed an ideal sun trap, exactly the right size to provide warmth and protection from the biting wind for a fluffy bird. Algy could see that the “cliffs” were already beginning to collapse in places, and no doubt they would soon be removed by the rain and the tides, but for the time being they were just about perfect. So Algy leaned back comfortably against the tiny wall of sand, and settled down to watch the light ripple across the gently flowing water, as the burn completed the final stage of its journey to the sea.

As he flew home from the oak woods, Algy paused by the wayside to inspect his own wee waterfall. This miniature water feature only appears when there has been plenty of rain; in dry weather it vanishes entirely, so that a casual passer-by could never guess that it existed. Algy loves to tuck himself in to a sheltered hollow among the grasses and ferns that grow beside a tiny cave which the water has carved out of the rocky hillside over the years. Just as in many grander and more famous water features, the water falls down vertically across the mouth of this cave, like a fascinating, ever-changing curtain which partly obscures the mysteries within.

Algy made himself comfortable, and sat there peacefully for some time. While he gazed at the flickering waterfall and listened to the gentle, trickling sounds that it made, Algy thought how lucky he was to be living in a place where there was a never-ending supply of clean, fresh water – and where it took so many beautiful forms! He thought of all his friends in drier parts of the world, and hoped that the rain would continue to fall wherever it was needed.

Listen to the sound of Algy’s waterfall. Algy hopes that for those of you who need it, the sound will help to encourage the rain :))

It was almost spring now. As Algy watched the water tumbling gently down in front of the tiny cave, he was reminded of a haiku by the Japanese master Isha:

          Early spring –
          stream flows
          toward my door

[Algy is quoting a translation of a haiku by the 18th century Japanese master Kobayashi Issa.]

When night fell, Algy woke up and found that he was no longer alone. Some of his little forest friends had seen the bright star shining on his Christmas tree, and had crept up quietly in the darkness to join him. They had brought him a very special present for Christmas Eve – a beautiful German tin full of spicy lebkuchen. Algy was astonished and thrilled, but he was even more surprised when he turned the lid to open the tin and heard the lovely melody of Stille Nacht!  It sounded so enchanting, tinkling softly in the depths of the forest with the wind rustling through the great trees in the background. Algy and his friends sat there spellbound, listening to the gentle music by the light of his Christmas tree star, while from time to time a few flakes of snow drifted down silently around them.

Listen to the sound of Algy’s musical tin, playing in the forest.

Algy and his friends wish you all peace and joy at Christmas time xx

By the early afternoon, Algy had carried every one of his baubles to the forest, and had hung them all on his Christmas tree. Poor Algy was utterly exhausted! It was getting very chilly now, and a typical West Highland mixture of hail and sleet had started to fall, but Algy was too tired to care. Making sure that his feathers were well fluffed up, to keep out the cold and damp, he tucked himself under the shelter of his tree and quickly fell asleep, happy that he had managed to decorate the little tree in time for Christmas Eve.

As soon as Algy had found his Christmas tree, he rushed back to the place where he had stored his baubles. It was almost Christmas Eve now, and he had very little time left in which to dress the tree. He knew that it would be quite impossible for him to drag the whole bag of baubles to the forest on foot, so he decided to bring them two or three at a time by air. If he flew very carefully, he could carry them by grasping their ribbons in his beak. So Algy spent the whole day flying backwards and forwards from the burn to the forest, and gradually he began to decorate the little tree…

The next morning, Algy got up as soon as it was light and started his search. At first he found nothing but massive trees, very handsome but far too large for his tiny baubles. Suddenly, he saw a gleam of light shining through a dense stand of spruces: there was a clearing beyond those trees! Algy pushed his way eagerly through the scratchy, low branches, and emerged into a very wet boggy area. At first he could see nothing but a patch of sodden grasses, with more big trees beyond, and he resigned himself to disappointment. But then he looked about more carefully, and realised that the clearing continued around a bend. Algy felt rather strange; although he had never been in that spot before, he was almost certain that he was about to find what he was looking for. Trying not to get too excited, he flew to the corner and peeked round the trees… and there it was. Algy had found his Christmas tree!

Algy flew up to the top of the ridge, and perched there to survey the landscape around him. In most directions the familiar rocky landscape extended to the sea, with very few trees of any kind in sight, and none that were evergreen. But when he looked to the south-east, Algy saw something different – a small, green mountain with a swathe of dark forest draped like a skirt around its lower slopes. Algy was thrilled, and wasted no time in heading for the mountain. It was only a couple of miles away, as Algy flies, but by the time he reached the edge of the forest the light was fading fast, and the weather had become decidedly more wintry. The snow did not worry him, as there was plenty of shelter for the night, but he was concerned that there was still no sign of a wee Christmas tree suitable for his baubles.

There were many rocky outcrops to the sides of the burn in this area and it didn’t take Algy very long to find what he was looking for: a deep cleft in the rock with a good overhang to keep the rain out. He pushed his bag of baubles as far back into the wee crevice as he could manage, and carefully readjusted the stalks of dry bracken and heather to cover the opening.

And then Algy flew up into the air: it was such a relief to be rid of the weight of that sack! He circled slowly for a few minutes, taking note of the shapes of the rocks and their position by the burn so that he would be able to find the spot again. He knew that one place could look very much like another in this landscape. But as soon as he felt confident that he would recognise the place when he returned, he set off towards the ridge. It wasn’t long until Christmas now, and he had to find a tree to hang his baubles on …