April 2, 2020

The moth trap yielded just two moths the night before last, but one was a species I haven’t had before: Yellow Horned Moth.

Yellow Horned Moth

Yellow Horned Moth

The other was a Red Sword-grass and I also caught a gnat that is Sylvicola probably S. cinctus:

Sylvicola cf. cinctus

Sylvicola cf. cinctus

and a crane-fly, Tipula rufina – my second sighting of this species in a few days.

Tipula rufina

Tipula rufina

My crane-fly records are spread through most of the year:

Tipula records

Tipula records

The vast majority are from Raasay but also include some from Skye and the Small Isles. (The T. pagana is awaiting final confirmation.)

Sex Change in Trees (Again)

March 30, 2020

A few years ago I wrote a short note about Sex Change in Trees. Today I have spotted another example of environmental sex determination, this time in Acer pensylvanicum (Striped Maple). Apparently, these trees increasingly flower as females as their health deteriorates.

A recent paper looking at underlying mechanisms “demonstrates that physical trauma in striped maple appears to exhibit a threshold effect in which only the most stressful of physiological cues instigate changes in sex expression …. and that damage stress is strongly correlated with switching to femaleness. ”

Nowt so queer as trees.


In the Garden

March 28, 2020

Recent days have been fine and sunny so I have spent a lot of time gardening. More digging and tidying have resulted in several more caterpillars but they have looked too difficult to identify for me to try. A single click beetle larva (wireworm) in one of the vegetable beds does not concern me  – 100 would be different! Anyway, I like click beetles with their spine and notch system that produces the click and bounces them into the air.

There have been many flies about, mostly small, but some larger like this Eudasyphora (likely E. cyanella or E. cyanicolor) (Thanks, Seth):

Eudasyphora sp.

Eudasyphora sp.

The moth trap yielded four moths, one each of Common Quaker, Early Grey, Hebrew Character and Red Chestnut.


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The annual plague of white-legged snake millipedes has started. I see I wrote about these a year ago.

MIllipedes on outside wall

MIllipedes on outside wall

There was a chiffchaff in the garden a few days ago (reported to Skye Birds) and a raft of eider singing in the bay. The Herring Gulls were at ease awaiting the tide:

Herring Gulls

Herring Gulls

Last gasps?

March 23, 2020

Neil has sent me a couple of records from February including this nice patch of Hymenophyllum tunbrigense (Tunbridge Filmy-fern) from the Drinan area – the first record in NG51 since 1995 and in pretty much the same place as one of the two records made than.

Hymenophyllum tunbrigense NG51

Hymenophyllum tunbrigense (Tunbridge Filmy-fern)      Photo: N. Roberts

Note the teeth on the indusia  – the cover of the sori which contain the sporangia, the spore-bearing structures. This is the best way to distinguish it from the locally common Hymenophyllum wilsonii (Wilson’s Filmy-fern).


March 23, 2020

Having gone into isolation to avoid Covid-19 this blog is currently reduced to what I find in the garden – or our bit of seashore.

Normally by this time of year I am planning summer activities based on analysis of previous records, but this year I have cancelled Skye Botany Group meetings until further notice and Skye Nature Group is in the same boat. As it stands at the moment, I am unlikely even to head for Skye, so Raasay it is. No real hardship there.

I hope to walk on Raasay without judicial reprimand once the season is further underway. I usually see no-one all day so there is very little risk. It could be the year to collect many Raasay Hieracium (Hawkweed) specimens for expert determination. There are plenty of microspecies recorded in the past, but the understanding and taxonomy have changed since many of these records were made.

Meanwhile, I can report the first New Zealand Flatworm from our garden – no surprise as I was shown one from a few hundred metres away in October 2017. I unintentionally dug up this moth larva a couple of days ago.  I think it is Large Yellow Underwing, one of a number of species that feeds at night and hides underground during the day.

