Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)

Sun 23 May 2004

We are in limestone country today, and the rock crevices are full of fresh young fern fronds.  Here are the Green Spleenwort (left) and the Brittle Bladder Fern (right).

Asplenium viride   Cystopteris fragilis

Next we have the Beech Fern (below, left) and young unfolding fronds of the Hartstongue Fern (below right) with Hard Shield Fern also in the picture.

Phegopteris connectilis   Phyllitis scolopendrium

The Mountain Avens (below, left) carpets the ground around the limestone rocks, while the Black Bog Rush (below, right) is plentiful in the areas flushed by the alkaline water.

Dryas octopetala   Schoenus nigricans

There were many Early Purple Orchids among the limestone, but down in the valley I found my first Skye orchids of the year apart from that species.  The Northern Marsh Orchid (left) and the Heath Spotted Orchid (right).

Dactylorhiza purpurella   Dactylorhiza maculata ssp ericetorum

About a month ago the Skye vegetation seemed weeks behind various other parts of the country; now it is ahead.  It must be the sunshine we've had in May that's made it catch up.  In a normal year it would never have got so far behind in the first place, but we had very little sun from January to April.

Now for animal life.  The bubbling call of the Curlew and the chippering of the Snipe were evident on the moors, and there was a group of Golden Plover on a fairly lowland area - not where they'll nest - doing some kind of display performance, abrupt strutting runs accompanied by their tlui-ui-u song.

No chance of photographing any of those, but this handsome snail, Arianta arbustorum, was somewhat easier.  Those Magpie Moth "looper" caterpillars shown on 12 May were everywhere again today, so here is a picture of one actually looping.  Some were feeding on Heather, but they were also on many other plants and on rocks, and several were high up in a Willow tree.

Arianta arbustorum   Abraxas grossulariata caterpillar

The beetles below are Athous haemorrhoidalis (left) and Pterostichus madidus (right).  I still haven't worked out my policy with insects.  I like to take pictures of them as they are in nature prior to any disturbance by me, but this often doesn't make for very good pictures.  But if I catch them and pose them deliberately, it's no longer a record of what I saw, but just an organism artificially isolated from its environment.

The ideal is to do both, and at least keep the post-capture shots for personal records even if I don't put them on the site.  But often while I'm photographing the creature it flies away before I can catch it, so sometimes there's a choice between capturing it on camera or capturing it in the hand.  The latter makes identification so much easier too!  I guess I'll work all this out as time goes by, I just mention it to explain why there are less than optimal pictures of some creatures.

Athous haemorrhoidalis   Pterostichus madidus

Here's another beetle that flew away after a few shots, but I was lucky enough to get a shot of it in the act of flying off, which I might never have done if I'd taken it home in a box.  It's a male Ctenicera cuprea.

Ctenicera cuprea   Ctenicera cuprea

(29.6.05 - thanks to Mike Denton for confirming the 3 beetle ID's on this page, I'm very chuffed that I got them all right!)