Nature Notes from Argyll
(and occasionally other places)
Mon 5 May 2008 Ardyne, Cowal
The first picture is of Townhall Clock, a plant whose flowers face 5 ways in the shape of a cube. I was recording intensively in Cowal and only photographed this species, as it was one of the plants I'd come specially to look for, the other being Large Bittercress (Cardamine amara) which I also found but it was not yet in flower. Other plants of interest were Sea Radish, plentiful along the coast, and Rustyback Fern, which grows on walls in the area. Saw the first dragonfly of the year, inevitably a Large Red Damselfly.
Tue 6 May 2008 Scammadale
Again I only stopped to photograph one species, this time the Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage (above right) which I finally found in flower after having been too early with the ones at Ford. The leaf in mid-stem shows that it is the alternate-leaved species, as the very common Opposite-leaved GS has the leaves in opposite pairs. But the most obvious feature of the alt-leaved species is the large size of the basal leaves and the way their margins are cut.
Heard the first Cuckoo today (but others have heard it earlier) and saw another lizard, and a stunning patch of Early Purple Orchids.
Fri 9 May 2008 Connel
The Falls of Lora flowing in the upstream direction on a rising tide.
Bogbean is now flowering in the Black Lochs. The common mat-forming loch-margin plant Shoreweed had all its leaves red in one section of the lochs, instead of their usual green.
The tall stems of Slender Sedge (above left) are in flower beside the lochs. Rather appropriately there was a Sedge Warbler singing from a willow in the marshy loch edge.
Tue 13 May 2008 Coire Chailein, N of Tyndrum
In moorland flushes the short and simple Dioecious Sedge is now in flower, above right.
I was surprised to find Wood Cranesbill in the gorge of the Coire Chailein burn. Apparently it's quite frequent in this area, but it was absent from Skye and I don't think I've seen it anywhere in the wild since 1981. It was too early for flowers but here are the leaves arising from the exposed rootstock on the damp dark rocks.
Another experience I hadn't had for some years was to watch and listen to the display of the Tree Pipit. Despite watching for a long time this was the best picture I could get. I'm saving up for a DSLR camera to get better bird pics. The Pipit's display consists of a flight between any two of four or five perches, all but one of which (in this case) were on the trees that lined the gorge, but a rock on the slope opposite was also included in the rotation. It flies up from one perch, then parachutes down like a Meadow or Rock Pipit before making a horizontal flight to the next resting spot. While doing this it produces a complex song that starts like a Meadow Pipit, then becomes more like a Sedge Warbler or Skylark, and sometimes finishes with a cascade of long mournful notes. To take its picture you first have to guess which perch it's going to land on this time, and then try and focus on the spot while it's not there, because there isn't normally time once it's landed.
A form of Lousewort with white flowers instead of the usual pinkish-purple. And a Mountain Bumblebee looking for a nest site.
Am not taking many pictures on these distance trips as I want to get as much recording done as possible while I'm there. I'll spend a day near home soon and get some photos of insects and suchlike.
I recorded in various spots between Tyndrum and Bridge of Orchy, and incredibly all day I saw no Celandine, Primrose or Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage, not even a leaf. These plants are abundant everywhere I've looked so far in the region and the habitats I was looking at today would normally be just right for them. Wood Anemone was much more plentiful than usual, by contrast. Bluebell and Wood Sorrel were less common than expected.
Thu 15 May 2008 Degnish
Phase 3 of my BTO Timed Tetrad Visits. Very difficult to concentrate fully on birds for an hour when you're the vice-county plant recorder! Best bird seen was a Great Northern Diver in full breeding plumage. Signing birds in the woods and scrub consisted of large numbers of Willow Warbler, Chaffinch and Wren, a couple of Song Thrushes, a Blackbird, a Cuckoo, a Goldfinch and a Whitethroat.
First Small Copper of the year for me (though others have seen earlier ones), and a Brown Silver-line Moth on Herb Robert among dead Bracken. Small Heath and Green-veined White butterflies were numerous.
Sanicle and Soft Shield Fern on the edge of a dark recess where a waterfall splashes into a pool. You can just about see a rainbow (mostly green) curving across the water. The stones in the pool bore many of these cases constructed out of tiny bits of gravel by the larvae of the caddis fly Agapetus fuscipes. Thanks to Ian Wallace for the ID. We had the adult of this species on 27 May 2007.
The tall reedy Lesser Pond Sedge, which forms stands with Wild
Iris in one or two spots in the woods. The leaves are green on the
upperside and glaucous on the underside. The female spike on the right was
one of several which had the top half undeveloped.
The abrupt division between the two halves seems to rule out gradual development
from the bottom up; instead it looks like the top half will not form fruits for
some reason. The left-hand stem has normal female spikes.
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer