Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)
Wed 10 Aug 2005 Isle Ornsay
Stopped off on my way to a meeting to see if the Lesser Skullcap was in flower. It was. Not the pink it's meant to be but a washed out bluish-mauve, which is often the sign of hybridisation with Common Skullcap but there were no other signs of this. The leaves were untoothed and the flower tubes straight. So Lesser Skullcap it is. Also found some Corn Mint hiding on a brambly roadside bank with remarkably bluish flowers. I can't be sure the camera's captured the colour exactly, but from memory it is correct, they looked just like this to the eye. Is there something in the Isle Ornsay soil that makes flowers that should be pinkish turn bluer?
Sun 14 Aug 2005 Skeabost
Ok, that's your quota of flowers, now on to lovely scrunchy galls. Rabdophaga salicis on Eared Willow (left) and on Creeping Willow (right). You must admit they look tasty.
Female Araniella spider on a Gorse bush. The first picture shows the red spot at the rear of the abdomen and the second shows the black dots on the back. There are several species of Araniella but they can only be told apart with a microscope.
Huge numbers of Scotch Argus about. Golden-ringed Dragonfly and Common Hawker seen.
Tue 30 Aug 2005 Kingsburgh
Was very pleased to find this as I needed a pic of it for my Skye botany site. Small Sweet-grass (Glyceria declinata) much trampled and chewed by cattle in a muddy puddle near a gateway. The many Glyceria plants I'd examined previously had all turned out to be G fluitans, but as soon as I saw this one I felt sure I had my G declinata at last, and so it proved.
Brachycolus cerastii was one of the galls seen by the group at Bettyhill which I missed getting a photo of, so I was glad to find this Skye specimen. It is caused by aphids on Common Mouse-ear.
Another notable sight was over 100 Greylag Geese feeding in the fields. This probably represents more than one local group, which have teamed up after breeding and will eventually join up with others to form a still larger flock and fly south for the winter.
Saw first young Drinker Moth caterpillar of this year's brood. Knot-grass Moth caterpillars are also about.
Thu 1 Sep 2005 Braes
Goldenrod at Dunan an Aislidh.
Sat 3 Sep 2005 Scorrybreac
The last fading flowers of Fragrant Agrimony.
Sun 4 Sep 2005 Scorrybreac
This purple mushroom in a Birch wood seems closest to Cortinarius violaceus, out of all the kinds in the books, but that is said to be rare, and "Fungi of the Hebrides" only has it on Mull. It had very dense, dark purple gills, varying from nearly adnate to free. Flesh a mix of pale purple and dark purple. The stem ends in a large club foot. The spores are mid-brown or dark golden. The cap has flake-like tufts which are the ends of its fibres but give a scattered-scaly effect. I have other pictures, including younger fruit-bodies, if anyone is interested in helping to ID it.
Also in the shade was this hybrid between Hedge and Marsh Woundwort, Stachys x ambigua.
Speckled Wood seen.
Fri 9 Sep 2005 Glenbrittle
Glenbrittle has Skye's largest sandy beach and the only one with anything resembling dunes. This gives it a special flora with many species not found elsewhere on the island. It suffered badly in the Jan 11 storm but seems to be recovering well. One of its specialities is Frosted Orache, above left, which shares the sand with the much greener Babington's Orache, above right.
The stems of Ray's Knotgrass snake across the sand. This is another plant that's rare on Skye due to the shortage of sandy beaches.
I did not find Sand Couch, which has been recorded here in the past. There is an unusual form of Common Couch on the sand, with the rachis appearing glaucous between the spikelets owing to dense white hairs there. The bluish effect can be seen in the picture - the spike stretches across the middle of the pic.
There are still a few flowers on the Sea Rocket, which is plentiful here. The picture shows the developing pods, which have a horizontal line near the base dividing them into two unequal parts, each of which has a single seed in.
Turnstones, now in their dull winter plumage
Greylag Geese on the water and Oystercatchers on the shore
Stonechat. Glenbrittle Bridge, that wobbles as you walk, with backdrop of the Cuillins. The bushes on the far side of the bridge were full of finches including Redpolls and what appeared to be Twite, but it was hard to make them out owing to their constant movement and dislike of being approached.
Fox Moth caterpillar seen, eating Birdsfoot Trefoil. Two Knot-grass Moth caterpillars seen in separate places.
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer