Monday, 28 June 2010


Last Thursday the Mid-Scotland Region of the Royal Scottish Forestry Society met here. This photograph shows some of the group using a beaver dam as a causeway. The first figure you can see is Richard Toulmin. He is followed by Chris Badenoch, our new President. I can't make out the others, but  Jeremy Thompson's son is the young man behind Chris.

A dry spring has been followed by a dry summer. I have meant to record the falling the water line for a while, but yesterday it looked as though I might miss the opportunity, as a shower of rain and thunderstorm looked as though they were harbingers of the end of the drought.

Here, then, are some photographs:

Here is the pool below the drive. The carpet of green is Water Starwort (Callitriche sp.). Nearer to the camera the leaves of a pond weed (Polygonatum) show through the outliers of Water Starwort.

Next, we come to the first dam: Looking back for photographs to show what the water levels look like in times of high water I realised that the water levels have been low since early in May. Here, at any rate, is the first dam in that flight of dams below the drive.

The next shot shows the downstream side of this dam. A little water trickles through to form a small pool in the bed of the stream.

Looking upstream from just below the top dam you can see the overflow gap in the dam.

Looking down towards the middle dam.

And here is a photo of the same stretch of the burn, though taken from a slightly different angle back in March.

The drought enables one to see where beavers and other creatures have  been digging burrow below the normal water line and the exposure of the fertile silts enables water plants to seed and germinate - as with the Water Starwort in the first photograph.

The dramatic and sometimes short lived changes emphasise the dynamic nature of streamside communities.

Luxuriant vegetation gives the lie to the low water levels.

The tumult of regenerating birch in the right of the picture resulted from the storm blowing of a large oak tree.

The increased light,  resulting from the felling of trees and the falling of a couple of big old conifers made unstable by the water logged conditions, has given rise to an explosion of vegetative growth.

The lowest of the three big dams has kept the water level of the pool it has created relatively high still.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

A Bit of Botany

A couple of evenings ago I walked past this damp corner of a field that lies next to the Burnieshed Burn. the field is called 'Dance Naked'.

In the foreground is some water cress. Further away and to the right of the photo is a crowfoot and furthest away is a bank of buttercups.

This is the crowfoot closer up.

The next photograph shows some purple irises that are growing in the pond/swamp to the east of the drive. This area was once a wild garden. Dogwood, Turk's cap lilies, Monkshood and various other garden plants grew there. With the inundation most of the plants mentioned have disappeared, but the irises have reappeared in this dry season.

And here, I think, is brooklime (Veronica beccabunga), which I found further up the ditch.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Ian and Margaret Forrest's photography at Bamff

Shortly before we left for France Ian and Margaret Forrest, keen bird watchers and photographers, came to stay in the Old Brewhouse, our self-catering accommodation here at Bamff.

I think this was probably a yearling beaver. The animal looks as though it was grooming itself. You will see from the clip of video taken by Margaret Forrest that this is exactly what the creature is doing. The clip is excellent.

This animal seems to have got hold of some water weed with its front paws and is using its tail to balance itself.

While Ian Forrest was taking still photographs, Margaret was using her camcorder.

Clips can be seen at:

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

A Query sorted

One of our Dutch visitors, Annette Oostmeijer, asked how much beavers eat each day. I told her it was about one kilo.

Later I checked with Dietland Müller-Schwarze and Lixing Sun's work 'The Beaver - Natural History of a Wetlands Engineer'. The answer I gave seems to be about right. The kilo seems to be of fresh matter, mainly aspen and derived from a trial using North American beavers.

Beavers needs must vary, depending on whether they are young, pregnant females, etc.

This photograph shows trees lying and barked at the beginning of summer. During May beavers change their diet from dependence on bark and switch over to grass. Later in the summer they turn to a ration that is made up more of aquatic plants. This is what Müller-Schwarze and Sun say, but I should broadly agree, except that it all depends on the habitat. At our Big Pond, where there is plenty of horse tail (Equisetum spp.) they seem to prefer that, along with the sedges (Carex spp.). Along the burn, where grasses are abundant and there is much less aquatic vegetation, they depend on the grasses. Later in the summer I expect that the Burnieshed family will spend more time back in the Wet Wood wetland area with its abundance of Reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea) 

I thought I had sent this, but it can't have gone properly from the train when I tried to send it on the way to London.

Saint Antonin Noble Val, a Beautiful Town on the River Aveyron

Three years ago we came to Saint Antonin Noble Val, a small town on the banks of the River Aveyron, which flows down from the Cévennes into the Garonne and so out past Bordeaux into the Atlantic. That time we came with the Equipe Hazell, led by the fabled Capitaine Robert. This time, with a few days to spend between attending an end of year performance at the Ecole Internationale de Théatre Jacques Lecoq, Louise and I came by ourselves after visiting friends in Mirepoix. 

We thought we should like to visit the Aveyron and Saint Anonin NV again and  canoe a little way down this splendid river, home to the beaver like so many other rivers in France .

I forgot to mention that this stretch of the Aveyron runs through a deep limestone gorge with fine cliffs.

We paddled a canoe of a design with open scuttles, so water poured in from the beginning. That was the downside, but these canoes are virtually unswampable and can hardly be turned over. The water was warm: 22 degrees Celsius we were told, so wet clothes were not a hazard that might lead to hypothermia, only a certain discomfort. 

After successfully shooting various rapids we arrived at our journey's end and enjoyed some coffee and Armagnac in a thoughtfully placed café.

But where were the beavers? We saw no sign of them. There were some signs of grazing, but thought that this looked like the work of deer. Perhaps the population is sparse, or the animals are mainly elsewhere

Que pensez-vous, Jean-Pierre?