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Kilbarchan Parish

In fine weather the pleasant policy of Milliken in this parish was visited on 25th April, 1891. At the East Lodge there is a large rookery. Immediately after passing this is a planting of young firs to be hereinafter mentioned in an ornithological connection. A pair of redstarts (Ruticilla phœnicurus) were noted on the occasion of the Society’s visit. This brilliant bird ‘appears suddenly in spring, like a flower that has bloomed before the bud was noticed’, and is rather rare in the district, being most conspicuous on its arrival in April. In proximity to the house (which was built about 1830) are gardens which have been laid out in most princely fashion, involving enormous expense. Viewed from the public rooms they had a very striking appearance, and attention naturally fixed on a number of yew thickets in oblong squares, the top branches of which had a burned or blighted appearance. This was attributed the roosting there of vast numbers of starlings during autumn and winter, and measures had had to be taken to put a stop to the evil. The starlings, taking the hint, had shifted their quarters to the planting before mentioned, and there were still some numbers of this species roosting at the time of our visit, where a month earlier there were to be seen nightly thousands congregating from all directions, and making night hideous with their screeching. Owing to the continued drought with low temperature few plants were noted, the list including the leopard’s-bane (Doronicum Pardalianches), primrose, cowslip, purple willow (Salix purpurea), and goat-willow (S. Caprea). There are no trees remarkable for size in the estate, the largest seen being a great maple overlooking one of the artificial ponds. The ascent of Barrhill was made. On this, the highest point in the neighbourhood, are the remains of a Danish camp, and from a round tower on the same eminence a splendid view of the surrounding country was obtained. The common moth, Diurna fagella, was the only entomological capture.

The parish of Kilbarchan has the distinction of possessing in the estate of Craigends (John C. Cunninghame, Esq.) one of the most remarkable yew trees in Scotland. Fine photographs of this tree were exhibited at one of the meetings of the Society. It grows north of the mansion house and close to the Gryfe Water. Careful measurements taken on the 2nd of November, 1889, give the following results:—

Spread, eastern extremity of branches to tree, 41 ft. 6 in.
Diameter of trunk in same line, 8 ft. 4 in.
Spread from tree to western extremity of branches, 32 ft. 0 in.
Total = 81 ft. 10 in.

This measurement was on a line nearly parallel to flow of the Gryfe there. Girth of trunk at narrowest part, 21 feet 2¾ inches; circumference of branches, 218 feet 6 inches, the area enclosed by these being filled to the ground with a mass of foliage, indicating vigorous health and abundant nutrition, possibly attributable to a sweet soil and proximity to the Gryfe Water. In spite of the yew being a slow-growing tree, the great vigour of the present example makes a considerable annual increment of wood in the principal stem not at all improbable.