Nature Notes from Argyll
(and occasionally other places)
Tue 21 Jul 2009 Balinoe area, nr Kilmore, S of Oban
The July Seil Natural History Group midweek recording walk began in the layby at the head of Loch Feochan and followed the initial stages of the Coffin Route that goes from Balinoe to Scammadale. Our target square was NM 8723 but we also wandered into NM 8823, both squares with no existing botanical records.
On the way we had good views of two Spotted Flycatchers swooping out to snaffle prey from a vantage point on a fence, and another pair doing the same thing from a branch.
Our route took us up a farm track to a muddy cattle feeding area. There were typical farmyard ruderals such as Corn Spurrey, Persicaria, Pale Persicaria, Pineapple Mayweed, Water-pepper and Marsh Cudweed. An unexpected member of this assemblage was Heath Groundsel, above left. The plants were hairier than is usual for this species, which is similar to ordinary Groundsel but has short recurved ray florets around the outside of the flowerhead. It is a weed of bare ground but I'm used to seeing it on better drained, less fertilised soils.
The mushroom Panaeolus semiovatus, which we've had before, was common on the cattle dung. The yellow-brown mushroom in the picture above is an Agrocybe species, but I can't get it any closer than that.
Following much discussion about the best route to take we ended up charging through head-high bracken hoping that before long we'd find ourselves on a path. We finished up in a clearing with fine views over Loch Feochan, where we sat and had lunch while a scout climbed the hill to spy out a bracken-free escape route.
In places the bracken had "Little Black Puddings", the galls of Dasineura pteridis on the underside of the pinnules. The Plume Moth resting on bracken is Platyptilia pallidactyla. Thanks to Martin Honey for suggesting this and Colin Hart for confirming it. Its larval food plants are Yarrow and Sneezewort which were both quite plentiful in the vicinity.
This caterpillar on a Meadow Foxtail stem is a result of the recent invasion of Silver Y moths. Common Red Soldier Beetles were out in numbers. This one is braving the spines to reach a Creeping Thistle flower where it will lie in wait for some flying insect. It's easily identified by the dark tips to the wing-cases. I'd be interested to hear if anyone spots any other kind of soldier beetle. I'm sure there are several to be found in the area but they are under-recorded in Scotland. Even the Common Red is said to be "common throughout England and Wales although more local in the north and southern Scotland and with only a few records north of Ayr" ( http://www.thewcg.org.uk/Cantharidae/0027G.htm ) but we saw dozens of them. Many other species are grudgingly admitted to occur as far north as Dumfries but no word of anything beyond. This probably has more to do with the shortage of observers than the shortage of beetles, in sparsely-populated areas like Argyll. Our recording walks aim to fill in some of these omissions.
Fri 24 Jul 2009 Cnoc Coinnich (between Arrochar and Lochgoilhead)
Up the Coilessan Burn and along the crags on the north face of Cnoc Coinnich. Alpines all the way. Colour all the way too, with non-alpines such as Thyme and Harebell adding to the display. LH pic shows Yellow Saxifrage on a rock in the burn with a round-leaved clump of Mountain Sorrel. RH pic has Moonwort with Purple Saxifrage in the background. Too late for Purple Sax flowers although we did spot a couple of unseasonal ones, but Starry Sax was everywhere. Mossy Sax was present too but past flowering. We were looking for an old record of Alpine Sax - didn't find it, but a great day out all the same.
Often alpines are on inacessible ledges and that's my excuse for this poor picture of Alpine Saw-wort. The tiny yellow fungi were frequent on calcareous rock that had a thin covering of bryophytes and lichens. I couldn't recall seeing them on the hills before and was very curious to know what they were. It turns out they are another of those lichens with basidiomycete fruitbodies, like the Omphalina fulvopallens that we had before (I may not have put the relevant page up yet, but will eventually). This one has much smaller "mushrooms" than that one did, and is called Lichenomphalia alpina. Thanks to Malcolm Storey for the id.
Another excuse was the weather. This was the view from the summit. You can see Ailsa Craig about a sixth of the way in from the left. If you can't, blame your monitor. It brightened up in the afternoon and all in all we didn't get too wet. The burns must have been in spate a few days earlier as the grass was flattened for a distance either side of them.
Here's a sunnier scene, with shadows of the clouds as they sweep across the sky. We watched the cloud base lift inch by inch (it seemed) above the roof of distant hills, and knew that it if missed them it would miss us.
On the way back met up with this Smooth Ground Beetle (a name
I've just invented) aka Carabus glabratus, which was going for a walk along the
track like ourselves.
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer