Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)

Tue 13 Jul 2004

Went with Dr Stephen Bungard, the joint vice-county recorder, and two fern experts, to look for the Alpine Woodsia.  This was first reported from Skye about 100 years ago but was not re-found about 4 years ago.  Stephen led us to the spot and also to another patch of the fern which he had found himself.  We looked for further specimens, but did not find any.

Woodsia alpina   Polystichum lonchitis

The Alpine Woodsia is on the left.  We found plenty of Holly Fern, including this particularly fine clump on the right.

Rhinanthus minor   Diphasiastrum alpinum

This mountain form of Yellow Rattle, with the calyx hairy all over, was frequently met with.  On the right is the Alpine Clubmoss which I promised the other day, bringing the total Clubmosses in the diary this year to 5; I think that will be it somehow.

Cherleria sedoides   Trollius europaeus

Cyphel, above left, is a cushion plant similar to Moss Campion, but its flowers are a lot less colourful.  Plenty of colour was however provided by Globe Flower and Red Campion which lit up many of the cliffs and gullies in a glorious display quite unexpected in such sombre surroundings.  These were high up, out of reach, and the Globe Flower in the picture is just a lone individual on a more accessible ledge.

Silene uniflora
  Rana temporaria

Sea Campion also added a note of cheer to the cliffs, above left.  This is one of several coastal species that also grows on mountain rocks, where its adaptation to the lack of fresh ground water serves it well.  We saw several frogs, they often seem to be commoner in the uplands than lower down, I'm not sure why.  None were very large.

At one point while we were slithering down a steep stretch of scree, one of the party dislodged a particularly large stone which bounced noisily down the slope.  A fox ran out from the cliff and darted after the stone exactly like a dog when you throw a stick for it.  Whether the fox thought it was a rabbit, or just wanted to play, I'll never know.  When it saw us it shot across the gully and disappeared into the cliff on the opposite side.  There was no time to do anything with the camera, but the moment will remain photographed on the mind's eye for a long time to come.