Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)

Wed 14 Jun 2006 Scorrybreac

Geum x intermedium

Wandered around Scorry while having my car serviced, only took this one pic.  It's the hybrid between Wood Avens and Water Avens, and was growing with both parents.  The hybrid is fertile and back-crosses with the parents to give a range of forms.  This one is more Water than Wood, but it has enough intermediate characters to count as the hybrid.

Sat 24 - Sun 25 Jun 2006 Strathpeffer and surrounding area

A spider identification weekend with Edward Milner, organised by the Highland Biological Recording Group.  I learned more about spiders in 2 days than I would have done in a year from studying the books.  Many people don't realise that the pictures and descriptions in the books are based on preserved specimens, not live ones, and that the keys in the books are based on the characters technically used to define families, genera, etc, which can be very hard to see even under a microscope (such as the number of claws on each foot, which always brought me to a dead end), whereas much easier keys can be made up using characters that are not part of any group's taxonomic definition.

To identify to species level, the palps (male) or epigynes (female) must be examined under a microscope with a good light source.  These organs show clear-cut differences between different species and are quite easy to match against a book that has diagrams of them all.  Unfortunately the only book that has a complete set of these diagrams costs 90.

Over the course of the weekend we visited several habitats in the area and found examples of all but one of the spider families that occur in the Highlands.  By the end of the workshop we were quite proficient at identifying spiders to family level.

I didn't take many photos as this would have slowed down the process of finding spiders and learning about them.  Instead, I'll start taking pictures of the spiders I find back home on Skye, now that I know how to identify them. 

Araniella sp   Amaurobius sp

The Cucumber Spider on Gorse.  This is either Araniella cucurbitina or A opisthographa.  The brown spider guarding its eggs under bark is a Blue-web Spider, Amaurobius similis or A fenestralis, probably the latter.

Tibellus oblongus   Baby spiders on Gorse

Tibellus oblongus, a Crab Spider, and a nest of baby spiders on Gorse, species unknown but probably Araneus diadematus which was plentiful on these bushes.

Wasp nest in heather   Contarinia tiliarum gall

Found this wasp nest attached to a heather stem.  I'd never seen anything like it before, though apparently it is the type of nest made by the common kind of wasps.  I've seen much bigger ones on buildings, but I didn't realise they could be this small (about 5 cm diameter).  Through the hole you could see the larvae wriggling about.  The nest was a beautiful object, rather like a paper lampshade.

While walking around Strathpeffer in the evening I noticed this gall on Lime caused by the gall-midge Contarinia tiliarum.

I stayed in an excellent B&B called Wyvis View which I can thoroughly recommend.  It has a great view over the town to the hills beyond and from the window I was able to watch Swifts wheeling through the air above the rooftops, something you don't see in Skye.



All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer