Nature Notes from Argyll
(and occasionally other places)

Sun 20 Jun 2010.  A Scottish Wildlife Trust visit to the Ballachuan Hazelwood reserve, led by David Croucher.

Dactylorhiza maculata ssp ericetorum, very dark form   Dactylorhiza x transiens

By the road to the reserve there are several of these very dark orchids whose colour is that of the Northern Marsh Orchid but which otherwise are a perfect fit for the Heath Spotted Orchid.  They are undoubtedly this species with perhaps a small amount of NMO ancestry.

The one in the RH pic I would take to be a hybrid between Heath Spotted Orchid and Common Spotted Orchid.

Potentilla palustris

Marsh Cinquefoil was another of the flowers out beside the road down from Kilbrandon Church to the reserve, which is an interesting walk in itself.

Tadorna tadorna with ducklings

A Shelduck family on Ballachuan Loch.  The other parent was also present but I couldn't get them all in one pic.

Euphydryas aurinia

This is what we had come to see, the Marsh Fritillary.  Conditions were rather overcast at first so it took us a while to find one.

Adscita statices   Adscita statices

The Forester Moth has also recently been discovered on the reserve.  This was only the second time I'd seen it anywhere.  The first one I saw, at Kilmartin, was blue but this one was a bit greener, in line with its name.  In the first pic it's on Heath Spotted Orchid.

Adscita statices   Cotesia melitaearum cocoons

Left: The Forester in flight.  Right: David showed us a Marsh Fritillary caterpillar which had been parasitised by the wasp Cotesia melitaearum.  Those are its cocoons attached to the dead caterpillar.

Xanthorhoe montanata

The most frequent moth seen was the Silver-ground Carpet.

Zygaena filipendulae

6-spot Burnets were also fairly plentiful.

Inachis io caterpillars   Noctua pronuba caterpillar

These Peacock butterfly caterpillars have emerged from their communal webs and are feeding on nettle leaves.  I don't know why they're all different sizes: is this because ones from eggs laid at different times have become mixed up together, or because those from a single batch develop at different rates?  Or due to some being parasitised?

Louise found this Large Yellow Underwing caterpillar on a Northern Marsh Orchid, but I only managed a decent photo of it when it had crawled onto my hand.

Depressaria daucella caterpillar

In a couple of places large stands of Hemlock Water-dropwort were very badly wilted.  The cause was this Depressaria daucella caterpillar which feeds in great numbers from within webs on the leaves and flowers.  The ant in the pic is perhaps looking for caterpillars small enough to carry away, or dead ones.

Bombus pratorum   Volucella bombylans var plumata

A male Early Bumblebee, Bombus pratorum, on Thyme, and the bumblee mimic, Volucella bombylans, a hoverfly.

Rhacognathus punctatus, nymph   Dascillus cervinus

David found this nymph of the Heather Shieldbug, Rhacognathus punctatus, and Sallie found this Orchid Beetle, Dascillus cervinus, on Creeping Soft-grass.

Chrysolina polita, mating pair   Mantura chrysanthemi/obtusata leaf-mines on Rumex acetosa

There were several pairs of the Knotgrass Leaf Beetle, Chrysolina polita, on Gipsywort.  The head, thorax, underside and legs are all metallic green, and the wing-cases red.

The leaf-mines in Sorrel are made by the larva of another Chrysomelid beetle, either Mantura chrysanthemi or M obtusata, it is not possible to tell which at this stage.  I don't know whether the round holes in the leaves are also made by these larvae or have a different cause.  I took the photo because I thought the mines might be those of young Forester Moth larvae, which mine Sorrel.  Thanks to Dr Willem Ellis for putting me right.  I think probably the Forester mines will start next month.

Carex extensa   Carex extensa

The reserve's coastline has a rich flora including Gipsywort, Greater Sea-spurrey, Common Saltmarsh-grass, Tall Fescue, Sea Clubrush, Few-flowered Spikerush, Slender Spikerush, Saltmarsh Flat-sedge, False Fox Sedge and this little plant known as Long-bracted Sedge or Carex extensa.  The bracts almost double the plant's height.

Laetiporus sulphureus   Laetiporus sulphureus

Deep in the hazelwood David showed us this Chicken of the Woods fungus on a Wild Cherry tree.  Some were at the base, others at the broken end of a dead branch high up.

Hipparchia semele

First Grayling of the year for me, in typical camouflage pose on coastal rock.

Other things seen: Narrow-leaved Helleborine, long past flowering and in deep shade so no point in a photo.  Plenty of Northern Marsh Orchid and Heath Fragrant Orchid.  Small Heath, Small Copper, Common Blue, Meadow Brown, Green-veined White.  Clouded Buff, Chimney Sweeper, Brimstone Moth, Red-necked Footman.  Golden-ringed Dragonfly and Large Red Damselfly.  And much much more!

The mysterious mini-iris-like plant in the woods was, I think, Sisyrhynchium californicum (Yellow-eyed Grass).  If so it should have yellow flowers later in the year.



All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer