Readers’ wildlife photos

September 1, 2022 • 8:00 am

Here’s documentation of a trip to Scotland taken by Athayde Tonhasca Júnior. His captions are indented and you can click on the pictures to enlarge them.

This is the spot at St. Andrews University where 24 year-old Patrick Hamilton was burned at the stake. A trip to Germany did no good for young Patrick’s health: impressed by Martin Luther, he began teaching Lutheran doctrines on his return to St. Andrews. He was arrested, found guilty of heresy and executed in 1528, thus becoming the first victim of the Scottish Reformation.

Sci-fi/horror writer Marc Laidlaw suggested the start of a fiction book would be made much more interesting by adding ‘and then the murders began’:

* In real life, ‘and then the murders began’ happened with a vengeance after Augustinian friar Martin Luther hammered his Ninety-five Theses to the doors of the Castle Church of Wittenberg in 1517 (literally or not; the actual hammering probably never happened). The Reformation unleashed bloodletting in a scale to make Genghis Khan envious. The Thirty Years War alone (1618-1648) devastated central Europe—Germany in particular—with unimaginable episodes of cruelty and suffering.

‘One sunny Sunday, the caterpillar was hatched out of a tiny egg. He was very hungry. And then the murders began.’ The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle;

‘Mr & Mrs Dursley, of number 4, Privet Drive, were proud to say they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. And then the murders began.’ Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling;

‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And then the murders began.’ The Bible, by several authors;

‘It was the best of times, it was at the worst of times. And then the murders began.’ A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens;

‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. And then the murders began.’ Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell.

Statue of Alexander Selkirk (1676-1721) in Lower Largo, his birthplace. A sailor, Selkirk was marooned for four years and four months on the Más a Tierra island of the Juan Fernández archipelago, about 670 km off the coast of Chile. Selkirk’s adventure inspired Daniel Defoe to write Robinson Crusoe, first published in 1719 and one of the most popular books in history. Chile’s decision to rename Más a Tierra ‘Robinson Crusoe Island’ to boost tourism is understandable, as few people ever heard of Alexander Selkirk (who was an unpleasant and violent person, by some accounts). Selkirk’s Island, by Diana Souhami, is a good read about the man and his island:

On the road to Fort William, in the Highlands. ‘There are two seasons in Scotland: June and winter’ (Billy Connolly, Glaswegian comedian).

Stress-free shopping:

Statue of Bamse at Montrose Harbour. The St. Bernard was a mascot of the Free Norwegian Forces stationed in Scotland during the Second World War, and supposedly the leading character of many acts of heroism. The Norwegian flag must have come from the crew of the two colossal Norwegian tug/supply vessels in the background.

Remnants of Dunkeld Cathedral, built between 1260 and 1501. In the newer, undamaged building, there’s a copy of the Great She Bible. This is one of a handful of the King James bibles, printed in 1611, in which a ‘she’ (Ruth) instead of a ‘he’ (Ruth’s hubbie Boaz) goes to town (Book of Ruth). This single word discrepancy makes a copy of a Great She Bible worth over £25,000. The cathedral was seriously damaged in 1560 for the crime of popery and destroyed by fire in 1689 during the Jacobite rising – one of the many chapters of Catholic-Protestant mutual bashing. Nowadays overt Scottish Jacobitism and reactions to it are mostly restricted to Orange parades and Old Firm (Celtic vs Rangers) football matches. Exchanges of unpleasantries – and occasional missiles – and lots of policemen are fixtures during these events.

Statue of James Clerk Maxwell (1831–1879) in Edinburgh’s George Street. ‘Maxwell’s equations’ alone placed the scientist shoulder to shoulder with Newton and Einstein: “From a long view of the history of mankind, seen from, say, ten thousand years from now, there can be little doubt that the most significant event of the 19th century will be judged as Maxwell’s discovery of the laws of electrodynamics.” (Richard Feynman). Maxwell also worked on optics, kinetics, thermodynamics, bridge structures, theories of Saturn’s rings, and colour vision: he produced the world’s first colour photography. He could have done a bit more had he not died at the age of 48. Maxwell is one the greatest scientists ever, and an Edinburgh native to boot, but his statue was not unveiled until 2008. A monument to a dog, Greyfriars Bobby, was erected in 1873 and is far better known by tourists. 

In the middle of a field, that’s where.

Blooming in our garden.

House of D’Arcy Thompson (1860-1948) in St. Andrews. Possibly no other natural selection sceptic was so influential in the biological sciences. His On Growth and Form is an inspiring work of beauty and scholarship, revered by biologists, mathematicians and architects alike. The abridged edition, edited by John Tyler Bonner, would make an excellent gift for a discerning friend. The illustrations alone are worth the purchase:

It’s hard to beat the Mormons on the Religious Weirdness Scale; nonetheless, there are about 20,000 of them in Scotland. Tagged, tie-donning, young, clean-shaven missionary duos roam the country, apparently ineffectively: LDS numbers are going down in the UK:


Red and white flowers on this Perth cherry tree – possibly the result of grafting.

The traveling cannon – The Portuguese Cannon on Calton Hill, Edinburgh, cast in the early 15th century, was taken by the Spanish (who ruled Portugal between 1580 and 1640) to service in the Indies – Goa, Malacca and Southeast Asia – in around 1785. Somehow it was transferred to the Kingdom of Arakan (today’s Burma). According to a Burmese inscription on the barrel, the cannon was moved to Mandalay, the old capital. The British invaded Mandalay in 1885 and took the canon to Edinburgh in 1886. It survived the fate of the other five cannons that once sat on Calton Hill: they were melted down in 1940 as sources of metal during the war:

A detail from Voyages and travels to Brasil, by Johannes Nieuhoff (1618-1672), published in 1640. This is one the many rarities at Innerpeffray Library, the first public lending library in Scotland (1680). Understandably you can no longer borrow the precious books, but you are allowed to consult them. This literary gem (6 km from Crieff) deserves to be better known:

[JAC: note that the armadillo is called a “Shield hog”.]

