Nature Notes from Argyll
(and occasionally other places)

Fri 17 Jul 2009 Balinoe

Alchemilla filicaulis ssp vestita   Alchemilla filicaulis ssp vestita

Hairy Lady's Mantle, Alchemilla filicaulis ssp vestita, showing the hairs going right up the stem and onto the flower-stalks, which is how you identify this subspecies.

Sat 18 Jul 2009 Connel to Black Lochs

A Seil Natural History Group walk following the track from Achaleven to the Black Lochs, past Kilvarie Farm and along the back road to Connel, a round trip of 6 miles.  The Black Lochs are renowned for their variety of dragonflies and damselflies, but we did not expect to see much as the weather forecast was very poor.  Luckily it remained dry while we were at the loch, and there was a lot of damselfly activity there despite the lack of sunshine.

Enallagma cyagitherum, pair in tandem

Most numerous were the Common Blues.  This is a pair in tandem.  The female is of the usual green form.  Occasionally they are blue like the males but they always have much more black than the males do.

Lestes sponsa, female   Lestes sponsa, female

Female Emerald Damselflies were fairly numerous.  They are said to rest with their wings half-open.  In practice they seem to do this half the time and rest with wings closed (like other damselflies) half the time.  The pictures show both positions.

Ischnura elegans, female   Sympetrum danae, female

Blue-tailed Damselflies were also present; the one on the left is a female.  The only dragonflies proper seen were one or two Black Darters, like the female on the right.

As we sat by the loch side we were entertained by Swifts, House Martins and Sand Martins which are all attracted by the loch's rich insect pickings.  Frogs and toads were seen among the loch-edge vegetation.

Omocestus viridulus   Omocestus viridulus

Common Green Grasshoppers were leaping about and outwitting everyone's catching skills, but the one on the left was spotted resting on a bracken frond, and the RH one landed on a coat lining and liked it so much it allowed a close approach.  The two are different colour variants, one having green sides and the other brown.  Most grasshopper species vary a lot in colour, but the Common Green can be recognised (out of the 4 Argyll species) by the shape of the pronotum and its lack of a broad pale hind margin.  This is an indicator species of unimproved grassland and is common in the west of Scotland where a lot of this habitat survives.

Pentatoma rufipes   Inachis io caterpillar

Another insect that tried to join our party was this Forest Bug which was noticed on a rucksack when we stopped to eat.

The black spiny caterpillar determinedly crossing the track will soon be a Peacock butterfly.  It has left the nettle web where it grew up and is looking for somewhere to pupate.  The second generation of Small Tortoiseshells are already on the wing and looking very fresh and bright.  We found some of their abandoned webs on a clump of nettles, together with one small caterpillar that had been left behind, probably parasitised.  We also found several abandoned Painted Lady webs on Creeping Thistle, so we should get a second generation of those soon.

Many Green-veined Whites and Meadow Browns were seen, and a probable Dark Green Fritillary.

Hypericum humifusum   Coprinus sp

Trailing St John's Wort was a pleasing find here and there along the track.  Other interesting plants found were Great Willowherb in waste ground at Connel, Slender Sedge along the loch edges, and Whorled Caraway in great abundance in the Kilvarie area.  The Ink-cap fungi on the right were growing on the site of a former manure heap.


All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer