I’m unsure of wych elm is my favourite


Wandering up my favourite riverside path last week, I took to looking at the various trees and how they were beginning to burst into life after their winter dormancy.

Some, such as the hawthorn, were already showing signs of fresh green leaves bursting from their buds, while others, like the blackthorn, like to do things differently.

They produce their blossom before the leaves to try and entice any early flying pollinators.

This strategy is very weather dependant and failed miserably last year, as the long cold spell meant that there was little in the way of bees and flies on the wing so that little fruit was created (I know because I missed out on my sloe gin!)

Another tree adopting this early flowering strategy caught my eye by the water’s edge.

It was much bigger and the flowers were in small clusters and pinkish in colour. I’m not great at identifying trees without their leaves, but I recognised this one from its bark, having sawn up tons of it for my log burner, after it had succumbed to a fatal disease which swept the country – Dutch Elm Disease.

Yes it was an elm, once common on the river banks in the Borders, but sadly, mature specimens are now quite rare.

As I say, my tree knowledge is limited, but I think this may have been a wych elm. Pollinated flowers (which are pollinated by the wind), grow to become fruits called samaras, which are ovoid in shape with a small notch at the end, and are up to 2cm long and 1.5cm across.

A samara is a type of fruit in which the seed has a flattened wing attached to it, and in the case of wych elm, the seed is in the centre of the samara, and the wing surrounds it on all sides.

The samaras are initially a light, bright green colour, turning brown as they ripen, and are shed from the tree in early July.

Dispersal of the seeds is by the wind, and the wing of each samara enables them to travel further than the unwinged seeds of other trees.

On a different subject now, back in February, Selkirk reader J.K. handed in to me a dead bird.

Not much of a gift you may think, but this one was special as it had a ring on its leg.

The bird was a male siskin and was found poorly at his bird table and failed to recover.

I managed to remove the miniscule metal ring to read its unique number.

This I logged on the British Trust for Ornithology’s special ring recoveries website, along with other details of the bird’s demise.

After not hearing anything back for several weeks, I chased them on and was told that they get more than 300 such reports every week and it usually takes 4-6 weeks before a reply is sent. I have just received it and it makes interesting reading. The bird was originally ringed at approximately one year old in Peebles on June 30, 2012 and and was found 588 days after ringing and had travelled 25km.

Such data is vital to bird conservation and I would urge anyone finding a ringed bird to report it without delay.

Don’t forget, you can e-mail me with any unusual sightings or pictures of local wildlife you come across this spring at corbie@homecall.co.uk