Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)
Thu 8 Jun 2006 Ashaig.
A Highland Council Ranger expedition to look for some sea life. We were handed nets and collecting trays, and we duly marched out to sea as far as our wellies could take us, and swished our nets to and fro expectantly.
Just as we were all moaning that the water was totally devoid of life, I found this in my net after dragging it through some seaweed. It is a Fifteen-spined Stickleback, also known as Sea Stickleback.
These small creatures were very numerous, with several in the net every time it was scooped out of the water. This one was about 2.5 cm long, but most were smaller. It is an Opossum Shrimp, of the Mysidacea group, but I can't id it to species.
This is the Common Shrimp, with a couple of Opossum Shrimps in the tray as well.
One of the party found this strange white film on a stone on the lower shore. Anyone know what it is? Update 2011 - David Fenwick informs me that it's the base of a Balanus species of barnacle.
After the meeting I had a mooch around the ground between the airstrip and the shore. This beetle seems to be a member of the Cantharidae but I can't id it. It looks very similar to some Rhaxonycha species as shown on http://bugguide.net/node/view/118/bgpage but this genus does not occur in Britain.
The levelled ground behind the airstrip is fascinating to explore, though one shouldn't get too fond of it as it will probably be developed when Skye gets its much-needed air service. Being a human-made habitat in the first place we can't complain about that, though the effect on the natural land around is more worrying. Anyway it is a large flat stony expanse, much dominated by Coltsfoot but with an eclectic range of other plants, including large numbers of the stocky Northern Marsh Orchid, which I'd hardly seen in flower this year up to now. More of a surprise was this single plant of Hairy Rock-cress, usually found on limestone cliffs and crags.
Birdsfoot Trefoil is plentiful here, there is some in the background in the orchid picture above. Here is one that is still bright orange after opening fully. I imagine it will turn yellow later on.
Between the embanked area and the sea there is a wonder-world of scrub with a very active bird life, including Whitethroats and Redpolls, but the only one prepared to pose for its photo was the good old Meadow Pipit.
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer