Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)
Sun 25 Jul 2004
One thing that's happened with this diary is that in Spring I was including all the common flowers as they came out, such as Celandine and Primrose, and so giving an impression of what you would actually see as you walked around. But now it's summer I'm going off on expeditions to hunt for rare plants and mostly only bothering to photograph those. I hope to find time to do a day or two's pictures of the plants that are commonest at this time of year. As a foretaste, the Bog Asphodel, below left, is one of the most conspicuous flowers at the moment on the moorland that covers most of the island.
There is a good crop of nuts on the Hazel this year, still unripe as in the picture on the right. Back in February I mentioned the fact that only a proportion of the bushes seemed to have any female flowers and wondered whether this was actually so. The Hazels that I looked at today all had some nuts, so they must all have had female flowers, but I need to look at some other Hazel areas before coming to any firm conclusions.
I noticed today that the Dipper was back on the burn that enters the sea just below the Cuillin Hills Hotel. I hadn't seen it for some time, but there have been Dippers on and off there for years, appearing at all seasons. I don't know if they actually breed there; I've yet to see a young Dipper anywhere! In fact I think I've only once seen two Dippers together at this spot, and don't recall seeing two together anywhere else at all.
In the same area, today at around noon, I saw a small bat, probably a Pipistrelle, flying around in broad daylight, sunlight in fact. I watched it for several minutes. It behaved exactly like a bat at evening, and seemed blissfully ignorant of the unusual hour. Trying to account for this I wondered if it had been disturbed from its resting-place, but in that case it would surely look for somewhere else to hide, not fly around catching insects. An explanation that fits the facts better is that it, or its young, were so hungry that it couldn't wait till evening. Does this ever happen with bats? There are so many midges about of an evening you wouldn't think there'd be a bat food shortage.
I once before saw a bat flying at midday. This was in Sleat (South Skye) in the 1980s. It was a large bat and flew out from a house roof and circled slowly round. I was astounded at this sight as there were three things new to me about it: I'd never seen such a large bat, I'd never seen a bat fly slowly, and I'd never seen a bat fly in broad daylight. It soon went back where it came from (I don't think I actually saw it come in and out from the roof, but it's hard to remember). Now at last I've seen another bat fly in broad daylight, but one that was normal in other respects.
Mon 26 Jul 2004
While at Dingwall, on the east side of the mainland, I went for a walk through Craig Wood and Tulloch Wood, following the route shown on a leaflet "Paths around Dingwall".
This was the first Bellflower I'd seen for many a long year (not counting Harebells). I used to see a lot of them in woods further south, but they don't occur in Skye. I didn't have id books with me and was not able to identify the species, and can't do so now from the photos or notes I took. On the right is another woodland plant, the Three-veined Sandwort, which does occur in Skye but not commonly and I've yet to see it here.
The woods had large amounts of Enchanter's Nightshade, Herb Robert (growing on level ground; in Skye it's more usual on rocks), Nipplewort, Wood Dock and Stinging Nettle. I was surprised at the absence of Dog's Mercury, which is very common in woods around Inverness. Common Spotted Orchid was frequent, in more shade than I'm used to seeing it on Skye.
The stem of this Cep (thanks to Gill for the id) was a massive 10 cm thick. It was well past its prime and both stem and cap were breaking up, but it looked all the more imposing for that. It was growing on Beech roots.
These were on a long-fallen Lime trunk and had yellowish-buff spores, fibrous stipe, gills dark brown, decurrent. Don't know what they are.
Took several shots of the Forest Bug, above left, but none of them were much good. The snail on the right was a bit easier. It was not in the wood but on a stone in the middle of a track, in a totally open and dry situation. I take pictures of snails whenever I get the chance because I have a couple of good snail id books which have never yet let me down, but on this one I've only been able to narrow it down to 4 species in 3 different genera (2 different families) and they all have major points of disagreement with it. I expect I'll get there in the end. It has a grey body and an extremely large and deep umbilicus.
The last three pictures were taken along the canal towpath. The first is Eriophyes laevis, a gall on Alder. The second is Sycamore Tar Spot, which seems to affect every single Sycamore leaf in that part of the country, but I have not seen it on Skye. The third is a close-up of Tansy flowers.