Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)
Fri 9 Jun 2006 Dalavil. Hot and sunny.
I'd never noticed them before but there are stands of Spring Sedge alongside the track to Dalavil. This is quite a scarce plant in Skye. It's not much to look at, being similar to the Pill Sedge but more upright and not tufted (and to prove the ID, the lowest bract has a sheath). Here it is anyway. It's the first sedge of the year to flower and fruit.
Close to the loch there was a bog pool with two pairs of Large Red Damselflies mating. Here is one of the pairs, balancing on a leaf of Bog Pondweed, whose flower-spike can be seen in front of them. The mating performance involves many changes of posture as well as frequent moves to different parts of the pool. The interaction with a second mating pair made the whole inscrutable dance even more entertaining and I could happily watch it for hours on such a summer's day as this. But I had other things on my to-do list...
Before leaving the pool, which was only about a metre across, I noticed this Palmate Newt, which I coaxed out onto land to have its photo taken. I wonder what other animal life lurks in these acid bog pools, which always look so inhospitable.
This was the main object of my visit, the Narrow-leaved Helleborine. It's been a good year for these orchids in Skye, and they have been found in places where they were never known before, but they are still very rare. With the Dalavil one you either get one spike or nothing at all. Last year it was nothing, so when I saw it in bud on my visit last Sunday, I decided to give it a few days to open out and then return, and this is the result. The long grass-like leaves in the picture belong to the orchid.
On my earlier visit I showed the male Beautiful Demoiselle. This is the female. These damselflies are very abundant beside the burns that tumble down through Dalavil wood into the loch. As you clamber up one of the gorges there are likely to be over 20 of them in view at any given moment, resting on bracken tips or tree leaves, both males and females.
Rather an awkward angle but it shows the underwing pattern of the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary nicely. Also saw my first Painted Lady of the year. Among moths the Brown Silver-line was very numerous. The second picture shows a stone used as an "anvil" by a thrush to crack open snail shells. All the shells are of Banded Snails (Cepea sp).
Can't keep dragonflies out of the picture when you're at Dalavil. Here are the Blue-tailed Damselfly and the Four-spotted Chaser.
Finally a couple of plants that grow in the loch. Various-leaved Pondweed, with only the "submerged" type of leaf so far, as it has not yet reached the loch surface. And last year's stems of Common Club-rush, all curved over in the same direction.
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer