Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)
Tue 4 July 2006 Fearns, Raasay. SWT walk led by Dr Stephen Bungard.
We got off to a good start, seeing a school of Bottle-nosed Dolphins from the ferry to Raasay.
On arrival at Raasay we first went to look at the roadside flora at Suisnish Point, where new topsoil had recently been laid following damage to the road by the January 2005 storms. A number of plants had sprung up here which were unusual for the area, and it was later discovered that the soil had been brought in from the Black Isle. Why this should be necessary when there is plenty of soil on Raasay that could have been used, no-one seems to know. The Long-headed Poppy, shown on the left, was one of the new arrivals. It has been seen on Skye before but very rarely. This was the first record for Raasay. The imported soil also provided the first Raasay record for Common Fumitory, the second Raasay record for Sand Spurrey, and the first in modern times for Corn Marigold. Other interesting items were Heath Groundsel, Sun Spurge and Equal-leaved Knotgrass. These species will not survive for long as they like bare soil, and before long this ground will become as grassy as any other roadside verge.
We then made for Fearns where we looked at the crimson-flowered subspecies coccinea of the Early Marsh Orchid, above right. Then we had a long coastal walk along the east side of Beinn na Leac. Saw the first Common Blue and Meadow Brown butterflies of the year, and several Chimney Sweeper Moths.
The walk was somewhat rocky in places but with much of interest, including these fossil scallop shells. The pebbles in front of them are rather nice too.
The doodles on this Burdock leaf were made by the leaf-mining fly larva Phytomyza lappae. The flower-loving slug is Deroceras reticulatum (ably identified by Roger Cottis).
On the ferry back to Sconser we saw a raft of about 25 Common Scoters. These are not very common off the West Coast of Scotland, though plentiful on the East.
Fri 7 July 2006 Nostie, Lochalsh
A Highland Council Ranger walk to celebrate National Mammal Week. I don't think we actually saw any mammals, but we saw plenty of their signs. We looked at a run made by Wood Mice through the heather, and followed it until we came to a pile of chewed nuts showing the tooth-marks that distinguish a Wood Mouse from a Bank Vole.
We followed some otter tracks and found several spraints, and places where they wash the salt off their fur in freshwater pools and then roll on the ground nearby. This piece of lobster may well be the remains of an otter's meal as it was on the route of their tracks.
If you're wondering what the second picture is all about, a lot of these animal signs are very hard to show in photographs, and are equally hard to spot in the field if, like me, you don't know what you're looking for, but fortunately the Countryside Ranger Sarah Kay has the necessary expertise. This is a place where a badger has scraped the moss away from the topsoil to look for worms. We also found several places where badgers had dug for worms using their snouts, and we followed a badger trail for some way through the bracken.
The Common Blue butterfly, and a mating pair of the White Ermine moth from two different angles. Also saw the first Speckled Woods of the year, and a 6-spot Burnet moth.
This Pale Toadflax caused some interest. It's an uncommon sight this far north, though there is also some in Portree near Tigh na Sgire. It is native in England but introduced in Scotland. Another interesting find was a patch of Amphibious Bistort, whose pink flowers shown here are just beginning to open. Gipsywort was found in places along the shore and Skullcap was plentiful.
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer