In this light and on this evening: The John Muir Award

Well, went to see Editors last week. They were really very good, hence the song lyric bit of the title.

Now accepting that the project is, largely, finished yet hoping the project will never end…..this is one of the best things I’ve done. Getting to know a lovely place better as the months pass is the core idea of my John Muir Award project.   I’ve always lingered over the signs of seasonal change, but this project is making me look a wee bit closer at the woodland and shore between Balmaha and Milarrochy Bay, by Loch Lomond, and in so doing, enjoy it all the more.  Here is my plan for the four challenges in the award (discover, explore, conserve and share):  anyone looking at this can judge my progress for themselves.  My awareness of wild flowers in particular has gone from a low starting point to a not-quite-so-low point at present; I’ve begun to appreciate the level of detail needed to identify a plant. I still think it’s all beautiful.

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Wild Carrot Seed Head

With autumn in full swing, things have changed at all the points I’ve been photographing.  I see I need to go and visit again – most of my early October pictures  don’t look very autumnal at all. The strong winds the other day, the first of the autumn, bared some trees overnight.

Tracking the budding and coming into leaf of an oak tree was part of my project; I added my oak tree information to the national Track-a-Tree observations gathered by Edinburgh University and the Woodland Trust. Looking at the way the tree data are presented on the website gives a useful visual of the arrival of spring in 2015 – see it here. The map might need to be selected first – using the + button, choosing ‘google hybrid’ worked for me. Then choose ‘pedunculate oak’ for species and either ‘bud burst’ or ‘leaf’ for the event.  Then press the play symbol below the map to see when the event took place in different parts of the UK – my oak is the dot furthest NW.  Below is a montage of images of oak through the year so far.

OakAnd this is the the story of the Guelder-rose (Viburnum opulus) I’ve been following since early spring, it’s right by the West Highland Way path. Taking photos is about more than photography! I could download better images of every stage of the plant’s development, but being there, taking the pictures, remembering things makes it more meaningful, certainly more personal.

Guelder-rose

This is the little island near Milarrochy Bay, photographed from April to October.  Just five images chosen to show change.

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As I write we’ve just changed the clocks, a reminder of the shortening  days to come.  I found this quote from John Muir about the earth’s rotation and its apparent immutability:

Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on seas and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.  John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, (1938), page 438.

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I’m looking forward to a day event about tree health next week, it seemed to follow naturally from my recent ploys and is organised for Woodland Trust Scotland volunteers (I am one of those as well).  It was a pleasure to be at Loch Katrine last week when the Minister came along to mark the designation of  Scotland’s (and the UK’s)  latest and largest National Nature ReserveThe Great Trossachs Forest. And it’s all within Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.

Current reading: “Where do camels belong?” by Ken Thompson. The subtitle is: ‘The Story and Science of Invasive Species’.  I understand it’s quite controversial, but I’ve just begun reading it.  I’ve also been reading about the perception of landscape, preferences and the impact on behaviour. In one study in 2010, the authors investigate the links between ‘nature connectedness’ and happiness, concluding that strong connectedness to the natural world is linked to happiness; it could bring about happiness but the opposite may also be true. They indicate that environmental concern is not strongly linked to happiness: perhaps connectedness could ameliorate the negative impact of that concern on happiness.

They argue that closeness to nature could be an indicator of positive behaviour towards the environment; if that is the case, then supporting people to get closer to nature (e.g. more knowledge about and more enjoyment of  nature) could pay dividends for the natural world by positively influencing behaviour towards conservation.

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Misty autumn day at the little island near Arrochymore Point

The following is based on an item in a John Muir Award newsletter. Our values: they inform how we behave and react and they’re strongly connected to emotions; but they can change.  Our values and our attitudes to nature are linked. Nature experiences can have an effect on values; it is thought some experiences of landscape or learning something outdoors, for example, can make people more positive in their attitudes to others, more patient.  The impact of values held might explain why some messages – such as ‘leave no trace’ camping – don’t always get through.

Common Cause for Nature (see here for more info) put forward a map of values, showing that some of the value we hold can conflict. The downloadable Practitioner’s Guide “offers practical recommendations …… on how to ensure their work strengthens the values that motivate people to protect and enjoy nature.”  

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Encouraging people to enjoy, learn about and protect the natural world really interests me and I am sure that, as with many things West of Scotland, health and wellbeing is an important part of the mix. I came across a very readable paper: Health impacts of the John Muir Award (2008), Dr Richard Mitchell & Dr Rebecca Shaw, Public Health and Health Policy, University of Glasgow, published in partnership with John Muir Trust and Glasgow Centre for Population Health. Download it here.  These are parts of their summary conclusion:

“In summary, the John Muir Award has a demonstrable contribution to make to the health, education, environmental and inequalities policy agenda in Scotland.” and  “That the Award appeared to have most benefits for those from most deprived communities is highly significant. However, the study highlighted gross inequalities in experience of wild places before the Award experience, and that young people still perceive barriers to participating in outdoor activities after it.”   So, that’s a big JMA challenge for us all, then.

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 Beauty is before me

And beauty is behind me

Above and below me hovers the beautiful

I am surrounded by it

I am immersed in it

In my youth I am aware of it

And in old age I shall walk quietly

The beautiful trail.

From a Navajo benedictory chant describing the desert, as told to the class at a recent geology lecture; the little poem struck me as appropriate for ‘my’ trail, the lovely bit of the West Highland Way between Balmaha and Milarrochy Bay that I’ve been enjoying so much since spring –  and my seasonal change JMA project  – started .

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There’s a feeling I get..

I had to start with that old Zep line after hearing it (including ‘When I look to the west..’) said by friend T today!

Back at my John Muir Award, things may be drawing to a close – or maybe not.  I had committed to do this project from April to September and as I write it’s the 30th September.  However,  as the earth’s journey round the sun continues past the equinox I know the changes will keep on coming, although I’m not so sure I can commit as much time to my ‘seasons’ project now that the daylight hours are diminishing and other obligations are crowding in. I’d love to follow all my plants and special spots along the West Highland Way over the autumn and winter, so I expect I’ll try to do that while declaring the project complete for JMA purposes at some stage soon. The project has fitted in well with volunteering at the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. I would say it has changed the way I see some of my volunteering: while from a nature-connectedness viewpoint I’ve been exploring more detail, for volunteering, I’ve been more aware of the big picture, why certain tasks are being done, listening to the story of why we’re doing what we’re doing to fit into larger plans, for example, Wild Park 2020. I’ve not managed  everything in my plan, although the project  sort of took me along its own road.

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Nostalgia, wistfulness, just getting old(er)? I do get a feeling of anticipation when the mist takes a while to clear in the morning, when the leaves take on different colours – this from the person who complained that it was all very green during July and August!  – and when brambles are at last gatherable.  The first frost really is special as the smell of woodsmoke hangs in the air.

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Sneezewort (Achillea ptarmica) – September
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Northern Bedstraw ( Galium boreale)  – September

Still learning, adding new plants that I have photographed and identified – often with a great deal of help from patient friends – thanks!

I am planning another visit to my special JMA place between Balmaha and Milarrochy Bay next week (I hope) to see what wonders are on show, to take some photos and to visit my oak tree, even though the season for Track a Tree lies well in the past.

Today I took part in a session with trainers from Opal (Open Air Laboratories) and TCV. The Opal project is about Citizen Science and the training, arranged by Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, was brilliant, very interactive (oops! forgot to use that word in my evaluation) and a great way to learn.  We tried the Soils (and Earthworms) materials and also looked at Lichens (part of Air Quality materials) and Tree Health as well.  The resources are colourful and clear.  It was lovely to be encouraged today to personally relate to trees: something I’ve enjoyed lots of on my JMA project! And the session met my JMA criteria in supporting my own exploration and enjoyment of the natural world; of course, it offered ideas and materials for sharing with others in all sorts of contexts.

Today’s  presenter, Matt,  used the Hand, Heart, Head model (see below) to review our experience of the session: it’s a model used in the JMA materials as well and is based on the work of Patrick Geddesa thinker active across many realms in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Credited variously with giving birth to town planning and eco-politics, to my mind, one of his major achievements was trying to get teachers and learners  out of subject silos, perhaps to get a better view!  As a former teacher myself, I can relate to an integrative approach that engages the ‘learning domains’ of participants through taking practical actionexploring their feelings and gaining understanding.  Geddes was a bit of a polymath and I like to think of him as a geographer (well, I would, wouldn’t I?), seeing the big picture and making a difference – promoting transformative learning.

Patrick Geddes HHH Model

The last time I looked at ‘my’ Guelder-rose (last weekend) on its sunny outcrop by the WHW, I was pleased to see that the berries were, at last, red.  Here is a photo from 12th August and one from 27th September:

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guelder rose

The Alder at Manse Bay that I’ve visited over the months (and I am so pleased to be able to use that expression!) is one of my favourites.  Here it is on 20th May and 3rd September:

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So, when you look at the tree, it’s all green, but I like the change from see-through to screening.

It looks like the shorter days, something I seem to go back to time and again, are making me think about endings more than beginnings: so far, pursuing the JMA has definitely helped me connect more explicitly and meaningfully with nature. The strong sense of place I’ve felt for a long time in relation to this beautiful area – its uniqueness, familiarity, ability to surprise and lead you in –  is probably rooted more in the larger landscape than in the smaller detail that makes it up and gives it new and changing life.   This growing season, I’ve been trying to learn as much as possible about the smaller, component parts of the natural world from the well informed people I am privileged to know.  Slowing down and looking, listening, learning  remains both the ultimate goal and also an achievement of my project on an ongoing basis!  And September has been sunny, hopefully in time to give we west of Scotland folks a boost of Vitamin D before the great darkness sets in.  Yep, this is sounding like an ending!

I’ve still to write a wee bit about values and the outdoors – or I should say, some explicit things about values and the outdoors, since I sincerely hope ‘values’ such as  accepting responsibility for the future (and thus the benefit of planning for it?),  choosing to try to conserve the natural world because it is a choice for  justice, fairness and health are part of my efforts most of the time.

When the rain washes you clean….

You’ll know….

There was a sunny evening in early June – just as well, since my plans for the day were scuppered by a car problem. I had intended to meet friend S in the morning for a visit to my lovely woodland, my special oak tree (I’m following it for the brilliant Track a Tree project) and my photo sites.  The morning light was one of the things I wanted to catch – but that was not to be!  We all finally got together for a long walk around my John Muir Award area between Balmaha and Milarrochy Bay in the evening. For the Award, you have to discover, explore, conserve and share your own little bit of wildness  – see my plan for my study of seasons and seasonal change.

I must have looked quite at home in the lay-by, waiting for the AA, in my hi-viz vest and with binos and camera.  I  watched a buzzard close by, some hunting wagtails and  some geese.  I learned what I could about what was around me! It was a nice morning, no rain, so that helped. Here are three photos:

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The hawthorn at the end of the lay-by was in gorgeous bloom, the lovely pink colour  gives the whole bush a vanilla hue, different from the creamy white at the start of blossoming.  The roadside plant with little white flowers is garlic mustard.  The flies were spectacular, there were lots of them and they favoured the sunny side of the lay-by tree.   I discussed them later with S, they weren’t known to him at that stage. I’ll put a photo on iSpot for help.

The flies are Rhagio scolopaceus, downlooker snipe-fly,  thanks for help, iSpotter.

Seasonal change is moving along nicely – and it was still not raining. Wild garlic now had its lovely dome of stars, a change from the folded flower of four weeks ago (photos early May and early June on Inchcailloch). The fragrance seems to be brought out more by the rain.

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Reaching the woodland by Loch Lomond, the globeflowers by the shore close to the West Highland Way were still a sight to behold.

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The OS maps show a dun or fort (an antiquity) in the woodland.  There is information about it at The online catalogue to Scotland’s archaeology, buildings, industrial and maritime heritage.   The site defines a dun as  “A building or settlement enclosure with a thick drystone wall, generally circular or oval in plan, usually sited in an elevated position.”  While making our rounds we went to see the remains and found them quite overgrown -and found litter too.

Ian McCalllum G62 8HL

Exploring the woodland round ‘my’ oak tree, it was clear that caterpillars were at work. S advised they were of various types including winter moth, november moth and feathered thorn.  The woodland had turned into ‘looper’ central!  And the oak leaves were suffering.

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oak

The light coloured caterpillar, the feathered thorn, is pretty well disguised especially when it’s on bark and twigs. My Track a Tree oak tree looked much like last time, about 2 weeks before – but maybe less luxuriant and full?  If that was actually the case then the caterpillars were to blame; time will tell if the oaks hereabouts have a later burst of growth, the Lammas growth.

The woodland still looks beautiful, though.

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I took photos at my photo points, and it was a shame to have missed the light of earlier in the day, not least because photos into the sun in the west are painful on the eyes! But who’s complaining this year about the sun??!!

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This is the little promontory by the WHW on 3rd April and 8th June.  I’ve got 6 views over that period of each of my points, and I suppose the challenge is to keep up the record keeping! (Also to improve the fixing of my so-called fixed points!) I plan to make more/better movies and to integrate more sound recordings: I have woodland birdsong recorded in the area round the tree, so I hope that gives some atmosphere! It’s all  quite a learning curve.

The changes in the wildflowers are really interesting: with each visit the balance of the different species changes. My strategy with wildflowers is to try to keep the knowledge of the ones I know and to add a few more at a time (while still checking back to the known ones!). I may not know very many, but my list is growing all the time. This visit, a notable change was the red campion which was out in force now. Wood avens (below right) had appeared, while water avens (below left, earlier photo) was still out.  An intermediate hybrid of the two was seen as well, it’s in the bottom photo.

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wood avens

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The bluebells were still blooming and lighting up the woodland, this one was positively shining. Carpets of yellow cow wheat were out and S swept them for the pug moth that uses the plant. I think the cow wheat is common as against small, based on the ‘eyelashes’ of the calyx where it meets the flower.

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Catching up on my John Muir-related reading: the little book from the JMT 1992 conference at Sabhal Mor Ostaig remains to be finished. Looking up the flowers and trying to ID them in photos takes up quite a bit of time! Planning a food packaging audit as well….

Magnificent; And all shining through

bluebell

The bad weather stopped for long enough to give me a peaceful couple of hours walking between Balmaha and Milarrochy Bay along the West Highland Way on beautiful Loch Lomondside, looking at the spots and the plants I’m monitoring.  Spring definitely suffered some slowing. I’m writing this paragraph on 1st  June and it’s a bit on the cool side!

Exploring seasons and seasonal change for my John Muir Award,  ‘unseasonal’ seems a better word for what’s been happening in the last few weeks. There was a sprinkle of fresh snow on the mountain tops this morning.  And right now, hail showers and very strong winds….

In recent days I could see masses of different wildflowers because so many of the early spring ones and the late spring ones were  out at the same time.  The bluebell is wonderful, lighting up the woodlands now as we go into June.  I spotted a lovely little white bluebell amongst its more typical peers.

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Red campion is looking great beside the bluebell and stitchwort near Manse Bay.

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Resplendent, light-reflecting globeflower, part of lovely big patch beside Loch Lomond.

DSCF0128And I like this picture of cuckooflower, still in full bloom as May came to an end.

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Water avens was a new find for me; it’s a lovely plant but my photos don’t seem to do it justice!

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I’m getting more tuned in to wildflowers –  part of the  plan  that’s guiding  me in my John Muir Award tasks. Still lots and lots to do.

My oak tree, being monitored for the Track a Tree project as part of my JMA efforts, is causing a bit of anxiety: some of the easily visible leaves look a bit unwell/damaged.  I wonder what the culprit is?  I have asked some knowledgable friends and will try to investigate for myself as well.  Oak trees support lots of other life forms – maybe a caterpillar has eaten this leaf, so that a bird can eat the caterpillar, so that a sparrow hawk can eat the bird…Here’s a picture of the damage.  The tree is not absolutely fully in leaf – so probably one more visit before I can tick that box on the Track a Tree website.

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But the tree looks magnificent now, all greenness against the bright sky.                                      Oak giant

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These two photos to show a big change in the tree between 1st May and 20th May.

On my lovely last visit  I recorded more ambient sounds as well as images of my ‘fixed points’ as I walked from one to another.  It’s quite special to get to know an area a wee bit better and to enjoy greeting each place and plant!

One of my regular photo points is a little promontory of sorts, just north of Manse Bay.  With five photos taken over eight weeks, I’m pleased to see the changes but I’m really looking forward to having a lot more photos over the coming months: I’m thinking about how I can create a short movie of these stills (and of other points in sets) and upload it here, complete with ambient sounds from the site. But nothing is as simple as it sounds! The limitations of my photos will be clear to all I would think.  The three photos here are from 3rd April, 1st May and 20th May. The fluctuating level of Loch Lomond is as much a feature as the emerging leaves on the trees.

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What of the other plants?  The guelder-rose has really come into leaf now.  Here it is on 20th May compared with just three weeks before.

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Take a little sunshine, spread it all around

Along came a sunny evening, so another visit to the lovely woodland unfolded.   Binoculars, camera, tripod, notebook….  ready for a May Day tour round my John Muir Award photo points, trees and wildflowers along the path from Balmaha to Milarrochy Bay. 

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The ‘Track a Tree’ oak tree news: many leaves were visible on my oak, though some bud burst was still on show.  The area around the tree was checked again as the Track a Tree site asks you to complete details of flowering plants in the vicinity.  The project gathers information about the timing of seasonal changes, so it seemed a logical addition to my John Muir Award project about seasons.  To do a John Muir Award, you write up a proposal showing how you intend to meet the four challenges – discover, explore, conserve and share.  See my JMA mind map, made to help me with my project.

Oak giant

new leaves

The spring flowers were  more abundant than during the previous week; at one spot I could see primroses, dog violets, wood anemones, bluebells, greater stitchwort and wood sorrel within a short distance of each other. Marsh marigolds are out too. The bluebells are not yet dominant, of course.  This woodland  is so special for spring flowers because of its varied underlying geology and soils – the wildflowers add to the already high levels of biodiversity associated with the Atlantic oak woodland.

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wood anemonegreater stitchwortvioletThe other trees I’m observing are progressing into leaf; one is a guelder-rose on a sunny bank beside the woodland path (aka the West Highland Way).  Friend Mark was the first person to point out this particular plant to me, sometime in summer 2011 or even 2010, I think! Thank you!  Here are some pictures of it:

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The first photo was on a cool day – 3rd April.  Husband’s finger is in the picture to try to keep the little branch still!  Tiny buds. The second was on 16th April, already the leaves are bursting out, and by 1st May, the third photo, there was a mass of developing leaf clusters on this lovely shrub. I’m looking forward to seeing the guelder-rose go through its paces in the months ahead.

I’m learning more about the challenges of attempting fixed point photography – and the output might be improving – more on that later. It’s tempting to crop them all to match but I could be left with postage stamps!  I’ve got a wee device to fix to my rucksack straps to record time lapse photos or videos – maybe a couple of these films across the seasons would help show how much things change? I’m still investigating how to do ambient sound recording.  Not having the right equipment didn’t stop us from quietly listening to some great background sounds: all the ones I expected to hear – birdsong, lapping waves on the loch shore after a boat passed by, a dog running through the leaves, distant snippets of walkers’ conversations.

Nobody on the beach…. (yet)

Changes  are coming  fast as spring staggers unsteadily forward; there was  snowfall at the start of this week and temperatures/wind chill such that hat and gloves were  on once again.

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 The oak tree I’m following for Track a Tree: buds near the base of the tree, 20th April.

Are my efforts entering a new phase? Maybe I’ll reduce the number of photo points I want to use as part of my John Muir Award about the seasons.  The photo point facing due west is a challenge – I didn’t expect that a great proportion of visits would be in the evenings as is turning out to be the case.   But retaining all the points  would give me the choice to share most of, or just a part of, the story with others.   Pruning things a bit might help, though, and at my next visit I will keep this in mind.  My guiding diagram/map as yet remains the same (much like the song).  See  JMA mind map.  

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This is a little island just south of Milarrochy Bay.  The first photo was on 3rd April, while the second was taken on 20th April.  There is a big change in the level of Loch Lomond, but you can also see that the positions for each photo are definitely not the same!   Time of day, weather…it all makes a difference to the exercise, as I am learning (slowly). This one is into the setting sun of an evening, just to make things tougher for a total beginner.

I have often used the wee island as a guide to progress when hurrying along the path (why am I sometimes hurrying? I can explain…) and to help locate a little crag of serpentinite, part of the ‘Highland Border ophiolite’, which in turn is part of the Highland Boundary Fault Zone.  See   this leaflet about the geology of the area between Balmaha and Milarrochy Bay, from Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.  Ophiolites are amazing remnants of oceanic crust which can give a relatively easy view of that assemblage of rocks found beneath the deep oceans. The Shetland isle of Unst is a great place to see ophiolite (see http://www.shetlandamenity.org/shetlands-geology,) as are Oman and Cyprus (haven’t seen these last two myself).   

I found a photo I took a while ago of the little serpentinite crag by the path near Arrochymore Point (GPS for scale) and one of similar rock on Shetland (footprints for scale)

:serpentinite crag  Shetland serp

Update: October 2015.  Here’s another photo of the serpentinite crag by the WHW south of Milarrochy Bay.

Serpentinite crag

Speed of travel?  My evening visit with friend SC was a leisurely time of great discovery for me, and I managed to keep the slow pace on my last solo visit, phoning home a couple of times to say I’d just be a wee while longer….  Maybe the best bit of my learning so far is about different ways of seeing, or trying to see rather than just to look; enjoying being in the trees by the loch and not getting too hung up about the photos or even the details.  “…for going out….was really going in.”  John Muir, quoted in R Macfarlane’s introduction to Nan Shepherd’s ‘The Living Mountain’.  The sounds and sights of this beautiful woodland are a revelation best experienced when I slow down and try to stay still to be among the magic.

Oh Let the sun beat down upon my face

We’ve had some lovely sunny days recently.

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I’ve been caught up in how I might better record images and some sound for my John Muir Award project about the seasons, what equipment I should/could get to do so.  Must be careful not to confuse better equipment with better technique!  Not sure I have any technique at present….   I’ve had advice and pointers to various forums (fora?) from friends – thank you!  I recorded my first cuckoo of the year last weekend at Inversnaid – but as a voice memo on my phone as that was all I had!  I did the same to try to capture the sublime sounds at my Track a Tree (http://trackatree.bio.ed.ac.uk) oak tree in the woodland between Balmaha and Milarrochy Bay  on Loch Lomondside – and as yet it remains in my phone waiting for a technological epiphany that may not arrive. Never mind, it sounds lovely.

Fixed point photography doesn’t  look simple, and indeed it’s not… I realise I am just not (yet) careful enough in my approach to the detail that makes it work – exact position of tripod legs, making sure the camera is level, repeating the exact bearing etc etc  – and only have myself to blame.  But I am on the case of improvement, as anyone monitoring my internet search and purchase activities will know…..

As part of my regular walking of a transect through the woods in pursuit of my JMA, I had some brilliant support from friend SC, a fellow volunteer at Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.  He is very knowledgable and always willing to share his wisdom about the natural world.  He’s also an accomplished photographer, especially of small things such as moths. We visited all my picture points and my Track a Tree oak tree, spotting hairy woodrush, wood sorrel, primroses, the leaves of stitchwort, some violets in flower, the beginnings of yellow pimpernel, some shy bluebells peeking out on the sunnier banks in the woodland, among other wonders.  At my oak tree, we heard chaffnch, robin, wren and wood (?) warbler.

The trees are burgeoning, especially those in the firing line of all the recent sunshine.  I am following the progress of a youthful  alder in the Manse Bay area.  In my typically undisciplined way, I’ve got pictures of the same bud over a few weeks from different angles. I hope they look like the same bud – because they are!  I am very fond of alders, I love their casual disregard for inundation.

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Alder at Manse Bay

The first photo was on 3rd April, the second on 16th April and the third on 20th April.   I think what interests me here is how long that rather precocious bud will stay ahead of the others, probably not for long now.

On the willow front: most of the buds of 20th April had burst into leaf by 24th April.  This little willow (goat willow, probably, says my expert friend) on the beach at Milarrochy Bay receives a generous dose whenever  we see the sun in the sky (all the time, of course, in the west of Scotland). Apologies to those who read this post before current edit:  I got this tree ID wrong I am afraid!  Suitable quote from Nan Shepherd: “..the thing to be known grows with the knowing.”  For me, this means that I’m beginning to know enough to see just how much there is to know!  So,  too much looking and not enough seeing on my part.

Hazel at MB  IMG_2011

Meanwhile, reading on and around John Muir and his heritage has taken a back seat to struggles with technology and the pleasure of spending time outside in good weather.  But perhaps not: I am reading a little volume by Tom Hunter published in 1979 –  a Guide to The West Highland Way. Those in the know will realise this edition was published before the WHW was opened – and indeed before the route was finalised.  On the cover: …  ‘the first guidebook to Scotland’s first long-distance walking route, parts of which are still impassable…’  It’s a fascinating read about some beautiful places I love a lot.  I’m still referring back to my mind map of the JMA project to keep me on the right track.