Nature Notes from Argyll
(and occasionally other places)

Fri 13 Jul 2007 Nairn - British Plant Gall Society Meeting - Day 1 of 3

Another highly enjoyable and rewarding Scottish field trip for the BPGS.  Participants included Margaret Redfern, author of "British Plant Galls", Ian Evans, Philip Entwistle and Stephen Moran, all of the Highland Biological Recording Group, Brian and Barbara Ballinger, BSBI Recorders for East Ross, and Jojanneke Bijkerk, creator of the Dutch gall website  Big thanks to all for identification of many things besides galls, and especially to Ian and Philip for organising the event.  I stayed at Glen Lyon Lodge in Nairn which I can thoroughly recommend.  The Al-Raj Indian Tandoori Restaurant in Harbour St wins my vote for top-quality nosh.

As there were virtually no existing gall records from the area, we tried to record as many galls as possible, including the common ones.  I'm not showing a large number of gall photos this time as most of those seen were kinds that we've had on the site before.  The photos will be a mixed bag of galls, plants, insects and other items of general interest.

In the morning we visited the banks of the River Nairn, a few miles upstream from the town.  We explored an area of woodland and scrub with open gravelly patches. 

Coccinella 5-punctata   Tenthredo sp

The best find was this 5-spot Ladybird which is quite a rare insect, confined to river shingle.  It was on a Figwort leaf, but apparently they spend much of their time under stones.  The sawfly on Creeping Thistle is a Tenthredo species, probably T celtica.

Filago minima   Vulpia bromoides

There were some interesting annuals growing on the shingly bits.  These two are Small Cudweed and Squirrel-tail Fescue.

Coincya monensis ssp recurvata   Teesdalia nudicaulis

This yellow crucifer caused much discussion, it turned out to be Wallflower Cabbage.  The white crucifer is Shepherd's Cress.

Myosotis scorpioides, form with all pink flowers   Macrolabis heraclei gall on Heracleum sphondylium

An unusual form of Water Forget-me-not with the flowers remaining pink instead of turning blue soon after opening.  The RH pic shows leaf distortion caused by the gall-midge Macrolabis heraclei on Hogweed.  Other interesting galls found included Semudobia betulae in Birch catkins and Cecidophyopsis atrichus on Lesser Stitchwort.  There were a lot of Red-tailed Bumblebees (Bombus lapidarius) about.

Nemophila maculata   Nemophila maculata   Nemophila maculata

Mystery plant.  Obviously a garden escape, but what is it?  The flower is 25 mm across.  Note the small downturned bits between the main calyx lobes.  The leaves are rather like those of some saxifrages.  The flowers have 4-6 stamens and 2-3 purple styles.  Growing on the edge of the gravel among the herb layer between open ground and scrub.

Update 27/12/09: At last I have an ID for this plant!  Carlos Silva from Portugal tells me it is Fivespot (Nemophila maculata).  In the wild this is endemic to California.  It's a very rare garden escape in Britain, not listed in Stace's Flora or the BSBI checklist.

In the afternoon we visited the dunes east of Nairn, the start of the Culbin Sands. 

Peziza ammophila   Unknown slime mould

Some sand to set the scene, with the Dune Cup fungus Peziza ammophila pushing its way to the surface from the buried Marram roots on which it grows.  The RH pic shows what appears to be a slime mould on Common Vetch and Lady's Bedstraw.  Am hoping to get an ID for this soon.

Brachycolus cerastii gall on Cerastium fontanum   Phragmidium rosae-pimpinellifoliae gall on Rosa pimpinellifolia

Common Mouse-ear with the gall of the aphid Brachycolus cerastii, and Burnet Rose with the fungal gall Phragmidium rosae-pimpinellifoliae.

Andrena sp   Crabro cribrarius

An Andrena species of solitary mining bee, and the Slender-bodied Digger Wasp, Crabro cribrarius.  The grasshopper Chorthippus brunneus was also seen.

Hipparchia semele   Trifolium arvense

A Grayling butterfly on Ragwort, with its long tongue probing into the flowers.  A Ringlet was also seen, quite unusually for this far north.  The Haresfoot Clover was a delight to find on the dunes, I hadn't seen it in the north of Scotland before.

After exploring the dunes we took a walk along one of the tracks into the Culbin Forest and recorded many woodland galls.  There were huge numbers of small toads all over the path for quite a distance.

Idaea aversata f remutata   Oiceoptoma thoracicum

The Riband Wave moth on a Bramble leaf, and the Red-breasted Carrion Beetle on the ground.

On to Day 2



All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer