Nature Notes from Argyll
(and occasionally other places)

Lots of April pics still to go in but they can wait for a rainy day.

Sun 1 May 2011 Glen Feochan

Hill burns splash through wooded gorges on their way to the River Feochan.  Their sides are cloaked with woodland plants including many lime-loving species, providing a completely different ecosystem to that found on the open hillside all around them.

Galium odoratum   Unknown Fly on Galium odoratum

Woodruff is one of the characteristic plants of these assemblages; it has just begun to flower.  On this patch were many of these tiny flies using their spoon-shaped proboscis to extract nectar from the flowers.  At a guess it's an Empid species.

Melica uniflora

In places you find the purple florets of Wood Melick, a scarce woodland grass on the edge of its range in Argyll.  It is one of the earliest grasses to flower, the only other grass currently in flower being the ubiquitous Sweet Vernal Grass.

Melica uniflora

Close-up of Wood Melick flowers against a piece of card.

Pseudopanthera macularia   Plagodis pulveraria

Moths and other insects abound in these strips of humid woodland.  The Speckled Yellow is common generally at the moment, second only to the Brown Silver-line among day-flying moths.  The Barred Umber is more of a woodland specialist, not often seen.

Speckled Wood, Peacock, Green-veined White and Orange Tip butterflies were plentiful on our visit.

Potentilla sterilis   Xysticus sp

Back out into the sunlight.  Rock outcrops support a wide range of plants including specialists such as Thyme and Birdsfoot Trefoil but also species found everywhere such as this Barren Strawberry, its roots kept moist by mosses.  The Crab Spider on the Dandelion is probably Xysticus cristatus.

On these rocks my colleague Olya found a caterpillar on Thyme which I took a poor hurried photo of, only to find when I got home that it was the rare Transparent Burnet.  We decided to go back the next day to see if we could find any more...

Mon 2 May 2011 Glen Feochan

Zygaena purpuralis larva

...and we did!  Here it is munching away at the Thyme.  The adult moths fly by day and will appear in June.  I hope to go back then to observe them and find out if they have more sites nearby.

We then set off to explore another gorge.  With water levels so low at present it is possible to go further than usual into these realms of magic, mystery, moisture and moss...

Polystichum aculeatum

Young unfurling fronds of the Hard Shield Fern are so soft and downy one could easily take them to be the Soft Shield Fern if it were not for the dark leathery fronds of the previous year still attached to the rootstock.

Orchis mascula

A long scramble into a ravine was rewarded by this group of Early Purple Orchids flowering in deep shade.

Rubus saxatilis

On a vertical face opposite, in sunlight, clung the Stone Bramble.

Other notable plants included Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage, Oak Fern and Brittle Bladder Fern.

Cinclus cinclus   Cinclus cinclus

The waterfalls in these gorges make an ideal nest site for Dippers.  We watched enthralled as this pair snatched endless servings of aquatic life from the water as it rushed past them, and took these to their young hidden in a crevice beside the falls.

Ematurga atomaria   Hymenochaete corrugata

A Common Heath moth fluttering among the mosses.  The second pic shows the fruitbody of the Glue Fungus, Hymenochaete corrugata.  We found the black mycelial pads of this on its usual host Hazel but also on Rowan and Willow saplings which were growing below the Hazel.  I found this rather mystifying but apparently the fungus can spread from Hazel to other tree species via aerial contact of twigs and branches. (Ainsworth, A.M. & Rayner, A.D.M. (1990). Aerial mycelial transfer by Hymenochaete corrugata between stems of hazel and other trees. Mycological Research, 94: 263-288.)  The Hazel itself was not in contact with the Willow or Rowan, but fallen twigs from the Hazel were in contact with these species and were glued to them.  The fruitbody in the photo is from one of these twigs.

Philopotamus montanus   Scutellinia scutellata

Back in open country we saw this Yellow Spotted Sedge caddis fly, and an Eyelash Fungus, Scutellinia scutellata.


All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer