Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)
Sat 8 July 2006 Breakish
A rather soggy afternoon wandering around the moorland behind Upper Breakish. This female Dark Giant Horsefly was doing the same, and was unwilling to fly even when disturbed. She was 24 mm long, the maximum size for the species. The books say that even in the tropics few horseflies get much bigger than this.
White Water-lilies were flowering in the loch and adjacent ditches; they are shown here with Water Horsetail.
Least Bur-reed was an interesting find, and we also spotted another three Lesser Butterfly Orchids to report to the SNH survey.
Tue 18 July 2006 Ardnish
This huddle of young Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars was on a roadside nettle at Waterloo on the way down to Ardnish. The most interesting plant found was Knotted Pearlwort, present in quantity on the rich grassy strip beside Ob Breakish. The pictures show a close-up of the flower, and the "knots" along the stem which give it its name. It is not common in Skye, but is possibly increasing.
Sat 6 Aug 2006 Ardnish
I found this extraordinary item yesterday while out for a brief stroll with no camera. When I returned today to take these pictures, the whitish jelly was in a collapsed state: yesterday it was big and bulging, making the whole thing much more spectacular. Fortunately the yellow bobbles were still there. It must be a slime mould. It was on open moorland and is on heather, bog asphodel and moss. I've never seen anything like it in all my years of tramping the Skye moors.
Well all good things come to an end, and after 25 years on Skye I'm leaving for pastures new. As far as nature is concerned, I'd happily spend the rest of my life here. But other considerations dictate otherwise.
I'm moving to Taynuilt in Argyll. I don't know if I'll restart the Nature Notes site there or not, but if I do it won't be for a while yet.
Thanks to everyone who's emailed with identifications, and please keep 'em coming. Thanks also to the many people who've sent in flattering comments about the site. I hope it will inspire others to do something similar for their area.
Almost all the pictures were taken with my trusty old Nikon Coolpix 995, but some, particularly the long-distance bird shots, were taken with a Coolpix 8800. I don't know of any present-day camera which can match the 995 for macro shots, accurate colour rendition, fast speed, ease of focus and low light performance. I virtually never use flash. I keep the ISO set to 800 which is a match for plants waving about in all but the wildest of Skye gales. The weakness of the 995 is that it is only any use for computer display; the resolution is not high enough for quality prints. If it was, I could have made a fortune from people wanting to use my pictures in books. When my 995 finally gives out (so far it seems to thrive on rough treatment) I'll simply look on Ebay for another one. But if there is anyone out there who's experienced in using a 995 for close-up nature shots, and knows of a modern camera that gives the same performance in every regard but at a higher resolution, please let me know.
Update: Stephen Bungard, the BSBI vice-county recorder for the area which includes Skye, has started a blog about Plants of Skye, Raasay and the Small Isles which anyone who's followed this site will enjoy reading.
Update: Nature Notes from Argyll starts here.
All photos except the last, and all other content copyright © Carl Farmer. Last picture © Christine Martin.