Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)
Wed 7 Jul 2004
A glorious day of sunshine with a northerly breeze to keep things cool. Got up early to do my follow-up visit to my moorland BTO bird survey square at Glenhinnisdale. As with the first visit, there seemed to be fewer Skylarks about than last year. But there was a family of Whinchats on the route for the first time, and I put up a Red Grouse from almost under my feet which was another new bird for the square since I've been doing it.
As usual, there were huge numbers of Meadow Pipits, and I've yet to decide how many to estimate were this year's young, which you're supposed to leave out of the survey but which are very difficult to tell at a distance. Many were displaying birds which were obviously adults. The Stonechat pair were there as usual, calling to each other from the tops of heather clumps, and a Wren made it onto the list as every time so far. While climbing from the end of the first transect line to the start of the second, I saw three Kestrels together in the air, which is quite unusual. One of them dived at one of the others as if it was an intruder, and soon two of them went off in different directions. By the time I reached the start of the line the remaining one had gone as well, so I couldn't put any of them on the list.
Also while climbing between the two transects, I stumbled upon a small but vigorous stand of Stagshorn Clubmoss (below left), growing out of sphagnum up through heather. Was pleased with this as I didn't previously have a picture of it with the spore-producing cones.
Noticed several of these Chimney Sweeper moths (above right) out and about in the sunshine.
Here are a couple of interesting variants on the Heath Spotted Orchid. The one on the left had the lip divided into five lobes on all three of the flowers that were open so far. Not a small central tooth and two large frilly-edged side lobes, just five equal lobes. The one on the right has the normal lip shape, but the design with dark mauve outside the loop and pale inside is most effective.
This Waxcap was growing in wet moorland; probably Hygrocybe Chlorophana. Roadside ditches are full of Forgetmenots, mainly the Creeping Forgetmenot, which has larger flowers here on Skye than the books allow. The one in the picture had flowers 9 mm across as against a maximum of 6 mm in both CTW and Stace.
Next, drove to Uig on a mission to get pictures of Zigzag Clover, Thyme Broomrape and Smith's Pepperwort. I got them all, though alas the latter was well past flowering.
On the left, Thyme Broomrape, looking rather lonely for a parasitic plant, but there was some Thyme on an adjacent ledge. In the middle, a close-up of one of the flowers. On the right some younger stems, which still have the red colour, which they soon lose, becoming brown and dry as in the first two pics. Could not get any closer to these unless I wanted to shoot directly into the sun. The plant at their base is, of course, Thyme.
Here are the other two that I came to see, the Zigzag Clover on the left being decidedly more photogenic than the Smith's Pepperwort on the right. The fruits, visible in the picture, each contain two seeds (the bulges in the centre) and have broad flat wings around them.
The Common Blue butterfly, left, was hard to get close to. It's colours are breathtakingly delicate in reality but this doesn't come across in such faraway pictures. On the right, my first sighting of the Jaapiella veronicae gall, which I recognised instantly from pictures I'd seen on Stuart Dunlop's Donegal website. This gall occurs on Germander Speedwell and is home to a fly larva.
The Rha woods at Uig provide ideal conditions for ferns. I found a strange abnormality of the Scaly Male Fern. The frond is divided at its tip into 5 radiating pinnae, of which the left-most one in the picture has much greater pinnules than normal for the species and is more like a new frond in its own right. The second of the radiating growths divides again in turn at its tip into another 5 growths, as the picture in the middle shows. Even on the pinnae lower down on the frond, before it goes haywire, the pinnules are abnormal as shown in the picture on the right.
The tuft had two fronds of this kind, both were without any sori (bundles of spore-cases on the underside of the frond). It also had several fronds that were normal in every respect and did have sori.
On the wall that divides the wood from the road was a fine clump of Common Spotted Orchids with flowers of the classic shape, something I don't think we've had in this diary yet. Walked back along the shore to the pier and found some Greater Sea Spurrey, above right. There was a Sedge Warbler making tchack and trrrrrrr sounds in a patch of reeds among the tall vegetation on the bank above the shore. It flew from stem to stem but never left the reeds for any of the other plants of similar habit that were all around them.