A pleasant side of Edinburgh: the floral clock in West Prince’s Street Garden. Every coloured bit is a living plant: it takes about five weeks for two gardeners to plant and trim the specimens into shape. The clock, by the way, works accurately.

A not-so-pleasant side of Edinburgh: this is the impression of the city that thousands of visitors to this year’s Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival, will take home. The ruling Scottish National Party (SNP) has money for another independence referendum, which most Scots don’t want, and for seven overseas ’embassies’ – price tag: ~6 million pounds/year – but not enough for local councils, so their workers went on strike. Education, transport and health indicators are plummeting, deaths by alcohol and drug use are on the rise (the drug death rate in Scotland is already the highest in Europe). And yet, the SNP has been in power for 15 years. For slightly less than half of the population, the lure of independence trumps everything else:

20 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Explanations please?

    On a small traffic island on Rodney Road, in Backwell, in the English county of North Somerset, stands a horticultural curiosity—a cherry tree producing two distinct colors of blossom: pink on one side and white on the other. The dual-color tree is thought to have been planted in the late 1950s. Its name, Strawberries and Cream Tree, was given by the town’s children.

    Plant chimeras: The good, the bad, and the ‘Bizzaria’
    Chimeras – organisms that are composed of cells of more than one genotype – captured the human imagination long before they were formally described an…
    Bizzaria Orange – Oscar Tintori – Nurseries Worldwide – Citrus Plants
    This variety is a true rarity because although it has the genetic characteristics of the Seville orange, it bears fruits of both the Seville orange and the citron, together with ugly, lumpy, yellow, orange and green fruit with the morphological features of both species. The plant is fairly vigorous and assurgent; the leaves are both ovoid-elliptic with alate petiole, and narrow and elliptic …

  2. A reader who wishes to be anonymous asked me to post this comment of his/hers/its:

    You only have to look at the demented Westminster Government to think that the sooner Scotland can be independent, the better. Energy prices are rising exponentially and projected to become unaffordable to many families even those on what would normally be considered to be reasonable incomes. Truss, who appears to be in line for PM, seems to think that lowering taxes will solve this. Plus fracking and more oil extraction – but not solar or wind power, which she greatly limit onshore. Boris Johnson today used a 50y old children’s book to make the case for more nuclear power stations. Not a solution to help us through the winter. Brexit is increasingly destroying scientific collaboration with Europe, cutting the UK off from the EU’s strategy to cope with the current gas crisis, and is wrecking the peace settlement in Ireland. Scotland is more or less self-sufficient in electricity and has ample freshwater and is increasingly England’s last colony. It all makes me very cross. What is so awful about Scotland having a democratic vote on its future? It will be much less expensive than many of the Westminster vanity projects we have to contribute to.

    1. This comment by an anonymous reader has caused me to meditate on a hypothesis I’ve come up with to explain what’s happening in human society these days, to wit, we have willy -nilly entered a historical period of disunity, divorce, and partition. In other words, there’s nothing we can do to resist these larger societal forces that are tearing up asunder. The most we can do is make the divorce as amicable and peaceful as possible, avoid violence, and mitigate whatever pain results from the process.

    2. Well, it’d be taxing to address anonymous’ shotgun salvo. One point, though: certainly there’s nothing ‘awful’ about another independence referendum. But the Scottish people don’t want it, according to the polls. One must wonder why, considering how terrible the union is. Ok, one more thing: ‘England’s last colony’? I don’t think many Britons would share that view, except perhaps for MacPravda (aka The National), nationalists’ favourite newspaper.

  3. I maybe mistaken, but I think that 2 of the animals shown are not South American. The Sluggart”, the “Pismireater” and the “Shield Hog” are obviously so. But the “Lasartus” appears a Pangolin to me (locally referred to as Itermagog here), from Africa or Asia, and the “Iron Pig” is, I suspect, a Katta or Ring-tailed lemur from Madagascar. I haven’t a clue what this giant, worm-like creature, the “Tiawan Devil” might be. A dead Anaconda?

    1. [Well, TBH, i think i would have had problems with the food as well.]

      From the East Indies?
      Voyages and Travels, Into Brazil, and the East-Indies: Containing, an Exact Description of the Dutch Brasil, and Divers Parts of the East-Indies … the Manners, Customs, Habits, and Religion of the Inhabitants: with a Most Particular Account of All … that Happened During the Author’s Stay of Nine Years in Brasil; Especially, in Relation to the Revolt of the Portugueses, and the Intestine War Carried on There from 1640 to 1649 …

      1. Published, as our host would say, when he was just 22 years old. [Or not.]

        Mr. John Nieuhoff’s remarkable voyages & travells into ye best provinces of ye West and East Indies
        Alternate Title:
        Voyages and travels, into Brasil, and the East-Indies containing an exact description of the Dutch Brasil, and divers parts of the East-Indies; their provinces, cities, living creatures, and products: the manners, customs, habits, and religion of the inhabitants: with a most particular account of all the remarkable passages that happened during the author’s stay of nine years in Brasil; especially, in relation to the revolt of the Portugueses, and the Intestine War carried on there from 1640 to 1649; as also, a most ample description of the most famous city of Batavia, in the East Indies ; Vol. II and Brazil and the East Indies, Nieuhoff

      1. A ring-tailed porcupine?
        It doesn’t look like a prehensile tailed porcupine either. those have, AFAIK, no rings on their tail, and a blunt snout. It is a mystery.

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