Nature Notes from Argyll
(and occasionally other places)

Tue 1 Jan 2008 Taynuilt

Mercurialis perennisDog's Mercury in flower.  Last year I didn't see it till 31 Jan.  This continues the sequence of Spring flowers occurring much earlier than last year.  Also found Holly in flower to my surprise, but I think these are late flowers rather than early ones.  Other plants seen in flower today: Daisy, Gorse, Creeping Buttercup, Annual Meadow-grass, Groundsel, Wavy Bittercress, Red Campion, Dandelion, Ragwort, Ivy.  These are all late or year-round flowers.

A group of 6 Siskins were feeding on Alder cones by the Bonawe Ironworks.  Other birds seen: Greenfinch, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Robin, Sparrow (presumed House), Wren, Wood Pigeon, Rook, Great Tit, Redwing, Mallard, Goldeneye, Great Black-backed Gull, Merganser, Herring Gull, Starling, Hooded Crow.  And a Seal.

The following day I added these to the Jan 2008 flowering list: Shepherd's Purse, Spring Whitlow-grass (E glabrescens), Ivy-leaved Toadflax, Cocksfoot, Pineapple Mayweed, Sticky Mouse-ear, Bell Heather, Herb Robert, Hawkweed.

On 3rd Jan added: Chickweed, Thale Cress and Hairy Bittercress - all in the flowerbeds at McCaig's Folly.

On the 4th it snowed but the flakes melted as soon as they hit the ground.  We've never had snow lying at sea-level since I moved here in Sept 2006.

Mon 6 Jan 2008 Oban

Rubus fruticosus agg   Sambucus nigra

Am in fierce competition with Gill Smith of Ryedale, Yorks, to see who can find the most plants in flower in January!  Last year she beat me by 45-44.  This year the season is more advanced; it's harder to find late autumn flowers and easier to find early spring ones.  As there are far more species which could produce late flowers than early ones, I'll be hard put to do as well as last year.  Bramble, for instance, was easy last year but I walked past vast amounts of it today with all trace of flowers long gone.  Then suddenly - two perfect flowers! (above left)

Altogether I got 10 on the day.  The others were: Feverfew, Red Clover, Nipplewort, Toad Rush, Self-heal, Honeysuckle (one totally freak flower), Barren Strawberry (an early Spring flower), Wood Sage, Lesser Celandine (another early, which I'd already seen in Dec).  The month's total now stands at 34.

Elder (above right) doesn't flower in Jan but it does produce leaves as soon as the days lengthen, way ahead of any other tree.

Ranunculus hederaceus   Dermatocarpon miniatum

A plant that always eluded me on Skye was Ivy-leaved Water-crowfoot, so it was a surprise to find its leaf-rosettes (above left) on a muddy roadside near Oban.

On 7 Jan saw the first Primrose, on Seil.  Spring flowers so far are:

  first sighting this year first sighting last year
Spring Whitlowgrass Dec 15 Feb 20
Lesser Celandine Dec 23 Jan 16
Dog's Mercury Jan 1 Jan 31
Barren Strawberry Jan 6 Jan 30
Primrose Jan 7 Jan 16

Also added Winter Heliotrope to bring the total Jan flowers to 36.

Wed 8 Jan 2008 Oban and Ganavan

Added Smooth Sow-thistle and English Stonecrop to the Jan flower list.  "Late" flowers such as Sow-thistles, Catsears and Nippleworts are extremely hard to come by compared to last year.  There are two exceptions.  Both Creeping Buttercup and Sticky Mouse-ear are much commoner in flower than last Jan.  They are not quite year-round plants, and definitely have to count as lates rather than earlies.  Yet they refuse to lie down and die like the others.

Here is a link to the Jan flowers lists from Argyll and N Yorks.  You can see last year's lists by clicking on "2007 top copy".

The lichen Dermatocarpon miniatum (above right) was on rocks facing the sea at Ganavan, looking much browner than last time I saw it, in a more inland location in Skye.  Perhaps it was just drier on that occasion. 

Sat 12 Jan 2008 Benderloch


Mirage of a small island in the clouds, which constantly changed shape.  Clear blue skies overhead, everything on the ground frozen solid.  Saw nothing in flower all day except Gorse and Dandelion (which were already on the Jan flowers list).

Hylocomium splendens, frosted   Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus, frosted

A couple of frosted mosses from the woodland floor: Hylocomium splendens and Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus.  Both are very common in woods in Argyll.

Bryoerythrophyllum recurvirostrum   Feathers on tree

This red moss looked spectacular along the wall surrounding an old tomb.  It's Bryoerythrophyllum recurvirostrum (formerly Barbula recurvirostra), a common wall moss.

The branches in the RH pic have feathers adhering to them.  You can see a few bright ones just below the centre, but if you look more closely there are a great many greyer ones in the top half of the pic.  Each feather was singly placed, no two together.  At a guess it's the result of a Sparrowhawk plucking a Wood Pigeon higher up in the tree.  Any feathers that fell all the way to the ground during the process had disappeared.

On 13th Jan added Snowdrop (well away from gardens, so counts as wild) to the Jan flower list and on the 14th Figwort, bringing the total up to 40, but it's getting pretty hopeless, and Gill is way ahead.


All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer