Nature Notes from Argyll
(and occasionally other places)

Fri 8 Aug 2008 Ballachulish and Glencoe

Ulex gallii   Potentilla x mixta

A gorse bush in full flower in August can only be Western Gorse, and so it proved.  This species is scarce in Argyll, as is the next one, Hybrid Cinquefoil.  Its parents are Trailing Tormentil and Creeping Cinquefoil but, as both these are scarce in Argyll too, it probably arrived here from vegetative material rather than from seed.

Plantago maritima with bract phyllody   Cerodontha iraeos leaf-mine on Iris pseudacorus   Phalera bucephala larvae

Sea Plantain lines the verges of the A82 as it passes over Rannoch Moor and through Glencoe.  It obviously finds the salt used on the roads to its liking.  In one spot there is a group of plants with all the flower bracts developed into leaves.  Some of the stems have shortened heads with the flowers all bunched together, but others, like the one in the picture, have a section of normal flower-spike with one of these bract-leaves below each flower, though there is still bunching at the top.  The plants also seem host to a powdery mildew but I doubt if this is connected with the bract abnormality.

Wed 13 Aug 2008 South Shian

Just a couple of pictures from this trip, the leaf-mine of the agromyzid fly Cerodontha iraeos on Wild Iris, and a knot of Buff-tip caterpillars on Downy Birch.  Despite being presumably all the same age, some had yellow heads and some black.  It was odd to see caterpillars of such a mature-looking size congregated together like this; many species do this when they're small but disperse when they get a bit bigger.

Thu 14 Aug 2008 Ben Lui

A further trip to Ben Lui for Site Condition Monitoring (report of first trip here).  The weather was a lot better this time and we climbed to a higher altitude.

Equisetum variegatum   Dryopteris expansa

These were taken at about 800 m although they can occur much lower.  Variegated Horsetail, a plant of upland flushes, and Northern Buckler Fern, which is fond of scree slopes.  This is a rather small specimen.

Athyrium distentifolium   Gnaphalium supinum

These two, Alpine Lady Fern and Dwarf Cudweed (apologies for the blurry flowerheads) are associated with late snow lie and so need monitoring to assess their response to global warming.

Sibbaldia procumbens   Carex saxatilis

The small herb Sibbaldia is also reliant on good winter snow cover.  Russet Sedge was frequent from 500-800 m, but it too benefits from late snow-lie.  In Britain it's only found in the Scottish mountains, particularly those of Argyll and Perthshire.  Some of the populations we looked at were infertile and may be hybrids.  These are being investigated.

  View from Ben Lui

The view from our lunch spot, looking in the direction of Tyndrum.  To the right is the River Cononish.

Juncus trifidus   Juncus castaneus

Three-leaved Rush, noticed while having lunch, and Chestnut Rush, one of our target species, which grew in the wettest areas.

Minuartia sedoides   Saxifraga nivalis

The mat-forming Cyphel, near the southern end of its range and in wetter and less exposed places than those it prefers on Skye.  Alpine Saxifrage was a great find on the trek back down the mountain.

Site Condition Monitoring on Ben Lui   Salix arbuscula

The BSBI's indefatigable Scottish Officer Jim McIntosh filling out a Site Condition Monitoring survey form.

The Mountain Willow is almost confined to the Perth-Stirling-Argyll mountains, with a few outliers in the Southern Uplands.  It proved quite elusive at first but we eventually found enough to qualify for the survey.


All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer