Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)

Sun 1 Aug 2004

Erebia aethiops   Erebia aethiops

Usually at this time of year there is an explosion of Scotch Argus butterflies, and today it was in evidence; they are now by far the most numerous kind to be seen, with Meadow Brown second.  The upperside is shown on the left and the underside on the right.

Valeriana officinalis   Volucella bombylans on Centaurea nigra

Here are a couple of flowers that are very plentiful at the moment.  Valerian on the left, and Knapweed on the right, being visited by a the bumblebee mimic Volucella bombylans, a hoverfly.  Thanks to Mike Wilcox for the ID.  It flew away twice as if looking for another flower but came back because this was the only flower open.

I watched a Golden-ringed Dragonfly flying low and fast, back and forth along a small burn, always keeping above the course of the water, not turning aside for prey.  At one point another appeared and they chased each other for a while, turning and tumbling over each other in the air, then one flew off and the other resumed its patrol.  Also saw more of those large blue dragonflies which skim about over the heather and never rest for a second.  I think they must be Common Hawkers.

Livia juncorum on Juncus articulatus   Chromatomyia primulae leaf mine on Primula vulgaris

A couple of plants with uninvited guests.  On the left, a Jointed Rush galled by the jumping plant louse Livia Juncorum.  On the right a Primrose leaf mined by the larva of the fly Chromatomyia primulae.

I also noticed a Primrose plant which had several fresh flowers and buds, just as in Spring.  That leaves Sept-Nov as the only three months in which it doesn't flower here - as far as I know.

Erica cinerea in flower with Calluna vulgaris in bud   Calluna vulgaris

The dark purple flowers in the left-hand picture are Bell Heather, which has been in flower for quite a while now.  The pale dots below it are Common Heather, which is still in bud.  I did find one sprig of Common Heather whose flowers had opened, shown on the right.

Erica tetralix   Macrothylacia rubi caterpillar

Cross-leaved Heather is the third kind of heather found on Skye; it prefers wetter ground but is often mixed in with the other two.  This young Fox Moth caterpillar was on moss and on a grass that was probably Yorkshire Fog, but wasn't eating anything.

At one point I saw eight Stonechats together, at least I couldn't be sure all the birds were Stonechats, but most were.  They were perching on fence-wire and on heather-tops in characteristic style, calling to each other constantly and making flycatcher-type sallies into the air.  Most were clearly young, but at least two had the reddish chest of the adult.  They may have been a family as there are up to six eggs in a clutch.



All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer