Nature Notes from Argyll
(and occasionally other places)

Mon 15 Apr 2008 Seil

A Seil Natural History Group midweek walk on a splendid summer-like day.  Starting and finishing at the Clachan Bridge, we walked through woods and then up the coast on the west side of the very narrow Seil sound, reaching the north-eastern tip of Seil where it is possible to walk across to the mainland at low tide.  We then came down the Puilladobhrain cloast on the other side of the peninsula, and then back overland to the Tigh an Truish for lunch and a pint.

Sound of Seil   Himanthalia elongata

A view up the Seil Sound from our starting point.  Seil on the left, mainland on the right.  In the bright sunlight Thongweed was conspicuous in the water from the Clachan Bridge.

Juniperus communis ssp communis   Armeria maritima

Juniper was quite common on the heathy and rocky coastline; it ranged from near-prostrate to almost tree-like.  This specimen at well over 6 ft was the tallest I've seen on the West Coast.  All round the shore Thrift is putting up its pink buds.

Clachan Bridge, Seil

Looking back southwards down the Seil Sound to the Clachan Bridge.  During our walk round the peninsula we saw an otter holt, with fresh spraints (but no otters seen) and a Kestrel's nest with the owners flying above.  2 lizards were seen by quick-eyed members of the party, but not by me.  It looks like being a good year for lizards. 

Plants seen in flower for the first time this year were Greater Stitchwort, Buckshorn Plantain and Bugle.  Dog Violets are now out in great numbers.

Puilladobhrain, Seil

I fell in love with this whole NE peninsula of Seil, definitely my favourite part of the island so far (but there's a lot of it I haven't seen yet).  This is typical of the views you get on the Puilladobhrain side.

In the afternoon I explored part of the nearby mainland...

Plantago coronopus   Chrysolina polita

Here is Buckshorn Plantain in a natural slate crevice close to the Clachan Bridge on the mainland side.  The slate is angled at about 45 degrees as is common in this area.

The Knotgrass Leaf Beetle (Chrysolina polita) was resting on dead marsh vegetation next to Loch Seil (a mainland freshwater loch).  There were a pair of Mute Swans on the loch.  Also saw the first Green Tiger Beetle of the year.

Tachybaptus ruficollis   Cygnus cygnus

I then made my way to the Dubh Loch in the hills to the west of Loch Seil and stayed there some time fascinated by the liquid trilling song of the Little Grebe (of which there were at least 3 on the Loch) and the honks and barks of 3 Whooper Swans, which seem to have basically two sounds, one goose-like, the other dog-like, but combine them in an ingenious variety of ways.  These birds are winter visitors and will shortly depart for somewhere more Arctic.  There were also a few Tufted Duck on the loch, but they didn't join in the concert.

Fri 18 Apr 2008 Lochgilphead

Anemone nemorosa

Wood anemones beside the Crinan Canal

Carex paniculata

Greater Tussock-sedge in a wooded swamp

Sun 27 Apr 2008 Craignish Peninsula

Chilly in the morning, roasting in the afternoon.  It's no longer a case of looking for signs of Spring; Spring is totally in your face!

Orchis mascula   Silene dioica

The first orchid of the year, an Early Purple Orchid naturally, with an adventurous ant exploring its flowers, and Primroses in the background.  The first Red Campion was flowering by the roadside.

Viola palustris ssp palustris   Caltha palustris ssp palustris

Dog Violets have been out for some time but this was the first Bog Violet of the year for me, growing in Sphagnum palustre.  Marsh Marigolds have been out for a few days, here they are at the edge of a small burn in dappled light through the branches of an Eared Willow.

Other first flowers of the season for me today were Tormentil, Heath Milkwort, Lousewort and Sea Campion.  Also making a fine show, often on open moorland and hill slopes, were Wood Anemone, Primrose, Bluebell, Daisy, Dandelion, Greater Stitchwort and of course Dog Violets, while Thrift and Scurvy-grass brightened the shore.

Prunus spinosa   Rock on Craignish Peninsula

These pictures show how brown and wintry the vegetation still appears on the moors overall, despite the contribution of colourful flowers when you take a closer look.  In the foreground of the LH pic is a slope covered with scrubby Blackthorn, still leafless but white with blossom.  The rock in the RH pic looks like some Easter Island statue reclining on the heather.

Callophrys rubi   Inachis io

The tiny Green Hairstreak butterflies have emerged from their winter pupation and were chasing each other across the grass.  Peacocks spend the winter as an adult butterfly and they too have emerged to bask in the sun.

Euphydryas aurinia caterpillar   Zygaena filipendulae caterpillar

Marsh Fritillary caterpillars were plentiful over a wide area of moorland, some in small clusters on their main food plant Devilsbit Scabious, other individuals scurrying along in search of new leaves to devour.  This is a full-size one on the Scabious (the green leaf in the bottom left).  The yellow and black job in the RH pic is the caterpillar of the 6-spot Burnet Moth, a colourful day-flyer to look out for in June and July.

Stac na h-Iolaire, Craignish

Stac na h-Iolaire.  This was originally a sea stack; the strip of land it's on is a raised beach with cliffs to the east showing that the sea level was once higher.  In NW Scotland the land has been rising since the weight of ice was lifted off it some 12,000 years ago.  There is a similar raised beach on the eastern side of the peninsula with cliffs to the west of it.

The stack is part of an igneous dyke which during the cooling process cracked into approximately equal-sized "columns" rather like those on Staffa only horizontal instead of vertical.  Despite this the rock held together while the non-igneous rock around it was being washed away by the sea, and has withstood the elements ever since.  The "cracks" are only opened as cracks at the surface; inside the structure they will be darker areas of smaller crystals that cooled first but keep the rock bonded together.  Thanks to Gill Smith for all this information.

Troglodytes troglodytes   Sorbus aucuparia   Phylloscopus trochilus

On the heathery top of another part of the dyke was this young Rowan which featured a duel between a Wren (left) and a Willow Warbler (right).  Both are present in the middle pic.  They both wanted to use the sapling as a song post, and each went off to look for somewhere better but came back convinced that this was the ideal spot and that the other would have to shift.  The Willow Warbler held out longest and eventually had the tree to himself.

Skylark song was prominent all day, and in one place there was a Song Thrush singing loud and long in open country with no trees in sight.  This sounded really out of place and you didn't know whether to believe your ears or your eyes, especially as I was unable to locate the bird visually.  Saw 5 Shelduck flying over.  There was frequent honking of geese from offshore islands as boats sailed past them.  A pair of Stonechats were clacking away from the tops of bushes.


All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer