Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)

Tue 16 Nov 2004

Digitalis purpurea   Aesculus hippocastanum

Unusually late flowers on the Foxglove.  Together with Eyebright, Broom, Common Hemp-nettle and Corn Spurrey it brings the total plants seen in flower on Skye this November to 65.  Did not see any more after this date (I'm writing this on Jan 12th as I've only just now got enough pics to fill the page!)  I think all 65 were seen within about 2 miles of home, so there must have been oodles more a bit further afield.

Horse Chestnut is not a native tree but its conkers are such a powerful symbol of Autumn they deserve a place on the site.

Thu 18 Nov 2004

Hygrocybe punicea   Hygrocybe punicea

Very few mushrooms around now.  Found these faded Crimson Waxcaps (Hygrocybe punicea) on an exposed grassy headland at Scorrybreac.  A few specimens (not shown) still had patches of their original crimson colour, and one, that I brought home, turned entirely crimson overnight.  Cap surface sticky, stem not.  Stem up to 2 cm thick, cap up to 8.5 cm wide (this rules out nearly all Hygrocybe sp).  No smell, no spores.  Gills curving upwards before they meet the stem, and so only narrowly adnate, though turning down again immediately before the stem to give a short decurrent tooth.  Stem mildly ribbed, with pale yellow fibres inside, not dense, easily compressible or partly hollow, with white material in the centre near the top.  Cap with definite pointed umbo.  The only problem with calling these H punicea is that the cap is supposed to look veined under the lens - these didn't.  Still on the whole I'm satisfied with the ID.

First Woodcock of the autumn seen, though they must have been here for some time.  Woodcock are a very numerous winter visitor to Skye and are frequently put up from bracken, woodland or ditches.  They often keep still until you are only a few feet away, but are so well camouflaged that I for one never see them until they fly off with a great clatter.  I must have missed many marvellous photo opportunities this way, and keep hoping that one day I'll spot one while it's still on the ground.

Fri 26 Nov 2004

Saw two separate parties of Long-tailed Tits in roadside bushes, about 6 birds each, one group had a couple of Blue Tits with them.  Also foraging in the roadside scrub were a handsome pair of male Bullfinches, two Wrens and a Stonechat.

Sat 11 Dec 2004

Brief stroll around Scorrybreac during gap in the weather.  Watched 5 Reed Buntings in a small patch of willow scrub on the hillside.  They remained there for quite a while, perched on the branches and rearranging their positions from time to time.  After they'd gone I noticed a Robin and a Wren in the same clump.  Also saw a Fox Moth caterpillar on dead Molinia.  Only plants seen in flower were Groundsel, Smooth Hawksbeard, Cocksfoot, Meadowsweet, Annual Meadow-grass and Bell Heather.

Sat 18 Dec 2004

Found a dead Hedgehog by the roadside in Portree.  Should have been hibernating, perhaps it came out because it didn't have enough food to last the winter, or maybe its hibernation place had been disturbed.

Wed 5 Jan 2005

The weather has been atrocious for several weeks now, so I haven't been out much and have used the opportunity to catch up with work.  Have also completed the Mallorca section of the site at last.

Waterfall blown uphill

This is a picture taken through my window of a waterfall 2 miles away.  As the water tries to roll over the edge it is blown back by the wind for a distance of up to half a mile as far as I can estimate.

Wed 12 Jan 2005

The appalling weather reached its climax last night with serious storm damage.  A fair amount of trees and masonry were down in Portree, so there must have been real havoc in the more exposed areas of the island.  Sadly one of the two great Monkey Puzzles opposite the Coolin View Guest House is down.  On the plus side, there will be more gaps in the forestry plantations to let in a bit of light and diversify the ground flora and fauna.

Fallen trees
  Potentilla sterilis

Here is some of the tree damage in the woods below the Cuillin Hills Hotel.  After weeks of stormy weather, compounded by the gloom of long dark nights and short hours of daylight, it was good to see the first genuine Spring wild flower of the season (as opposed to kinds that can flower at any time of year) and this Barren Strawberry, which held onto 3 of its 5 petals through the night's gales, takes that honour.

Somateria mollissima

There are always plenty of Eiders in Portree Bay in winter, divided into small groups like this one of 6 drakes and 7 ducks (one of each must be underwater at the time of the photo).  The bird in the bottom left is a Herring Gull.  These typically accompany the groups of Eiders and try to rob them of any crabs that they catch.  These Eiders were either not catching anything or swallowing their catches underwater, and by the time the gull spotted any surfacing Eider and flew across to harry it, there was never anything to be had.



All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer