Not all the wildflowers of the West Highlands are as showy as the Bluebells. In fact, some of them are so tiny that even a fluffy bird has to be quite alert to see them. Algy was out and about – exploring a very damp area of moorland which was interspersed with many wee rocky outcrops – when he spied some tiny pink flowers dotted about among the grass, keeping very low indeed to the ground. He wasn’t at all sure what they were, but they were certainly very pretty. When he consulted her, Algy’s assistant suggested that they were probably Lousewort (Pedicularis sylvatica), but Algy thought that was much too ugly a name for such a delicate jewel of a flower.

Algy’s American friend mdeanstrauss loves the wildflowers of the Iowa prairie. Many of you will be familiar with his beautiful photographs and the interesting descriptions and histories which accompany them. Recently, Algy and his friend have been discussing bluebells, because it seems that the flowers known as bluebells in the USA are not the same as the British bluebells.

May is the month when the bluebells flower in the West Highlands, and they cover large areas with a beautiful, fragrant blue carpet. The funny thing is, these native wildflowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) are usually known in Britain as English Bluebells, but nowhere in England do they flower as prolifically as they do on the west coast of Scotland… They are also commonly thought of in England as a woodland flower, but in the West Highlands they revel in sunny open spaces, if they are allowed to spread freely. Later in the summer, some very different bluebells will flower around Algy’s home: known elsewhere as harebells (Campanula rotundifolia), these flowers too are called bluebells in Scotland, which can be a wee bit confusing at times.

The woodlands bordered the loch, and in some places the ground dropped away steeply towards the water. Algy found himself a new perch in a twisted oak tree at the top of a slope, where he could relax and watch the play of light and water through the new spring leaves of the trees lower down the hillside. All around him, the woodland birds were singing their spring songs, and rustling among the leaves and on the mossy ground below as they went about their business. It was a lovely spot in which to while away a Sunday afternoon, and Algy hopes that you too will find such a beautiful spot in which to relax and rest :))

It was very pleasant in the woods, and sheltered from the cold north wind, so Algy decided to stay there for a wee while. The twisting brances of the old oak trees made excellent perches, and Algy tried out several for size, but found that they were all very comfortable, and well adapted to the needs of a fluffy bird.

As he perched there under the emerging canopy, swinging his legs and looking around at all the fresh green and gold leaves, he remembered a famous poem by Robert Frost. Notwithstanding the symbolic intent of the verse, Algy was greatly comforted by the thought that in the woodlands, at least, the “gold” would in fact return again with each new spring :))

          Nature’s first green is gold,
          Her hardest hue to hold.
          Her early leaf’s a flower;
          But only so an hour.
          Then leaf subsides to leaf.
          So Eden sank to grief,
          So dawn goes down to day.
          Nothing gold can stay.

[Algy is quoting the poem Nothing Gold Can Stay by the 20th century American poet Robert Frost.]

In view of the horribly cold north-east wind that was howling across the open moorland, Algy decided that this might be an ideal time to visit the woodlands which bordered the loch on the sheltered side of the peninsula. It would be calm on the woodland floor beneath the trees, and exciting to see the new spring leaves.

So Algy flew some distance away from the exposed hills and coast, until he reached an area of interestingly mixed woodland which was undergoing a process of regeneration. A large, mossy log beneath a wee stand of tall, thin larches provided a soft and pleasant perch, so Algy made himself comfortable, and gazed happily around at the young tree seedlings which seemed to springing up everywhere he looked.

It was late in the day, and Algy was some distance from home and feeling very tired. Another wave of bad weather was sweeping in from the north-east, and the clouds had already begun to slither down the mountain tops. Soon it would be raining again. That arctic wind felt bitterly cold, too, so Algy found himself a thick clump of reeds, and settled down on the leeward side, keeping very low to the ground. He leaned back closely against the rushes, and dozed in the fading light, dreaming of a land where it might rain just a wee bit less often perhaps, and where it might even be possible to perch on any side of a tree, or bush, or clump of reeds, without ill effect…

Algy needn’t have worried about leaving his umbrella behind, because suddenly Nature provided him with the loveliest umbrella he could imagine. Algy perched on a wee rock beneath the beautiful bow, with the rain falling all around him, and remembered a simple little children’s poem he had once read:

          Boats sail on the rivers,
          And ships sail on the seas;
          But clouds that sail across the sky
          Are prettier than these.

          There are bridges on the rivers,
          As pretty as you please;
          But the bow that bridges heaven,
          And overtops the trees,
          And builds a road from earth to sky,
          Is prettier far than these.

Algy hopes you will all have a happy, peaceful Sunday xoxo

[Algy is quoting The Rainbow, a poem for children by the 19th century English poet Christina Rossetti.]

Postscript: several people have written to Algy about this very unusual rainbow, and he would like to assure anyone who is curious that it really did look exactly like this (even more impressive in reality, in fact), and the photo has not been altered in any way other than to adjust brightness, contrast and saturation levels a wee bit. Neither Algy nor his assistants had ever seen a rainbow quite like this before.