Nature Notes from Argyll
(and occasionally other places)

Tue 18 Dec 2007 Inverawe.  Calm, sunny, frosty.

Fraxinus excelsior   Being in nothingness

I thought I'd try some bird pics in the bright sunlight, but none were any good so I turned to more static subjects.  The first is part of an Ash tree: the eye at the base of each horn and the snarly snout are the giveaway that this is actually a samorost of a bull.  At night it walks and roars.  Human inventions don't normally find their way into these pages but I'll make an exception for this one: a huge roll of some rubbery material that rusts at its edges, just standing there amongst all kinds of abandoned junk and debris.  Like a Magritte it evokes mystery because it conceals nothing.  Wonder if it will ever acquire any lichens.

Prunella modularis   Ilex aquifolium

After that you'll probably be quite pleased to see a rather poor picture of a Dunnock, so here is one.  Just my luck that the bird was in shade while everything behind it was in bright sun.  It was that sort of day.  The tangle of wood it was hopping about on is wedged in the river bed.

As the sun went down I climbed among the sonorous beeches to catch its last rays.  This Holly was remarkable in two ways: growing out of the side of a Beech tree, and fruiting profusely at a very young age.

Birds seen in order of appearance: House Sparrow, Blackbird, Great Tit, Wood Pigeon (flock of >30), Chaffinch, Pheasant, Blue Tit, Rook (flock of c 30), Hoodie, Wren, Redwing, Robin, Song Thrush, Mallard, Goldeneye, Dunnock, GBB Gull, Herring Gull, Wigeon, Cormorant, Goldcrest, Treecreeper, Common Gull, Long-tailed Tit.

Plants seen in flower: Daisy (a few), Gorse (abundant), Creeping Buttercup (1), Ragwort (1, short new growth from base), Ivy (few left).

Sun 23 Dec 2007 Oban.  Dry, not sunny but not dull, bitterly cold wind on hill.

Motacilla cinerea   Cepphus grylle   Tachybaptus ruficollis

I'm working on my bird photography and hopefully soon we'll have scintillating images that show the markings on every feather in ultra-crisp detail.  In the meantime these approximate to what you see with your eye when out walking.  The Grey Wagtail was picking about in puddles and wet leafmould on the path out of Oban that leads to the Kerrera Ferry.  The Black Guillemot (one of two together) and the Little Grebe were both offshore near Oban.  Both are well on their way to breeding plumage.  A third Black Guillemot seen was still in full winter plumage.

Birds seen on walk from Oban along path to Kerrera Ferry with detour onto Druim Mor, then back along road to Oban, in order of appearance: Blackbird, Herring Gull, Grey Wagtail, Snipe, Raven, Hoodie, Wren, Shag, Robin, Mallard, Little Grebe, Mute Swan, Black Guillemot, House Sparrow, Feral Pigeon.

Rubus fruticosus agg   Cladonia subcervicornis

There's a lot of Bramble along the road back to Oban.  Most of it is still deep green, but here and there leaves have become pale green, yellow or a dark muddy brown.  On this stem alone had they turned a vivid red.  The second pic shows the ice-blue squamules of Cladonia subcervicornis on a dry stone wall, with a bit of English Stonecrop in the upper left.

Plants seen in flower, in order of appearance: Broom (1 flower), Welsh Poppy, Gorse (lots), Ragwort (2 plants), Bramble (several), Creeping Buttercup (1), Herb Robert (few), Nipplewort (2 plants together flowering), Groundsel (frequent), Self-heal (2 plants together flowering), Daisy (few), Ivy (few), Lesser Celandine (2 on one plant), Ivy-leaved Toadflax.  The Celandine is the second sign of spring, following the Whitlow-Grass on 15 Dec.  Last year the first Celandine flower I saw was on 16 Jan.  From observations over the years I'm convinced that on the west coast cold clear weather is more likely to bring early flowers than warm dull weather, owing to the longer apparent day-length that the former provides.  Last December we had no sun at all and I didn't find any spring flower before mid-Jan.

Mon 24 Dec 2007 Oban.  Sunny spells and showers.

Somateria mollissima   Regulus regulus

Just in Oban for shopping but tried a few more bird shots.  The two drake Eiders were near the Ferry Terminal.  The Goldcrest was in the trees around Dunollie Castle.

Noticed Broad-leaved Willowherb and Thale Cress in flower in addition to ones recently mentioned.


All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer