Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)

Tue 9 May 2006 Rigg.  Hot and sunny.

Dactylorhiza maculata ssp ericetorum   Petrophora chlorosata

Saw my first orchids of the year.  An Early Purple Orchid was on the side of a gorge and impossible to get a good picture of, but this Heath Spotted Orchid was in its typical habitat of open moorland.  It's exceptionally early as I've not seen any others even in bud yet, apart from one that was right next to this one.  This one is unusual in another way too: it has the side lobes of the lip and the backs of the wings yellow.

The Brown Silver-line moth was resting on the dead stems of its foodplant, Bracken.  From mid-June its caterpillars can be found on the new growth.  I'll be looking out for them.  Also saw a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly.

Myrica gale   Myrica gale

Male and female Bog Myrtle plants beside a burn.  Each bush has flowers of only one sex in any given year, but often changes sex from one year to the next.

Myrica gale   Myrica gale

Close-ups of the male and female flowers.  The newly opened male ones have red stamens but these soon break up to release the golden pollen.  The female flowers have bright red styles and some of the pollen from this particular male will surely find its way to them, as the two plants were not far apart on the burn bank and the male one gave off clouds of pollen when touched.

Top of Rigg Burn waterfall

The top of the Rigg Burn waterfall, where the water swirls its way out of a dark narrow gorge and hurls itself into the freedom of the open sea.  The Early Purple Orchid was a bit further back in this gorge.

View northwards along the coast at Rigg

The coast looking north.  The cliffs have a rich flora of which I recognised Hemp Agrimony and Yellow Saxifrage by their leaves, and would no doubt find more good things in summer.  The wide rock sills between the cliffs and the sea are not very hospitable to life but enjoyed by birds as a place to loaf or fish from as the mood takes them.

Phalacrocorax carbo

This Cormorant with the sun on its back gave a good opportunity to show the blue and brown colouration on a bird that looks all black in most lights.

13 May 2006 Broadford.  Sunny but very cold.

Equisetum sylvaticum   Equisetum arvense

Stands of Wood Horsetail in the wood and Field Horsetail on the shore.  Both are in a young state with branches just beginning to develop.  The trees in the second picture are visibly green; a week ago they would have looked bare.  I was recording in the birchwood along the coast between Camus na Sgianadain and Strollamus.  The first part is fenced off from grazing and the rest is open to sheep.  Most of the usual Spring flowers were present, but I did not find Barren Strawberry or Hairy Woodrush anywhere.  There was Woodruff in the ungrazed bit.  Wild Garlic was local but in big patches where it did occur.

Aira praecox   Modiolus modiolus shells

Thrift is now flowering profusely on the shore but we've shown that a few times.  Instead here is the small annual Early Hair-grass, with its flowerheads still wrapped in their silvery sheaths.  It's growing on shore rocks with English Stonecrop, peeping out at the bottom right, and a moss, bottom left.  The purplish mussel shells washed up are those of the Horse Mussel, much larger than the Common Mussel, and found, when alive, only at the extreme lower shore or beyond.

Pebbles on shore   Mouth of Allt Fearna

There is endless beauty and variety in the shore stones and pebbles, and the way nature arranges them is as eloquent as any of her living creations.  But lest we forget human artifice, here is the mouth of Allt Fearna framed by two bridges, the old round one and the new square one; you can see their separate shadows.  On the left is the tip of Scalpay, with Guillamon Island in the centre, the Crowlins behind that, and in the distance the Wester Ross hills.



All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer