Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)
Fri 28 Apr 2006 Kinloch woods
Dry but overcast all day. Things didn't seem much further advanced than the last diary entry 6 weeks ago. In all that time the weather has been exceptionally chilly and has held everything back.
The following plants are flowering profusely now: Celandine, Wood Sorrel, Primrose, Dog Violet, Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage, Gorse, Bog Myrtle, Barren Strawberry, Wood Anemone. The last two on that list seemed somewhat less common in the Kinloch woods than in the woods around Portree. Did not see a Cuckoo Flower or Marsh Marigold all day, with or without flowers.
In many parts of the wood the ground is carpeted with Bluebells, and in most cases these had leaves only, though in one or two places there was a bit of blue showing. Wild Garlic, where it occurred (again less common than around Portree) had also not reached the flowering stage.
So it was a pleasant surprise to find a group of Wild Strawberry plants in flower on a south-facing rock-face. This is the one with edible fruit, that flowers later than the Barren Strawberry. The Hairy Woodrush (right) was also flowering merrily, as was the Field Woodrush, while the Great and Heath Woodrushes also had flowering shoots well developed but with flowers not yet open. Sweet Vernal Grass and Black Bog Rush were at a similar stage. Apart from a few Daisies, the only other plants seen with flowers were one each of Dandelion, Wavy Bittercress and Heath Milkwort.
As regards insects the situation was even more dire. Saw no butterflies all day and only one bee, a Carder on Primrose. Other flying insects could be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Did find a couple of caterpillars. This one, walking about on Great Woodrush, appears to be a young Fox Moth caterpillar, such as you would expect to see in early August. Before hibernating it should have grown much larger than this and lost its orange stripes. Perhaps it is carrying a parasite which has prevented its growth.
The other was a Drinker Moth caterpillar, conspicuous and motionless on dead grass as usual.
The only other non-flying insects seen were 3 weevils all on the same dead grass blade, of which one is shown here. With my limited knowledge of the finer points of weevil anatomy I could only get it to key out to Hylobius abietis, the Pine Weevil, which is eminently possible in that area but doesn't seem to quite match ours, as all the pictures of it show yellow patches on the wing-cases and a more attenuated snout.
The corky fungus growing out horizontally from cracks in a felled conifer is Gloeophyllum sepiarium.
An unusual specimen of the Maidenhair Spleenwort fern, having extra-long fronds with widely spaced pinnae, those in the upper half strongly angled upwards. Growing in a deep gorge in woodland, it must be very shaded in summer and this will account for the growth form. Like most, if not all, plants of this species on Skye, it clearly belongs to subspecies quadrivalens, owing to the overall size and the fact that the pinnae are attached at their corners (see bottom right pic). Yet the rachis is brown, not at all blackish as is usual for the subspecies. On some fronds the basal pinnae were three together (or two, one of which was split to the base) (top right pic).
Spring is here, then, but summer is definitely not. Some warm weather please! The only sign that it was the last week of April was the fact that the birdsong was dominated by Willow Warblers. Hope they're better at finding insects than I am.
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer