A picture showing a typical weather scene this week should really be of a dull, overcast sky with no sunshine. However, this picture of the Campsie Fells was taken when some sunshine was falling on the hills, but with a leaden sky behind.
This solitary Gadwall over-wintered at Drumpellier Country Park. It is smaller than the abundant Mallards, and more timid than they are. So it tends to hang back when there is bread being thrown - I have to make a special effort to reach it! When the wind is blowing in the wrong direction, that can be difficult...
Although this handsome bird has many of the characteristics of a Mallard, its colours are not those of the majority of this species. But the bird guides say that the mallard has been domesticated for centuries, being bred for shooting parties on country estates. During that time many different colours have been bred by landowners. The grey head, instead of the usual iridescent green, is particularly attractive.
In the canine world, this bird would probably be classed as a "mongrel" as it is a mixture of at least two different breeds. There is a bit of a Mallard in it but it is larger than that species and the colouring is very different. It does seem to have a wild look about it - but that was probably due more desperation to be first in the queue for the bread!
This swan - in full threat pose - was chasing off another swan. It won't be long before the swans start their courtship dances - rubbing necks together, dipping into the water and circling round each other. And, of course, chasing off rivals.
Greylag geese are often seen in flocks flying in formation (though more often as a disorganised rabble, honking furiously, but with the leader out in front) or in the water. But they do browse on grass and young shoots (much to the annoyance of many farmers as hundreds of birds land on crops that they have sown). While many of the birds busy themselves doing that, there always seems to be one or two standing upright, on guard - such as this alert bird.
Having flowed for over 100 miles, the lovely river Tay is meandering slowly to the sea after passing through Perth. At 120 miles, the Tay is regarded as Scotland's longest river. But some people dispute Loch Tay's position as it is only called Tay after it emerges from Loch Tay and they argue that the 25 miles of tidal waters of the Firth (estuary) of the Tay should be excluded, leaving the Spey (110 miles long) as the longest river. However, the Tay is regarded as the largest river in the UK, with a catchment area of approximately 2,000 square miles. Regardless of the statistics, it is still a beautiful stretch of water, along its entire length. This photo and the others below of scenes in and around Perth, were taken when the sun shone ten days ago.
Huntingtower Castle, a few miles from Perth, used to be known as Ruthven Castle. But in 1582, a group of nobles, including Lord Ruthven, kidnapped the young King James VI and held him captive for ten months in Ruthven castle. For that action - and a later conspiracy against the monarch, the name was "proscribed" or banned by the Scottish Parliament. The castle was taken over by the crown and renamed "Huntingtower". Originally two towers, these were not connected by further apartments until late in the 17th century.
It was most surprising to see these catkins flowering in the middle of January, close by Huntingtower Castle. The word "catkin" is derived from a Dutch word meaning "kitten".
These leafless trees, also beside Huntingtower, were quite a contrast to the catkins. Despite the blue sky, they have a wintry air about them.
The present Balhousie Castle in Perth was built in 1860 but incorporates a 16th-century L-plan tower house. The property originally belonged to the Eviot family but was sold by them in 1478. In 1962 it became the regimental headquarters and museum of the Black Watch Royal Highland Regiment. The displays tell the story of the regiment from its founding in 1739 to the present day, with many medals, uniforms, weapons, pictures and audio-visual displays and tableaux.
It will be a great relief when the repainting of the magnificent structure of the Forth Rail Bridge is complete and no longer has scaffolding around sections of the massive supports. The iconic rail bridge over the river Forth opened in 1890. It carries trains from Edinburgh to Fife and further north and repainting used to be something that never came to a stop. The current contract is using new longer lasting paint which should mean a gap in the painting schedule of perhaps 20 years. Painting under the prsent works began in 2002 - but ground to a halt at one stage.
No, I haven't taken up scuba diving... In the shadow of the Forth Rail Bridge at the northern end in North Queensferry, is the "Deep Sea World" visitor attraction. It was created from the site of an abandoned quarry in 1992. The underground aquarium is supplied with fresh seawater from the tidal estuary of the river Forth. One of the exhibits is an underwater walkway made of thick Perspex, with fish swimming above the heads of visitors. The sharks are well fed - so don't apparently attack the other fish!
This Stingray undulated across the roof of the underwater tunnel, showing its mouth and eyes which are often flat on the sea bed.
A popular event at Deep World is feeding time and this grey seal is waiting with anticipation for a nourishing meal of herring from the keepers.
Partly to give the seals exercise, they have been trained to fetch objects - such as the ring round its neck - and bring it back to the keeper for a reward. This seal is named "Heather"!
On my visit to Deep Sea World, there had been rain for most of the day (being inside seemed a good idea, even if it was to look at more water). But late in the afternoon the rain stopped and a weak sun appeared, just in time for this photo of the Forth Road Bridge to be silhouetted against the setting sun.
This is Airth Castle near Falkirk and the river Forth. There was an earlier castle here in the days of William Wallace and during his efforts to free Scotland, Wallace was forced to rescue his uncle from this early Airth Castle. The present castle incorporates a 15th century tower, known as Wallace's Tower, but it has been extended several times, notably in the 19th century, which obscured much of the earlier buildings. The castle was owned by a Bruce family, passing through other hands until finally reaching the Grahams. The Graham family became Earls of Airth in 1633. Airth Castle is now a hotel.
Although Glasgow is many miles inland from the sea, the river Clyde is tidal to beyond the centre of the city. Although recently constructed bridges mean that large vessels can no longer reach the docks which were once a feature of central Glasgow, the river still provides access to quite large ships as far as Shieldhall, just up from the Braehead shopping mall. That is thanks to a channel which has been dredged in the centre of the river. Even so, the river is not particularly wide and when vessels as large as this one pass by, they tower over the river bank. This is the "Prince of Ocean", a wood chip carrier bringing a cargo of animal feed to Glasgow at Shieldhall docks. She was built in Japan in 1991 is over 41,000 tonnes deadweight. Her overall length is 195.0 metres (640 feet).
"Prince of Ocean" needed the services of a couple of tugs so that it could turn 180 degrees in the narrow river before it could leave Shieldhall Docks to proceed back downriver. One of the tugs - "Warrior III" - was some distance ahead of the cargo ship. The tug is seen passing the Royal Navy's latest destroyers being fitted out at Whiteinch by BVT Surface Fleet. HMS Daring is the ship nearest the dock. This high-tech warship left the Clyde a few days after this photo was taken, to sail to Portsmouth which will be her home port. Her sister ships (Dauntless, Diamond and Dragon) will follow.
Gorse is a most amazing shrub. Evergreen, and capable of growing eventually to nine feet high, its spines can be an inch long. But it is its brilliant yellow flowers that are the most striking element of this plant as the blooms can appear at just about any time of the year. Its main flowering season is March to July when hillsides can be covered in a mass of yellow flowers. But it can continue flowering until October and some plants produce these flower spikes throughout the autumn and winter. There is an old proverb: "When gorse is out of bloom, kissing is out of season." Gorse also produces a strong vanilla and coconut fragrance. In days gone by, the tough branches and spikes of gorse were hauled up and down chimneys to sweep away soot.
This picture of sunlight glinting through the trees was taken by Vicki in Beecraigs Country Park. This public park nestles high in the Bathgate Hills near the historic town of Linlithgow, Beecraigs caters for a wide range of leisure and recreational activities within its 913 acres, including fishing and archery and there is also a deer herd. The Park is open throughout the year (dawn to dusk) and admission is free.
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