Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)
Sun 11 Jun 2006 Loch Slapin.
Parked at the head of Loch Slapin and wandered up the east side of Loch na Sguabaidh and back down the other side. A stiff breeze was blowing.
The Four-spotted Chaser again, showing all the wing venation. This is a female but the male is the same apart from the appendages at the end of the abdomen. She was sheltering on heather behind a small hillock that kept the wind off (and so was I).
The spotted/marsh orchids (Dactylorhiza sp) defy every attempt at classification. The one on the left is presumably the Heath Spotted Orchid but has the lip very deeply divided with the middle lobe turned up behind. The one on the right may be a hybrid between Heath Spotted Orchid and Early Marsh Orchid. It has the recurved lip sides and the thick spur of the latter, but the wavy lip edges and the general colouring of the former. Both these were on the heathery slopes on the west side of Loch na Sguabaidh.
Wet flushes on the hillside had the Dioecious Sedge, whose male (left) and female (right) spikes look similar to those of many other sedges, except that it has them on separate plants, the only Skye sedge to do so.
A remarkable number of alpine plants occur on river gravel at sea level between Loch na Sguabaidh and Loch Slapin. (The former is a freshwater loch and the latter a sea loch; a short stretch of river joins them). These plants wouldn't normally survive for long at such a low altitude, but they are constantly replenished by seeds washed down by the mountain burns. On the left is Northern Rockcress, with two mauve flowers and one the more usual white. Within three paces of this plant were three other alpines: Moss Campion, Alpine Lady's Mantle and Mountain Sorrrel. Just for the record, the non-alpine species growing in the bare gravel within the same radius were Sea Plantain, Early Hair-grass, Red Fescue, Self-heal, New Zealand Willowherb, Dog Violet, Wild Thyme, Fairy Flax, Viviparous Fescue, Heather and Sweet Vernal Grass.
The RH pic shows Moss Campion together with the silvery-edged leaves of Alpine Lady's Mantle, growing on a mossier part of the river shore.
The head of Loch Slapin can be a sombre place for much of the year, hemmed in by mountains that draw down cloud and funnel furious storms. (I lived there during the winter of 1988-9, when three months of continuous gales were relieved only by a hurricane that sent boats flying through the air and left us without power for three days). But when the Wild Iris beds around the head of the loch burst into flower, it's the sign of a brief truce. Cheered by the sight, the mountains smile.
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer