Nature Notes from Scotland

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Nature Notes from Scotland

View of Scotland in spring

I have noticed that this year looks like being a bumper year for certain plants – gorse, dandelions and cowslips seem to be everywhere (the services at Annandale Waters, just outside Glasgow on the A74, have a solid half acre mass of them and outside Ayr, slopes on an embankment of the A77 are starting to show promise of the same). It is funny to see all this yellow everywhere as we did a couple of years ago in Scotland and here it is again, lining roadsides with dandelions and hedgerows with gorse.

These ideal conditions for a certain type of growth, applies to insect life as well. I have noticed Orange Tip butterflies and Green Veined Whites in abundance but not every year. Other species like Large Whites and small whites are not so noticeable in their seasonal appearance (black tipped upper wings and dark spots, which distinguishes them from other whites but not each other - only size does that).

By the way, only the Orange Tip is instantly distinguishable from other white butterflies as the Large and Small Whites have black veins running through their wings, causing them to be mistaken for Green Veined Whites at times, especially in flight. Also note that the Cabbage White is so called as its caterpillars eat cabbage leaves. It is considered a pest because of this nasty habit (who has not turned their nose up in childhood, at the thought of this 'delicacy' appearing on their plate?).

Red Admirals, which are black but with red bars and white patches on their upper wings, are quite often seen during the summer but more commonly nowadays, since President Putin came to power. Peacock’s which have rusty brown wings with eye patterns, top and bottom, are usually quite common too. Small Tortoiseshells are very common (orange wings with a distinctive border that runs down the sides of both sets of wings) and Painted Ladies, an immigrant species, resembling a paler version of the last named, can also be seen some years but again it depends on conditions. I have also seen a Comma butterfly here but only once. They are again orange but covered in black patches and have a distinctive serrated edge to their wings.

In the Galloway Forest, the largest tree-filled woodland in the country, I have seen Smooth newts lying at the bottom of puddles here, where down south in England, I only remember seeing them in ponds. They are usually pale brown and only a couple of inches long. Greater crested newts are much bigger, almost black except for their undersides, which are usually orange or yellow, plus have black spots and are extremely rare nowadays. The only other amphibians you will see are tadpoles, squirming about in ditches or the odd puddle.

Gorse in ScotlandEven more gorse in Scotland

Under the surface of such puddles are small water beetles, coming to the surface every so often to breathe, backsides breaking the skin of the liquid. On the surface you may see whirligigs, swirling about like kids trying to show off in cars, by spinning around all over the place. They are distinguishible by their behaviour, not their appearance. Water Boatmen, look like rowers in sculls. This separates them from Pondskaters, who have a pair of long legs sticking out front and another set poking out back.

Other wildlife includes Hoverflies, imitating wasps and bees but with the distinguishing feature that they hover like helicopters and the genuine articles fly like planes. Also air-bound, you may hear pigeons. You can tell the difference between them and Cuckoos, in that Pigeons go coo, coo or make continuous cooing sounds, where Cuckoos go cu-co, cu-co.

On a trip back once from this area, I saw a dead Badger in the middle of the road, but I have yet to see a live one. Locally where I live, I have seen a pair of Otters by the bridge over the river Irvine and on the footpath that runs beside it, twice have seen weasels and once a mink but it wasn’t being worn by anyone at the time. Deer are abundant here, mostly Roe (Red Deer are more prevelant, the further north you go) but I haven’t seen foxes in any number, unlike when we lived in The Highlands. Well that is the end of the Nature Notebook for this month. If you are really lucky, there won’t be one next month.

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