Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)

Sun 22 May 2005

Today I did my moorland BTO survey square at Glenhinnisdale.  This was the third year, and the fifth visit, since there are two visits per year.  It was disappointing in that, although conditions were perfect, the usual Stonechat, Whinchat and Golden Plover were absent.  Hopefully they will show up on the second visit.  The square did yield a Snipe for the first time, but that doesn't really compensate.

Unknown mushroom on Sphagnum in May   Unknown mushroom on Sphagnum in May

Walking back from the survey area I found these mushrooms growing in a patch of Sphagnum.In an ideal world there'd be some way to filter the list of mushrooms for types that grow in Spring and on Sphaghum, but alas there is no short cut of that kind and one can only leaf laboriously through the entire book.  Spores rich buff, same colour as gills in pic.  Base of stem joined to Sphagnum in several places.  Cap shallowly conical with a slight umbo when young.  Cap and stipe felt slightly viscid in the field, but did not remain wet after a few hours at home.  Stipe smooth, fibrous, flesh inside pale yellowish-brown.  Has a faint baked smell, like baked potato but without the potato.  Possibly a Galerina species?

And now a cautionary tale.  I noted that some of the mushrooms had a dark spot in the centre of the cap, and were a different shade of brown.  I assumed these were the same species, since it is so unusual to find mushrooms at all at this time of year that the chance of finding two different species together like this seemed negligible.  So I didn't bother to photograph them, but did bring some home, and they proved to be a different species, having white spores.  The stipe is grooved and thickened upwards, more or less hollow, fibrous, dark brown.  Gills free or at least very adnexed, cap inrolled below when young, striate when older.  The spot in the centre of the cap is a dark blotch the colour of the stipe, with no change in height or consistency.  Wish I'd taken a photo of them as they're very distinctive when you examine them closely, but I can't find them in the books.

Prunus padus

Evening, Portree, Bird Cherry, shade

Tue 24 May 2005

Evening, Scorrybreac

Evening, Scorrybreac

Wed 25 May 2005

Scottish Wildlife Trust boat trip to Soay.  If only it had been yesterday, in the nonstop sunshine.  The rain, though, was not quite as bad as forecast.  At times it dropped to the level of desultory drizzle and I managed to get a few soggy pics of whatever was to hand at such moments.  The midges also made photography very difficult, as in those conditions you can only stand still in one place for a few moments before being forced to move on.

As with Rona last year, the island was much more lush and varied than I expected.  This is doubtless due to the fact that these islands are not grazed heavily, and nature is given a chance to show what she can do.  There is a lot of birch woodland with a rich ground flora including plentiful Hay-scented Buckler Fern, Beech Fern, Wilson's Filmy Fern and Common Cow-wheat, as well as the more usual Bluebells and Anemones.  Bilberry is dominant in much of the woodland and also on the moorland beyond it, which is studded with lochs.  I saw and heard Red-throated Divers flying overhead more frequently than anywhere else I've known, so while there's no way to be sure it wasn't the same pair every time, I suspect there are at least two pairs breeding on the island.

Dryopteris aemula, young growth   Prunus spinosa

Young fronds of Hay-scented Buckler Fern beginning to unfurl.  On the right is Blackthorn, very uncommon on Skye and a surprise to find on Soay.  Only the one bush was found.

Another cautionary tale.  After I'd been exploring for a few hours I met another of the party, who asked if I'd seen any Hazel.  My mind went blank.  The place was full of typical Skye scrub that always has lots of Hazel.  But had I actually seen any?  Well, I couldn't recall doing so, but then it's not the sort of thing you'd remember.  I looked around at the woods - mostly Birch, some Rowan, and bits of Willow here and there...

I eventually found one Hazel bush, and in fact was the only person to do so.  It was astonishing that Hazel of all things should be so rare in such a place.  And if it hadn't been pointed out to me I might never have noticed.  We notice the presence of something unusual, but not always the absence of something usual.

Menyanthes trifoliata   Aira praecox

Simplicity and clutter.  The elegant Bogbean in one of the hill lochs, and the matted red leaves and silvery spikes of Early Hair Grass.

Ceratocapnos claviculata   Bunodophoron melanocarpum

Climbing Corydalis is quite a scarce plant on Skye so it was nice to find some on Soay.  The lichen on the right was a new one to me, and I'm not sure of the ID but suspect Bunodophoron melanocarpum. (Later confirmed).

Puccinia nemoralis   Puccinia nemoralis

Just before we left I found this stonking gall on Cow-wheat.  It is Puccinia nemoralis, or Cow-wheat Cluster-cup as it's been known to generations of country folk.  This is described in British Plant Galls as "very rare", while the BMS database only has 6 records, all from Wales.  However I'm told there have been some records from Scotland which are not yet in the database.

Soay street scene


Soay harbour, looking north towards Skye

I didn't want to leave.  One could easily spend a week there, or even a lifetime.

On the way back we saw two Basking Sharks and a Porpoise, but they had to remain unphotographed due to the heavy rain.



All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer