Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)
Wed 21 Jul 2004
A walk to Dalavil in Sleat with the Highland Council Ranger Service. This area is an old haunt of mine from when I lived nearby in the 1980's. The wood at Dalavil was excellent for wildlife then and is even better now that it has been fenced in and the trees are beginning to regenerate. We saw ample evidence of regeneration everywhere, and it looks like the wood has a healthy future.
I was pleased to see the Heath Groundsel was still there on the old ruin where it has persisted for at least 25 years (above left). This species is very uncommon in Skye. Equally uncommon is the Narrow-leaved Helleborine, an orchid which I've always known grew in Dalavil wood but had never found until now. Sarah Kay, the Countryside Ranger, led us unerringly to the spot. Unfortunately it had finished flowering and fruiting (if it did fruit) and just had a stem that ended in mid-air above the ranks of leaves, which still look quite impressive, especially when you know it's a rare orchid (above, right).
On the way into the wood we had good views of this male Reed Bunting in the bracken. Later on, inside the wood, we saw this young Wren skulking in the grass.
There were many Speckled Wood (left) and Dark Green Fritillary (right) butterflies about. Meadow Browns were also plentiful and a Common Blue was seen.
The Dor Beetle at the rear followed the one in front for quite a way and climbed onto its back now and again. Presumably mating behaviour. The right-hand picture shows a tiny Common Toad that crossed our path. We also saw a larger one. Toads seem commoner in South Skye, frogs in the north.
Even a photo as close as this is totally inadequate to convey the dazzling iridescence on the Beautiful Demoiselle damselfly. Dalavil is just about its furthest north station in the country, but it is quite plentiful there, and we got good views of both the male (left) and the less colourful female (right). This species is unique in having all-dark wings; those of the male look virtually black, and the female's are dark brown, with just the small white dot, known as the false pterostigma, towards the end of the wing.
This dark brown dragonfly on the left is a mature female Keeled Skimmer, a species not common on Skye. The red one on the top right did not allow a very close approach, but it can only be the Highland Darter, and the yellow and black one below it is the Golden-ringed Dragonfly. We also saw the Blue-tailed Damselfly.
The Dark Giant Horsefly, Tabanus sudeticus, was laying eggs, apparently, on a grass stem.
The area just beyond the wood was very productive for birds. A moulting adult Golden Eagle circled above us at quite a low altitude, enabling at least its silhouette to be photographed. There were Whinchats calling from the bracken, and a Bullfinch flew across the path. We saw the most incredible assembly of birds on the fence at the edge of the wood. First there was a young Redstart, then a Redpoll came along, then some young Wood or Willow Warblers (yellow legs), and finally a Reed Bunting, all sitting together within a few metres of each other on fence wire. We had no clue as to what attracted them all to that spot.
The picture on the right shows a typical Dalavil scene, the loch through Beech trees. The day was partly dull and partly sunny, with a few spots of rain.
Finally a couple of fungi. The one on the left is apparently called the Sickener, so whatever took a bite out of it probably isn't feeling very well right now. The one on the right is Panaeolus semiovatus, these were very numerous on cowpats everywhere. Thanks to Malcolm Storey for this ID.
For information on further Highland Council Guided Walks on Skye click the link.