11 December 2010

Snow - November/December 2010

The first snow came on 27th November. We had about 8 cm, which was enough to get out the cross-country skis and set off for some wonderful days out, mostly in sunshine, and starting from right outside our front door.

I like this group of conifers, with a light dusting of snow making them look like Christmas trees.

One of our favourite places to ski is this big open field. It has several hills to make the skiing more interesting.

Another group of conifers.

Yet more conifers, this time catching the evening sun.

On 6th December we had another snowfall, which added a further 8 cm to the depth. We were even able to ski along the main roads, and we didn't have to worry about the bus either, as it had been abandoned.

As the weather became colder again, hoar frost formed on exposed surfaces. Here it had formed large crystals along strands of sheep wool entangled in a barbed wire fence.

Icicles grew along the edges of the roofs.

Two nights after the coldest night, when the temperature outside dropped to -15°C, there was quick thaw. Our house also had a curtain of icicles round the edge of the roof and there were frequent crashes all evening as they fell off. After two particularly big crashes, I went outside to check and found a piece about the size and weight of a brick, so I thought I'd better not go outside any more. We had one icicle about 6 cm in diameter and several feet long, which was probably the other big crash as it was no longer there, but that one would have landed on the garage roof.

Below is a view to the Campsies taken in Milngavie.

Frozen water drops in a stream

10 December 2010

Life after the freeze

After recording a temperature of -15°C at 7am the day before yesterday, the big thaw has now begun. I'll post some pictures of the snow later, but this morning I went out on my cross-country skis to the park by our house and was amazed at the number of small creatures walking around on the snow. These included spiders, flies, springtails and a froghopper. I imagine that the sudden rise in temperature must have caused the eggs to hatch. Below are a selection.

28 November 2010

November snow

It began to snow on Friday night, and by this morning we had about 12cm. I don't remember ever having so much snow here in Glasgow so early in the season. It seems hardly any time since the end of last winter's snow.

The park next to our house was busy with children sledging, though I was out before them when I took this picture.

Our cotoneaster berries were shining brightly in the sun. The birds haven't managed to eat them all yet.

This afternoon there were no signs of any road-clearing.

Even the main road at the back of our house was covered in snow, with traffic slowed to a crawl.

Back in the park, some old seed heads were catching the evening light.

Large clouds were building up, threatening a further fall of snow, though this did not materialise.

17 October 2010

Eigg - The Giant's Footstep

In this picture, looking north over the Giant's Footstep to Laig Bay beyond, it's easy to see how this loch got its nickname.

Tucked in a hollow below inland cliffs, it is being encroached upon by vegetation and supports a wide variety of wetland plants.

From the lochside, there is a view to Laig Farm and the island of Rum beyond.

Two of the commonest aquatic plants growing in the loch are Bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata - named after its three-lobed leaves) and the delicate strands of Lesser Bladderwort (Utricularia minor) for which this is one of the best sites on the island.

In the picture below, you can just see the bladders like pinheads.

16 October 2010

Isle of Eigg

In September we returned to the Isle of Eigg, where we had first met.

Eigg is dominated by the Sgurr, seen below in a rather sombre mood.

Although rising to only 393m, the pitchstone ridge of the Sgurr is a particularly impressive sight when seen from the east.

The path to the summit lies along the north side of the ridge to a point where ascent is quite easy.

We walked along the south coast, below the cliffs of the Sgurr, to Grulin where there is a bothy. There used to be a large settlement here, but this is all that now remains apart from ruins.

From the south coast near Grulin we had a view to the Isle of Muck.

While we were staying on Eigg, we were asked to look for Bladderwort (Utricularia sp.), a small aquatic plant which traps microscopic animals. The search took us to parts of the island that we might not have reached otherwise, including the central highland area which contains many lochs of different sizes.

It also took us to the long ridge of Beinn Bhuidhe, which stretches along the east coast of Eigg.

One of the best beaches for shells is now the one which formed after the building of the new pier.

In this picture, the boat is just about to arrive to take us back to the mainland.

12 October 2010

A strange insect

A few days ago, Fred and I went for a walk to a boggy area near Aberfoyle in central Scotland, where we wanted to look for some unusual plants.

I found this strange creature sitting on some wet peat. I did not recognise it at all, and couldn't think what on earth it could be.

After searching through a book on insects, I discovered that it was the larva of a glow worm.

Glow worms are relatively common in the south of England, but few and far between in Scotland. Neither of us had ever seen one before.

For more information about glow worms, see
The UK Glow worm Survey Home Page

04 September 2010


Nearly 30 years ago I went to California and much admired the Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) trees that lined the streets in Los Angeles.

Soon after I arrived home, I found a small one in a local garden centre so I bought it. It has survived ever since, growing much larger and needing an enormous pot. I keep it indoors on a windowsill, but it only flowers if it has a lot of warmth and sunshine, and especially if it has been pruned. A couple of years ago I managed to get a cutting to grow.

This summer, both of my little trees managed to flower.

The flowers are unusual in that they have 6 petals. I was curious to find what other dicotyledonous plants have flowers with 6 petals, and the first I discovered was Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), and this turns out to be in the same family as the Crepe Myrtle (Lythraceae). Earlier this week I was out walking with a friend and we came across some Purple Loosestrife.

We also have it growing in our garden. Most (but not all) of the flowers have 6 petals.

Two days later, I was out walking again and we came across the other member of this family which commonly grows wild in the UK - Water-purslane (Lythrum portula). This is quite an insignificant plant which sprawls on mud.

Other members of the Lythraceae include Pomegranate and Henna
There is further information about this family in the online Flora of China, including a description and key to Lythraceae

10 August 2010

August butterflies

I had been hill-walking for the day, and there were large numbers of Scotch Argus butterflies on the lower slopes of the hill. These butterflies are distinctive for their very dark appearance in flight, and it is surprising to see how much colour they have when they stop to rest. On the way down, several of the butterflies settled on my skin, presumably attracted to the salt.

A Scotch Argus from Soay.

Another recent butterfly sighting, this time on the coast near home, was a Small Copper.

Lochan nan Arm

Recently Fred and I visited Lochan nan Arm, a small lochan nestling among hillocks. We had only seen it on the map, so were delighted to find such an attractive place. In the picture below you can also see Beinn Dubhchraig in the distance.

At one end, the loch was covered with yellow water-lilies.

I noticed a damselfly which was laying eggs under the water. It was climbing down a grass stem which was hanging into the water, becoming completely submerged in the water, laying a few eggs ad then resurfacing before going back down again.

There were many other dragonflies and damselflies present, including this one with wings that glinted in the sunlight.

Today we went to Rowardennan, on the east side of Loch Lomond, and saw another dragonfly laying eggs, but this one was using a different method. See the video.