Nature Notes from Argyll
(and occasionally other places)
Sun 24 Jun 2007 Taynuilt
The lichen Opegrapha atra, which is common on smooth-barked trees such as Holly and Ash. Here it's on Holly. There were many of these Forest Bug nymphs on the leaves of various trees and bushes.
Found this intriguing leaf-mine on Sycamore which I'm unable to identify. Two leaves are sewn together; in the first picture you can see the lower leaf through the notch at the bottom left of the upper leaf. The second pic shows the underside of the top leaf. The mine looks the same from both sides of the leaf. It has black frass along the margins of the mines and along the edges of any large veins within the mines. The end of the mine leads into a "web" on the leaf underside, as shown in the second pic, where silk has been woven hundreds of times back and forth across the gap between two veins. There were two such webs on the leaf and the start of a third. Only the green mine at the top of the first pic does not have a web below it. The larva is shown in one of its cocoons in the pic below left. In captivity it sewed the two leaves together again after I separated them.
I then found exactly the same thing on a Beech leaf close by, as shown in the middle pic above, where again the leaf is woven to the one below it. The occupant this time was the red insect on the right, but I'm sure this is not the original miner and may be a predator on it, since no moth larva was present. The mine-web arrangement is very similar to that of Bucculatrix micro-moths, but no species of this genus mines Sycamore or Beech. In fact it would be most unusual for any one leaf-miner species to occur on two such unrelated trees, yet it's hard to believe that two different species were involved. I don't know what to think about this.
Tue 26 Jun 2007 Seil Island. Visited the Ballachuan SWT reserve hoping to see the Marsh Fritillary butterfly, but only saw Speckled Woods.
The hybrid between Heath Spotted Orchid and Fragrant Orchid. The RH pic shows how the spur bends when it hits the stem. In HSO the spur is not long enough to reach the stem, while in FO it glides gracefully past it. In the hybrid it seems to get caught out.
The reserve has a wonderful marshy area which includes some fine stands of Narrow Buckler Fern, above left, and also a lot of Skullcap, a plant that on Skye is strictly coastal but which I've now seen in a number of inland localities in Argyll. The reserve's coastal strip also has a rich flora including Gipsywort, above right.
Another coastal species, False Fox Sedge, showing its foxy nature rather well in this pic. I was puzzled for a long time by an extensive stand of very tall rushes, with tight inflorescences each made up of two apparent "heads" merged together, figure-of-8 style, as shown. The upper bract, which normally looks like a continuation of the stem (in Soft Rush and, in my experience, Compact Rush too) was bent back somewhat in these.
I began to wonder if I had the elusive Soft Rush x Compact Rush hybrid on my hands, though it seemed far too tall for that, being tall even by Soft Rush's standards. But after careful examination I could only conclude that it was, even more remarkably, an extraordinarily tall version of Compact Rush, normally a modest little plant totally different in habit and jizz to these monsters.
Two bumblebees foraging on Thyme, Bombus pratorum and Bombus pascuorum. These coastal banks must be superb for insects when the sun is out, but it stayed behind the clouds. Chimney Sweeper moths were about in the bracken.
There were some very tasty Bilberries in the clearings to please the palate, and the Northern Downy Rose in bloom to please the eye. More of it below.
Fri 29 Jun 2007 Fearnoch (near Taynuilt)
Did some recording along forestry tracks. Highlight of the outing was a butterfly I'd not seen in Scotland before, and I had no idea what it was until I looked it up in the book at home.
It's a Ringlet. Clearly a male owing to the dark upperwings (which looked black in the field) and small size. It was rather camera-shy and hard to stalk but I managed these long-distance shots.
Common Blues were plentiful along the forest rides; this one is on White Clover. It's the first open-winged close-up of one that we've had on the site. The antennae are rather fine. The yellow flower is Trailing St John's Wort which I found in a couple of places on the edge of the track, a much smaller species than the typical members of the family.
As in Glen Nant, the Fearnoch forest is full of wood ants, but here they are able to use conifer needles to make their nests. In one place there were two large mounds next to each other, one looking rather waterlogged and with the top caved in, the other much fresher. The ants were carrying spruce needles from the old one to the new one. Both nests were beneath a Spruce tree, but the new one was a bit further out from the trunk. The idea seemed to be to rebuild the nest on its new site using the original materials. The old nest had a lot of Wavy Bittercress growing in it. A third nest nearby seemed even older as it had a dense cover of Polytrichum moss up to 3/4 of its height. It's interesting to speculate whether the ants approve or disapprove of vegetation growing in their nests. It may protect it from extremes of temperature but may keep it too damp and prevent fresh air circulating.
Also saw a Treble-bar Moth on Short-fruited Willowherb. Smooth Sedge (Carex laevigata) was an interesting find along the banks of a small burn in the forest.
This green insect was on Great Woodrush. It's definitely a heteroptera nymph, and may be that of Stenotus binotatus, but I'm just guessing.
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer