Between scheduled activities at work yesterday I had time for a short walk in the Caledonian Pinewoods around Glenmore and noticed the forest is moving into summer now.
At the edge of the camp site I spotted this small yellow flower growing among the blaeberry.
This is Common cow-wheat (Melampyrum pratense) and is semi-parasitic; it attaches to the roots of other plants in order to feed. Botanist, Phil Gates, over at Cabinet of Curiosities explains it in more detail.
My walk continued around the eastern end of Loch Morlich and past the stunted pines I’ve mentioned previously to a drier part of the forest. Here under the mature Scots Pine the forest floor was carpeted with the low growing evergreen plant, Cowberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) or lingonberry.
Cowberry keeps its leaves all winter even in the coldest years which is unusual for a broad-leaved plant, although it is usually protected from severe cold by snow cover. Cowberry produces small red edible berries (6–10 mm across) ripening in late summer to autumn. The berries are collected in the wild in northern, central and eastern Europe, notably in Scandinavia and the Baltic States and are a popular fruit. The berries are quite tart, so they are often cooked and sweetened before eating in the form of lingonberry jam, compote, juice, smoothie or syrup. The berries are an important food for bears and foxes, and many fruit-eating birds.
My favourite spot beside the burn is looking just that bit greener now than a month ago as all the broadleaved trees are in full bloom. The silver birch create a lovely canopy over the path and the alders create a dappled light on the water.
This particular corner is one of the spots I stop on my guided dusk walk. It is a great place for watching the Daubenton’s bats skimming low over the water catching aquatic flies (mayfly, stone fly, midges). On Saturday night when out with a group we’d picked up the loud, rapid clicking of about 5 bats on our bat detectors. The noise from the detectors shows how active these bats are–flying at up to 15mph–and what efficient hunters they are. After making sure everyone could see them (I know some people have poor night vision) we switched off the detectors and sat in silence for a couple of minutes. To the casual observer the river would look like a tranquil, calm scene, but having heard the evidence of the bats hunting, and now that we could see them, we knew what a wild hunting scene was going on here.
Here’s a short clip from Springwatch where Simon King shows us Daubenton’s bats as filmed with night vision and thermal imaging cameras.
Incidentally some of my colleagues who work in the company sites in the south are able to look for these and Pipistrelle bats using night vision cameras. But up here at 57° north, it is still light when I do my dusk walk from 10pm to 11.30pm!
Along the path edges and under the silver birch trees, the bracken is now shooting up vigorously. But in the shorter grass flowers such as buttercups and the lovely wee Germander Speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys) are seen.
Speedwells are roadside or path-edge plants which speed you on your journey, although it is unknown just why they acquired this reputation.
And finally, to include another kingdom–fungi–this wonderful specimen of what I think could be Sheathed Woodtuft (Kuehneromyces mutabilis) was creating a wonderful display at the camp site. Please let me know if this is incorrect and what is the correct identification.