Alan Watson Featherstone, Founder of Trees for Life, writes about his experiences out in the Caledonian Forest, and about his work for the charity.

A day in Glasdrum Wood, Part 2

Alder trees (Alnus glutinosa) covered in moss in the temperate rainforest of Glasdrum Wood National Nature Reserve.

Alder trees (Alnus glutinosa) covered in moss in the temperate rainforest of Glasdrum Wood National Nature Reserve.

This is the follow up to my previous blog, about my visit to Glasdrum Wood National Nature Reserve in Argyll at the end of July. Rather than make one very long blog, I decided to split it into two, in the interest of making it more readable, and also for my own ease of posting blogs relatively regularly. The amount of work involved in creating each blog is obviously proportional to the length of the blog, and my aim is to get two blogs posted each month, so dividing my day at Glasdrum between two has enabled me to keep to that schedule. Continue reading…

A day in Glasdrum Wood, part 1

Moss-covered old oak tree (Quercus petraea) in temperate rainforest, Glasdrum Wood National Nature Reserve.

Moss-covered old oak tree (Quercus petraea) in temperate rainforest, Glasdrum Wood National Nature Reserve, Argyll.

For quite a few years I’d been wanting to visit Glasdrum Wood, a special area of temperate rainforest that is protected as a National Nature Reserve (NNR) on the west coast of Scotland, and at the end of July I finally made a visit there. Situated about midway between Fort William and Oban, on the north shore of Loch Creran, the wood is about 3 hours by car from my home so I set off at 6 am to ensure I had enough time to explore the woodland. Continue reading…

Floral attraction in Glen Affric

Longhorn beetle (Rhagium mordax) feeding on the flowers of a common hogweed plant (Heracleum sphondylium)

Black-spotted longhorn beetle (Rhagium mordax) feeding on the flowers of a common hogweed plant (Heracleum sphondylium) in Glen Affric.

July is one of my favourite months of the year, as it is the peak time for a lot of activity in nature – the blossoming of  many summer flowers, their pollination by a host of insects and the dispersal of young birds and mammals from their parents, to name some of the main events. In the middle of the month I spent a day in Glen Affric, visiting various areas of forest there, but the highlight of this trip was the time I spent with a few hogweed plants (Heracleum sphondylium) that were flowering beside the road, between Badger Falls and Dog Falls. Continue reading…

Birth and death on a birch tree

Aphid (Euceraphis punctipennis) on a leaf of the aspen tree in my garden.

Aphid (Euceraphis betulae) on a leaf of the aspen tree in my garden.

On Saturday 9th July I spent some time in my garden looking at an aspen tree (Populus tremula) I planted there about 10 years ago. As I was doing so, I noticed little spots of liquid on some of the leaves that I recognised as being the honeydew that is secreted by aphids when they feed on the tree’s sap. This prompted me to start looking at the leaves higher up on the tree, in search of the aphids themselves. Almost immediately, I found some large aphids on a few of the aspen’s leaves, but they didn’t look like the aphid species that I’m familiar with that feed on aspen. Continue reading…

A day at Loch an Eilein

Female mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) on Loch an Eilein in the middle of June, Rothiemurchus, Cairngorms National Park.

Female mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) on Loch an Eilein in the middle of June, Rothiemurchus, Cairngorms National Park.

Loch an Eilein was a slightly unusual destination for one of my photographic trips, as I usually go to the glens west of Loch Ness, where Trees for Life carries out most of its forest restoration work. However, my partner’s son was staying with us for a few days in the middle of June, and he and his mother were keen to visit the Cairngorms, to climb one of the peaks there. I was more interested in the native forest than the high peaks (which I’ve climbed on various occasions in the past) so we traveled together to the National Park, and they dropped me off at Loch an Eilein before going on to climb Cairngorm Mountain and hiking on the summit plateau. Continue reading…

A great year for rowan flowers

Rowan tree (Sorbus aucuparia) in flower, overlooking cascades on the Allt na Imrich burn in Glen Affric.

Rowan tree (Sorbus aucuparia) in flower, overlooking cascades on the Allt na Imrich burn in Glen Affric.

It has been a different experience to usual for me this spring, as I was away in southern South America for over 3 weeks from the middle of April onwards, where it was autumn in the forests. For the first time in many years therefore, I’ve missed out on some of my favourite phenomena in the Caledonian Forest – the return of the leaves on the trees, and the exuberance of the spring flowers, such as primroses and wood anemones, on the forest floor. Continue reading…

The first signs of spring

Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris) and birch trees (Betula pubescens) near Loch Beinn a'Mheadhoin in Glen Affric.

Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris) and birch trees (Betula pubescens) near Loch Beinn a’Mheadhoin in Glen Affric.

By the middle of March the days are getting longer and the equinox, when there’s 12 hours between sunrise and sunset, is not far off. The first indications of new life were already visible where I live on the Moray Firth coast at Findhorn, with daffodils getting ready to flower and pussy willows appearing on the willow trees, so I headed out to Glen Affric to see if spring was also making its presence felt there. Situated inland, amongst the mountains to the west of Loch Ness and at a higher elevation, Glen Affric is always behind Findhorn with the return of life each year, but nevertheless I hoped there would be something to see already. Continue reading…

Frosty morning at Dundreggan

Birch trees covered in frost and backlit by early morning sunlight at Dundreggan.

Birch trees covered in frost and backlit by early morning sunlight at Dundreggan.

During early March we held a three day conference for our staff at Dundreggan, to look at our organisational strategy, and the direction that Trees for Life is going in with its work. Those of us based at our Findhorn office stayed over at Dundreggan for two nights, and on the third day I woke up early to find it was a clear and cold morning, with a thick frost covering all the trees and grass etc. Dressing quickly, I headed outside to enjoy the beauty of the morning for an hour or so before the final session of our conference. Continue reading…

A torrent in the forest, soon to be diverted?

The Abhainn Gleann nam Fiadh in full spate, cascading past epiphyte-covered alder trees (Alnus glutinosa) and hard ferns (Blechnum spicant) in Glen Affric.

The Abhainn Gleann nam Fiadh in full spate, cascading past epiphyte-covered alder trees (Alnus glutinosa) and hard ferns (Blechnum spicant) in Glen Affric.

This winter continues to be one of constant change, with wildly fluctuating weather and frequent storms hitting the north of Scotland. After a cold spell of two or three days in the second half of January, with snow and freezing, sub-zero conditions, a warm front moved in quickly from the west, and within less than 24 hours the temperature rose to 14°C. As a result, the snow held in the mountains melted very rapidly, swelling the rivers and burns, making for spectacular torrents where there are normally more sedate and gentle flows of water. Continue reading…

Ice formations on the Red Burn

Ice formation beside a small cascade on the Allt Ruadh, or Red Burn, at Dundreggan.

Ice formation beside a small cascade on the Allt Ruadh, or Red Burn, at Dundreggan.

It has been a very mild winter so far in the Highlands this year, with only a couple of relatively small snowfalls that haven’t lasted for more than day or two before the temperatures have risen again. During a recent visit to Dundreggan for a meeting, therefore, on a frosty day when there was still some snow on the ground, I took the opportunity of spending an hour and a half with my camera to document some of the beauty of the winter weather. Continue reading…