Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)

Mon 22 May 2006 Camas Malag, near Torrin

Went on a Highland Council Ranger walk, looking at the flora of the limestone pavement and the acid heathland around it.  Once again it was like winter when you were in the wind but summer when you were out of it.

Snow on Blaven   Charadrius hiaticula

A dusting of snow had appeared on Blaven overnight; it had gone again by afternoon.  This Ringed Plover was scurrying about on the grass near the car park where we met to start the walk at Camas Malag.

Dryas octopetala   Ematurga atomaria

Many of the plants in the limestone grikes were woodland flowers such as Wild Garlic, Bluebell, Herb Robert and Sanicle.  For them the rocks give the same kind of shade as trees do, with the bonus that they are protected from sheep.  Other plants on the limestone are there because they like the alkaline conditions.  One such is Mountain Avens, shown on the left.  This is its principal flowering time.  Also about at ths time is the Common Heath moth, of which we saw several fluttering over the heather, but I couldn't get a good picture.  This one is a female.

Thu 25 May 2006

Another Highland Council Ranger Walk, this time to the tidal island of Oronsay, near Ullinish.  Despite the dodgy forecast it was dry all the time we were out, but bucketed down soon afterwards.


This picture shows the strip of beach connecting the Skye mainland to Oronsay for all but two or three hours on each tide.  There were several Ringed Plovers about as we crossed to the island, including at least one chick, so they obviously nest here.  Skylarks were singing almost the whole time we were on the island.

Oronsay may not look very colourful from a distance, but some of the cliffs on its far side were a riot of colour, made up mainly of Bluebells, Thrift, Sea Campion, Scurvy Grass, Birdsfoot Trefoil and Kidney Vetch.  Many later-flowering plants were in leaf waiting for Summer proper to come along (aren't we all?)

Silene uniflora, Armeria maritima and Bellis perennis

Clifftop flowers from the western edge of the island: Sea Campion, Thrift and Daisies.

Fulmarus glacialis   Sedum acre

Fulmars nesting on the cliffs.  One of the interesting plants I found was this clump of Biting Stonecrop, unfortunately not in flower yet.  I hadn't seen it on Skye before though there are several existing records.  In other parts of Britain I tend to associate it with piers, sea walls and suchlike, but here it was in a very wild place, on crumbly rock that seemed about to fall into the sea.  The vast majority of Stonecrop plants on Skye are the very common English Stonecrop, which does not have such obvious leafy shoots, but looks like a cushion of leaves, with the flowers, when they're out, almost sitting directly on top of it.

Lathyrus linifolius   Salix repens

Away from the cliffs there was not so much of interest, due to sheep grazing, but we spotted this Bitter Vetch, or Heath Pea, whose roots travellers used to eat in the belief that they would keep you going all day without any other food.  It's a plant whose flowers seem to start fading almost as soon as they're out, but this leads to an attractive range of colour forms.  Creeping Willow (right) made a fine display on the rocks with its crimson fruits.

We found a Garden Tiger caterpillar when back on the mainland.  In grassy places on Oronsay we found circles of slightly raised ground, presumably the traces of ancient circular dwellings or other constructions.  They seemed a bit small for dwellings and occasioned some discussion.



All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer