Skye Saltmarshes

April 28, 2016

SNH recently published the Scottish Saltmarsh Survey National Report based on surveys undertaken in 2010-2012. I have been given the Skye data from which I have extracted over 1,300 plant records.  These include quite a few new tetrad records, notably in NG24S (Pool Roag) for which there were very few previous records.  Also, quite a few older tetrad records were renewed. The biggest effects were on Carex oederi (Small-fruited Yellow-sedge) and Eleocharis uniglumis (Slender Spike-rush), each with quite a few new sites.

Current distribution maps look like this:

Euphorbia at Staffin

April 27, 2016

Morag has found a good colony of Euphorbia on the roadside at Staffin:

euphorbia 2

Photo: M Henriksen

I have been away from home for some time and will be for a few days yet, so if anyone cares to identify the species before I get to my books, that would be great….

E. amygdaloides subsp. robbiae?


April 2, 2016

Butterbur (Petasites hybridus) has an interesting distribution in Scotland:

Pet hyb Scotland

As you can see, it is quite widespread on Skye. It is at its most impressive as one leaves Broadford on the Heaste road where later in the summer the huge umbrella-like or rhubarb-like leaves smother everything else over a considerable area.

On Raasay it was reported from “Under the cliff at Brochel” in the 1930s and it is still there today – just a handful of plants.

This plant is flowering now and later in the year develops the largest leaves of any native British plant. Petasites originates from the Greek for a hat with a wide brim worn by farmers in ancient Greece and one can see why.

In the UK the plant is basically dioecious and the male plant is frequent throughout most of British Isles, common in the north, whereas the female plant is frequent in North & Central England, but very sporadic elsewhere. It has been suggested that this odd distribution is the result of deliberate introduction of the female plant to provide early nectar for honey bees

Other members of the genus are not native and include White Butterbur (Petasites albus) which is known in the vice-county only from Isleornsay. I was reminded of it today when I spotted some at Drumnadrochit:

It is well known along watercourses in the Inverness area but this appears to be a new site.

Petasites japonicus (Giant Butterbur) is not known in our area but is known from two areas on Mull.

A fourth species of Petasites is the winter heliotrope (P. fragrans). There is a record from Skye dating from 1970-1986 in NG72, which is the Kyleakin area. An update on this would be much appreciated!  Flowering is likely to be over by now.



March 31, 2016

My article for the April edition of the Raasay Community Newsletter (Am Bratach Ratharsair) concerns Lesser Celandine and can be found from a link on this page. Some images that didn’t make it to the newsletter:

Ficaria verna fertilis Raasay (1)

Ficaria verna subsp fertilis on Raasay

Ficaria verna verna  bulbils Portree

Ficaria verna subsp. verna: Bulbils (Portree)

Ficaria verna leaf mines Sleat

Ficaria verna subsp. verna: Leaf mines (Sleat)

Celandine Clustercup Rust

Celandine Clustercup Rust    Photo M. Macdonald

Likely Moths

March 26, 2016

The East Scotland Branch of Butterfly Conservation has done an excellent job of publishing lists and images of moths by month by vice-county. So if you follow this link you will find the VC104 page and you can select a month. December and January are blank but e.g. March shows 11 moths of which 7 are “Likely”, 3 “Unlikely” and 1 “Very Unlikely”.

Obviously it needs to be used with care but it is a good place to start if you have a moth you are not sure of.

In fact this March in VC104 has seen lots of Pale Brindled Beauties, a Currant Pug and a March Moth (not listed for  March in VC104) and at least two Red Swordgrass (listed as unlikely) so caveat emptor.

Egg Rings

March 22, 2016

Out on the shore recently there have been lots of small yellow tori on the kelp. George Brown tells me that they are the egg circles of the beautiful snail Lacuna vincta (Banded Chink Shell) and sent me this image of parents and eggs (plus one Gibbula cineraria (Grey Top Shell)).

DSC_0534 LR

Lacuna vincta – adults and eggs               Photo: G. Brown

Spring is Sprung

March 14, 2016

Well, some signs of life anyway and we appear to be in for a week of good weather. In flower yesterday:

I also spotted Yellow Brain fungus on dead gorse

Tremella mesenterica (Yellow Brain)

Tremella mesenterica (Yellow Brain)

(It is yellow initially, turning orange later.) However, there is also a lookalike, Tremella aurantia, that is virtually indistinguishable without a microscope. Liz Holden says that on gorse it is almost certainly T. mesenterica which parasitizes the fungus Peniophora, which is common on gorse. T. aurantia parasitises Stereum hirsutum which would be unusual on gorse and most records so far are from the south of the UK. It could well be in Scotland just not recorded yet. I will see if I can find the host fungus to double-check.

Last night I put out the moth trap for the first time this year and this morning there were three Pale Brindled Beauties on the  wall beside it:

Pale Brindled Beauty 3

Pale Brindled Beauty

I also caught a greenbottle mimic a few days ago in the house, Eudasyphora cyanella, which over-winters as an adult.


Eudasyphora cyanella

Talk on Thursday in Portree

March 11, 2016

In place of the previously advertised talk SWT Skye Region Group presents:

Up for Crabs

Butterfly-orchid Hybrid

March 11, 2016

Terry Swainbank has been into the herbarium at the University of Oxford and compared what he had determined as Platanthera x hybrida (P. chlorantha x bifolia) from his croft with a specimen from Sligachan taken by George Claridge Druce in 1909.

This experience has confirmed his determination.

Hybrid Butterfly Orchid

Hybrid Butterfly-orchid at Ard Dorch 2015         Photo: T Swainbank

Druce said of his plant: “….differing from bifolia by its longer spur and its pollen lobes being slightly divaricate; from virescens by its colour and shape of sepals and spurs – on the whole nearer bifolia.”

Oxford Herb Plat x hyb

Druce specimen                 University of Oxford Herbarium


There is no record for the hybrid in the BSBI Distribution Database for VC104.Indeed, there are only four records from Scotland, the latest in 1995. Druce’s become the earliest and Terry’s the only one so far this century.

My Local Kelp Forest – Part 2

March 11, 2016

OK. Here come the crabs:

Green Shore Crab

Green Shore Crab

Edible Crab

Edible Crab


Velvet Crab

Spider crab 1

Spider Crab

Liocarcinus sp Raasay 1.jpg

Swimming Crab awaiting identification


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