Scottie's Monthly Photo Diary

- October 2012

Lucky White Heather

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 October 2012 with a commentary on each one. It thus forms a pictorial diary of my travels during the month which can be shared by everyone!

Hogganfield Loch and Park, Glasgow

When the glaciers from the last Ice Age receded in the central Lowlands of Scotland they left behind a series of depressions on the ground which, over the millennia since then, have become small lochs in the east of Glasgow and into North Lanarkshire. Hogganfield Loch is one of these. The loch and surrounding land became a recognised park in 1920 and has expanded since then. The loch and its surrounding woodlands, marsh and grasslands were declared a Local Nature Reserve in 1998. The park is around 120 acres and the island in the loch is now left undisturbed for the benefit of the wildlife. You can get a "birds' eye view of the park via Google Maps at Birding UK.

The many deciduous trees in Hogganfield Park are now in their autumn colours and many of the leaves have already fallen. There's a short slide show with background music of more of these trees around Hogganfield in the Rampant Scotland Channel on YouTube.

A wide range of birds are attracted to the loch, with over 100 different species being recorded at the site. Feeding the ducks and swans is a popular past-time there and as a result many of the birds have become used to the presence of people, and normally shy species such as Goldeneye and Goosander can often be seen at close quarters. This picture is mainly of some of the large number of mute swans and one of their cygnets, along with a few mallard ducks and a "hybrid" duck of uncertain genealogy!

Hogganfield Loch attracts a number of winter visitors from colder parts of the world, including a flock of Whooper Swans with their distinctive yellow beaks. This is one of the early arrivals, probably from Iceland, though others arrive from Scandinavia and Russia. Although the Whooper (so called because of its trumpeting call unlike the more or less silent mute swan) is smaller than its resident relatives, they are feisty birds that will peck at the other birds when there is competition for food.

There is usually more than one family of Great Crested Grebes nesting on the shores of Hogganfield Loch - the island is a popular location where they can rear a family away from predators. This youngster is still being fed by its parent even though by this time it will be able to dive and fish for itself. The local gulls are only too well aware of the successful fishing of the parents and hang around in the hope of being able to grab some of the scraps.

There is often a grey Heron standing on this rock, patiently waiting for any fish to swim by. Despite the lengthy waits, however, I've never actually seen it catching anything here!

There are two playparks in Hogganfield; they are usually well used but on this day, despite the sunshine, this one was deserted, perhaps because of the low temperatures that day.

This sycamore tree, silhouetted against the setting sun, has already lost most of its leaves.

Finlaystone Country Estate

Although a number of the gladioli flower spikes had already been damaged by overnight frost these blooms had survived unscathed in a sheltered part of the walled garden at Finlaystone.

With most of the summer flowers nearly over, the splash of colour created by Nerine is very welcome at this time of year. Nerine is a bulb which is sometimes considered to be too tender to be grown outside. But this pink variety can produce these eye-catching blooms as long as the crowns are protected with peat or bracken in the winter. The flowers appear in September and October in clusters on leafless stalks.

The flowering plants Tropaeolum are commonly called nasturtiums. These popular, usually annual, bedding plants produce a succession of brightly coloured flowers in a wide range of colours. Nasturtiums received their common name because they produce an oil that is similar to that produced by watercress (Nasturtium officinale). Nasturtiums were also known as "Indian cress" because, when they were introduced they were used as a salad ingredient and they originated from South America which at that time was still known as the Indies after Columbus landed in North America and mistakenly thought he had sailed to India.

Persicaria is a plant in a family collectively known as smartweeds or pinkweeds. The family includes both annuals and perennials and the flower spikes are usually pink or sometimes white. They can, however, be aggressive and/or invasive weeds, though some have been used as ornamental plants in the garden.

Most heathers produce their flowers on long spikes but Erica cinerea (bell heather, or heather-bell) is a species of heather, native to western and central Europe, with purple or sometimes white, bell-shaped flowers, which are about a quarter of an inch long. The flowers are produced in mid to late summer and they are dry, similar in texture to the strawflower.

Aconitum (also known as monkshood or wolf's bane, leopard's bane, women's bane, Devil's helmet or blue rocket) has hooded flowers which are about 1.5" long, in loose spires which can be up to six inches long. The plant is a hardy herbaceous perennial with dark green, deeply divided palmate leaves. The flowers are long lasting when used for indoor arrangements. However, all parts of the plant, especially the roots, are poisonous and as a result the plant is also known as "the queen of poisons" and has been used in the past to poison arrows. Despite this, the plant was used medicinally in small quantities until the middle of the 20th century.

This robin was heard long before I caught sight of it, singing sweetly high in the branches of a tree. Birds tend to sing more in the spring to establish their territory and warn off rivals but this one was singing loudly regardless of the time of year - you can see the beak wide open as it clings to the branch.

Dahlias tend to flower in the late summer and by October many of the blooms have succumbed to the lower temperatures and night frost. But this mop head seems to have survived well in a sheltered spot in the walled garden at Finlaystone.

My Own Garden

Roses too are at their best in the summer and any remaining flowers often do not last long at this time of year as they suffer from frost and from being battered by cold rain. But if the earlier blooms are removed, it encourages the plant to make a further effort to produce yet another flower, as in this picture.

The Hypericum bushes (also known as St John's Wort) have been producing an abundant succession of flowers for some months and the residual seed pods are now, on this variety, beginning to form. Hypericum is still grown commercially for use in herbalism and medicine. The leaves also turn into an attractive rusty pink in autumn.

Many heathers are purple or pink but there are also a number of white varieties. I think this one is particularly attractive, especially when viewed close up. You can see the filaments of a spider's web at the very top of this one. White heather is regarded in Scotland as being lucky, a tradition brought from Balmoral to England by Queen Victoria. As a result, sprigs of it are often sold as a charm and worked into bridal bouquets. With malt, heather was an ingredient in a mixture of flavourings used in the brewing of heather-beer during the Middle Ages, before the use of hops.

Having had a poor summer for butterflies it was a delight to find a Red Admiral and not one but two Peacock butterflies attracted by the perennial wallflower plants in my own garden. Of course, apart from the wallflower, there was only some purple Michaelmas Daisies providing any nectar at this time of year. The butterflies were still coming to these plants on mild days in early November. Hopefully they will find a sheltered location to roost and hibernate until spring when the survivors will lay the eggs for next year's brood.


Jenners has maintained its prominent position on Edinburgh's Princes Street since 1838 when it was founded by Charles Jenner and Charles Kennington. The store was run for many years by the Douglas-Miller family, who were descendants of James Kennedy, who took charge of Jenners in 1881. The original buildings that formed the department store were destroyed by fire in 1892, and in 1893 the Scottish architect William Hamilton Beattie was appointed to design the new store which subsequently opened in 1895. This magnificent new building is understandably designated as a "category A" listed building by Historic Scotland. At Charles Jenner's insistence, the building's carved architectural support columns in the shape of women were intended "to show symbolically that women are the support of the house". The new store in 1893 included many technical innovations such as electric lighting and hydraulic lifts. Known as the "Harrods of the North", it has held a Royal Warrant since 1911, and was visited by Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of its 150th anniversary in 1988. In 2004 it changed its vision statement to "Confidently Independent". But in 2005 it was announced that the Douglas-Miller family were in advanced negotiations to sell the business to the House of Fraser department store group and a month later it was sold for 46.1 million. However, Jenners has managed to keep its trading name.

The monument to Sir Walter Scott rises in Princes Street Gardens and overlooks the Jenners store.

Having seen the launch of HMS Daring at the BAE shipyard at Scotstoun on the river Clyde in Glasgow on 1 February 2006, I have watched over the intervening years as the other five ships in this Type 45 or 'D' class of air defence destroyer built for the Royal Navy have berthed on the Clyde on the other side of the river, while they were being fitted out before sailing downriver for initial sea trials in the Firth of Clyde. The Daring class are the largest escorts ever built for the Royal Navy in terms of displacement. The Royal Navy believes that it is their most capable destroyer ever, as well as the world's best air-defence ship. At a cost of 6.46 billion for the six ships, I would hope so!

HMS Duncan is named after Adam Duncan, Viscount Duncan of Camperdown (1 July 1731 4 August 1804), who defeated the Dutch fleet in the famous Battle of Camperdown off the Dutch coast on 11 October 1797. He was born in Lundie, Angus, Scotland and educated in Dundee. HMS Duncan was launched 11 October 2010, the 213th anniversary of the Battle of Camperdown.

While on a trip to the RSPB Nature Reserve at Lochwinnoch, the moon was just rising above the clouds at one point when I took this picture of it, with a reflection also on the water of Castle Semple Loch. The reddish tinge to the sky was due to the sun setting in the opposite direction (see below).

I'm glad to say that it wasn't as dark as it looks when this picture was taken. The setting sun overwhelms the camera exposure and makes the rest of the picture look far darker than it was in reality!

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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