Nature Notes from Argyll
(and occasionally other places)
Sat 26 May 2007 Taynuilt
Quick evening stroll down to the pier. The Hedge Garlic which sprung up between the road and the shore, somewhat to my surprise as it usually likes something at its back, has been blasted by wind and tide as it finished flowering. You can see the brown seaweed piled up behind it, and the leaves turned brown at the edges. Another surprising white crucifer was this little Smith's Pepperwort (above right) which I found among grass by the shore, just the one stem, though a good search might produce others. I've only previously seen it on, or at the foot of, walls. Not a great pic, surrounded by taller vegetation in the fading evening sunlight, but it shows the hairy pod-stalks well if nothing else.
Sun 27 May 2007 Between Kilchrenan and Inverinan
Without a doubt one of the glories of Argyll for the naturalist is its oak woods. Not only do oaks support a wider range of invertebrate life than any other tree, they let in enough light for a rich ground flora to develop. The LH pic shows a young oak, probably about one year old, with deep crimson leaves. Even on the mature trees there is a red tinge to many of the new leaves, as seen in the RH pic, where the leaf is distorted by two incipient galls of the gall-wasp Andricus curvator. Numbers of this species have apparently plummeted in much of England, but it is alive and well in Argyll. The two galls will grow much larger and coalesce during the summer.
Two of the plants that enjoy the conditions on the oak-wood floor - Wood Speedwell and Common Cow-wheat.
Yellow Pimpernel is abundant in the wetter parts of the wood, while in the more open areas Bugle and Tormentil flourish. The former is very popular with the Green-veined White butterfly, and numbers of them were searching out every Bugle plant they could find, ignoring all rival attractions. There were several Orange Tips about too but as usual none of them would land on anything. It's becoming a big thing with me to get a photo of one.
This Agapetus fuscipes caddis-fly was resting one of the lower leaves of the Wood Speedwell. Thanks to Ian Wallace for the ID. The Micropterix calthella micromoths were feeding on buttercup pollen, and there were similar groups in other buttercups nearby. Thanks to Stuart Dunlop for the ID.
This is the sub-adult stage of the Mayfly known as the Late March Brown (Ecdyonurus venosus). Mayflies are unusual in having a winged stage before the full adult stage. In this species, the full adult has clear wings but the sub-adult has them mottled. On the right is a Cranefly of some kind on Greater Stitchwort; these were frequent visitors to a patch of the plant.
We have a Large Red Damselfly pic every year, but I can't resist, they're so approachable. The Common Blue is much more wary and I could only get this distant shot.
A couple of new moths for the site. The Red-necked Footman on Scaly Male Fern and the Clouded Border on Wood Sorrel.
This is same Soldier Beetle as we had on 4 June 2006, Cantharis pellucida. It was behaving in a similar way, climbing to the top of a grass blade, looking around and then trying another one. Only sometimes it would walk back down the one it had just come up, whereas its Skye cousin would always fly down.
The pics I took of it turned out almost identical to the ones I took the previous time. But I did happen to click the shutter at just the right moment when it had snapped open its wing-cases and begun to unfurl its wings.
You can just see it saying to itself, "Hey, there's another blade of grass over there. If I climb to the top of that one I'll surely find what I'm looking for. Let's go!"
View down Loch Awe from near Kilchrenan
Away from the wood, a couple of sedges of wet ground. White Sedge from acid bog and Bladder Sedge from rushy marsh. It was the first time I'd seen the latter plant, which is similar to the very common Bottle Sedge but without glaucous leaves and with the fruit more gradually narrowing to the beak. Apparently it is quite frequent in central Scotland but becomes a lot scarcer north of the Great Glen, and was not present on Skye. I did try to take pics of the whole plant but it is almost invisible in them against the background of rushes, so I'm just showing this one of the lower, pendulous fruiting spike.
= = = Dry Stone Wall Survey = = =
Found one new wall, but it was the best yet. It had just one vascular plant, Common Polypody, but enough mosses and lichens to keep you going for a lifetime. Here are just a few of them.
The beautiful tree-like lichen Sphaerophorus globosus and the equally intricate glossy brown Coelocaulon muricatum (with bits of spider web).
Two lichens that are whitish above and black below. Platismatia glauca, and either Hypogymnia physodes or H tubulosa. I couldn't tell which, as the soredia had not yet formed on the lobe tips, but I suspect it's H physodes.
These two red-fruited Cladonias made a fine sight growing next to each other. The greyish one is C macilenta, and the pale one C diversa, which we had last time but here the red apothecia are much better developed.
There were several other kinds of Cladonia on the wall. This one is C cervicornis. It has small brown fruit-bodies instead of the bright red ones of the earlier species; they are around the rims of the cups, often on tiny stalks. Some of the cups have further cups growing out of them, and the two large ones towards the left have their edges surrounded by squamules, looking rather as if they've been decorated with sea-shells. (Some Hypogymnia is visible at the top of the picture).
I can get nowhere with identifying the moss on the right despite its vivid yellow and red setae with long thin brown caps. The fresh leaves are pale translucent green and have inrolled margins. They are around 5 mm long and taper to long thin points the same colour as the rest of the leaf. The stems have a white tomentum where the leaves are green; brown where the leaves are brown. Leaves not secund or falcate but their tips spreading in random directions.
The moss surrounding it is of course Racomitrium lanuginosum,
which looks like being a "constant" of the dry-stone wall community.
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer