Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)

Wed 23 Feb 2005

Gallinula chloropus  

Finally managed to get a picture of the first-winter Moorhen that's been living on the Portree Millpond since November.  On the pond it is very shy, but when it makes its morning visit to the nearby farm supplies store to feed on the spilled grain it is much tamer.  The sun was behind it though and there was no way to get round the other side.  Hope I can get a better pic before it flies off for the summer.  Moorhens are rare on Skye and this was the first I'd seen here.

Sat 26 Feb 2005

Sixth successive sunny day and the first on which I was free to get out and about.  Found I had to get used to all the lichens again, as many look completely different in their dry state to how they are when wet.

Lobaria pulmonaria   Lobaria virens

Two Lobaria species here: the first is the common Tree Lungwort (L pulmonaria), which I showed on 12 Feb 2004, but this time it has fruit-bodies, or apothecia, which are not all that common.  Also on this specimen the ridges on the surface have erupted into granular outgrowths, whereas in the earlier picture they are smooth.  On the right we have Green Lungwort (L virens), looking far from green and with abundant apothecia, which it produces much more freely than the other 3 Lobarias.

Ramalina calicaris   Taphrina betulina

Ramalina calicaris, the fourth Ramalina species we've had on the site.  This one is recognised by the channelled branches and numerous apothecia.  The picture on the right shows an incipient Witch's Broom.  These are the birdsnest-like growths on Birch trees, caused by the fungus Taphrina betulina.  Here the buds are crowded together on the branch, ready to form a new tangle of shoots.

Ilex aquifolium - berries   Ilex aquifolium - fallen leaves

Still some berries on the Holly despite all the hungry birds around.  The ground beneath the bush was covered with freshly fallen leaves, this probably has something to do with the recent storm.

Anaptychia fusca and Xanthoria parietina   Cladonia pyxidata

On 13 Feb we had Anaptychia fusca in dark green guise; on the left is what it looks like when dry.  The yellow lichen creeping over it is Xanthoria parietina, of which we had a greenish version on 29 Jan, but the colour difference in this case is not to do with moisture but habitat - this one is on coastal rocks.  We had a close-up of a Cladonia pyxidata cup on 15 Feb but did not show the squamules.  Here they are growing through moss, with one of the cups visible at the top.

Ardea cinerea   Anthus petrosus

The trials of bird photography.  The Heron was digiscoped and it was too near, you can see vignetting in the corners of the picture.  The Rock Pipit was taken with the camera at max resolution and zoom but without attachments.  The bird keeps a constant distance as you approach, so it was the same size in all my shots during which time we both covered a fair bit of ground.  Clearly a larger res camera and/or a higher optical zoom would make all the difference in cases like this (unless, of course, the sneaky birds take that into account and adjust their distance accordingly - I wouldn't put it past them).  Anyway, Rock Pipits hop about on the strandline pecking over the seaweed for crustaceans, and this is what they look like, only bigger.

Wings of predated gull
c 36 cm direct from carpal joint to outer primary tip
  Molehills (Talpa europaea)
Lower right molehill c 47 cm across at widest

Who killed the Gull?  The two wings were intact and were joined by bones.  All the other feathers and the rest of the skeleton were missing.  I don't think this is the work of a fox.  Possibly a bird of prey?  On the right, molehills.  Moles were introduced into the Lynedale area about a hundred years ago, and have thrived in the surrounding countryside ever since but thankfully (from a gardener's viewpoint) have been unable to cross various rivers to colonise the rest of the island.  The ones in the picture were within a few miles of the original introduction site.



All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer