These blogs feature my writing and photographs from my experiences out in the Caledonian Forest and other natural ecosystems. Please subscribe to receive automatic notifications when new blog posts are added.
Although I’ve made hundreds of trips to Glen Affric over the past 40 years, every time I go there, I have a different experience and see some new things. When I went out for a day in the middle of July, I stopped as I often do along the public road between Badger Falls and Dog Falls, as that is the richest and most biologically diverse area in the glen. As I walked along, my eye was drawn to the leaves of a young alder tree (Alnus glutinosa) that was growing right beside the road, as they were covered in brightly-coloured galls. This casual observation then led me to spending a couple of hours with the alder, as I discovered more and more of interest on this one tree – enough to fill this blog![Read more…] about Life on a young alder tree
During my most recent trip to the Araucaria forests of southern Chile in late March and April of this year one of my most memorable days was towards the end of my journey, when I was in Conguillio National Park. Centred around the active volcano, Volcan Llaima, the park contains a large area of forest dominated by the tree known in English as the monkey puzzle (Araucaria araucana), and gains its name from the large lake, Lago Conguillio, immediately to the north of the volcano. I’ve visited the park during several of my recent travels to photograph the Araucaria forest, and it’s one of my favourite sites to see the tree. [Read more…] about The Araucaria forests of Chile, part 2
One of my favourite events of the year is that time in spring when the new leaves of the deciduous trees re-appear after the dormancy of winter. It always feels to me like there is a tremendous sense of joy and celebration in Nature when the bright green foliage of the trees bursts out from the buds, transforming the forest as it does so. I always refer to this part of the spring season as ‘The return of the leaves’, and I wrote a blog about that, with numerous photos of the new leaves of various different trees opening out from their buds, back in 2015. [Read more…] about The return of the leaves, revisited
When I went to the monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana) forests of Chile in March and April of this year I had a specific list of target species I was hoping to photograph, to complete the images for my book project about the Ancient Araucaria Forests of the Andes. I referred to this book in my previous blog, and my visit this year was the last of five I’ve made since early 2015 to document the forest in all the seasons of the year. This time I was going in late summer and early autumn, hoping to catch some of the features and phenomena of both seasons. [Read more…] about The hummingbird stake-out
At the moment we’re in the middle of National Insect Week, a biennial series of events organised by the Royal Entomological Society to encourage people of all ages to learn more about insects. As someone who has a special interest in insects (as well as many other organisms in Nature, from trees and birds to fungi and slime moulds) it’s a good opportunity for me to promote some of the creatures I’m passionate about – ‘the little things that run the world’, to quote the title of a famous paper by the eminent Harvard University biologist, Edward O. Wilson. [Read more…] about An aphid discovery in National Insect Week
For the past 3 years I’ve been making regular trips to the Araucaria forests of the southern Andes in Chile. I first encountered these remarkable forests in 1977, during an extended 6 month trip throughout the southern countries of South America, when someone I met mentioned there was an interesting forest on the pass between the Argentinian town of Junin de los Andes and Pucon in Chile. As I was planning to cross from Argentina to Chile, I decided to take that route, and discovered that what he had referred to was a whole forest of what I knew from Scotland as the monkey puzzle tree. [Read more…] about The Araucaria forests of Chile, part 1
On the 26th of February, exactly two weeks after the day that featured in part 2 of this blog, I went back out to the glen again. I didn’t realise it when I set off, but the day would turn out to be part 3 of this trilogy of Glen Affric winter blogs, and in many ways for me it was the most satisfying and stunning of those three separate visits. The day had two distinct halves to it, with the first being characterised by ice, while the afternoon turned out to be sunny and cloudless, so this blog neatly encapsulates two of the three elements in the trilogy’s title. [Read more…] about Sun, snow & ice in Glen Affric, part 3
It was just eight days after my visit to Glen Affric that featured in Part 1 of this blog when I returned to the glen, and there was a fresh covering of snow everywhere. This middle blog of my winter Glen Affric trilogy therefore very much focuses on snow, although the sun and ice will also make brief cameo appearances. The snow was quite thin in depth as I drove into the glen, but in the sheltered gorge of the Dog Falls area it was deeper, so I stopped there to make the most of the wintry conditions. [Read more…] about Sun, snow & ice in Glen Affric, part 2
This is my first blog about Scotland in almost 6 months, so people may have been wondering why there was such a long gap in my postings. The simple answer is that there was a major change in my life in the second half of last year. Trees for Life, the charity I founded to help restore the Caledonian Forest in 1986, and into which I had poured my energy, creativity, passion and heart for the next 31 years, decided they no longer had a role for me in the organisation. I therefore went through the traumatic experience of being made redundant by the charity I founded, and which I had led to numerous awards for its conservation work. [Read more…] about Sun, snow & ice in Glen Affric, part 1
Recently I was invited to write a blog about the impact of climate change on birds by the main organiser of the Climate Change and Consciousness Conference that is being held at Findhorn in April 2019. That blog is now live, and I’m publishing it here as well, with the agreement of the conference team.
Over a hundred years ago, when coal mining in the UK was producing the fossil fuels that first drove the industrial revolution, canaries were used as early warning signals for danger. One of the hazards faced by miners then was the release of toxic gases, particularly carbon monoxide, and canaries were more sensitive to them than humans. The birds were kept in cages at the coal seam face, and if they showed symptoms of sickness the miners knew it was time to evacuate, before they too succumbed to poisoning. [Read more…] about Canaries of the climate change coal mine