Scottie's Monthly Photo Diary

- April 2011


Male Orange Tip Butterfly




Background
I never go anywhere in Scotland without my camera and I take photographs wherever I go. Sometimes I go somewhere specifically to take photographs with a view to adding another page to the Rampant Scotland site. On other occasions I just see something that makes an attractive picture or else it's another graphic to add to the library to perhaps use on a future occasion. This is a selection of the best photographs I took in April 2011 with a commentary on each one. It thus forms a pictorial diary of my travels during the month which can be shared by everyone! There's also a link to a slide show of the pictures on YouTube.

Culzean Country Park

Yes, I drove down to Culzean Country Park last month and here I am again and in the intervening few weeks the place is transformed. The magnolias and camellias are over (almost) and instead there are masses of tulips and bluebells and other spring flowers. And, as you will see further down the page, Culzean often springs a surprise, just when you are least expecting it! Culzean Castle itself in all its magnificence is always worth a picture, of course, this time a bit closer than usual as I used a macro telephoto lens in the camera a lot of the time.

Anemones are one of the buttercup family but come in a wide variety of colours. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the name is derived from the Greek "anemo-ne" meaning "daughter of the wind". There are many varieties of anemone, flowering at different times of the year and as a result they are hugely popular in suburban gardens as well as large gardens like Culzean.

Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa or sloe) blossom appears before its leaves and can grow to be quite a sizeable tree. At this time of year the countryside is full of the bright, white flowers. It produces a fruit in autumn called "sloe", a small purple-blue berry. This can be harvested traditionally, at least in the UK, in October or November after the first frosts.

These bluebells carpet an area of woodland that is often overlooked by visitors which means of course that large areas can grow undisturbed.

It was quite hard to find a camellia blossom that hadn't started to turn brown. Unusually mild weather for April has hastened that process, but this bloom, away from direct sunlight, had managed to retain its pristine petals.

Cherry, cherry plum, pear and apple blossom are all becoming prominent now - I can never tell the difference at this stage and tend to just call them all "cherry blossom" unless I know from previous years what fruit (if any) is produced!

The Cherry Laurel (sometimes known as English Laurel in North America) has dark, evergreen leaves and these flower spikes burst into bloom at this time of year. In the autumn, the seeds which are contained within its berries are poisonous like the rest of the plant.

Like the camellias, the magnificent, tall magnolia flowers in Culzean Country Park are now almost over for another year, and the ground is now covered in their fallen petals. However, I did manage to get a photograph of this row of magnolias, high in the branches of a slightly later flowering tree.

Ostespermum has several common names including African Daisy, South African Daisy, Cape Daisy and Blue-eyed Daisy. There are about 50 species, native to Africa. They are half-hardy perennials and so don't survive well in outdoor wintry conditions. But the ones at Culzean have been flowering - from March to October - for many years. However, they seem to have suffered in the recent very hard winter and there were few flowers in the usual well-filled flower beds at the front of the castle.

The plants grown in the walled garden at Culzean are varied from year to year and this year they seem to have majored on a collection of various types of tulips. You can just picture me going from row to row taking pictures of each one. Just as well I use a digital camera or I could have used a roll of film just on the tulips!

Fortunately, the gardeners at Culzean put small labels at the front of each row with the specific names on them, so I am able to name the different varieties - this one is "Banja Luka," named after the second largest city in Serbia. The goblet-shaped blooms are large and despite the competition from many other nearby tulips it shone out like a beacon!

Tulip "Lucky Parrot" has petals which resemble feathers with finely ruffled edges.

Tulip "Ollioules" has a unique colour combination of cherry pink flushed with pale pink

Another striking tulip was "Artist" which is salmon pink with green and has a distinctive non-traditional shape for a tulip.

It was heading towards dusk when we eventually were walking back to the car to head home when my wife (eagle-eyed as always) spotted a brown shape shuffling through the grass in a field beside the pathway. It was a great surprise to realise it was a hedgehog. It's many years since we've seen a hedgehog in the wild, far less one near enough to get a photograph! It seemed quite unconcerned by us watching it and taking many pictures as I tried to get one where it's head was showing above the grass! Hedgehogs sleep for a large part of the day either under cover of a bush or grass, or in a hole in the ground. They only come out at dusk or at night. In the UK, wild hedgehogs are considered an endangered species. But a single hedgehog can keep an average garden free of pests by eating up to 200 grams of insects each night! So in the UK people attempt to lure hedgehogs into their gardens - if they can find one! But they have become a pest in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland where they have been blamed for a decline in native ground-nesting birds as they will eat their eggs. Instead of trying to kill the hedgehogs there, however, the policy has changed to trapping them and releasing on the mainland.

Baldernock


For many years we have known about a "butterfly hot spot" in the countryside near Baldernock, north of Glasgow. In particular, at this time of year, the beautiful Orange Tip butterfly hatches out and good numbers of them can be seen flitting around looking for a mate and, occasionally, stopping to refuel at a cuckoo flower or a dandelion.


Initially, the male Orange Tip butterflies were zipping around at top speed and it was frustrating trying to get any pictures! They can fly faster than I can run, especially on a hillside where brambles with thorns can catch at your leg as you pass by with eyes fixed on a dancing butterfly.. But eventually, even butterflies have to stop for an energy boost and that's when I can bring the tele-photo lens into play!


Over the past 25/30 years there has been a rapid increase in the range of the Orange Tip in the UK - particularly in Scotland. It is now found in many parts of Scotland, as far north as Moray, flying along hedgerows and damp meadows, damp pastures and meadows, damp woodland edges and glades, riverbanks, ditches, dykes, fens, railway cuttings and country lanes. The Orange Tip is usually seen in damp grassy habitats where Cuckooflower (also known as Lady's Smock) the primary larvae food plant grows and along hedgerows where Garlic or Hedge Mustard is found.

The male Orange Tips usually hatch out before the females. Since these butterflies will only live for a few weeks on the wing, they really have to get a move on to mate to make sure the eggs for the next generation are laid in a suitable spot for the larva to hatch and feed before starting the cycle over again next spring.


The more reclusive female Orange Tip lacks the orange marking, having black wing tips instead and is often mistaken for one of the other 'White' butterflies. However, it has a mottled green and white underside similar to the male.

This intrepid Peacock butterfly will have over-wintered from last year in a sheltered location in buildings, walls or trees before laying its eggs in early spring on the tips of vigorous nettle growth in full sun, in batches of up to 500 at a time. These hatch as caterpillars about 10/12 days later to eventually form the next generation of Peacock butterflies.

Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies also hibernate over the winter and then mate in the spring and the eggs for the butterflies that we see later in the summer are laid at this time. It is the young of that generation that will hibernate the following winter.

One of the reasons the Orange Tip is so plentiful in Baldernock is that there are plenty of cuckoo flowers growing here. And soon the garlic mustard plants will be in flower, filling the air with their distinctive pungent smell.

Butterflies also seem to like the tiny Dog Violet flowers. Dog Violets are part of the Viola family and were apparently so called to distinguish them from the scented sweet violet.

Late in the afternoon we were about to head home when my wife suddenly stopped and slowly pointed. At first I couldn't see anything (I did say that my wife has excellent eyesight) though to be fair, I was looking for a butterfly... Then I saw the two faces of roe deer peering through the trees. Normally these shy creatures would have turned a fled immediately but for a few minutes they just stood and stared at us - until eventually their natural instincts took over and all we could see were two white tails bounding off through the trees!

After a long, hard winter, it is a joy to see the trees now turning green again. Of course, different trees have their own ways of producing their leaves but I always enjoy the soft new growth of the sycamore. The leaves look almost wet as they burst out of the protective bud before rapidly expanding to form the full sized leaf.

My Own Garden

While I admire and enjoy the vibrant colours of the bullfinch, I have certain reservations about that bird. At this time of year it enjoys pecking at the buds of the cherry trees in my garden. Over the years it has had a detrimental impact on the amount of blossom produced. But I can't deny that the bullfinch is a handsome bird!

Daffodils, which have provide such a great splash of spring-time colour are now almost over. This double variety is one of the last to survive, before making way for the summer-flowering plants in the herbaceous border.

When this pieris was first planted in my garden it was probably no more than one or two feet tall. Over the years it has produced these bright pink new leaves and cascades of these white bell-shaped flowers. But the new growth is now about fifteen feet above the ground!

Glenarn

There was a YouTube slide show of pictures from Glenarn a couple of weeks ago - if you want another look, it's at the Rampant Scotland Channel at YouTube. While you can always interrupt the slideshows with the pause button if you want to look at a particular slide for longer, these static pictures make it easier to enjoy the magnolias and rhododendrons - and download them if you want a copy on your own PC!

Glenarn is in Argyll in a village called Rhu, just beyond Helensburgh, overlooking the Gare Loch, 25 miles (40 kilometres) west of Glasgow. Being on the coast there is less chance of severe frosts which would affect magnolia flowers such as these.

The house at Glenarn was built in the 1840's and received plants from Joseph Hooker's expedition to Sikkim in 1849-50. The garden was developed by new owners who arrived in 1927 who developed it over the next 50 years using specimens from later plant hunting expeditions and also from cuttings from other major gardens in Scotland.

Michael and Sue Thornley took over the house and gardens in 1983 and have maintained and extended the amazing collection of rhododendrons, magnolias, candelabra primulas and other interesting plants. They are currently working on removing some of the older plants and trees and replacing them - often with layers from original plants to preserve continuity.

Glenarn is open to visitors under the Scotland's Gardens Scheme from 21 March to 21 September each year.

This is a photo of the rhododendron bush which produced the close-up in the previous picture.

For a slide show of most of the graphics on this page, with musical accompaniment, click on YouTube- Scotland Pictorial Diary April 2011.

If you want to read the other Diary entries going back to 2009, there is an Index page.


Where else would you like to go in Scotland?




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