Friday, 24 April 2009

Trails and tales of the riverbank

A steep grass banking of daisies, speedwell and dandelions carefully masks the location for our picnic lunch. A closer look at the skyline in the photo below reveals roof tops and road signs. We have left the countryside lanes of our morning visit to Loch of the Lowes and are now in the heart of a city with a busy main road above us. Our location isn’t a actually a secret but I do wonder how many people living in Perth (Scotland) wander down here.

Being honest, I’d say pre blog I didn’t often come down here myself. However now, camera in hand to capture all things wildlife related outside my own garden too, I have found myself popping along here to this strip of the River Tay take photos of the birds. Mallards, Geese, Gulls, Swans and Moorhens I expected to see but I didn’t know about the Goosanders and they soon became a fav to look out for.

We often take some bread and walk through the gate below to the waters edge near Perth Bridge (also known as Smeaton's Bridge and, more locally, the Old Bridge). However, today we were empty handed as this lunch break hadn’t been planned. How peaceful and beautiful it was this Sunday Lunchtime. The timing of the male mallard gliding through the reflections of the arch circle was quite magical.

Tiny wild flowers caught my eye growing in the wall as we walked away from the Old Bridge along the higher path towards the Queen’s Bridge.

Looking across to the smaller island (The Stanners) which is between the two bridges we could see so much more plant life and gravel than usual. The timing of the tide would be one factor but we really haven’t had much rain this April so I guess the level is also low too. Browsing The Perth City website I found some interesting info on the birds in this strip of water:

“In spring and summer, the area between the bridges is home to Sand Martins which nest in holes in the walls of the riverbank, busily darting around in search of insects.

Grey wagtails can be glimpsed on the riverbank below the bridges. Dippers are small dumpy birds, with a characteristic bobbing movement, commonly seen around the ladeside. Moorhens, with their black bodies and red beaks, rear their young along the river and on the lade in the spring."

Several species of ducks, geese and swans inhabit the river and its islands. Most conspicuous is the flock of feral geese, which seem to have escaped from captivity and have lived between the bridges since the 1990s. They are related to the true wild Greylag, which is thought to be the ancestor of today's domestic geese. There are also feral ducks on the Tay at Perth, probably crosses between escaped domestic ducks and true wild Mallards, which are abundant here.

Many ducks nest on Stanner's Island, or even in gardens along the Dundee Road. Goosanders and Mergansers are large saw-billed ducks which are often glimpsed diving in the area between the bridges. In winter, Goldeneye ducks may be seen diving off Tay Street, and are the inspiration for David Annand's bronze sculpture adjacent to the Queen's Bridge.

Gosh, I'll need to keep my eyes peeled next time! Oh... but there's more...

Mute Swans, Black-headed and Herring Gulls I have seen here but it appears that:

“Whooper Swans visit in winter, sometimes congregating downriver at Sleepless Inches.

Black-headed Gulls and Herring Gulls can often be seen swooping for small fish in the river. Cormorants, large glossy greeny-black birds, are more commonly seen on seashore rocks, but are equally at home fishing on fresh water rivers and lochs. Herons are striking large grey and black water birds, occasionally seen standing motionless in shallow water, particularly around the Tay islands, waiting to stab fish and frogs with their long pointed bills."

I have seen a Heron here once but fortunately from where I was standing I wouldn't have been able to see it stab any frogs or fish! Now, I'll have to watch out for the Gulls fishing next time too.

Looking down to the shallow water no fish could be seen this morning (with our eyes anyway) but the River Tay is well known and very popular in the fishing world. I did know this. Salmon is the special catch of the day here but don’t ask me on which strips. However, I did know that the heaviest salmon ever caught (by rod) in Britain was landed by a woman on this river! I had to look up her name though.

Georgina Ballantine caught her 64lb salmon further up the Tay at Caputh Bridge in 1922. Earlier this morning we had crossed that very strip of water although the original bridge has now been replaced. Every time I cross that bridge now I’ll think of Georgina and the faces of any fellow fishermen that day!

Showing a few images of the Riverside Trails here was how this posting started but after a little research I had trouble holding back the tales and felt I should ammend the title! Just one more tale on some wildlife that I hadn’t realised could be seen here. It appears:

"The most striking mammal to be seen here is the Common Seal, usually in winter, pursuing salmon on a high tide. If you are lucky, you may even see an Otter, another mammal which enjoys salmon. In the vaults which cover the Lade, there are Daubenton's Bats, which roost there during the daytime."

This posting has certainly got me wanting to know more about the history of this area too. But wait a minute there are plants here and lots more of interest too if you want to visit. You can take a circular walk from here passing through the gardens of Norie-Millar Park then under the Queen's Bridge passing Rodney Gardens with sculptures by local artists in both.

The Riverside Walk along Bellwood Park (with more sculptures) takes you over the River Tay (and the larger Moncrieffe Island with its allotments and Golf Course ) via the Railway Bridge. Walking down the steps from the railway bridge you can then walk along Tay Street all the way up to the Old Bridge where you can come down to this path again. It’s the gardens that get me to the other side of the Queen's Bridge but this morning I had other plans for an afternoon walk to quite a different setting once again.

Mm... how about some pics for this too. I took a return visit one lunchtime this week and parked in the Car Park off Dundee road at Bellwood Park. The map below gives you a little idea of scale and layout of this area now.

The sculpture below is ‘Millais’ Viewpoint’ by Tim Shutter. More pics and less chat this time... well perhaps just one tale...

Honest Sir ‘I’ve been framed!!’ Sorry I just couldn’t resist this as the building in the centre of the frame, all the way over the other side of the River Tay, is actually Perth Sheriff Court. Here’s one for a Pub Quiz too… how many Jurors sit in a Scottish Court? Well, not 12 as in England and Wales. Scotland does have many Laws of its own which may surprise people outside the UK. There are 15 Jurors in Scotland as I know from first hand experience… I have been that 15th one!

Moving swiftly on… there is a causeway over to Moncrieffe Island near the Rodney Gardens where pergolas and plants are in abundance. The peace messages, in different languages, on a pillar caught my eye and the pale bergenia flowers against a painted wall near a viewpoint across the river.

Ah… I hear you say the end is in sight… LOL… well almost! It is Friday after all and the weekend has officially started. The photo below shows the tunnel under the Queen’s Bridge which will take you back to where this posting all began so very long ago. I included it more as a garden point of interest… always having a focal point no matter what way you look in your garden.

Ah… but let
me take you back in time with this tunnel… a treat perhaps for those who will remember this endearing programme on our UK television screens a few or two years ago. I should stress it is the colour version I remember! I should say I didn't realise this originated in Canada. Here’s a bit of nostalgia and fun for Friday courtesy of YouTube. It has to be…. Tales from the Riverbank!!

Fingers crossed you'll have great weather and time for exploring your own riverbanks this weekend! I wonder what you will see there. I also hope some local people pop down to this strip of the River Tay. Towns can be as rich as our gardens for birds and wildlife when we know where to look. Have a great weekend :-D

Now... where did I go next on this three centre Sunday? Ah... tales of quite a different kind to come next time...

All photos above before the map were taken on Sunday April 19th 2009. All photos from the map to the end were taken on April 23rd 2009.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Loch of the Lowes Ospreys…

…began my three centre trip last Sunday. However, it wasn’t the female Osprey (sorry dear I know you’ve just laid three eggs making your tally to a staggering 55) but it was the tree blossoms and wild flowers on the roadside that caught my eye. Well, that’s thing about a trip out it’s the unexpected that makes the day don't you think.

Oh… don’t get me wrong, it is still fascinating stuff to see video footage of the action on this tree top Osprey nest which you can see both inside the centre and live online too.

No… dandelions were not what caught my eye and the shot I ended up searching for this Sunday morning. Although, it was nice to see a bee out enjoying this wonderful sunshine yellow flower! Let’s go into the centre first for some stats on the Ospreys nesting at Scottish Wildlife Trust Loch of the Lowes courtesy of the wipeboard hanging on the wall.

The female Osprey nesting at Loch of the Lowes has been coming to this same nest for 18 years now which is amazing don’t you think. A member of staff was talking through some of the captured and live video footage of the Ospreys zooming in to show more detail of the head of the male Osprey who was sitting on the nest at the time. We decided that the hides, where you have views of across the Loch, might be quiet. The early morning view across the water was so peaceful looking.

Generally there is a sign outside bird hides requesting that you keep quiet inside which we saw here. Sometimes hides can feel too quiet, like a Doctor’s surgery, but not always. If people do chat it is kept at a whisper so that the birds outside are not disturbed. I like to hear a little chat (you could have guessed that) but before we even opened the door of the top hide on this visit we could hear chat inside.

We opened the door to see some serious pieces of watching kit. The hide was small. We went to the other side and my daughter whispered along the lines of was I feeling inadequate with my camera! I took a photo of the nest although couldn’t see the ospreys this visit. The nest is in the centre of the picture below.

We didn’t stay very long as a third person came and joined in the chat. We wouldn’t have stayed too much longer anyway as we could see more from the live cameras inside the centre. I didn’t properly mind the men chatting but they clearly were regular bird hide visitors by the kit they had and fully knew the etiquette expected. I am always very quick when using my video camera so people don't feel uncomfortable with it running. I always edit the sound out too.

On a visit earlier in the month, on April 2nd before the eggs were laid, I captured the footage below from this same hide. Unfortunately it is a little shaky as I didn't have the plate for my tripod with me. You can see the female stretching her wings. The male had come in with a fish for her just before but after a little while he flew away with it again. She didn't even get to taste it! She very patiently waited and waited for him to return.

I would encourage anyone to pop into hides when you see them as you never know what you might catch a glimpse of. You don’t have to be an expert to enjoy these facilities either. Nor do you need to have fancy equipment or a field guide for ID's. Often there are both binoculars and picture guides of the birds you can expect to see from them.

After a long or short walk it’s very relaxing to take a seat and look out the windows of a hide. Perhaps you might even welcome a cooling breeze on your face on a warm day. Oh… did I feel inadequate with my camera? I quietly laughed at my daughter and shook my head, no not at all. Even if I had a simple disposable camera I would still have used it.

What I had hoped to get another glimpse of this morning was the yellowhammers at the feeders. I don’t see them visit my garden. I hoped to get a photo from inside the viewing area of the visitor centre but we didn’t spot them. The first photo in the montage below shows a shaky shot from outside on a previous visit.

There is a path leading from the car park along the side of the loch. At its end you can cross the road and follow another path to walk all the way to the closest town Dunkeld. It's not a long walk. With a little more time we could walk this another day.

The sun was well out now streaming through the trees. You can see above that we spotted violets and wood anemones, wood sorrel and another small white flower which I haven’t ID’d yet. Mm... could it be an alpine strawberry? We also spotted slices of tree trunks on the ground. The first slice I spotted reminded me of a teddy bear face tilted to one side and smiling! I still hadn’t seen the flower I was looking for.

We had walked to the end of the path and then along the road side edge of the Loch for a little bit. Standing now at the edge of the Loch we were able to look across to one of the hides. With my camera’s zoom lens we could see someone looking back across at us. Ah... perhaps they, like us, were looking at the ducks that had just taken off along the water.

Returning back along the path to the car park we watched people play golf on the course across the other side of the road. My daughter attempted amusing sports commentary at appropriate points! We met a few people walking this path too. Everyone was out enjoying this lovely sunny morning.

The sky was such a beautiful blue colour above us as we came out of the woodland. Ah… and just alongside my parked car there was some blooming blossom. We had seen so much on trees this morning so a photo or two was a must.

Now, the search was on along the roadside verge that I spotted a particular wildflower on. Have you guessed which one it could be? There is a bird link here. If you turn left from the car park the road is narrow for a while. Two cars can still pass though. I am quite familiar with this road as my Grandmother lived along it.

Spaced out along the side of the Loch there are spaces to park one car. I stopped at a couple and walked around each time. I couldn't remember exactly which part had the drift of flowers I was looking for. Teenager daughter stayed in car listening to music this time. Well, I don't blame her with mad Mum out looking for a flower along the grass verges!

I found wonderful carpet drifts of wood anemones…

I found wonderful drifts of celandines…

Ah… but what’s this I spy along this grass verge? Yep... this is what I was looking for…

What a delight to spot a young small tortoiseshell butterfly looking for this wild flower too. It beat me too it! Do you recognise this wild flower now?

Let me introduce you to my wild flower of the day… Lady’s-smock Cardamine pratensis also known as the Cuckooflower. We saw this on many road verges today but it isn’t always easy getting parked to take photos. It really is quite a common wild flower and can be found all around the UK. I think its pretty special and have fond memories of collecting them for my Mum when I was a child. All wild flowers are protected now though so I didn't plan to pick any today.

So ,if you see these pale lilac bobbing flowers on stems along road verges as you pass by from April - June they may just be the Cuckooflower. Just watch out for others as mad as me trying to get photos!

Oh dear... this has been a long post. Sorry I didn't warn you. This was a long and full day. I’ve got heaps more to share from areas much closer to my home too. Next, we went for lunch...


I’d like to dedicate this posting and my following two postings on my tiny part of the world to Earth Day 2009. This has to be worth saving.

All photos above were taken on April 19th 2009 with the exception of the yellowhammer.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Shot of the day...

…story of the day? Nope... I just can’t choose so there’s nothing left to do but to expand the deadline. I planned this posting to be on ‘my patch’ but it’s going to be bigger than I thought plus I want to share favourite haunts too. Re-think required here. I’ve been collecting photos from the last three glorious weekends and should consider how best to share them.

