Aphids & Hawkweeds

September 12, 2021

Prompted by Neil’s observations on Skye, I went looking for a couple of aphid species here on Raasay. I had to walk all of 200 metres from my front gate to find both:

Yarrow Aphid (Macrosiphoniella millefolii) on Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) The pink ones are males.
Large Knapweed Aphids (Uroleucon jaceae) on Knapweed (Centaurea nigra) The black cauda (“tails”) and tibiae (“calves”) distinguish it from Uroleucon jaceicola

My second 2021 batch of Hieracium (Hawkweed) specimens has been determined and it turns out that I had collected lots of the locally common H. triviale (Common Hawkweed) and H. shoolbredii (Shoolbred’s Hawkweed). At least the distribution maps for these are filling out, with these two species accounting for three new 10 km square records this year.

However, I also found H. strictiforme (Strict Hawkweed) near Flodigarry, only the second post-1999 record in the vice-county and Neil took me to see a plant that he found last year galled by the cynipid wasp Aulacidea hiercii. This turns out to be H. subcrocatum (Dark-styled Hawkweed), also only the second post-1999 record in the vice-county.

Aulacidea hiercii galls on Hieracium subcrocatum (Dark-styled Hawkweed)

Aquatics & Caterpillars

September 10, 2021

A sub-group of Skye Botany Group went to Loch Connan and Loch Niarsco, principally to look for Potamogeton berchtoldii (Small Pondweed), which had been recorded in the NCC Loch Survey in 1989 but not since in the 10 km square NG34. We succeeded in Loch Connan, but not in Loch Niarsco:

Potamogeton berchtoldii (Small Pondweed)

We found Potamogeton alpinus (Red Pondweed) at an old site in Loch Niarsco and also this unusual looking Sparganium that is probably the S. emersum x S. angustifolium hybrid, Sparganium x diversifolium, though a specimen has been sent for expert determination. This would be new to VC104. Later: Determined as most likely diminutive S. emersum – though there was a big patch like this. Disappointing.

On the shore I spotted some leaf mines on Caltha palustris (Marsh-marigold) which Seth determined as being caused by Phytomyza calthophila. This was confirmed by the national scheme recorder as a first for the Inner Hebrides.

And, for something different, recent moth larvae from the garden:

From the top: Angle Shades, Bright-line Brown-eye, Brimstone Moth and Knot Grass

New Moths

September 1, 2021

A moth trap at home a few days ago yielded five moths I haven’t had here before:

Thanks to Keith and Mark for some of the identifications. So far this year I have added 31 moths to my list of adult moths found here in West Suisnish, making a running total of 232.

Loch na Crèitheach

September 1, 2021

Ten members of Skye Botany Group went to Loch na Crèitheach, north of Camasunary on Skye last week. We were in search of Potamogeton epihydrus (American Pondweed) based on a putative record from 1989. It was never fully confirmed and as a native plant it is only known in a few lochans in the Outer Isles. Despite our best efforts including snorkelling, wading, grapnels from the shore, a boat with grapnels and bathyscope, and shore searches, the only Potamogeton we found was the common P. polygonifolius.

On reaching Loch na Crèitheach Image J Walmisley

However, at Camasunary we re-found Carex arenaria (Sand Sedge), last recorded there in 1974 and we added about forty taxa to the list for the Camasunary tetrad (NG51E).

Whilst using a grapnel from the boat we obtained an unusual looking moss of which Nick says, after seeing a specimen: “I was really puzzled by it for a while until I did a cross section of the leaf and found it had vestigial lamellae on the surface of the nerve, so it must be a submerged form of Polytrichum commune (Haircap moss).”

Polytrichum commune

Plants, Moths & Flies

August 24, 2021

Joanna found Cornus alba agg. (White or Red-osier Dogwood) in Portree, which made me re-examine plants on Raasay and at Flodigarry that had been recorded as C. sanguinea (Dogwood). They both turn out to be C. alba agg. too. It is not clear that C. alba and C. sericea, the two taxa that make up the aggregate, are in fact different species. Fruit is needed to separate these two reliably. The Flodigarry plant is not flowering so there is no hope of sorting that one out this year.

In Portree we also have a Filago/Logfia, which I think is Logfia (previously Filago) minima as the leaves are very small.

Logfia minima Small Cudweed. Divisions are mm.

This is a first for the vice-county. In the same area there are both Centaurium erythraea (Common Centaury) and Vulpia bromoides (Squirreltail Fescue), both infrequent locally.

Nick has found Euphorbia peplus (Petty Spurge) in his garden at Earlish, the only other localised records on Skye are from Kyleakin. I was less than delighted to spot Gunnera tinctoria (Giant-rhubarb) by the Allt Mòr north of Totador. It can become a monstous invader.

Gunnera by the Allt Mòr

Ian S has re-found the Hammarbya paludosa (Bog Orchid) on Beinn Airean, Muck, previously recorded in 2007. This something I have looked for but failed to find.

On the moths front, the most interesting find was Prochoreutis myllerana (Miller’s nettle-tap or Small metal-mark). I found mines and pupating larvae on the host plant Scutellaria galericulata (Skullcap) and raised one to adulthood. Whilst that was going on I spotted two on flowers of Tripleurospermum maritimum (Sea Mayweed), just near the Skullcap. New to VC104.

Prochoreutis myllerana

I spotted Manchester Triple-bar in marshy moorland near Flodigarry. There are not that many records for the vice-county though Seth has also been finding it recently. Poor image taken through less than perfect plastic pot prior to release:

Manchester Treble-bar

I found and identified a fly mine on Filipendula ulmaria (Meadowsweet) that turns out to be new to the vice-county:

Agromyza filipendulae mine on Meadowsweet


August 13, 2021

In early June I took a piece of Prunus padus (Bird Cherry) that had some leaves tied together with silk in the hope of rearing a moth form the larva responsible. So far no moth has emerged, but a few days ago I found this nymph in the pot, which is Anthocoris sp., very probably A. nemorum (Common Flowerbug), though bright red is unusual.

Anthocoris nemorum nymph

A quick sweep with a net along the shore near the house a couple of days ago produced a number of different bugs, four of which I have identified:

The Philaenus spumarius is an unusual colour form and I have been baffled by the variation in this species before. I am grateful to Petro for sorting out the Lygus – a difficult group.

The Atriplex glabriuscula (Babington’s Orache) at the top of the shore is heavily galled; the leaves are rolled and some bracteoles are also galled by large numbers of this waxy green aphid:

Hayhurstia atriplicis

Mountain Sorrel & Hawkweeds

August 9, 2021

Last year a visitor to Skye reported Oxyria digyna (Mountain Sorrel) from Greshornish Point, just above sea level. This was an unusual site, this plant being found at least moderaely high up or else where it has been washed down along the course of a river. In the absence of an image or specimen, I didn’t add it to the database until it could be confirmed. A week or two ago Skye Botany Group went to look for it, but despite pretty clear instructions as to its location, we failed. However, Catherine, the original recorder, has now produced a photo of it and I am convinced she was right all along.

Oxyria at Greshornish Image C. Mowat (edited)

So, apologies to Catherine for ever doubting her – and congratulations on a new 10 km square record!

Fourteen Hieracium (Hawkweed) specimens from VC104 have been determined by David McCosh. Hieracium grampianum (Grampian Hawkweed) from Coire na Creiche on Skye, appears at first glance to be a first record for VC104 but a deeper look at the database shows that a 1979 record from Braes has recently been marked as rejected because “it is outside the known range”. This will need to be reviewed – and perhaps the plant should be looked for at the 1979 site: Balmeanach, Braes. I am grateful to Dave G for spotting this as something unusual when we were that way a couple of weeks too early to take a specimen.

