Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)

Fri 7 May 2004

Glorious sunny day today.  New flowers and insects everywhere.  But for some it's hard to let go of winter...

Fraxinus excelsior, winter bud   Rhytisma salicinum

Every bud of this Ash sapling (above left) was in this closed state, just as if it was December rather than May.  The willow on the right at least has some green in the buds, but what's of more interest is the Willow Tar Spot fungus, Rhytisma salicinum.  There were three of them on the same bush, no others seen anywhere.  The top half of the leaf is thickened and black.  At first I assumed it was a gall because it forces the leaf to stay on the tree months after all the others have fallen, like the Willow Cabbage Gall does, but it may do this "unintentionally" by a glue-like action, in which case it would not count as a gall.

Moving onto something more summery, here are a couple of moorland plants that have suddenly sprung into life.  On the left, the Lousewort.  From the hairy calyx you can tell that this is subspecies hibernica, which the Hebrides share with Ireland.  On the right, the Heath Milkwort.

Pedicularis sylvatica ssp hibernica   Polygala serpyllifolia

Incredibly, until today I had not seen any butterflies on Skye this year, but made up for that today with three species.  Most numerous was the Green Hairstreak, seen below left on a Downy Birch leaf.  Saw dozens of these, also a couple of Green-veined White, of which a male is shown below right.

Callophrys rubi   Artogeia napi

Aglais urticae   Phragmatobia fuliginosa

And a couple of Small Tortoiseshell which were very difficult to get close to as they were so active, the only pic is a poor one (above left) but I'm sure a better opportunity will come before long.  This butterfly is actually larger than the other two.  Also found this Ruby Tiger Moth crawling along the ground among the dead bracken.

Ajuga reptans   Stellaria holostea

The Bugle (above left) and the Greater Stitchwort (right) have now begun to flower.

SS Waverley   Eugnorisma glareosa on Endymion non-scriptus

The paddle steamer Waverley, her decks crammed with happy punters enjoying the beauties of Portree Bay.  This Autumnal Rustic caterpillar was also enjoying them in its own way, making a meal of a Bluebell flower.

Phyllobius pyri on Sorbus aucuparia   Arion ater and Cepaea hortensis on Petasites hybridus

This Common Leaf Weevil (Phyllobius pyri) was dining off a Rowan leaf.  Thanks to Mike Denton for the weevil ID.  This Butterbur leaf was in even worse shape due to the combined attack of the Great Black Slug and the White-lipped Banded Snail.

The Early Purple Orchid is now flowering along the cliff-tops...

Orchis mascula   Anthriscus sylvestris

...and the Cow Parsley along the roadsides.