Nature Notes from Argyll
(and occasionally other places)
Sun 26 Aug 2007 Ardchattan, on the north shore of Loch Etive
A much closer view of the resplendent Peacock butterfly than the one we had from the Spring generation, though partly hidden by a Meadowsweet leaf. Wings open is the usual posture; the RH pic shows one with wings closed. The underside is very dark and to show the markings I had to let the buttercup bleach out. The ragged edge adds to the impression of a bit of dead leaf or bark. It refused to move even when touched. Is this because it relies on the disguise as its defence, or because resting in this positon is a sign that it's weak for some reason? It flew off when removed from the flower.
Perennial Sow-thistle is very common along the coast here. These examples (one flowering, one fruiting) were in an exceptionally sheltered spot and made the most of it reaching a height of 6½ ft. The species is nearly always coastal in the West Highlands and I find it hard to imagine as an arable weed, as the books claim and as its Latin and alternative English name of Corn Sow-thistle suggest.
These mussel shell fragments in a sandy gunge were on a Japanese Knotweed leaf by the shore, and there was similar material on adjacent leaves. They look as if they originated as bird pellets, though I haven't noticed anything like them elsewhere and they were only in one spot here. My "Bird Tracks and Signs" book shows all pellets as being rather solid and compacted, but it's hard to see how these ones would have avoided falling off the leaves if they were originally "pellets" in the strict sense and became smeared out later, so I'm a bit mystified.
Japanese Knotweed, incidentally, is about as common here as it is on Skye. Himalayan Knotweed was also seen, but only one patch. Himalayan Balsam is a much worse problem here than in Skye, taking over significant stretches of native habitat as it does in most of the country. Another showy alien seen was Elecampane, but happily that is no great threat to anything.
Talking of aliens, here's part of a gaggle of feral Canada Geese that were in a stubble field just across the road from the shore.
This mini "Woolly Bear" looks very much like a young caterpillar of one of the Tiger Moth group , but the orange stripe down its back makes it the White Ermine, whose adult we had on 7 July 2006. Though these don't get as big as the Tiger caterpillars, this one still has a bit of growing to do.
A Drinker caterpillar was also seen, on grass by the shore.
At last - the first Ladybird I've seen in Argyll or Skye or anywhere in between! And amazingly enough it's not only a new species for me, the 24-spot Ladybird, but is further north than any records on the current NBN Gateway distribution map for that species. I've registered it with the UK Ladybirds Survey. This is very easy to do online and from now on I'll report all Ladybirds found anywhere. It is very small and is on a Nettle leaf; there was one other on another leaf nearby.
Later the Canada Geese flew across the road and landed way out to sea. Here is the whole flock shortly after splashdown, from where they slowly made their way back to shore and stood around on the rocks.
Another familiar alien is Montbretia, visited by this ichneumon with the remarkable yellow bendy bit in the middle of its antennae. No hope of identifying ichneumons at present. The galls on the back of this Ash leaf are caused by the gall-midge Dasineura fraxini.
Other plants of interest along the shore were the awned version of Couch Grass (var aristata) which was plentiful, in both glaucous and green forms, and Scots Lovage, which, like Sea Campion, grows on level shingle just above the tideline. In Skye both these species require cliffs or at least some rock with non-horizontal surfaces.
After exploring the shore I walked back to the car along the road. There is a rich blend of blues and purples along the roadsides at this time of year, with Knapweed, Bell Heather, Devilsbit Scabious, various Thistles and the second flush of Red Campion. In addition we have Sheepsbit, above left, which was surprisingly absent from Skye. It is rather like Devilsbit Scabious but with broader bracts beneath the flowers and less substantial leaves. It belongs to the same family as Harebell, whereas Devilsbit belongs to the Teasel family. Their names suggest the one is nutritious for sheep while the other is worthless in that regard, but I don't know if that's true.
The Chickweed-like plant on a shaded wall is Three-veined Sandwort, which normally flowers in the spring and then disappears from view.
Peering through the trees I saw the geese were back on the water
- only they had transformed into Greylags! I've not seen either of these
flocks of geese from the south side of Loch Etive where I live, though the loch
is only about 1 km wide.
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer