Sunday, 24 February 2013

Winter Trees Identification - Dawsholm Park

                                                                              View Dawsholm Park in a larger map 

On Saturday I went out with the Glasgow Group of the Scottish Wildlife Trust  to learn how to identify trees in winter. 

Identifying trees in summer when they have all their leaves is fairly straightforward, but in winter  it is much harder.

Travelling to Dawsholm Park

Dawsholm Park is in the Maryhill district of Glasgow City. I took the train from Glasgow Queen Street to Kelvindale station and it was only a short walk to the meeting point  on Dawsholm Road.

The outward journey was excellent, as I was able to travel first class on a standard ticket. The train had originally been used on the Inverness to Elgin line and the first class facilities were for passengers on that route. The extra facilities included small covers on the head rests and power points.

Arriving at Kelvindale station, I was walking to the meeting point when the walk organiser, Elspeth, stopped and gave me a lift to meeting point.

The day had started cloudy, but soon the sun came out and the rest of the day was nice and sunny.

Bud Arrangement and Characteristics

At the start of the walk, Elspeth explained that tree buds can have different characteristics and things to look out for are how buds are arranged on stems - are they in pairs, alternate or whorled? The colour of the buds is also important, as is the leaf scars and colour of the tree bark.

Examining a tree
 Ash Buds

Ash buds which are black and pointed
The first tree we examined was an ash tree. The ash tree has buds arranged in pairs with pointed ends. The branches also curve upwards and Ruth, who was also on the walk, said it was like a Kathy Kirby curve. Kathy Kirby was an English singer in the 1960's who had curled ends on her hair.

The small white raised dots on the branches are called lenticels. Not all tree varieties have lenticles.The lenticles can be seen on the photograph above.

Ash bark

Hazel Tree

Next was a Hazel tree which had male catkins in bloom. It was explained that catkins were male while the flowers were female. The catkins looked very elegant, but unfortunately are short-lived.

Catkins on hazel tree
   Hazel buds are alternately arranged and are small ovoid buds.


Hawthorn buds
As the name suggests, hawthorn branches have both buds and thorns. The buds grow alternately and there are thorns along the branches and at the ends. On the tree we examined, there were a few berries.

 Oak Buds

Oak buds grow alternately and the light brown buds are are pointed and bunched at the tips. 

Oak buds
Oak bark
Oak wood is very strong and the trees are resistant to diseases because of the high tannin content. The bark also has very appealing grain markings. Oak trees are very distinctive when they have leaves in the summer months.

Common Alder

The buds of the Common Alder are generally mauve and grow alternately. The buds are club shaped and stalked. 

Common Alder

Alder timber is very resistant to decay under water and was therefore used for water pipes, pumps, troughs, small boats and piles under bridges and houses. Much of Venice is built on alder piles. Alder wood is also used for charcoal and making clogs as it is light and absorbed shocks well.

Beech Buds

The beech buds are a Copper/grey colour, cigar shaped and up to 2cm long. They have a distinctive criss-cross pattern. They are an attractive looking bud.

Beech Buds
Lime Buds

Lime buds are a deep red colour on a light green stem and grow alternately, rather than in pairs. The wood is used in wood carving or turning.

Lime buds


The buds are large light green buds which may be clustered at the end of a twig. All maples have five lobed leaves. The Sycamore has many large coarse rounded teeth/serrations on each lobe. The leaf stems are red. The Sycamore it was probably introduced to provide shade from the sun.

Sycamore buds

The wood is as strong as oak but does not last as long. The wood is used for making toys or kitchen items as it is easily dyed and lacks a sticky resin.

Dawsholm Park

Birds on the Walk

During the walk we heard a Woodpecker drumming and saw it perched briefly on a tree. A Mistle thrush, and a Buzzard were also seen. On a dead tree, the results of Woodpecker drumming could be seen.

Results of Woodpecker drumming
Other Trees

Other trees we investigated were:

  • Hawthorn
  • Elder
  • Rowan
  • Sweet chestnut
  • Wild cherry
  • Black poplar
  • Wych elm - this was an immature tree.
  • Willow
  • Hornbeam

Review of the Walk

The walk was very informative and Elspeth, the organiser, was able to  teach the group many new things about winter trees. This has encouraged me to study winter trees further in order to learn more about them. 

One thing to take on a walk like this is a small magnifying glass so that the buds can be examined further. I took a Ruper 10x/20x dual folding hand loupe. These are good quality lenses. Avoid the cheap ones as they distort images at the ends.

Further Information: 

Glasgow City Council - Dawsholm Park

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Digiscoping at Strathclyde Country Park

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The water level on Strathclyde Loch had recently been reduced and this meant that large areas were now dry. This provided an opportunity to see if there were any additional species from the normal black-headed gulls, Mute swans and Goosanders on the loch. 

Short History of Strathclyde Country Park

Strathclyde Country Park was constructed in the 1970's and the Loch is situated on the site of a mining village called Bothwellhaugh. In the 19th century it was owned by the Duke of Hamilton and in 1850 several collieries were developed on the site when extensive coal seams were discovered. The Bent Coal Company leased the mineral rights and sunk two pits on the site, known as the Hamilton Palace Colliery.

The Bent Coal Company

The Bent Coal Company build houses for the miners and in 1910 there were 965 staff living in 458 houses of various sizes and only a few of them had baths.The pits provided work for over 1400 people and 2000 tonnes of coal were excavated from the site.

The colliery was closed in 1959 and the village was demolished due to the buildings falling into ruin. Although legend has it that the village lies submerged under the loch, it was in fact demolished before construction of the park in 1974. 

Strathclyde Park Today

At the main watersports centre a few rowers from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh were preparing to get some practice on the loch. The Scottish Rowing Centre is based in Strathclyde Park and many rowing events are held on the loch. In 2014, it will be used for the rowing and sailing events during the Commonwealth Games.

Rowers out on the Loch
I walked to the park carrying a large spotting scope (Zeiss Victory DiaScope 85mm with a 20-75 zoom eyepiece), a carbon fibre tripod and a small shoulder bag with my binoculars, bird book and notebook. This was quite heavy to carry, but I have got used to the weight by now.

Meeting up with some friends, we walked in an anti-clockwise direction to the 'beach' area which always has many birds which have become quite tame as a result of being fed by visitors. The usual birds were there and could be observed without the aid of optical devices.


We carried on to the island area and saw some Goosanders, but they moved quickly away before we could get the scope set up to take photographs of them. Walking further along, at the Foreshore area, we were rewarded with a large colony of birds, including a Heron.

Heron on Strathclyde Loch (Digiscope)

Heron on Strathclyde Loch (Digiscope)

We managed to take some photographs of the Heron through the scope - it was busy walking up and down looking for food. The area must have been quite productive as it kept catching some small items of food. 

Black-headed Gulls (Digiscope)
Black-headed gulls

Some Black-headed gulls were spotted searching for food in a small puddle. In the winter months the Black-headed gulls have lost most of the solid colour (which is brown and not black) they have in the summer.

Black-headed gull (Digiscope)
There were some other gulls in the distance but they were too far away to take photographs with the scope.

While we were watching the Heron, a middle-aged couple asked us about the birds and were thrilled to observe them through the scope. They said they became interested in birds when they started walking through the park a few years ago. They kept us company and walked back with us to the watersports centre.

Heron in the distance in Strathclyde Park

On the way back to the watersports centre we stopped before the 'beach' area and took a look through the scope at the area where we had observed the Heron. It was still there in among the Black-headed gulls and Mallard ducks.

Arriving back at the watersports centre we saw some Mute swans being fed bread by visitors.

Mute Swans

Our day had been very enjoyable and we had managed to get some good photographs through the scope.

Further Information:

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Scottish Cycling Cyclocross Championships

                                                                              View Motherwell in a larger map

The Scottish Cycling Cyclocross Championships were held today in Strathclyde Park. The course was behind M&D amusement park and was a mixture of hills and flat ground. 

Mud, Mud and More Mud!

As it had been wet in the few days before the race, the ground was very muddy and it led to an eventful race for both the riders and spectators. Both riders and their machines got covered in mud during the race and teams of helpers could be seen hosing down bikes between laps and at the end of the race.

I walked over to watch the race and catch up with my cycling friends. Below are some photographs from the event. These were taken with my camera phone and not with my SLR camera.

Warming up

Cleaning the Bikes
Dirty Bike
Cleaning the Bikes
Competitor after the Race
Looking Down on the Riders
Difficult Section

It was a great day out and I ended up filthy from the knee down as my boots and my trousers ended up covered in mud. 

Birds on Strathclyde Loch

Walking back home along Strathclyde Loch I met two of my bird-watching friends who were out with their scopes looking at the birds on the water. The water level had been reduced and there were more birds than normal. An Iceland Gull was seen sitting on a buoy. 

As it was getting late, I could only spend a short time with my birding friends before continuing on my way home before it got dark.

Further Information

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Baron's Haugh, Motherwell

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The weather forecast for the weekend was sunny on Saturday and wet on Sunday so the birdwatching trip to the RSPB reserve at Baron's Haugh in Motherwell was arranged for Saturday. 

'Flooded Meadow'

Baron's Haugh (the word 'haugh' means flooded meadow) is my local nature reserve and is home to a wide variety of birds including ducks, waders, swans, geese and other water birds. It was a bit frosty and the Haugh was iced over in some places. 


With me I had my Zeiss Victory spotting scope which I use with a bean bag to save me having to carry a tripod. I have to walk to the Haugh and back, which is a round trip of 8 miles so I try to carry as little as possible. 

I was going to use my scope and use the camera on my mobile phone to take some photographs of the birds, as they are generally quite far away from the hides. The phone I used was a Sony Xperia S which worked quite well. I will be getting an attachment to enable me to use my SLR camera in the near future, so I can take better photographs of the birds.

Baron's Haugh
Redwing, Mistle Thrushes and Fieldfare

As it was cold, I wore plenty of clothes as it is always quite chilly at the Haugh. On the way to the first hide we were fortunate to see one Redwing, two Mistle thrushes and one Fieldfare in a field. They were quite close to the walkway and we got excellent views of them through our binoculars. 

Further along we managed to observe three Nuthatch in the trees. 

On the Haugh

Mallards, Common Gulls and Widgeon
Out on the Haugh the usual birds were in attendance including Mallard ducks, Tufted ducks, Heron, Whooper swans, Canada geese, Moorhen, Gadwall, Greylag geese and various Gulls.

Canada geese (Black and white heads), Greylag geese, Widgeon and Common Gulls
There was a large flock of Canada geese which are winter visitors to Scotland. They will return in March to Scandinavia for breeding in the long summer months.

Whooper swans
Two Whooper swans were near the water's edge and were obscured by the reeds. The photograph above shows the swans seen through the reeds.

On the way home some fungi was seen on a dead tree. The area around Baron's Haugh is excellent for observing fungi.

A list of the birds seen today are:

  • Mistle Thrush
  • Redwing
  • Canada geese
  • Mallard ducks
  • Tufted ducks
  • Common gulls
  • Black-headed gulls
  • Heron
  • Nuthatch
  • Moorhen
  • Teal
  • Widgeon
  • Whooper Swans
  • Mute swans
  • Gadwall

The day out was very enjoyable and the photographs taken through my scope with the camera phone turned out quite well. It enabled me to get record shots of the birds which were too far away to take with a normal camera.

Further Information