Caterpillar 200320

Large Yellow Underwing (probably)


March 7, 2020

If you struggle with sundews, particularly Drosera intermedia (Oblong-leaved Sundew) and Drosera x obovata (Obovate Sundew (D. rotundifolia x anglica)) there is a useful new guide here.

Drosera intermedia has, in my opinion, been over-recorded in the past in our area.

(N.B. Ignoring a very small number of dubious records,  Drosera x belezeana (D. rotundifolia x intermedia) is known only from a small area in the extreme south of England.)

Off With a Bang

February 14, 2020

The square-bashing for Atlas 2020 is over but yesterday Neil, Seth and I took a walk along the River Chracaig in Portree and made a cracking start to the new year’s recording. We started with a look at some snowdrops Seth had found. As well as the standard Galanthus nivalis (Snowdrop), as he had suspected there was also something else, which turned out to be G. plicatus subsp. plicatus (Pleated Snowdrop) and a hybrid swarm of G. x valentinei (G. nivalis x plicatus).

Galanthus plicatus

Galanthus plicatus ssp. plicatus (Confirmed by Aaron Davis at Kew)

Not long after that, we fell over a mature conifer which I am pretty sure is Cryptomeria japonica (Japanese Red-cedar): Later: Confirmed by Matt Parratt (BSBI Conifer referee).

Cryptomeria japonica.jpg

Cryptomeria japonica (Japanese Red-cedar)

That makes three things new to VC104.

Additionally, we added Berberis darwinii (Darwin’s Barberry) and a crocus to the list for the 10 x 10km square NG44.  I think the crocus is Crocus vernus but have asked for expert advice. Later: Brian Mathew (BSBI Crocus referee) says “….the C. vernus agg….. is now split into several. I am sure the Portree Crocus is a form of one of these, the variable C. neapolitanus (Ker Gawl.) Loisel.” So another new VC record – sort of, as I have previously recorded C. vernus and C. neapolitanus is what used to be C. vernus subsp. vernus.


Crocus neapolitanus

We added a further eight taxa that were new to the tetrad including Carex sylvatica (Wood-sedge) and Sanicula europaea (Sanicle).

We found this interesting fungus (Onygena equina) growing on a sheep horn – Neil had found it near here a few months ago:


Onygena equina

an Orange Ladybird

Orange Ladybird

Orange Ladybird

and a variety of other insects, fungi and lichens. Today the weather is back to gale force with no ferry running – and set to be that way for a few days – so no more excursions for now.

Restoring Peat Bogs

January 27, 2020

Restoring Peat Bogs


January 19, 2020

A summary of plant recording in VC104 in the second half of 2019 is available here.

Post-2000 records per tetrad look like this:

Post-2000 records per tetrad

Post-2000 records per tetrad

The bright yellow squares have been visited and found to have no vascular plants (only bare rock above HWMS).

The bright red squares have not been visited but are likely to have no vascular plants for the same reason.

More Raasay News

December 4, 2019

A woodlouse found on the recent SNG outing turns out to be Philoscia affinis, a cryptic species only recorded in the UK in 2017 but likely to have been here for many a year as an undiscovered native. For now, this is the most northerly record on the planet.

Philoscia affinis

Philoscia affinis              Image N. Roberts

You can read much more about this here.

Whilst checking the only known duckweed site on Raasay a couple of weeks ago, I noticed a plant in that small garden pond that I thought was Ranunculus subgenus Batrachium i.e. a Water-crowfoot. I sent a couple of pictures to Chris Preston, aquatic plants expert, who agreed. Sadly neither he nor I can get it to the species level without flowers and late November is not the time to find those. The only accepted records for linear-leaved water-crowfoots in the vice-county are of Ranunculus trichophyllus (Thread-leaved Water-crowfoot) from Storr Lochs on Skye. The Raasay one may have been introduced with purchased pond plants.



Today I spotted this little fungus on a twig in the garden:

Fungus on twig

Fungus on twig

I am hoping that someone will advise as to what it is…..   Later: Looks like a Hymenoscyphus though the species would need more work. Thanks, Seth.