Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)

Mon 1 Mar 2004

Glorious sun all day and with a bit of real warmth in it at last.  Unfortunately I could not go out until shortly before sundown, then I dashed over to Scorrybreac to catch what was left of the sun, since my side of the village was about to go into the shade of the hills to the west.  On my way I noticed rooks carrying sticks to build their nests in some garden pines.  The scrub alongside the Scorrybreac path was alive with birdsong, of which I could pick out Robin, Greenfinch, Great Tit and Blue Tit, and possibly Dunnock, but not sure about that one.

Ben Tianavaig from Scorrybreac

This picture shows Ben Tianavaig from Scorrybreac.  The Gorse is flowering well, as it has been all winter, but in another month or two these bushes will really be ablaze with yellow.

The snow was thawing fast, converting the sheep tracks to burns as the meltwater rushed down the slopes by every available route.  While watching a wren popping in and out of the crevices formed by the shore boulders and tree roots, and trying to get close enough for a photo, I noticed this pale green lichen on the soil at the base of a birch tree.  It is a granular crustose type, and was only growing on the soil itself, right up to the tree bark and roots but not onto them.  I think it is Lepraria lobificans.

Possibly Lepraria lobificans   Gull and moon

There are always plenty of gulls wheeling around in the air of an evening over Scorrybreac so I focussed on the moon and waited for one of them to come into view.

Thu 4 Mar 2004

Saw the first Celandine in flower at last, a very bedraggled specimen, 9 days later than the first one I saw last year (or 8 days if you use last year's non-leap calendar)  There will certainly have been earlier ones in other parts of the island, such as Uig, where spring is always earlier than in Portree and the temperature always a degree or two higher.  But as both this year's and last year's dates refer to Portree sightings it does seem that things are late this year.

The Hairy Bittercress is now also coming into flower.

There is very little snow left now, even on the hills, but there is still some in a few sheltered pockets at sea level, which has been there for eight days, extremely unusual for Skye where snow never normally lies long on the ground at low levels.  A considerable amount was still there after seven days.

Fri 5 Mar 2004

Tawny Owls hooting incessantly in the bright moonlight this evening.

Sun 7 Mar 2004

Sunny weather was forecast so I decided to try digiscoping at Broadford, i.e taking photos through the telescope.  I'll need a lot more practice before I'm any good at it.

Numenius arquata   Numenius arquata

These are 2 pics of a Curlew, the same bird, first in the snoozing position and then in the mildly alert position.  The original pictures were much bigger but more fuzzy; reducing the size is the best way to sharpen them, and a bit of "unsharp mask" does the rest.

Tringa totanus   Tringa totanus

Here we have a Redshank, a bird that all will agree is difficult to get close to.  The first picture is shown at the size it was taken, the only one so far that's been decent enough to show at that scale.  Unfortunately the bird was hiding its bill on that occasion, so the second picture, which had to be much reduced, is included.

I couldn't believe how quickly the day went, just trying to find birds that were standing still so I could digiscope them.  I had a go at a Little Grebe in the Breakish Ob, but if there's one bird that's not designed for digiscoping, that's it, since if they're on the surface when you set the self-timer (which I do to avoid camera shake) they're under the water by the time it goes off.  I also took some pics of a Bar-tailed Godwit just before the sun went behind Beinn na Cailich, but they were rather poor so I think I'll wait and see if I can get a better one at Portree.

Didn't see anything out of the ordinary birdwise.  Shelduck max 4 individuals at one time, but probably more altogether, 3 Ringed Plover, many Curlew, Oystercatcher and Mallard, 3 Bar-tailed Godwit, 2 Greylag Geese.  Shags with their breeding crests were a fine sight.  A flock of about 120 Starlings.  Seals on rocks.  And Skylarks in full song over Ardnish, very cheering on such a cold day.

Zostera marina   Zostera marina

Was too obsessed with stalking birds to take any other pictures, apart from this Eelgrass (Zostera marina) which I needed for my Skye Botany site.  It's a flowering plant that grows entirely beneath the sea, and bits get washed up onto the strandline along with the seaweed.  (I extricated the piece shown from the seaweed and posed it for the photo.)


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