Islay Nature & Wildlife Report 31 - Blackberries

Welcome to this weeks Islay Nature and Wildlife report with a contribution from Jeremy Hastings and the highlights from the other Islay wildlife and birding blogs.

In last weeks report I wrote something about the Sycamore Tree and we (Teresa, Jeremy and myself) have decided that it is a Sycamore. I thought today why not post yet another picture of a really nice tree on Islay. This one is a very beautiful pine tree captured in the evening light giving the whole tree an orange glow. This is an old tree because Arra told me he climbed in it when he was a wee boy, yes it's really old :-) You can find this beautiful pine tree on the road to Caol Ila, about 100 metres from the main road on your right. Weather wise the last week hasn't been too good. Many areas of Scotland have problems with flooding due to several days of heavy rain. Islay had its fair share of rain as well although there hasn't been any flooding.

The Islay Birds blog: Yesterday Ian wrote: "Some visitors with whom I was speaking to, told me of being on the guided walk with Michael down the Oa on Tuesday, and they had seen Golden Eagle, Buzzard, Peregrine, Hen Harrier and Kestrel. They were really impressed with 5 different raptors within a short space of time, along with tremendous views all around, over to Ireland and back to the Mull of Kintyre." Which shows the immense variety of birds one can spot during one walk.

John Armitage from Portnahaven, who runs the Islay Birder Blog, didn't post much last week but wrote last Monday: "The 3rd (Sun) had unexpected and awful weather after hopes had been raised for change. The whole predicted weather system has now changed completely for the next few days." Continue reading.....

This weeks Islay nature report by Jeremy Hastings from Islay Birding: There have been plenty of birds to be seen this week from Golden Eagles through to Dippers. It looks very likely that birds are on the move with Sanderlings and Dunlins gathering at both the Merse and Gruinart. We have been scanning for oddities and had a possible Bairds Sandpiper earlier in the week although it was too far away in poor light to be 100% positive. Godwits and Curlew in numbers and plenty of Oystercatchers too. Raptors (birds of prey) have been seen regularly from various parts of Islay. Eagle, Osprey, Hen Harrier, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Merlin too. In between the wetness the midges have been having a field day and the hirundines have been very busy feeding on them as much as they have been feeding upon us!

Fruits are beginning to show and this week the household has been full of jam making acticivites – Rhubarb, Redcurrant and today I noticed the first ripe Blackberries. Mmmm - delicious! The Blackberry fruit, in botanical terminology, is not actually a berry, but actually a joining of numerous dropelets becoming ripe together to a black or dark purple fruit, thus forming a "blackberry". Wild mature plants form a mass of dense arching stems, the branches rooting from the node tip when they reach the ground. They are very vigorous, growing at fast rates along lane verges, scrub, hillsides and hedgerows, covering large areas in a relatively short time. Amazingly the plant will tolerate poor soil, and is an early colonist of wasteland and building sites. There are over 100 different species of Blackberry plant in Britain which is why they seem to be in fruit for such a long period. Blackberry leaves are also a food for certain Lepidoptera caterpillars.

Interestingly superstition in Scotland holds that blackberries or normally know here as brambles, should not be picked after Michaelmas (29September) as the devil has claimed them, having left a mark on the leaves by urinating on them! In fact there is some value behind this folklore because as after this date normally wetter and cooler weather often allows the fruit to become infected by various moulds such as Botryotinia which give the fruit an unpleasant look and may be toxic. Traditionally people would go and pick these fruits as they are easily gathered - mind their prickles – and delicious to eat with breakfast on Porridge or cereal and to make into pies and obviously - jam. You can also make bramble and apple pie/crumble – and with fresh cream it is simply the best! As a family we still do this and now that the children are older we do not have the earlier problem of them eating more that were saved to take home.

Tag: nature birding blackberries brambles nature

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