Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)
Mon 31 May 2004
Watched a Hoodie Crow trying to open an empty Irn Bru can as if it were a shellfish. It repeatedly flew up in the air with it and then dropped it on the grass. I don't know if it was just playing, or showing off to a potential mate, as they normally drop shells on rocks when they're serious about opening them. It also stabbed repeatedly at the can with its bill, and rolled it around a lot.
Tue 1 Jun 2004
The good, the bad and the ugly today. The first Yellow Iris flower of the year seen. Seems only yesterday the shoots were just inches off the ground. On the right, a gall on Rowan caused by the mite Eriophyes Sorbi
Here is another Crane Fly, I think it's a different species to the one on 29 May.
Tue 8 Jun 2004
A boat trip to the Isle of Rona, organised by the local branch of the Scottish Wildlife Trust. It was a dull day and rain was forecast but we were very lucky to have no rain at all while we were there, and only intermittent rain on the trip out and back.
Two views from the boat, the first back towards the Cuillins, and the second the wooded slopes of Scorrybreac, where many of the pictures on this site are taken. It looks splendid from the water, as does the whole north coast of Skye which we were able to see at close quarters as far as the Storr. We saw some porpoises, or rather their dorsal fins, in the water close to the Skye shore, and there were a great many Razorbills and Guillemots about, in small parties, all diving and surfacing in unison.
Rona is a small island off the northern tip of Raasay, which lies between Skye and the mainland. Rona is often seen but seldom visited. From a distance it looks barren, all you can see is rock. But in reality it is amazingly lush. There is plenty of woodland in sheltered areas, and the heather grows almost head-high in places. There are few grazing animals there these days and the natural vegetation is being allowed to regenerate, making it a very exciting place for the naturalist.
This picture shows typical Rona terrain, together with one of the inhabitants. Rocks, heather, bracken, hill grass, in all directions... yet around 280 species of wild flowering plants and ferns grow on the island, and there are probably more waiting to be discovered.
Here are a couple of the ferns. On the left, the Hay-scented Buckler Fern, growing in mossy woodland together with Hard Fern and Wood Sorrel. This fern is recognised by the crimped appearance of the fronds. It is not at all common in North Skye but very plentiful in the woods of Rona. On the right, the Sea Spleenwort, growing farther from the sea than I have seen it before, on an inland cliff in fact, though one that doubtless gets a taste of sea spray during winter gales.
The Common Cow-wheat (above left) is another plant that's common in the woods of Rona. On the right is the Angle Shades moth on Heather. Another of the party saw a Painted Lady butterfly and a Magpie Moth, but I have not yet seen either of these species this year.
There is a fair bit of low-lying marshy land, with pools and ditches that are teeming with tadpoles. Here are a couple of the many marsh plants that thrive there.
The Early Marsh Orchid and the graceful Flote-grass. In general the vegetation of Rona seemed behind that of Skye in seasonal development. There were many specimens of the Lesser Twayblade among the Heather, but none of them had put up any flowering stems yet. It would be wonderful to go back later in the year when the ungrazed grasses and other herbs would be at their best. It would also be wonderful to go back in thirty years time and see how the native woodland has regenerated.
The island has Red Deer, Otters, Wood Mice, and possibly Mountain Hares (as does Raasay), and has seabird colonies on the cliffs. Both Common and Grey seals haul out on the island's shores and skerries.