Early February at Home

February 9, 2021

There is a lone curlew on the shore. I think there was just one this time last year – perhaps the same individual. Recently, there have been a flock of Purple Sandpipers, Turnstones and a pair of Goosanders to add to the usual Red-breasted Mergansers, Mallards, Eider, etc.

I have recorded Rhododendron Bud Blast before. Then it was called Pycnostysanus azaleae, but now it is Seifertia azaleae.

Seifertia azaleae

Several galls are present on small sallows along the road. I opened one up and found it to be caused by the gall midge Rabdophaga salicis.

Early one morning, I found this little chap in the bathroom, Amaurobius similis or perhaps A. fenestralis :

Amaurobius cf similis

We are having a period of cold weaher but escaping the serious snow affecting much of Scotland.

January

January 31, 2021

The weather and lockdown have limited activity considerably, but I have managed a few things such as second records for Raasay for Cupressus lawsoniana (Lawson’s Cypress) and Olearia macrodonta (New Zealand Holly), the former planted, the latter looking self-sown.

Yesterday the gorse near the shore yielded a spider, Metellina sp.

Metellina sp.

and several types of fly:

A window gnat. Sylvicola sp. probably S.cinctus

If it hadn’t escaped I could have got it to species as Seth pointed me towards a relatively simple key to the four British species. Also, there were a couple of Black Flies (I’m not tackling them), a common seaweed fly Coelopa frigida, though not so common in January, and a Heteromyza, possibly H. commixta but perhaps H. rotundicornis – it may be possible to sort this out with expert help. Later: confirmed as H. commixta.

Thanks to Seth (flies) and Katie (spider) for identifaction.

Report On Botanical Activities July-Dec 2020

January 18, 2021

A report on botanical activities in vice-county 104 during July-Dec 2020 is here.

Meanwhile, I am isolating at home with only the white-tailed eagles, otters, sparrowhawks etc. to watch….

James’ Videos

December 7, 2020

James Merryweather posts videos on YouTube under the AuchtertyreAcademy imprint that may be of interest e.g.

BLUEBELL deconstructing the English Jacinth. Part 1: Identity
BLUEBELL deconstructing the English Jacinth. Part 2: Life History
BRAINWAVE OR PIPEDREAM? will tree planting save us from climate change?
CHRISTMAS TREES IN SCOTLAND?
GETTING TO KNOW BRITAIN’S FERNS
GORSE: NURSERY FOR WOODLAND an ecological process vs destructive management
IS IT A FERN? (part1)
IS IT A FERN? (part 2) Now I can tell that’s not a fern, but . . .
MALE & BUCKLER FERNS MADE LESS DIFFICULT
MODERN FORESTRY PART 1
PICKING UP A CRAB

In the garden: Moths, Fungi & That Bramble

November 18, 2020

Two new moths have taken my total for adult moths here to 199 species:

There are fungi everywhere at the moment, but two pink ones in the garden recently are Coral Spot (Nectria cinnabarina)and Wood Blewit (Lepista nuda), both common enough generally but with rather few records locally. (None in VC104 on NBN for the latter.)

Meanwhile, it is looking more likely that the bramble in the last post is in fact Rubus subinermoides as determined by Alan Newton when he stayed with me in 2007, though I am waiting for a view on the pink petals.

Botanical Matters

November 5, 2020

It turns out that the bramble Rubus subinermoides recorded on Raasay and elsewhere in Scotland may in fact be different from R. subinermoides in England where the type species was first recorded. Amongst other things the large pink petals aren’t right. Those more skilled than I in batology will sort this out – it may be that a new microspecies will be recognised.

These pictures are from one of these plants on my drive yesterday:

I also spotted a single tree of Acer saccharinum (Silver Maple) in Inverarish. It was planted maybe a decade ago and is doing well, though last weekend’s storm did some damage.

Recent Sightings

October 29, 2020

An excursion to Skye meant I happened across Tropaeolum speciosum (Flame Nasturtium) sprawling over gorse near Lynedale.

Tropaeolum speciosum
Tropaeolum speciosum

This is a first for VC104, the sixth this year and, like most of the others, not a native.

Here at home, a caterpillar climbing up the outside wall of the house unexpectedly turned out to be that of a Small White butterfly. Green-veined Whites occur in huge numbers, but I have never recorded an adult Small White. Phil had some freshly-emerged adults in Sleat earlier in the year, so they are clearly now breeding locally.

Following the unsuccessful determination of an Epirrita moth recently, this morning I had two Autumnal Moths (Epirrita autumnata). This is most probably what the previous one was too.

Epirrita autumnata

Meanwhile, I am hoping for help with this Cranefly which is probably Tipula pagana.

Tipula pagana?

October Moths

October 19, 2020

The total number of moth species I have recorded at home as adults has reached 197. New this month have been Feathered Thorn, Green-brindled Crescent, Large Wainscot and November/Autumnal Moth. The last was an Epirrita species which often need dissection to distinguish Autumnal, Movember and Pale November Moths. This was one such.

Feathered Thorn
Large Wainscot
Autumnal/November Moth

October Plants

October 19, 2020

Solanum nigrum (Black Nightshade) has been recorded at Cleadale on Eigg – a first for VC104.

Solanum nigrum on Eigg Image Neil Robertson

There are recent records from islands to the south, outside my patch – Coll and Colonsay.

Nick has found one or two more locations for Ulex gallii (Western Gorse) – one needs checking as only spotted from a moving vehicle.

In Kilmore, Sleat, I found a churchyard full of flowering Hieracium (Hawkweed). I would suggest that it had been mown and then flowered late, but across the road in very rough ground there were one or two specimens of the same plant, also flowering. I have sent a specimen away for determination.

Hawkweeds in October

Later: David McCosh says, “Your plant cannot be identified to species. There are many plants occurring throughout the UK which are currently undescribed and are known collectively and informally  as  H. exotericum agg. They share certain characters such as having a rosette, usually 0-1 cauline leaf, and predominantly glandular peduncles and phyllaries. S & M warn that all plants akin to these are plastic in their growth and should not be collected after mid July!”

Mines, Galls and Microfungi. Part 2

October 19, 2020

In my last post I had meant to include this smut on Bluebells. It is common enough in this part of the world, but under-recorded.

Colletotrichum liliacearum on Hyacinthoides non-scripta (Bluebell)

In Broadford I found Venturia populina on Populus trichocarpa (Western Balsam-poplar). Bruce says it is “fairly common up here” but there is only one Scottish record on NBN – and that is incorrect as the host is given as Aspen.

Venturia populina on Populus trichocarpa

In Ardvasar there were Red Campion capsules with small holes near the base. I have forgoten what does this and hope someone will remind me…. maybe the moth known as The Campion?

Silene dioica

On one of the capsules I spotted this:

Unknown on Silene dioica capsule

It is very small but looks a bit too organised to be just miscellaneous junk.

Nearby there was a Leycesteria formosa (Himalayan Honeysuckle or Pheasant Berry) with lots of leaf mines.

Mines on Leycesteria formosa are caused by flies that traditionally mine Lonicera periclymenum (Honeysuckle) and I sometimes find them difficult to tell apart despite excelllent guides at UKflymines and Plant Parasites of Europe. Anyway, these images found their way to Barry Warrington who runs the National Agromyzidae Recording Scheme and he says they are caused by Chromatomyia lonicerae.