Nature Notes from Argyll
(and occasionally other places)
Tue 15 Jan 2008 Fearnoch to Rubha Ban
The day was sunny and the temperature just above freezing, with a strong wind developing in the afternoon. A small winter party of Long-tailed Tits was foraging in the birches. This attractive moss, Ptilium crista-castrensis, was on a roadside bank under trees, with Bilberry, Bracken and Polytrichum. The Fearnoch wood ants' nests were completely devoid of activity on the surface. I think a few may come out on milder winter days.
Two fungi from a single Birch tree, in damp woodland. The Oyster Fungus, Pleurotus ostreatus (thanks to Malcolm Storey for this ID) on a branch, and on the outermost twigs a jelly fungus, Exidia repanda. It swells up like this when wet but is hard to spot in dry conditions.
The fungus Stereum hirsutum on a dead, semi-fractured-off branch of a live Ash. The hairy upper side of the fungus is almost up against the bark; the visible part is the smooth underside which unlike most bracket fungi has no pores or gills to increase the spore-bearing surface area.
The lichen Cladonia furcata is growing amongst mosses on a dry stone wall that runs through humid woodland.
A couple of mosses from a large wooden-edged concrete slab left lying on the shore. Hypnum lacunosum on the left and Bryum capillare on the right.
This dazzling red and green moss, Hypnum resupinatum, was on coastal rocks in the open, just above high-tide mark. With it was the maritime lichen Anaptychia runcinata, here growing over the terrestrial lichen Parmelia sulcata - a sign of rising sea levels?
Oystercatchers and Mallards. Some of the Oystercatchers are still in winter plumage and others have come into breeding plumage, the only difference being the white bar across the throat of the non-breeders.
Got back to the Fearnoch car park at dusk to the sound of Tawny Owls in the forest and the wind in the firs.
Sat 19 Jan 2008 Stirling-Falkirk area
An outing with the Seil Natural History Group to look for Bean Geese and Red Kites.
This is just a small section of a long line of several hundred Pink-footed Geese in a field in the Carse of Stirling. The field on the opposite side of the road had a hundred or more Greylag Geese. At Slammanan we saw smaller groups of both species, close together but not intermixing, about 40 of each.
We were looking for the flock of Bean Geese which winter in the area, the only ones known in Scotland. We were escorted to several likely viewpoints by John Simpson, who first discovered the geese and has been studying them for many years. Before that they were taken for Pinkfeet, which look very similar. Unfortunately we did not see them. They cover a wide range and could have been up on the moors that day. But we did learn a lot about their habits and about the local countryside, so it was a very interesting excursion and we very much appreciated John's generosity in showing us around.
This is Stereum hirsutum again, a large specimen that we found in a Pine wood. This time it is showing the top side, which has concentric zones of different coloured hairs. The green in the centre is due to an alga growing on the fungus.
After a pub lunch we went to Argaty near Doune where there is a Red Kite feeding station. A small amount of meat is put out for the birds at 2 pm every day. This doesn't make up a large proportion of their diet, which comes from feeding in the wild, but it does allow visitors to get a good view of ths rare species, which has recently been reintroduced to the area 130 years after being wiped out.
There were about 20 kites in the air as feeding time approached, but they didn't come down for the food straight away. While they circled in the air we were given an informative talk about their habits.
While the kites were dithering, a Buzzard (above left) and some
Magpies began to help themselves to the food. Eventually the kites decided
it was lunchtime and began to swoop down one after another. Each would
grab a piece of meat on the wing and soar away with it at high speed (above
right), so all the pictures I took were very blurred, and had to be reduced in
size considerably. In bright sunlight I might have been more successful.
We were actually quite close to the birds and had magnificent views of them.
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer