Nature Notes from Argyll
(and occasionally other places)

Fri 20 Apr 2007 Taynuilt

Primula veris   Oxalis acetosella with mauve flower

I don't think Cowslips are native here in the West, and most seem to be along roadsides in front of gardens, but I have found one or two at quite a distance from any house or garden, including the one above, and as it's a native British plant I'll give it the benefit of the doubt.  It's very nice to see them.

Yesterday I saw my first ever Water Shrew, got good views of it but not enough light for photos.  It was near the old pier at Taynuilt and crossed the road in a leisurely fashion.

Fri 27 Apr 2007 Inverawe

An unusually deep mauve flower on this Wood Sorrel (above right).  They normally have white petals with violet veins.

Path at Inverawe   Andricus fecundator gall

A glimpse of the attractive countryside at Inverawe.  The RH pic shows the Oak Artichoke Gall caused by Andricus fecundator.  The galled bud is swollen to several times the size of the normal ones.

Still plenty of Peacock butterflies about, and several white ones which are probably Green-veined White.  Also a couple of Small Tortoiseshells, and my first ever Orange Tip, a species which does not occur in Skye.

Green Tiger Beetles are also about.  On the bird front, Common Sandpipers have taken up residence along the River Awe.  They fly about over the river almost like Swallows, and at the same time as Swallows, but the latter are more numerous and generally higher in the air.  Saw a Roedeer in the woods.

Hawthorn is in bud everywhere now.  Some Bluebells are in flower and some in bud, but the majority are still just leaves.

Thu 3 May 2007 Glen Nant Caledonian Forest Reserve

Heard first Cuckoo.  Not a great many Peacock butterflies today, but hordes of Speckled Woods.

Gymnocarpium dryopteris   Pararge aegeria

Glen Nant is an ancient oakwood which was formerly used for charcoal-making but is now a nature reserve.  The trees are coppiced in one area, but otherwise are allowed to grow naturally, creating conditions like those in the LH pic where a small stand of Oak Fern rises from the mossy woodland floor.  Such shade is a welcome respite from the incredibly hot Spring sun we've had of late.  The RH pic shows a Speckled Wood butterfly on a fallen tree in a sunny glade.

Formica aquilonia nest   Formica aquilonia on nest

The reserve is home to many colonies of the Scottish Wood Ant, whose nest is shown on the left.  On the right is a close-up of the nest surface.  The ants are a bit hard to make out but there are at least 30 of them in the picture.  Much of the nest surface was covered with Birch catkins, both closed and open ones, which the ants have collected from the area round about.  Afterwards I noticed that there were as many Hazel catkins as Birch on the woodland floor, and next time I'll make a point of checking whether the ants use these as well, or only the Birch.

Carex pilulifera   Formica aquilonia carrying dead Oniscus asellus

The nest had been colonised in turn by tufts of Pill Sedge, one of which was so advanced as to be in fruit, way ahead of any other Sedge species I've seen this year.  Away from the nest, the ants go back and forth along clear-cut trails which would be easy to recognise even in the unlikely event of no ants being present on them.  By following any of these trails you can find the nest - follow the direction of ants who are carrying something!  Actually I saw no ants carrying nest material, and only a few carrying food items.  The vast majority of the thousands streaming towards the nest were as empty-handed as those coming away from it.

The ants also disperse away from these trails to cover the ground in a more general way and in particular to climb trees.  The one in the RH pic has just come down from an near-dead Birch with a dead Common Shiny Woodlouse in its jaws.  Or possibly it is just the cast skin of the woodlouse, a creature which undergoes frequent moults.

Vaccinium myrtillus   Vaccinium myrtillus ascending tree

In places the ground vegetation is mainly Bilberry, with its rather sparse red flowers.  This plant also has the ability to climb trees; in the RH pic the base of the highest Bilberry shoot is 62 cm above the highest non-vertical surface.  There is some Honeysuckle lower down on the tree, with greyer-green leaves, the rest is all Bilberry.

Anthoxanthum odoratum   Bunodophoron melanocarpum with apothecia

Sweet Vermal Grass is still the only grass in flower.  Here is one with exceptionally long stamens, perhaps due to the deep shade.  This lichen growing on the end of a log is Bunodophoron melanocarpum which we had before on 25/5/05 but without apothecia.  This is the first time I've seen the black fruit-bodies which are said to be very rare (assuming that's what "very rarely fertile" means in Dobson 2005).  They are remarkable for the tangle of rhizine-like hairs protruding from their surface.  There are also tiny black cylindrical fruiting-bodies of some kind scattered on the podetia surfaces.


All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer