Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)
Sat 25 Jun 2005
After completing my BTO survey square I walked along the banks of the River Snizort for a while, starting from where the Portree-Struan road crosses it and continuing upstream on the left-hand bank.
At first the river runs through shallow rocky areas, and here the Grey Wagtail performs its acrobatics. This one was doing a good imitation of a Flycatcher. I also saw a female sawbill duck - either a Merganser or Goosander - fly down the river with a deep cronking quack, but apparently they both make this sound. On the right is a Smoky Wave moth. There were large number of Green-veined Whites around, outnumbering all other butterflies and moths put together. On this particular day the flowers that interested them most were Daisies.
This is totally different country from the Varagill and Hinnisdale river walks that have featured on the site in the past. There are very few trees or bushes along the bank (though there are plenty further downstream between Skeabost and the river mouth) and the land around is flat grazed grassland with very little heather. This grassland has a surprising variety of plant species, since it has every degree of wetness from dry to marshy due to the seepage of the surrounding catchment into the river.
Along the edges of this bit of the river are repeated instances of an interesting plant community on mossy gravel between the water's edge and the bank proper, that must be flooded after every spell of rain. Its dominant plant is Blinks, but it also includes the following (any normally tall plants in this list are dwarfed in this habitat): Daisy, Ribwort, Eyebright, White Clover, Marsh Bedstraw, Creeping Buttercup, Common Sorrel, Lesser Spearwort, Common Spikerush, Marsh Thistle, Meadow Buttercup, Tormentil, Crested Dogstail, Common Mouse-ear, Self-heal, Bog Violet, Tufted(?) Forgetmenot, a very cut-leaved Dandelion, New Zealand Willowherb, Procumbent Pearlwort, Marsh Marigold, Wavy Bittercress, Angelica and Common Sedge.
Further upstream the water is much calmer and deeper with almost motionless areas at the edges of its meanders, and here you get a range of aquatic vegetation. On the left is the Jointed Pondweed, very common in lochs but often too far out to get close to. This was a good opportunity to photograph the flower spike and the jointed leaf at close quarters. The one on the right had me quite excited as it could be the hybrid between Perfoliate and Various-leaved Pondweeds, which has been recorded from this river. But I'll have to check later in the year before I can rule out a very narrow-leaved form of Perfoliate Pondweed, which does have narrower and less perfoliate leaves than normal in Skye's acid waters. This one had many leaves only a quarter amplexicaul, as the picture shows, and its stipules showed no sign of falling, both of which lead me to suspect the hybrid.
The Flea Sedge enjoys having a rocky backrest to fan itself out on. The Early Marsh Orchid occurs here and there in the damper bits of grassland.
This exuberant Marsh Thistle will be quite a sight when all the flowers open. Finally a typical scene from this stretch of the river. In the foreground is Common Clubrush, with the spear-like leaves of Branched Bur-reed in the bottom right corner.
Mon 4 Jul 2005
Two pictures from the Scorrybreac woods. It was the first time I'd seen a Hedgehog there, and I'm not sure whether or not it was a healthy one. It neither moved away from me nor rolled into a ball when I touched it. Yet the movements it made with its head seemed quite lively and after I'd been watching it a while it did turn round into a different position with reasonable agility. Another odd thing about it was being out and about at all in the daytime. It was in dense scrub, but as I understand it a Hedgehog's daytime roost will always be under some cover much lower than a Hazel canopy. Then again, if Hedgehogs waited till dark to emerge at this time of year they'd have virtually no time to go foraging.
On the right is a backlit Aspen leaf infected by what I take to be the fungus Venturia macularis (= Pollaccia radiosa), which eventually turns the affected leaves completely black. It was very virulent on the young suckers and could possibly affect the regeneration of this Aspen clump if it is as bad as this every year. The example shown is from one of the mature trees, which were only lightly affected.
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer