07 August 2013

Loch Tinker

Yesterday we went for a walk to the remote Loch Tinker, high in the hills to the south of Loch Katrine. The aim was to look for plants, but we also found a number of interesting insects.

On the heather around the loch were large numbers of Vapourer Moth caterpillars. These must be one of the most exotic-looking among British caterpillars, with their bright colours and tufts of bristles.

In a boggy area crossed by streams, I noticed brightly coloured creatures skimming across the surface of the water. They were such a brilliant red that they looked like little lights.

It was only after looking at my photos later that I realised that these were ordinary pond skaters which were infested with tiny mites. As these were shiny, spherical and bright red, they were acting like little beads in a reflective surface, which gave the effect that they were alight.

We also saw a pair of fritillaries, probably Dark Green Fritillaries...

...but the most frequently seen butterfly was the Scotch Argus. These butterflies seem to have emerged in the last week and can be seen in large numbers on the lower slopes of the hills just now.

31 March 2013

A thousand icicles

On Friday I went back to the Carron Valley Reservoir again with a friend, this time on skis. As we wanted an easy day, we kept to the track that runs along just above the reservoir for much of the way, but with a few small hills to add a bit of interest to the skiing.

Sheltered corners of the reservoir were completely frozen, but there was enough movement in the water further out to break the ice and the middle of the reservoir was entirely free of ice. In the picture below, taken where the ice was breaking up, you can just see the open water beyond the ice.

After a couple of miles we decided to stop for lunch beside the reservoir. It was only then that we noticed what wind and water had done to the trees along the shoreline. The base of each one was completely covered in icicles of every possible description.

In the picture above, the pile of snow along the shoreline is in fact washed-up pieces of ice from the surface of the reservoir, covered in a thin layer of snow.

Some of the icicles were hardly thicker than pencils and pointing upwards instead of down. Others were curiously bent (some of these having formed around thin twigs which hardly show in the pictures). All the pictures below are the right way up.

Even each blade of grass was completely encased with ice.

On a different note, today, Easter Day, we stayed at home to watch the service broadcast from Paisley Abbey on BBC Scotland this morning. What a treat! ...and I'm not just saying that because I do the website for the director of music there. If you can access iplayer, it's available for the next week at www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01rp2sq and I strongly recommend it.

22 March 2013

Visitors to our garden

It always surprises me how some birds in the garden become quite tame, flying down for food as soon as we appear outside, or even peering hopefully through the window, while others, such as the greenfinches, chaffinches and bramblings, never seem to become tame.

Recently a robin has joined the company of the friendly birds. This one isn't as tame as the robin we had a few years ago, but it has fed from my hand and even perched on Fred's shoes.

The footprints in a fresh fall of snow this morning gave us some idea of the visitors we didn't see, so we could be fairly sure that these three were the only ducks to come for their breakfast this morning.

The ducks used to return at the very end of March, but since the two very cold winters they have been arriving much earlier. We suspect that they were spending the winter where they had access to open water and, when that froze over, they returned to us, and have kept up the habit of returning early since then. As they tend to visit at dawn and dusk, I have to get up very early to break the ice for them, especially until the clocks change to summertime.

This squirrel's fur coat was doing a good job of keeping the snow out.

Our blackbird is still calling several times a day, demanding currants. He is now less aggressive towards the female blackbird so perhaps they will soon be nesting.

Today he was joined by a very determined starling.

17 March 2013

More ice

Last Wednesday was a cold bright day. The night before, we had passed a frozen waterfall high up on the Campsie Fells on our way home from an unsuccessful attempt to try and view Comet Pan-STARRS, so we decided to head out in that direction.

We were not disappointed, though the waterfall was in the shade, which is probably why the icicles had remained.

On our way home, later in the day, we were lucky to catch the few minutes when they were sunlit.

Our destination, however, was the Carron Valley Reservoir, where we went for a walk.

Here we found some amazing ice formations, including these ice stalagmites.

Several streams were encrusted with ice crystals. I thought these looked like the skeleton of a reptile.

Cracked ice on a puddle

At the edge of the reservoir, where the ice was moving and clinking in the wind, it appeared as if ice pans were beginning to form.

Curious short icicles in a stream

15 March 2013

Ben Lomond - part way

On 27th February there was thick mist, but the forecast said that it was to clear later. I love days like that, especially if I can catch that moment when the mist begins let the sunshine through. I wasn't feeling like a heavy day of walking but didn't know how high I would have to climb to get above the mist, so I decided to go part way up Ben Lomond. I wouldn't feel the need to go to the top, since I have done it many times before.

On the way there, blue sky was visible at the highest point on the road, and the mist was already beginning to clear by the time I reached Rowardenann, where the walk begins. In just a few minutes I was out of it and into bright sunshine. Ptarmigan - the west ridge of Ben Lomond - was just appearing when I left the trees.

Soon I had a view of the hills to the west.

Mist was still lying over the southern part of Loch Lomond.

By early afternoon, the islands were beginning to appear.

On the way down, Ptarmigan was no longer shrouded in mist.

The small island of Inchlonaig was also appearing.

Back at Rowardennan.

14 March 2013

Ben Venue

Ben Venue has appeared several times before on this blog, when I found the Ohprydium, and when the group I was with experienced a mountain rescue. Both of those were later in the year. Climbing it on 19th February meant that we came across some large snow patches, and the path was quite tricky in a few places as the snow had frozen like concrete and gave little grip.

Higher on the hill we had excellent views back in the direction in which we had come.

From the summit we could see Loch Achray to the east, with Loch Venachar beyond, and Ben Ledi to the north-east.

Soon after leaving the summit, we had views to Ben Lui, Ben Oss and Beinn Dhubchraig.

Here the path rose steeply and was covered with hard-packed snow, making it very treacherous. Fortunately we were able to find a way round it on soft grass, which was much less slippery.

The sun was getting low as we descended, with golden light on Stobinian to the north.

From the road at the bottom we had a good view of Ben Lomond in the setting sun.