28 September 2008

Ben Lomond

Today I went up Ben Lomond again.

Ben Lomond is 974m high and you start from not much above sea level.

At first the weather was fine, with mist drifting over the hills. But soon it deteriorated and began to rain, getting harder every minute. What a nuisance it is, having to put on waterproofs. My waterproof jacket is too narrow to zip up over my camera and GPS, and the waterproof trousers are a struggle to get on without taking my boots off. Of course, as soon as I had put them on, the rain became less. Soon the clouds turned back to mist, drifting away across the loch.

The summit of Ben Lomond was clear of cloud and I thought I was now in for a fine day.

Near the top, the clouds closed in again.

Soon it was not only raining, but windy and rather cold. I had to put my gloves on as well as the waterproofs.

At the summit trig point there was no view in any direction but, as it had only recently started to rain, I decided to hang around and hope for it to stop.

Patches of blue sky kept appearing overhead, but I had quite a long wait before the clouds started to move away. At last I had a view to the north, with a rainbow over the head of the loch.

As I started the descent, I could see sunlight on the loch below.

Suddenly the sun burst through the clouds overhead, so I hurried up to the summit again in the hope of seeing a Brocken spectre.

I was in luck.

The only other person still on the summit to share it with me was someone for whom Ben Lomond was his first Munro (hill of over 914m), and it was quite a celebration to see such an unusual phenomenon.

The descent continued to be a mixture of sunshine and showers.

The same view as the first picture, but now with better weather.

For more about Ben Lomond, see the virtual walk on our website.

27 September 2008

More algae

Today we have been looking at some water we collected from a ditch yesterday. It was full of various sorts of algae (primative plants). The most frequent in the sample was this rather beautiful feathery-looking one (Draparnaldia sp.), seen here under the microscope.

Very long, fine hairs can be seen extending from the ends of the branches.

Among the strands of this alga were numerous desmids, such as the large round green one in this picture (Micrasterias sp.), diatoms, and other small algae.

Here is a larger picture of Micrasterias, showing its structure.

For more desmids, see also 28 August 2008.

26 September 2008

Insects on ragwort

While walking in the forestry near our home, we found this moth feeding on some ragwort flowers. It is an ear moth (Amphipoea sp.). There are 4 British species of ear moth, which are very hard to tell apart.

These flowers were also popular with other insects including a strongly patterned hover-fly (Helophilus sp.)

21 September 2008

Shaggy Ink Cap

The Shaggy Ink Cap (Coprinus comatus) is also known as the Lawyer's Wig.

We found a whole lot of these beautiful toadstools while on a walk above Loch Lomond today.

After reaching maturity, the cap breaks down into a black liquid - a process known as auto-digestion. The picture below shows four stages in the process. At bottom right is a perfect specimen. The ones in the middle have just started to widen and turn to liquid at the margins. Those on the left are half way through the process, and those at top right have completely liquified.

Below is a photo of the view from where we found them.

18 September 2008

Garden spider

Today Fred found this spider crawling on some rushes by a pond we were visiting.

It is the Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus) which is very common in Britain.

15 September 2008

Grass of Parnassus

Yesterday I went up Ben Lomond.

This is a view taken from about half way up, looking south down Loch Lomond.

Lower on the hill I found quite a lot of Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia palustris). This is quite a common flower in Scotland, and is one of the most beautiful. It flowers quite late in the year when many flowers are already over.

It has five fertile stamens which open in turn, and five sterile stamens which each branch into a semicircle of tiny glands.

It was a misty day, and this is another view taken just after I had left the summit.

There is a virtual walk up Ben Lomond on our website

13 September 2008

Bubbles in the sea

On August 15th I visited Dornie on the west coast of Scotland.

These bubbles were coming from the bottom of a tidal sea loch in many places where the water was quite shallow. They moved from place to place as the tide level changed.

Some of them were just small strings of bubbles, but others were leaping up to around 20cm above the surface of the water.

When I dug into the pebbles around the origin of the bubbles, I was unable to find any source.

Fred has seen similar bubbles at a different location.

I would be interested in any responses as to their possible cause.

07 September 2008

Ben Ime

Today I went up Ben Ime, which is a Munro (a hill of over 300ft / 914m). Ben Ime is 1011m high.

It was very clear, and from the summit to the north-west I could see what I thought was the Isle of Rum. It's the jagged peaks on the skyline in the picture below. I checked this on the map afterwards and it is certainly the right direction. Rum is 76 miles (122 km) from Ben Ime.

I also had excellent views of the other nearby hills. To the south I could see the Cobbler (884m).

To the east I could see Loch Lomond, Loch Arklet, Loch Katrine and Ben Ledi beyond.