Perhaps I could try daily postings this week. It's late tonight so I’ll look at what I’ve got tomorrow. Hope you’ve all had glorious daisy-chain making weather over the weekend too. Have you been out and about on your local patch or have you been busy in the garden?

The photo above was taken alonside the River Tay in Perth on April 19th 2008.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Garden Blooms April 2009

Regular taking of photos and posting on what’s in flower in the garden from month to month gives a great overview of the garden on a yearly basis too. Even without keeping a blog it is a great way of keeping a record. Last year’s video for April 2008 showed the plants were behind those in 2007 although my posting for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day didn’t start until May 2007 I still took photos at that time. April 2009 is seeing flowering ahead of 2008 so I guess we are back on track again.

Drumstick primula, Bergenia, Rhododendron, Hellebore

Carol at May Dreams Gardens, a garden blog in Indiana USA, came up with the idea of inviting garden bloggers throughout the world to post on what was in flower in their gardens on the same day. The 15th of the month was chosen. This is a fascinating way to get a plant picture of the world. It also shows how many plants we all have in common too although not always flowering at the same time.

Viola 'Ruby and Gold', Snake's head Fritillary

Carol, still hosts Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day and every 15th of the month asks “What’s blooming in your garden today?”

“We welcome everyone to join us for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day whether this is your first time or your 27th time, whether you have a garden blog or some other kind of blog.

"It’s easy to join in. Just post on your own blog about what's blooming in your garden right now, outdoors or indoors. You can include pictures, lists, common names, botanical names, whatever you’d like to do to showcase your blooms.

"Then leave a comment and put your name and a link back to your bloom day post in the Mr. Linky widget, so we know where to find your blog and can visit to see and read about your bloom day blooms.

"And like last month, once you’ve added your name to the list, please come back and visit and comment on a few of the blogs listed before and after you. Bloom day is a great way to find new blogs and bloggers’ gardens!” Thank-you Carol, it certainly is!


Oh… I should say later postings are very welcome. My photos were taken at the end of the 16th as it got dark so you could say they are night blooms this month. It was completely dark with some so I had to remember exactly where to find them and watch where I was standing too! When I add my link to the Mr Linky list on Carol's posting it will be 136th posting. Wow! So without further adieu, here’s what’s in flower during April 2009 in my small garden in Perthshire, Scotland. Oh… I’ve included some buds, opening tree leaves and the first photo of my Gunnera emerging after its winter sleep.

Daffodils, Paper white narcisi, White Fritallary

Wood Anemone, Broom, Clematis, Rhododendron, Allium bud, Primrose

Dandelion, Narcisi, Euphorbia

Brunnera Jack Frost, Tulip bud

Weeping pear tree blossom, Hyacinth, Erysium Bowles' Mauve, Clematis 'Constance', Coral bark Acer new leaves

Magnolia, Pieris

Acer leaves uncurling, Arabis

Gunnera new growth, Meconopsis new growth

Tulip growing in lawn fading away

Just one other thing for those who may have missed my last posting… we have three (week old) guinea pigs that are also blooming if you’d like to see some very cute photos of them. Oh… and for all my birding visitors have a great weekend out in your local patch. My next posting will introduce you to mine! Like in my own garden there's lots to see.

Happy Bloom Day and have a great weekend!

All photos shown above were taken in my garden on the evening of April 16th 2009. It was getting dark and many photos were taken in complete darkness. Flash was used in them all.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

One week on…

… I‘ve used this blog title before back in May 2007. Blue tit chicks were hatching in our Camera nextbox. This was our first nestbox with a camera, our first season with it too and we were very lucky to see this. Sadly the eight chicks didn’t make it but you can read this nestbox story here. You can also read last year’s nestbox diary/story here. We had a single Mum then and once again the eight chicks didn’t survive. It looks like we won’t see any action at all this year. I won’t rule it out completely though. Time will tell. I’ll just have to get my cameras filming elsewhere!

This morning I went out to the garden to capture photos for my posting on what’s in flower in my garden in the middle of the month. I got side tracked a little. I pulled some grass for our new young mum guinea pig and her triplets and then had a different photo opportunity entirely. I just had to share them! Today, they are one week old!

I'll post on the flowers later this evening. Hopefully later this afternoon the wind will have died down so I can take my photos. Why does the wind pick up or it rain during the times I can capture these photos. No rain today, a blue sky and a few sunny days predicted.

Wishing you a great weekend!

The photos above were taken on April 16th 2009 and are young guinea pig Izzy’s young at one week old.