I NEVER suspected for one minute that an idyllic day climbing in the north-west of Scotland would see us become victims of a murder.
Maybe that’s a bit dramatic, though it is accurate. It was a theft, actually. Carried out by a murder. Confused? Let me explain.
We had reached the wall on the saddle of Suilven after the long, twisting walk in and and around the series of lochs from Inverkirkaig, and decided it was the ideal place to get out of the fierce wind and have a lunch stop before the short push to the summit.
We found a sheltered spot on the northern slopes just below the ridgeline. As we sat there, we admired a lone raven hovering just a few feet overhead, hanging in the thermals. Little did we realise we were being checked out. Ten minutes later and we were off, eight rucksacks left at our lunch spot. When I arrived back around half an hour later, I stumbled across a crime scene.
First I noticed some paper tissues and wet wipes strewn around. Someone must have left their bag open. Then I saw a plastic bag sticking out from a gap in the bottom pouch of my bag, a couple of small fragments torn off. Again, I was sure I had secured it, but the wind must have been even stronger than we had thought.
But as I was gathering up the loose tissues, Andy discovered his bag had been royally rifled; his hat and other bits and pieces were lying amongst the rocks. Even worse, a chocolate Boost and a cereal bar were missing.
Then it struck us. That lone raven must have been the scout for a raiding party. As soon as we had left, it had got the message to its mates and they had swooped down to enjoy a feast of crows. A lone bird would not have been able to carry out this audacious crime. There must have been three or more, hence the use of the archaic collective term for a gang of a crows, a murder. Two? No, that would be just be an attempted murder.
The little blaggers had managed to open zips and loops on the bags. I had been warned of this before on Skye, where the birds had learned how to open zip fasteners. Walkers who had left their bags to nip out and bag a peak had returned to find them burgled.
The wisdom there now is to tuck your bag securely between rocks if possible and place a big rock on top. Smart as they are – and some studies show that members of the crow family have the intelligence of a four-year-old child (or one of the current US administration) – they haven’t yet figured out how to move heavy boulders. Give them time. Surely someone, somewhere, is already hard at work designing a crow-proof bag.
Back at the scene of the crime, everyone was now checking their bags. I was relieved to find my credit cards intact. It would have been devastating to get home and find they had been maxed out on industrial supplies of fatballs and suet pellets.
After the realisation, came the admiration – though not from Andy. Nicking a hat would have been bad, but a much-looked-forward-to chocolate bar? He was spitting feathers. Becks’ respect for these light-fingered (light-feathered?) fiends changed an hour or so later when she discovered her fruit and nut bar had also been pilfered. M&S no less. These birds have taste.
I also couldn’t help wondering later if my constant rants about littering could be ignoring the real villains of the piece. Let’s face it, the ravens are hardly likely to be bothered about finding a bin when they are tearing the wrappers off their ill-gotten gains.