Nature Notes from Argyll
(and occasionally other places)
Sat 22 Aug 2009 Ledaig
Walking from Ledaig down towards North Connel along the sandy shore. The sand extends some way inland from the tideline, giving rise to a dune flora dominated by Marram, whose red stem bases are shown above with Sea Sandwort creeping among them. The Ergot fungus was a common sight among the Marram's dried flowerheads.
Sea Sandwort again, its yellowish shoots displaying their four orderly ranks of leaves, scattered leaves of Silverweed among them. Then Silverweed's red runners snaking across the sand.
Sand Sedge spreads by underground rhizomes rather than the surface runners of the Silverweed. The rhizomes meet little resistance in loose sand and grow in straight lines, putting up shoots at intervals which mark out where the lines are. The plant's fruiting head has empty male spikes above and fatter female ones below containing the ripe nutlets.
Sand Knotgrass has yet another way to spread itself; the shoots themselves grow along the sand and so drop the seeds well away from the point of origin. The hard shiny fruits are shown in close-up; they protrude well beyond the petals, which distinguishes this species from glaucous maritime forms of Common Knotgrass.
Sticky Groundsel was a good find, the first time I've seen it north of Edinburgh. The RH pic shows the bracts bent back, star-like, to release the feathery seeds which are borne away on the wind to colonise new ground. Despite this there were about 100 plants close together in one locality, just above the tideline, and no sign of it dispersing beyond this spot. The photo shows the flowerhead to have about 20 bracts, rather than the 13 always found on Heath Groundsel. True to their name, the plants were covered in sticky glands.
An even more exciting find was Field Scabious. This is its only known locality in VC98 apart from on the Isle of Lismore. The buds and the open flowers are shown. The flowerheads are paler and larger than those of the common Devilsbit Scabious.
The second generation of Small Coppers were out in numbers. Here are a couple on Ragwort flowers. The moth on Knapweed is Utea lutealis, a Pyralid, its markings faded. Thanks to Roy Leverton for the ID.
There are few trees among the Marram. On a solitary Grey Willow I made a perfunctory check for galls and instead was rewarded with this Poplar Hawkmoth caterpillar on the underside of a leaf, and a Pebble Prominent sloughing off its old skin on another.
The ants are Myrmica rubra, a new species for me. The common Myrmica in Argyll is M ruginodis, which I found several times under stones on the sand. The M rubra were under a very small stone, hardly more than a pebble, in the Silverweed zone, definitely below the highest tides. How they or their nest survive when the spring tides come I'm not sure. They shared the space under their pebble with a piece of washed-up kelp, visible in the photo.
Low tide, looking across to the roadless wooded promontory of
Garbh Ard, which I have yet to explore. The flowers visible among the
Marram are probably Fireweed and Devilsbit Scabious, and the dark brown shoot to
the left looks like Curled Dock.
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer