Continuing with the theme of changing seasons, I found the first cotton grass flowers of the year this morning up on the hill. The camera was wet and the photograph is not exactly a work of art, but it’s possible to get an impression of the weird silvery flowers just emerging from the stalks. In a few days, flowers like these will be everywhere and it will be a straight race between the grouse and sheep to get the best out of them. Cotton grass is a really great source of energy and minerals for grouse, and in areas that are overgrazed by livestock, birds can really struggle without these early showing plants.
A friend in the Scottish Borders noticed last year that the grouse don’t seem to eat the silvery flower head but concentrate on a short white section of the stalk just below it. Presumably this little section is the best bit of the plant, and I can vouch for the fact that it is quite sweet.
No matter how many cotton grass flowers the sheep and grouse eat, there are always thousands which survive these early days, and these flowers will go on to create a stunning carpet of bobbing white pom-poms in June.