Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)
Tue 15 Feb 2005
Today was both dry and calm! Incredible! No sun though. Oh well, give it a few more months...
Nature and Spruce at war. On the left, damage to a plantation of Sitka Spruce caused by the January 11 storm. This area was dense forestry. On the right, self-sown Sitka seedlings threatening to crowd out the native woodland along the River Varragill. This page will show some of the glories of that woodland that can be seen even in winter.
Two scarce Oceanic lichens from a single tree. The yellow-dotted one is Pseudocyphellaria crocata and the other is Blue Lungwort (Lobaria scrobiculata), the only British Lobaria species to have only a blue-green algal partner and no green one.
A couple of commoner lichens that are easy to find in any wood: Platismatia glauca and Parmelia sulcata.
And now for some Cladonias. These are all growing among moss on trees, and I never cease to marvel at the incredible forms they take.
I think the four above are Cladonia ramulosa, and the one on the left below is C pyxidata. When we lose a tree, we lose not only the tree itself but all these wonderful life-forms that it supports.
In the bottom left corner of the Cladonia pyxidata above you can see some Frullania. This genus of Liverworts, which I've only noticed in recent weeks (pics of F tamarisci on 29 Jan and F dilatata on 13 Feb), was abundant in the damp riverside woodland, the examples I'd found on the earlier dates clearly being just outliers. Also common in the woodland was the blue-staining fungus Chlorosplenium aeruginascens (right), aka Green Wood Cups (Ok, then, the green-staining fungus... ) I've yet to see the fruiting cups of this species but will look out for them in autumn. The stained wood is visible all the year round.
Two resupinate fungi. The one on the left was on the underside and the shaded side of a live Gorse branch, low down on the bush. I can't identify it, so as usual I'll give a description hoping someone can help out. Surface mostly white, concolorously areolate (lens), but brownish-white in places and there more clearly wrinkled-areolate. Occasional bare patches in cortex where medulla shows through. Underside greyer and shallowly but densely tomentose. Upper and lower cortex both thin, with thicker layer of white lichen-like medulla (but no alga) between them. No pores visible on either side through low-power microscope.
The one on the right is the same kind as the one I showed on 20 Oct, which I called "Peniophora quercina or similar". I was glad to find another instance of it. The present one is not so uniformly pink, but has orangey-brown bits, and is undoubtedly Stereum rugosum, and I'm now sure that the 20 Oct one is too, so have changed the wording there. Both were on Hazel.
After all this, it hardly seemed to matter that I had only seen one spring wild flower in Skye so far this year (the Barren Strawberry on Jan 12) but 3 more were added during my foray in the woods. This rather tatty Primrose on a shady bank was the only one of its kind even to reach the bud stage. The equally tatty Celandine was on the bare ground at the river's edge. I did see one other during the day.
There were several Coltsfoot at this stage of development, but none fully opened. The first tree buds I'd noticed showing any activity this year were those of this Grey Willow. On the right is Sphagnum palustre, more of a marsh than a bog plant, which forms large tussocks in a damp rushy area between the river mouth and the trees. Shortly after taking this picture I put up a Jack Snipe from literally one footstep in front of me. I'd been walking and then paused. It didn't fly up straight away. If I'd taken one more step I'd have trodden on it, and if I'd looked down I must have seen it and perhaps got a photo. Surely one day, just once in a lifetime, I'll see one of these things that are right under my nose before it decides to stir itself, and get its picture.
Instead, all we have are more of my sporadic attempts at digiscoping. A sunny day would make all the difference. It was high tide and the Oystercatchers were mostly resting with their bills tucked under their wings. Widgeon are not restricted by the tides and were happily dabbling about in the water's edge.
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer