Nature Notes from Argyll
(and occasionally other places)
Wed 11 Jun 2008 Appin
The striking effect of the gall-midge Wachtiella persicariae on the leaves of Amphibious Bistort. This is the land form of the plant, which has a rough feel to the leaves (even when not galled!). The aquatic form is shown in the RH pic, on the muddy margin of a pond, water levels being very low at present. The leaves are smooth and glossy. The budding flower-spike on this one was exceptionally early; in general both forms of the plant still had only leaves.
From the same muddy cattle-trampled pond edge here are Northern Yellow-cress and Water Purslane.
The pond mud also contained these two species, though both pictures are ones I'd taken earlier of specimens growing in drier places. Although I managed better pictures of the Water Forgetmenot, I kind of like this one with its background of buttercups and Yorkshire Fog. Also it shows that the fruit-stalks don't elongate which is a distinguishing feature of this plant compared to the commoner Creeping Forgetmenot. The second picture shows Blue Water-speedwell which is quite frequent in the area though it's not a plant I've come across much elsewhere.
There were some interesting rushes about. The first is Leafy Toad Rush, which I'd often looked for but never before found. It looks very similar to Toad Rush (J bufonius) but has leaves up to 3 mm wide (1.5 mm in Toad Rush) and the tepals have dark lines between the green midrib and the transparent margin, as shown in the second pic. Another type of rush that I'd never consciously noticed before was the lax form of Compact Rush, in the RH pic. Compact Rush is like a smaller version of the ubiquitous Soft Rush (J effusus), with strongly ribbed stems as the picture shows. Whereas Soft Rush is common with the inflorescence anything from densely packed to very loose, Compact Rush usually has a dense inflorescence. But this clump had them all like that in the picture. So I was able to proudly record Juncus conglomeratus var subbuliflorus.
In the late evening, walking back along the shore of Loch Laich, I saw an extraordinary sight. When the tide is out the loch is a vast mud flat, and over towards the far side of it, there was a line of 9 goose-like birds all running, or at least walking very fast, down towards the sea. They had quite a distance to cover, but they never took flight, just ran as fast as their legs could carry them. I had no idea what they were. As they passed some gulls I saw they were smaller than a Herring Gull, which ruled out any kind of goose that I knew of.
Then, a long way behind them, I saw a lone adult Shelduck, running in the same direction as they were, as if trying to catch up. I then realised that she must be the mother and they must be Shelducklings. She ran at the same speed as they did, never gaining or losing ground, and never making use of her wings. Eventually they reached the sea and there she caught up with them.
Thu 12 Jun 2008 Glasdrum National Nature Reserve.
I was hoping to see the Chequered Skipper butterfly and get its photo. I achieved the former but not the latter. The weather was dull at first and there were very few flowers about to interest a butterfly. Then at last I found a clearing full of Marsh Thistles in flower. And there on one of them was a Chequered Skipper, the first I'd ever seen. By the time the camera was ready it was gone. For a long while afterwards I waited and watched and wandered among the thistles, and the sun did its bit by coming out for short intervals. Huge numbers of Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries enoyed the flowers; at one point there were 5 on a single plant. But no more Chequered Skippers. Incredible. First butterfly seen is a Skipper and then no more out of dozens.
Wood Fescue was a nice find in the deep shade of a wooded slope. The black smut fungus on Carnation-grass is Anthracoidea caricis.
Sat 14 Jun 2008 Seil
A Seil Natural History Group visit to the Ballachuan nature reserve.
I was hoping to get a photo of a Marsh Fritillary to make up for the missed Chequered Skipper. Sure enough, we spotted one which proved very approachable and let us take all the pictures we wanted. Later in the day we saw another. We also saw Common Blues, Small Heaths, Speckled Woods and Chimney Sweeper Moths.
This male Golden-ringed Dragonfly was resting on grass beside the path, vibrating its wings. Everyone walked straight past it unawares and it was lucky it didn't get trodden on.
The Goldfinch was in Kilbrandon Church car park when I returned
to the car.
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer