Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)

Tue 30 May 2006 Scalpay.  This year's Scottish Wildlife Trust boat trip was to the Isle of Scalpay, which is very close to Skye.  The crossing only takes a couple of minutes.  But as the island is privately owned there is no ferry service, and for many of us, including me, it was a first visit.  I headed for Loch an Leoid to hunt for the Interrupted Clubmoss, which grows in several places on Scalpay though it has never been found on Skye.

Lycopodium annotinum   Lycopodium annotinum

When we got to the right spot it was easy to find and very plentiful.  It was growing vigorously in boggy heathland similar to that which covers much of Skye, so it's a mystery why the plant doesn't occur there.  All 6 British clubmoss species have now featured on this site; the other 5 were from Skye itself.

Green aquatic blob   Green aquatic blob   Green aquatic blob

I need some help with this one.  A mysterious green blob about 2.5-3 cm wide, attached to a piece of alga, submerged in a loch.  The first picture is in situ, the second shows it held up by the attached alga, and the third shows it placed half in the water.  It was replaced in the loch afterwards.  I've no idea what it is.

Gymnocarpium dryopteris   Ophioglossum vulgatum

It was a good day for ferns.  On the left is an Oak Fern, growing on a wet mossy woodland bank.  On the right are young fronds of Adderstongue, which I found growing under Bracken while waiting for the boat back.  We also found Mountain Male Fern at a fairly low altitude, and some suspected Northern Buckler Fern (to be checked later in the year).

We saw a Goosander flying overhead, which it turned out had been put up by other members of the party, who also saw Red-throated Divers.  As it would be rather late in the season for migration, here's a strong likelihood that both species are there to breed.  There was also much evidence of otter activity.

Looking north from the Scalpay shore opposite Skye

Waiting for the boat back to Skye.

Fri 2 June 2006 Drumfearn.

Neuroterus quercusbaccarum on Quercus x rosaria catkin   Hymenophyllum wilsonii

We've had both the spring and summer generations of the Oak Currant Gall on leaves before, but here is the spring generation on a catkin (gall is the round thing in middle of pic).

We recently had the Tunbridge Filmy Fern so here is Wilson's Filmy Fern for comparison, together with a couple of attractive mosses.  Wilson's is not bluish like the Tunbridge one, and has untoothed capsules.  The veins reach to the end of the leaflets whereas in the Tunbridge they stop short of the ends.  Tunbridge always gives the impression of hanging down in sheets whereas Wilson's gives the impression of tiers sloping forward like half-open blinds.

The woods along the coast north from Drumfearn have copious amounts of Wilson's Filmy Fern on the rocks and tree bases; I've never seen it so abundant anywhere.  Broad Buckler Fern, Mountain Fern and Bracken are also plentiful.  Among flowering plants, Wood Sorrel is abundant and Dog Violet, Sweet Vernal Grass and Golden Saxifrage are all common, with Hairy Woodrush and Celandine fairly frequent.  There are few Primroses and very few Wood Anemones, and I didn't see any Herb Robert.  Pignut and Great Woodrush are also scarce.  Much of the woodland floor is green Sphagnum.  A party of Long-tailed Tits was zitting about, like they do in winter.

Bird feeding area in heather   Eleocharis uniglumis

Up behind the woods is the heather moorland, including this bare mossy patch which is clearly a popular seafood restaurant with the gulls.  The remains were those of crabs, mussels and common whelks.  Saw a fox up here.  They never run away when they first see you.  They stare at you for a few seconds.  Then they scarper.

Back down on the shore there are some stands of the Slender Spike-rush, a leafless plant with upright green stems terminated by a flowering spike as shown.  The lowest glume is short and empty and encircles the spike base, and the second glume is fertile, this can be seen in the picture and confirms the ID.

Plantago coronopus   Carex flacca   Triglochin maritima

Seaward of the Spike-rush zone is very short turf, grazed, exposed and salt-swept, with all its plants dwarfed.  From left to right these are compact versions of Buckshorn Plantain, Glaucous Sedge and Sea Arrowgrass.


All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer