An unusual willow at Inverkirkaig 

June 11th 2018

So-called ‘pussy willows’ are a welcome feature of the spring landscape in Assynt.  They are usually the male trees of one of the sallows, broad-leaved members of the willow clan, of which three species occur locally.  On 22ndMay 2018 I was walking with my daughter along the road bordering the river at Inverkirkaig when we noticed something rather different. In a thicket bordering a damp rushy patch of ground just north of the road (NC082194) there was a sprawling tree sporting handsome elongated male catkins.  On closer inspection, the unfolding leaves were relatively narrow, smooth and shiny, with finely toothed margins, quite unlike the rounded furry leaves of the sallows.

This rang a distant bell and on consulting my records I found that I had first noted this tree on 31stMay 2012 and later identified it (with some difficulty) as almond willow Salix triandra.  It was the first record of this species in either Assynt or West Sutherland as a whole; it has not, to my knowledge, been found anywhere else in the area.

Almond willow may be recognized by its leaves, by the three stamens of the male flowers, and by its smooth bark, which flakes off in large patches. It is widely distributed in lowland England, where it was once extensively planted for basket making.  However, it becomes much scarcer in Scotland, with no previous records from the north and west.  It is likely to have been introduced to this area in the past by someone with an eye to its usefulness, but we shall probably never know by whom or when.

P.S.  I have since learned from Mary Bangor-Jones, long-time resident of Inverkirkaig, that this willow is on a croft that once belonged to ‘Lackie’ MacGillivray, and its establishment certainly pre-dates 1964 when she arrived in the area with her late husband Alan.

Ian Evans

Report a Sighting

Recent Sightings

Kittiwake

c100 adult and 1st-winter birds feeding off Clachtoll (DAH) (24/09)

Tufted Duck

two male birds on Loch Drumbeg (DAH) (22/09)

Merlin

single bird near Stoer Village Hall (DAH) (21/09)

UPDATE on colour-ringed Oystercatcher

we have heard back from the Icelandic Wader Group regarding the colour-ringed Oystercatcher spotted at Bay of Culkein on Tuesday. It was ringed, as an adult, near its nest while it was territory-guarding on 19th May this year; the location was Eskifjorour which is on the east coast of Iceland. We will post a short article on the Field Club's website in the next few days regarding other sightings of colour-ringed birds recorded in Assynt (DAH) (20/09)

Pink-footed Goose

c225, in four skeins, heading east over Culkein Drumbeg (DAH). Oh boy, it's autumn! (20/09)

Wigeon

single male in eclipse plumage Loch Inver (DAH) (20/09)

Manx Shearwater

young bird rescued from a garden at Inchnadamph (Chris Rix/Andy Summers). The bird, which was well off-course, was successfully released at Stoer the next day. (18/09)

Oystercatcher

four birds resting on rocks Bay of Culkein (DAH). One of these birds, an adult, had a combination of coloured rings on its legs. The details have been submitted to the appropriate ringing scheme, which appears to be the International Wader Study Group, and we will report back once we hear from them. (18/09)

Map