There had been heavy rain on the Friday night and with the ground already soaking, this Herring Gull on the grassy banks by the Aquadome at Bucht Park was having some success with its ‘rain dance’. It was poddling the sodden turf, producing an effect which to any unfortunate earthworm below would have felt like heavy rain, prompting it to make its way to the surface to escape being drowned it in its burrow. The gull apparently caught two or three small earthworms in the few minutes that we watched it.
Something, a paving stone or a metal plate about two feet square, had recently been removed from a grass verge nearby revealing this tunnel network. A Yew tree grows close to it and the tunnels are full of Yew seeds.
You can see that many of these have been split open. Most parts of the Yew are poisonous but some birds eat the ‘berries’ (Yew is a conifer so it would be more correct to call the fleshy envelope of the seed an aril) and here, I guess, voles or Wood Mice have been collecting the ‘berries’, perhaps eating the red sticky flesh and storing the seeds, some of which have been split open. I guess that the seed case is the most poisonous part of the female yew cone but that its contents can be eaten by rodents.
It’s strange to think that one of these seeds might have germinated and grown to be a tree that might have lived to be some 3,000 years old, like the Fortingall Yew near Loch Tay, which might be the oldest tree in Europe, surviving until the year 5011 A.D. or beyond . . . if the vole hadn’t eaten it first!
This Clyde Puffer, the S.L. VIC32 from Greenock, one the last coal-fired steam coasters, was moored on the Caledonian Canal at Merkinch. Puffers worked along the west coast, supplying the island distilleries, such as Laphroaig, which stands on the shore at Port Ellen, Islay.
I illustrated one for Stephen Cribb’s Whisky on the Rocks and was so fascinated by them that I made a folksy model for use in a Whisky on the Rocks assemblage – which also included shells, whisky miniatures and so on – that I thought might look good on the back cover of the book. Considering my skill as a model-maker it’s not surprising that they decided to stick with my pen and ink and watercolour artwork.