Nature Notes from Argyll
(and occasionally other places)

Sun 2 Mar 2008 Taynuilt.

We're on the bridge where the footpath going south-east from Bonawe House crosses the railway, just before it joins the main road.

Rana temporaria (spawn left by predator)   Bryum capillare

Smack dab in the middle of the bridge wall was this dollop of frogspawn, in a place no frog could ever reach nor wish to.  The culprit must be a bird, perhaps a crow, which had eaten the frog and ejected the egg-mass to avoid it swelling up inside.  The rain then caused it to swell up on the bridge as it lay on its carpet of Grimmia trichophylla.  Most of the moss in the pic is this species but the darkish grey-green stuff to the right of the spawn is Bryum capillare, probably male plants as they are not fruiting like those in the RH pic, from another part of the bridge.

Tortula muralis

Another fruiting moss on the bridge was Tortula muralis, above.  In shade at the foot of the wall was Plagiomnium undulatum, right, with some Wild Strawberry leaves.

  Plagiomnium undulatum

Tue 4 Mar 2008 Inverawe.  Bright sunshine, chilly, snow quite low on hills at first, thawing upwards during the day.

Bucephala clangula

There are always a few Goldeneye around the mouth of the Awe in winter, but today there were a dozen or so.  There is only one adult male in the pic (2nd from right) but there were a couple of others about too.  The rest are all females or possibly some juveniles.  The bit of dead tree in the pic is out in the middle of the water and seaweed collects on it as the tide falls.

Fucus spiralis

Loch Etive is a sea loch about 20 miles long, which becomes progressively less saline the further up it you go, owing to the fresh water discharged into it at various points along its length by rivers and burns.  I live about 7 miles from its seaward end, at the point where the waters of the River Awe pour into it.  This is also the point where its direction changes from NW-SE to SW-NE.  Beyond where I live there is no road along the loch edge; it is wild and mountainous country, which I'm looking forward to exploring this summer.  While doing so I've decided to make notes of how far up the loch various forms of shore life extend.

Immediately beyond the Awe mouth, the shore is shingly and the only seaweed visible at mid-tide is Spiral Wrack, depicted under water above.  This is just one of the five kinds of Wrack which form zones on a normal rocky shore.  Then again, on a normal shingle beach there can often be no seaweed at all.  As well as becoming less saline the Loch also becomes more sheltered from wave action the farther upstream you go, and this makes shingle more inhabitable than it is on exposed shores where the waves churn it around.  The Spiral Wrack occurs over a wide range of shore levels here, but its coverage is not dense.

Mytilus edulis   Mytilus edulis, young

An old fish-farming platform anchored on the shore has been colonised by the Common Mussel.  The second pic shows baby mussels near the high tide mark on the same structure.  Presumably they will not survive, since no adults were found at that level.

The shore round about was littered with shells from where birds had been eating the mussels.

Corylus avellana, f & m catkins   Lobaria amplissima

Back on dry land and a welcome sign of Spring is the red female Hazel flower (which is actually 6 flowers together), seen here next to a half-open male catkin.

The lichen in the RH pic is Lobaria amplissima, which completes the quartet of British Lobaria species shown on this site.  It's growing on Ash bark, and in the lower left is parasitised by the fungus Nectriopsis lecanodes.  The brown "cups" are the lichen's fruit-bodies, and the dark granular clusters (small one near top centre, large one middle of RH side) are cephalodia - outgrowths of the lichen in which it partners with a blue-green alga rather than the green algal component of its main thallus.

Isothecium alopecuroides   Pogonatum urnigerum

Immersing ourselves once more in the realm of moss, we find the glaucous Pogonatum urnigerum beside a path near the riverbank.  It's a low-growing moss of bare ground and the picture is taken looking down onto it.  Isothecium alopecuroides or Large Mousetail is a shaggy moss covering the base of neutral-barked trees such as Ash, here.  Acid-barked ones are more likely to have Small Mousetail, or Isothecium myosuroides, a much commoner species which we've already had on the site.

Loeskeobryum brevirostre   Ulota phyllantha

This red-stemmed moss is Loeskeobryum (fomerly Hylocomium) brevirostre.  It formed a huge cushion 9 cm deep all over a shady roadside rock.  The little crimped ones hanging on an Ash tree are Ulota phyllantha.

Dicranum majus   Sphagnum rubellum

Part of a large tuft of Dicranum majus on the woodland floor.  This very distinctive moss has leaves about 1 cm long that make sweeping curves.  The final pic shows Sphagnum rubellum on a damp slope in woodland; there was just this one patch of it where the tree cover changes from Beech to Birch.  It's commoner out in the open where it is a deep red colour throughout, but in shade it tends to be a lot greener.  The shoots here ranged from all-green to ones with red capitula and pink-tinged greenish-white branches.

There's a lively concert of birdsong in the wood now, the most prominent contributors being Song Thrush, Great Tit and Chaffinch.  A few Celandines are beginning to show, but we are way behind Oban on that score.  Bluebell and Pignut leaves are pushing up through the soil.


All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer