I have started back at my summer seasonal post as Forest Ranger at Glenmore, near Loch Morlich, This is a wonderful place to work as I enjoy lovely walks through the Caledonian Pinewoods every weekend and share the wildlife with the visitors.
Following the past two weeks of warm, sunny days, the buds on the trees were bursting and the early spring flowers blooming.
The Scots pines are just starting to flowers and in a week or two everything will be soon take on a layer of yellow dust as the pollen is dispersed by wind or heavy rain.
Male and female flowers occur on the same tree. They appear in May with the females on the tips of the higher and more exposed branches and the males clustered together, often en masse, on the branches just below. Pollination is by wind, and fertilised female flowers take two years to become a fully-grown cone.
At any given time it is possible to see two sets of cones on a tree: the younger ones, which have been fertilised within the last year, and the ripe, or near ripe cones which will soon release their seeds.
One of the native broadleaf trees that is in flower is the Goat Willow (Salix caprea), also known as pussy willow. This is the commonest of our willows, growing almost anywhere. All willows are dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers occur on separate plants. The male catkins mature yellow at pollen release; the female catkins mature pale green.
On the ground under the Scots Pines and silver birch the delicate Wood sorrel flowers are blooming. The leaves of this plant are edible and provide a sharp acidic taste. The plant protects its nectar and pollen from damaging weather conditions, and as light levels fall as evening approaches or rain is imminent, the flowers close tightly shut, opening again only when the light improves. The thin, heart-shaped leaflets also close and droop beside the stem.
Around the edges of the trees and in the open spaces, the bracken fiddle heads are unfurling and looking like all sort of alien wee creatures!
Alongside the burn that flows into Loch Morlich the young silver birch are all looking green and fresh.