Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)
Sun 22 Aug 2004
The saga of my efforts to get a good picture of the Common Hawker continues. After weeks of seeing them do nothing but fly about non-stop, on 13 Aug I finally saw one land. But on that occasion I could only get a picture from a distance, making it look very small. Today I disturbed one that was resting on a rock, which would have made a perfect picture if only I'd seen it before it saw me. It flew only a short distance and settled again in the heather. This time I was able to get very close, but unfortunately I could not move the intervening vegetation out of the way without disturbing it again.
So I still don't have the perfect picture of this magnificent creature. I must get in the habit of approaching rocks carefully, because if there is any insect on them then it will be easy to get a picture with the insect in focus, nothing in between, and no background clutter.
This species seems to tolerate more sparsely vegetated and higher altitude lochs than the other dragonflies. Here are a couple of plants from the group of lochs where this specimen was found
On the left, the Water Lobelia, and on the right, Quillwort, a primitive plant related to ferns and clubmosses. In this picture, as well as several Quillwort plants, two small non-flowering rosettes of Water Lobelia can be seen, they are the ones with broader and blunter leaves.
There were a pair of Red-throated Divers on one of the lochs, still in full breeding plumage with the red throats clearly visible - sometimes the red throats can look merely black at a distance or in poor light, so it's especially pleasing when you're able to see them.
It was a perfect sunny day. The heather is now in full bloom and every step you take through it kicks up clouds of pollen, while in the wetter places the Deegrass is already beginning to turn to its beautiful autumn gold. The Meadow Pipits are forming into migration parties - saw one of at least 40 - though some stay with us all winter. A lone male Stonechat was chack-chacking from the top of a heather clump, they seem to do this regardless of season.
I was at the north end of the Trotternish Ridge, on the lower slopes, engaged in one of my fruitless hunts for a particular plant once recorded from the area, so did not often stop to take pictures. Had good views of a fox at one point. Insects were much fewer than in Sleat. The only caterpillars I saw were several Northern Eggars, now grown very large after gorging themselves all summer, and another young Fox Moth like the one I showed on 1 Aug only with orange rather than yellow stripes. It was on Common Mousear but was not eating it; grass and heather were all around.
The second generation of Green-veined White butterflies is now on the wing. This one is a male, and lacks the usual yellow tinge on the underwing. The Eared Willow gall on the right is Iteomyia major, the coalesced cells distinguishing it from the otherwise similar Iteomyia capreae. The galls are very hard to break open; inside each is a cecid larva which hammers the leaf cells with its mandibles and later with its head; this is described on http://www.mycology.uni-bayreuth.de/teaching/gkurs/docs/Iteomyia_capreae.html
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer