Sunday 31 March 2013

Purple Saxifrage and hundreds of ducks

With all those pictures of wintry weather, it was a relief and joy to see this splashes of purple at Lower Killeyan today. What fortitude these tiny flowers display in braving the elements - the same elements endured by hundreds of ducks on the River Sorn this afternoon, although it is debatable that the latter felt the cold as much as the poor duck drivers behind them or the crowds on the bridge watching the annual plastic duck derby!

Purple Saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia)
Racing ducks on the River Sorn

Friday 29 March 2013

Four for the price of one

Several years ago, a birch tree fell over and was not cleared away. This is the result: no less than four strong stems rising from the original trunk.

Monday 25 March 2013

Birds of Dumfries-shire

Snow trees

As Carl has already said, we had snow all day Friday which was horizontal in the easterly gale, and sticky, resulting in trees caked with snow on their east sides. These photos were taken yesterday, Sunday, with the snow just beginning to fall off in large chunks with little warning!

Sunday 24 March 2013

Loch Indaal Lighthouse

Snow on Islay

We have had a small but significant fall of snow on Islay that is persisting on the high ground.  High pressure over Scandinavia seems to have dropped anchor and we have had a long period of very cold easterly winds.  The snow is of the unpleasnt icy variety that arrives in horizontal bursts and freezes into sold blocks.  Hopeless for snowball or snowmen.  This was the view out over Foreland Estate this morning.

Barn Owl

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Thanks to James Brown for this picture of a Barn Owl which has taken to roosting on bales of hay in his cattle shed.  A most obliging photographic subject....

Thursday 21 March 2013

Beinn Dubh Valley

Despite the strong east wind, Jim and I headed to the east of the island on Monday for a circular walk from Bayllgrant to Beinn Dubh valley, Lochs Fada and Leathann and back to Ballygrant. The main reason was to explore the  archaeology and natural features there. There's a fascinating nearly quarter of a gridsquare without a single contour line that is like a bowl of marshland and where the Lapwings were rolling and tumbling. There seems to have been an influx of them this year, which is truly delightful. For the more energetic, climb Beinn Dubh and view the natural dyke from on high as it rolls over the top of a dun.

Mysterious, solitary iron post?
'Bowl' of marshland with no contours. Beinn Dubh to right of picture.

View towards Beinn Dubh from more westerly of the duns.

The natural dyke runs just right of centre from summit of the dun towards the foreground.

Eacharnach ruin (translates from Gaelic as Park for Horses)Also known as Mullach Dubh (Common Knapweed - I think!)

Wonderful - spring is here!

Probably Peltigera membranacea (turns from grey to brown when wet)

Some sort of parasite?

The natural dyke viewed (in summer) from summit of Beinn Dubh, running across the dun.

Monday 18 March 2013

Aberdeen Angus Cattle - Rockside Farm

Sand dune - Machir Bay

Rubbish sign at Machir Bay

How not to do a sign.  Not sure which public body decided to erect these information plaques - but they have not survived the Islay climate.  This one is at Machir Bay.

Sheep - Rockside dunes


I went out to inspect the frog spawn on the Avinlussa track on Saturday. It seems to be doing OK. I also saw this attractive fencepost!

Avinlussa Ruin

Fencepost on Avinlussa track

Frog Spawn on Avinlussa track

Sunday 17 March 2013

Machir Bay this afternoon

Unfortunately this view has a limited lifespan.  A huge windfarm is planned which will stretch the whole length of the west coast of Islay.

Saturday 16 March 2013

Witches Broom

These growths on this Silver Birch tree are caused by the fungus Witches Broom, Taphrina betulina. It gets under the bark where it has been damaged, perhaps by insects, and causes this multiple sprouting of small twigs. From a distance, one could imagine this tree was supporting a rather successful rookery! An infestation as dense as this is thought to reduce the vigour of the tree and lead to up to a 25% reduction in size over its lifetime. The specific name of the fungus is taken from the generic name, Betula, of the host trees, i.e. the Silver and Downy Birch.

Thursday 14 March 2013

Brent Geese

I opened the curtains this morning to see these 11 Brent Geese picnicing across the road! Whatever next? (It was White-tailed Eagle flying past on Sunday - a great Mother's Day present!)

Brent Geese

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Corra-ghoirtein and Coille Mhòr

Two more old Islay farmsteads. Corra Ghoirtein translates as Corncrake and is evocative of a time when this now rare farmland bird once inhabited our land in dense numbers.

Coille Mhòr (Big Woodland) is another poignant title as it suggests a time when woodland was more extensive than it is today, although I was encouraged to see evidence of the Rhododendron eradication/native woodland regeneration project at Coill' a Chorra Ghoirtein.

Fiona and I saw a quality total of 7 species of birds today: Golden Eagle (fantastic - never tire of it!), Hen Harrier, Buzzard, Teal, Twite, Meadow Pipit and Common Gull. We saw a plethora of unknown lichens though on the old walls and an interesting pellet.

My only regret (and some would say I was being petty) is that we chose the one dull day sandwiched between two glorious days. Still, it was a joy to explore territory neither of us had really seen before - and that's saying something! Thanks for the company, Fiona - and the excellent map reading!

Coille Mhòr (Big Woodland)

Regenerating woodland at Bun an Uillt

Interesting pellet

Lichen at Corra Ghoirtein

Corra Ghoirtein

Fuscidea Cyathoides

Loch a' Chnuic Bhric

Monday 11 March 2013

Olistadh and Grimsay - in the snow!

What a fantastic walk I had yesterday. I've spent the most indulgent day today (shunning the sunshine) in favour of manipulating over 100 photos (oh, and going to the dentist, but that's less interesting!) I'm often amazed at how many places on Islay I have still failed to visit, and these were two of them. Olistadh is Old Norse for Olaf's Town and is situated west of Gearach (off the Kilchiaran road). Grimsay is a veritable township (albeit ruined), lying in an elevated position and 'guarded' by its very own standing stone north of Gearach. Here's a selection of photos.

Doorlet at Olistadh

Olistadh (look closely to see the snow!)

Large piece of quartz at Grimsay

Recumbent Standing Stone near Gearach

Dun Glas an Loin Choir

Part of ruined settlement of Grimsay

Summit of Dun Glas an Loin Choir looking towards Loch Gearach

The 'Guardian' of Grimsay village

Barnacle Geese at sunset - Loch Indaal

Saligo burn

Pictured on Sunday

Ploughing at Sunderland on the Rhinns

Gulls following the plough at Sunderland.

Loch Indaal

Loch Indaal pictured from a skyjack being used to erect a new warehouse at Bruichladdich Distillery.

Sunday 10 March 2013

Signs of spring

Everything is shivering in the strong and cold easterly wind of the last few days, but at least the sun was out today.
Hazel catkins

Hazel tree - plus spot the Buzzard!