Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)
Sat 16 Jul 2005
The first day of a four-day Field Trip to Sleat, in South Skye, by the Botanical Society of the British Isles. About 20 members came from various parts of the country and each day we divided into three groups led by local botanists, of whom I was one, although I had a lot more to learn from the other participants than they did from me, since it was the first time I had been on a BSBI meeting or done any tetrad recording.
The plan was allocate each group to a tetrad (2x2 km grid square) which they would explore during the day and record all species found in it. Later in the day the groups joined up and were taken to see various local plants of interest.
The level of expertise among the other members of my party was such that even on home soil as I was, they were soon finding species, subspecies and hybrids that either I had not found before or would not have been confident in identifying.
Unfortunately it rained nearly all the time. This didn't dampen our spirits but it limited the use of the camera.
On the first day we visited the tetrad which includes Tormore, south of Ardvasar. Here we found plentiful supplies of one of Britain's smallest flowering plants, Chaffweed, which I had never spotted before in Skye. It was by the roadside, cunningly disguised among Procumbent Pearlwort, and also occurred among short grass at the top of the shore. The fruits like tiny apples can be seen in the picture (e.g. near top left corner). On the right is a specimen of Babington's Orache which I thought might be the rarer Atriplex praecox, but apparently not!
We did get the first ever record of Juncus ambiguus for Skye proper, as opposed to Raasay. It is similar to the familiar Toad Rush and until recently was included in it which accounts for the lack of records.
Willow hybrids are very difficult but the one on the right was confidently identified as Salix x multinervis, the cross between Eared and Grey Willows.
These two sedges on the upper shore were identified as Carex viridula ssp viridula, and Carex x fulva, the latter being the hybrid between Carex hostiana (Tawny Sedge) and Carex viridula (Yellow Sedge).
Gnaphalium sylvaticum (Heath Cudweed) was also found in this tetrad.
Sun 17 Jul 2005
On this day we did a tetrad in the Isle Ornsay area. It was very wet once again. We found large amounts of Lesser Skullcap, which I hadn't seen for years.
This Mop-head gall (Chirosia betuleti) on Lady Fern was pointed out by fern expert Mike Taylor before the rain started. Later we found a Bird Cherry tree covered with the gall of Eriophyes padi, but it was too rainy to take a picture at the time so this is a leaf I brought home.
The only other pic I took that day was this Sea Clubrush at Isle Ornsay.
Mon 18 Jul 2005
We intended to do a tetrad on Ben Aslak today but the visibility was too poor at high altitude so we substituted one at Kilchrist in Strath, where I found this hybrid Sundew, Drosera x obovata, a cross between Round-leaved and Great Sundews.
The rain had made the water level of Loch Kilchrist so high that even when you waded in up to the tops of your wellies it was still land plants you were seeing in the water below you. So we were let off the difficulties of identifying the many different Pondweed species that occur in the loch, since we couldn't reach them. We did find another of the loch's specialities, Lesser Water-plantain.
In the wood across the road from the loch we found a patch of albino Self-heal. The bracts as well as the flowers lack the usual purple colour. Close by was this large sawfly, a species of Cimbex.
Frustratingly the best areas of limestone pavement were a bit beyond the tetrad we were surveying, but we heroically stuck to the task in hand, and managed a few limestone species such as Brittle Bladder Fern and Green Spleenwort.
On the Tuesday there were no tetrads to do, and some of the party went to Raasay to look at some of the specialities there, but as I had covered the same ground last year, and as the weather promised to be useless for photography once again, I did not go with them.
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer