Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)
Sat 26 Mar 2005
Another sunny Saturday. Here is one of the toads that are around the place as I mentioned last time. The second baleful face adorns a gall in which several pupae of the gall-midge Rabdophaga salicis are spending the winter. Presumably the result of two of them making an early exit.
I'm beginning to think spiders are the animal equivalent of mosses, totally impossible to identify. This one keyed out in Aidgap as belonging to the Metidae family, but looked nothing like any of its members in Roberts. The female, who was at the top of the Raspberry cane, is on the left and right, and the male, who was lower down the cane, is in the middle.
One thing I can recognise is a Small Tortoiseshell, and as the first butterfly I'd seen this year it was very welcome. Last year my first Skye butterfly of any kind was on 7 May. On the right is the hollow lichen Hypogymnia physodes, whose inflated thallus is white above and black below. It was growing on the twigs of long-felled forestry brash.
Two plants of the Willowherb family that love cleared forestry and are primed for action. Fireweed on the left and Short-fruited Willowherb on the right.
I keep finding Peltigeras that can't be pigeonholed. This one is positively green, though dryer bits of it are just grey. It does not belong to the green-alga group of Peltigera though. It has numerous rather pale brown apothecia on erect lobes curled right over. The underside is white everywhere, with no clear vein network though with striking white "interstices" or what in any other genus one would call pseudocyphellae (perhaps they're pseudopseudocyphellae?). Rhizines near the edge are white, central ones are black with white bases, and they appear to start off as several strands which then twine together. The thallus surface is not downy anywhere. It was on a rotting conifer stump. Later: Howard Fox has identified this as Peltigera lactucifolia, which it matches apart from having some black rhizines. It seems that with Peltigeras the books refer to the whole of the undersurface as "veins" apart from the "interstices". At that rate you might as well describe a lichen like Sticta sylvatica as having broad brown anastomosing veins with white interstices. End of rant.
I also found what can only be Peltigera collina on a tree trunk, with sorediate edges but with very pale, almost yellow, apothecia that were often broader than long. Books say apo's are rare and dark on P collina.
On the right, what I take to be bird pellets (i.e. regurgitated material, not droppings), but nothing in my bird tracks and signs book matches them. They were placed on a prominent point on top of a mossy dyke. They have absolutely no smell, and are made of something like crumbly chalk, with large numbers of black and grey hairs in them, all these hairs being individual, no matted fur or anything of that kind. There are also many small bits of semi-translucent material that could be bone, feather, shell or even polythene. All this can only be seen at all under the microscope and so is very difficult to analyse. I'm a complete beginner at the tracks and signs game but am determined to get there.
No more summer bird visitors, but there was a Stonechat chacking and I think I saw his mate too. A Long-tailed Tit in a bare bush looked more wintry. Large numbers of Drinker Moth caterpillars have now emerged to stand about all day motionless on dead grass waiting to be eaten. Or so it seems. No doubt they have their reasons.
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer