Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)

Mon 26 Apr 2004

Took advantage of the sun while out shopping to get pics of two little plants whose flowers are usually closed due to dull weather.  These are large close-ups of very small flowers, about 4-6 mm across.

Cardamine flexuosa   Cardamine hirsuta

On the left, Wavy Bittercress, which has just come into flower.  On the right, Hairy Bittercress, which has been flowering for a while.  The former grows in wetter and shadier places than the latter.  These two were close together but true to their habitats.  In these pictures you can see the main difference between the two plants: Wavy has 6 stamens and Hairy has 4.  You can also see the hairy leaves that give Hairy its name.

Wed 28 Apr 2004

Weather very changeable this week so far, sun and showers in quick succession.  Not very warm.  Winter is dragging its heels.  Well, it is April.  In three days time it will all be different.  May will be here and summer will burst upon us in all its glory.  Or so I tell myself.

Phylloscopus trochilus   Bombus lucorum agg

The bushes are full of the songs of Willow Warblers now.  I think the one on the left is looking for a leaf, as its generic name implies.  Sorry chum, this is Skye.

The White-tailed Bumblebee was sitting on the ground with head and tail bent down, vibrating its rear end.  I thought it was in a bad way but apparently this is done to warm itself up to the temperature needed for flight.  Eventually it flew off perfectly normally.

Anthoxanthum odoratum   Primula vulgaris, yellow and pink forms

Nice to see the Sweet Vernal Grass back in action (above left).  On the right are a clump of Primroses on the banks of a small burn under the shade of trees and scrub - not particularly near to any garden, still the pink ones must have some garden parentage.

Ulmus glabra fruit   Ulmus glabra young leaves

Continuing the recent theme of trees of the same species coming into leaf at different times.  This Wych Elm (above left) was covered in the winged fruit, as shown, but the leaf buds were hardly showing any green.  A younger tree (or possibly a sucker) arising from the ground close to the base of the older one and growing up beneath it, had no fruit at all but the leaves were well out, together with the large pinkish stipules, which will soon fall.

Vaccinium myrtillus   Vaccinium myrtillus

Came upon a patch of Bilberries in the wood, quite a contrast with the surrounding carpet of Celandines, Bluebells (mostly not flowering yet) and Anemones.  The bell-like young flowers are shown above left; they then become rounder like the one on the right.

Wood Anemones are often mauve on the back.  The flower below left, and others near it, were mauve on both sides.  This purple patch was surrounded by pure white ones to a great distance.  Among these, there were areas where all had 6 petals and areas where all had 7.

Anemone nemorosa, mauve flowered   Cardamine pratensis

I would have expected to see the Cuckoo Flower in flower by now, but for once the Cuckoo (bird) has arrived before it.  There are several in bud, though, with the one above right showing just a peep of mauve petal.

Armeria maritima flower   Armeria maritima stems

Two studies in Thrift.  The first flowers seen of the year on the left (complete with occupant), and on the right the knobbly red stems.

Anser anser
  Porcellio scaber

There were three Greylag Geese on the estuary (left).  This saltmarsh woodlouse (right) was equally keen to escape my attentions, but less successful.  It keys out to Porcellio scaber, the Common Rough Woodlouse, though that can reach 17 mm in length and ours is only 7 mm.  Flagella with 2 sections, does not roll into ball (but never stops running), telson pointed.  I hoped it might be a special coastal species, but no.

Only saw one Wigeon on the estuary, the others may have returned to their summer quarters, or may have just been out of sight somewhere.  Also a single Shelduck.  Added another summer visitor to the list with a pair of Common Sandpipers that flashed back and forth across the river with their energetic piping calls.  No sight could be more calculated to make me think of the sunny days ahead rather than the snowy ones behind.


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