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

Life on a bird cherry tree

Red-legged shield bug (Pentatoma rufipes) on the leaf of a bird cherry at Dundreggan.

Red-legged shield bug (Pentatoma rufipes) on the leaf of a bird cherry at Dundreggan.

On the 3rd of July I was out at Dundreggan for a couple of meetings, and in between them there was a gap of an hour or two. I decided to go and have a look for some invertebrates on some of the trees near the buildings there, thinking especially of some aspen trees (Populus tremula) along one of the burns. However, on my way to them, I made a slight detour to a couple of bird cherry trees (Prunus padus) at the far end of the field where our tree nursery is situated.

Continue reading…

Early summer in Glen Affric, part 2

Chickweed wintergreen (Trientalis europaea) in flower near Loch Beinn a'Mheadhoin in Glen Affric.

Chickweed wintergreen (Trientalis europaea) in flower near Loch Beinn a’Mheadhoin in Glen Affric.

On Sunday 8th June, after spending more than two hours with an oak tree (Quercus petraea) and a young hazel (Corylus avellana) beside the road at the eastern end of Glen Affric, just above Badger Falls (see Part 1 of this blog), I drove a little further into the glen. As I often do, I stopped near Dog Falls, as I wanted to look at some aspen trees (Populus tremula) that are growing beside the road there, just at the falls themselves. Continue reading…

Early summer in Glen Affric, part 1

Aspen (Populus tremula) and Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris) over looking Loch Beinn a'Mheadhoin in Glen Affric.

Aspen (Populus tremula) and Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris) overlooking Loch Beinn a’Mheadhoin in Glen Affric.

On the 8th of June I went out to Glen Affric for a gentle day of photography. I’d been suffering from sciatica in one of my legs recently, so I wasn’t very mobile, but the advice I’d received was that exercise is good for the condition. My plan therefore was to see if I could find some good subjects for photography along the roadside in the glen, so that I wouldn’t have to walk too far. I reasoned that this would avoid putting undue stress on my leg, while at the same time enabling me to fulfil my creative desires with the camera. Continue reading…

Life and death in an aspen tree

Trunks and leaves of an aspen tree at Dundreggan.

Trunks and leaves of an aspen tree at Dundreggan.

In a recent blog I wrote about the fallen giants – some of the large Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris) and oaks (Quercus petraea) that were blown down by the powerful storm that hit Dundreggan on the night of 5th December 2013. Since then, we’ve continued to find other trees throughout the woodland on the estate that were either uprooted and blown over, or had substantial limbs broken off them. This blog entry is about one of those – an aspen tree (Populus tremula) – that lost part of a major branch in the storm. Continue reading…

A rainbow day in Glen Affric

Rainbow over Scots pines and birches beside Loch  Beinn a' Mheadhoin in Glen Affric.

Rainbow over Scots pines and birches beside Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhoin in Glen Affric.

On Sunday 16th March I had my first opportunity for a couple of weeks to spend a day out with my camera, taking photographs in the Caledonian Forest. I was undecided where to go, so I headed out from my home at Findhorn uncertain as to my destination. However, I had the intention of trusting my intuition to lead me to a place where I’d have an enjoyable day, and where I would gain the satisfaction of being creative with my photography. Continue reading…

A cornucopia of catkins

Catkins on a hazel tree (Corylus avellana) at Dundreggan.

Catkins on a hazel tree (Corylus avellana) at Dundreggan.

This is a remarkable year for hazel catkins. I don’t recall ever seeing quite as many in the area where we work as there are out at the moment. The hazels (Corylus avellana) are completely loaded with them, making them stand out very visibly from the other broadleaved trees in our forests in the Highlands. Some trees are utterly bedecked in hanging tassels, with the catkins crowded together, like sardines in a can. Continue reading…

Colourful autumn day in Glen Affric, part 1

Scots pines and birches in autumn, with early morning mist rising at the east end of Glen Affric.

Scots pines and birches in autumn, with early morning mist rising at the east end of Glen Affric.

In late October I spent a couple of days in Glen Affric, as I do most years, to photograph the autumn colours of the trees there when they’re at their peak. The weather forecast for the day seemed ideal for me – it was predicted to be a wind-still, overcast day with morning mist and fog – so I made an early start from home, arriving in the glen just as it was getting fully light. On my way past the village of Cannich, in upper Strathglass, there had been a lot of low-lying fog. I knew from past experience that as the day warmed slightly, this would most likely rise up out of the strath and move into the eastern end Glen Affric, where the River Affric discharges through a narrow gorge into Strathglass itself. Continue reading…

Fallen giants

One of the large Scots pines at Dundreggan that was blown down by the storm that hit Scotland on the night of  5th- 6th December.

One of the large Scots pines at Dundreggan that was blown down by the storm that hit Scotland on the night of 5th- 6th December.

On the night of Thursday 5th December, an unusually powerful storm hit the north of Scotland, with winds gusting at over 100 miles per hour. It caused widespread disruption, with all train services cancelled the next morning, numerous roads closed by fallen trees and a loss of power to thousands of homes. At Dundreggan, our staff were left without power and telephones for almost 48 hours, and had no water supply for a while either, but otherwise were not harmed by the storm. Continue reading…

Misty autumn day in Strathfarrar

Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris), birches (Betula sp.) and aspen trees (Populus tremula) beside the Farrar River in autumn, in Glen Strathfarrar.

Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris), birches (Betula sp.) and aspen trees (Populus tremula) beside the Farrar River in autumn, in Glen Strathfarrar.

Updated on 14 January 2014 with video footage at the end of the blog.

On a Sunday in mid-October, after a beautiful, still and misty morning at Loch Achilty, I drove to Glen Strathfarrar, where I was hoping to catch the autumn colours of the trees in their prime. Strathfarrar contains one of the best remnants of the original Caledonian Forest, with a large expanse of native pinewood, which rivals that of the much better known Glen Affric. It is therefore something of a hidden secret in the Highlands, and it is at its best in autumn, when the leaves on the broadleaved trees change colour before being shed. Continue reading…

Tranquil autumn morning at Loch Achilty

Peaceful reflection and early morning fog over Loch Achilty.

Peaceful reflection and early morning fog over Loch Achilty.

Every year in October, I set aside two weekends to go out camping in the Caledonian Forest, to make the most of the opportunities to photograph the autumn colours of the trees. It’s my favourite time of year to be in the forest, especially as there are often wind-still mornings with mist or fog, which provide a wonderful atmospheric ambience to the landscapes. Continue reading…