Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)
Thu 17 Nov 2005 Scorrybreac
After my trip down south I had a lot of work to catch up with, and after that Skye had nothing but strong winds and driving rain until today. Overnight we had the first frost of the winter and we awoke to the unfamiliar sight of blue skies, with little wind and no rain.
I duly went out with the camera but it was hard to adjust to the time of year. There were very few flowers or fungi left. I haven't yet got into my winter lichen-hunting mood and need to brush up on my lichens before I do. Tried a few bird pics but couldn't get close enough. Bird highlights were: first two Woodcock of the winter (but only because I haven't been out for weeks!), a Hoodie and Kestrel disputing some air space, and a trio of Stonechats, two male, one female, balancing on the tops of dead Dock stems.
Tried some views but none were worth keeping. A great swathe of snowy cloud came over and engulfed Raasay, but Skye stayed dry. The sea water looked mighty cold.
The cloud-mass moved on and the blue skies returned. Almost the only mushroom species to be seen was the Crimson Waxcap (Hygrocybe punicea). There were several groups of these in grassy places, mostly well past their best and with the red colour faded, as here.
But when I sat down for a sandwich I noticed at my feet this noodle-like club fungus hidden in the grass (I cleared some grass away for the photo). The only match I can find for it is Clavulinopsis umbrinella, which is not listed in Fungi of the Hebrides but has one record for vice-county 104 in the BMS database. It was in grassland well away from any trees, which is a possible habitat for C umbrinella.
Climbed up a long steep burn and at the top found the first plant in flower that I'd seen for over an hour, Herb Robert. Four photos to celebrate.
Back to all things bright and beautiful now, and this is definitely a new lichen for me, Collema crispum. There are two problems with this ID: C crispum is usually no more than 5 cm diameter and this was three times that; also C crispum only grows on calcareous substrates and this was, presumably, acidic rock (not that I can tell, but in Skye outside the well-known limestone areas the rock is usually acid). All the same it fits it so well that I can't bring myself to doubt it. It was dry after a day in the sun; most pictures show it wetter when its appearance changes.
Fri 18 Nov 2005 Scorrybreac
Similar to yesterday but even colder, and with continuous sunshine.
Frosty weather confuses everyone. Rock Pipit in the bushes and Robin on the shore.
The Gorse is brightening up now with a few scattered flowers on most bushes. Found a Sea Mayweed plant in full bloom; other than that only Daisies, Dandelions and the odd Buttercup are showing any colour. I looked for Scarlet Elf Cups but didn't find any; perhaps it takes them a while to get going after the first frost. The cold snap must have been a shock to nature's system after weeks of mild weather with rain and wind. Everything seemed lifeless, there were just the common birds about, haven't even seen a Redwing yet. Only saw 2 insects, one minute bug on grass that I couldn't re-find after taking my eye off it to get the camera, and one very tiny moth that fluttered about but never landed on anything. Took the odd lichen and leaf-mine pic but when I got home found they were ones we'd already had.
So here is some dead stuff.
Crested Dogstail, Cocksfoot and Yorkshire Fog
Angelica and Meadowsweet.
Bell Heather, Devilsbit Scabious and Ribwort Plantain. While I was taking this group of pics, the sun dipped behind a cloud, briefly reappeared, then dipped behind the hill, leaving the world to frost.
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer