Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)
Sun 4 Apr 2004
Still catching up with workload after the Mallorca jaunt, plus it's been the sort of weather that means if it's dry when you look out the window it's raining by the time you get to the door. Managed a short local walk this evening. The Celandines are in full flower now as they were in Inverness, but mostly closed up because of the dull weather. Some Wood Anemones are out but very patchy, well behind Inverness and Gatwick.
Many trees are still in a dormant state, e.g Alder. Hazel buds are only open enough to show a bit of green unexpanded leaf. Willow buds are mostly showing some catkin fluff, and the Hawthorn (below, left) is every bit as advanced as its Gatwick cousins. The Wild Raspberry canes (below right) are also putting on a pleasing show of green.
The Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage is not normally thought of as a colourful plant, but it made the most eye-catching patch of brightness on the walk, below left. Close-up of the flowers below right.
Noticed Hairy Woodrush in flower but by then it was too dark to take pictures. Field Woodrush is also appearing in short grass now. The four street crucifers, Spring Whitlow-grass, Hairy Bittercress, Shepherd's Purse and Thale Cress, are all now flowering away happily in the pavement cracks and at the foot of walls, accompanied by Groundsel which has been doing so all winter.
I've often thought about how rare these commonplace ruderals are in natural habitats, as opposed to human-made ones such as paths and gardens. I recall my surprise at finding Thale Cress on natural rocks last year, and I'd be even more surprised to find any of the others. In Mallorca I was interested to notice that both Groundsel and Hairy Bittercress were very common in natural habitats such as pockets of soil on boulders, and it gave me a different perspective on these plants and also on the properties of the artificial habitats we create, which are perhaps closer to the dry and dusty places that occur naturally further south than to anything nature provides at our own latitude.
Sat 10 Apr 2004
Still grappling with the backlog of work after my holiday, plus the weather has been very showery all this time; day after day it's been so changeable that even if the sky is clear you know it may start raining in ten minutes time and not stop for an hour. This afternoon we finally had a bit of a weather window and I nipped out for a quick rustle through the woods, after checking the forecast on Metcheck who to my delight have now started an Isle of Skye page instead of lumping us in with the Highlands or the Inner Hebrides (was never sure which). Even without a Skye page it was the best online weather service for Skye, in my opinion, and it certainly should be from now on.
Here's a nice little clump of Wood Sorrel, and the only Dog Violet of the season so far. Primroses (below left), Celandines, Wood Anemone and Barren Strawberry are all now flowering in profusion, and a lush carpet of Bluebell leaves confirms that winter is truly behind us. When the sun is out you can feel the magic of Spring, but as soon as it goes in you pull your coat on and look nervously at the clouds.
The fruit capsules of last year's Birdsnest Orchid (above right) were still on display, but I couldn't see any sign of new shoots. They don't come up every year, so any that do appear may not be be marked by a previous year's spike.
After saying in the last entry that I rarely found Hairy Bittercress in natural habitats, today I found a place in the woods that had dozens of them scattered about among the rocks and moss. Sticking my neck out again, I suggest that the reason I don't find it more often in such habitats is because in this part of the world it only flowers early in the year, although the books don't have it as a Spring plant particularly. There it is, above left, with the pods overtopping the flowers in classic Hairy B style. All the flowers had 4 stamens and the stems were hairless to the base, so it's not Wavy B despite the shady mossy habitat. On the right, a Dor Beetle clambers over the dead leaves.
And then it started to drizzle. But as I neared home it dried up enough to get quick snaps of these two inhabitants of mown grass. Field Woodrush on the left and Slender Speedwell on the right.
Sun 11 Apr 2004
Another brief outing, poor conditions. The Marsh Marigold and the Common Scurvy-grass are now flowering profusely, and here they are.
The Scurvy-grass pic is taken looking directly down onto the plant, to avoid getting rain on the camera. The young leaves have their veins marked with purple.