Hieracium grampianum from Skye

Joanna found a hawkweed that has been determined as Hieracium beebyanum (Beeby’s Hawkweed), only the second post-1999 record. The following were all worthwhile in the sense of there being few recent records:

  • Hieracium cerinthiforme (Clasping-leaved Hawkweed) from The Storr
  • Hieracium eucallum (Spreading-toothed Hawkweed) from Stockval
  • Hieracium langwellense (Langwell Hawkweed). from Glenbrittle and The Storr. Plenty of pre-2000 records for this one.

Urban Finds

July 26, 2021

The survey of Portree for the Urban Flora of Scotland continues to yield useful results. The following three garden escapes are new to VC104:

and this is the first Skye record for 52 years (though known on Rum):

Astrantia major


July 20, 2021

I see that it is nearly two weeks since I last posted. Here are a few items from that period. John has found Luzula luzuloides (White Wood-rush) by a woodland path on Eigg. This is a neophyte that is grown for ornament, naturalised in woods and by shady streams, scattered throughout most of Britain, but mainly in Scotland. However, this is the first record for vice-county 104.

Luzula luzuloides from Eigg

Seth, Joanna, Caroline and I have been surveying Portree for the Urban Flora of Scotland project. Seth has found a patch of Ligustrum vulgare (Wild Privet) which has either been missed before or overlooked as Ligustrum ovalifolium (Garden Privet), the commoner of the two on Skye.

Frustratingly, the Philadelphus he found last autumn is not flowering this year, presumably because it is shaded. It is luxuriant enough, just not flowering. I may have to grow some on.

Joanna has re-found the Vicia orobus (Wood Bitter-vetch) in NG25, last recorded in 1958 but now with a precise grid reference.

Vicia orobus at Coral Beach Image: J Walmisley

I have been finding new fungi on various plants:

July has been good for moths. I had 44 in the trap about a week ago and then on Sunday I moved it about 200m to a spot with various trees, Bog Myrtle, Bell Heather, Purple Moor-grass etc. and caught over 100. They have taken a lot of sorting out but I have had lots of generous help from various folks. New to my West Suisnish list of adult moths:

Barred RedHylaea fasciaria
Scalloped OakCrocallis elinguaria
Dark Pine Knot-hornDioryctria abietellaR
Mountain PearlUdea uliginosalisR
Inlaid Grass-veneerCrambus pascuella
Satin Grass-veneerCrambus perlellaR
Straw DotRivula sericealis
Welsh WaveVenusia cambrica
Marsh Oblique-barredHypenodes humidalisR
Species in green are micro-moths. Species marked “R” have few records in VC104

Two Days in July

July 8, 2021

On Tuesday I visited Phil at Drumfearn who is managing his croft for wildlife. He has changed areas of Molinia into havens for a large variety of plants, invertebrates, birds and other vertebrates. This has been achieved largely by natural regeneration plus native tree and shrub planting from locally-sourced material.

There were lots of Greater Butterfly-orchids (Platanthera chlorantha) and I saw my first Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) of the year. He showed me where Galeopsis speciosa (Large-flowered Hemp-nettle) had emerged from disturbed ground a few years back and there were quite a few specimens of Malva moschata (Musk-mallow), both pretty rare on Skye.

Afterwards, I walked the southern shore of Loch Eishort from Drumfearn to where the Abhainn Ceann Loch Eiseoirt feeds the loch in the east. Much of this is in a tetrad (NG61T) that did not get well covered in the Atlas 2020 recording but it is quite rich botanically and I increased the vascular plant taxon count from 131 to 184. I found this bug, which is not rare but was new to me:

Neolygus contaminatus

Then yesterday, half a dozen of us went to inspect Ophioglossum azoricum (Small Adder’s-tongue) on Raasay. The main site we visited had over 1000 plants and another known site still had about 10 – not too different from when I last checked these two sites in 2008. Nick and Seth each discovered new sites not far away and are now inspired to look for them on Skye. This was a particularly large specimen:

Ophioglossum azoricum (Small Adder’s-tongue)

We also found two different Plume Moths, Thyme Plume and Twin-spot Plume, Satyr Pug and a micromoth that is Bryotropha sp., a Gelechid. Later: B. boreella (Mountain Groundling) Not the greatest moth pictures, but for the record: