Archive for May, 2012

Moths in May

May 29, 2012

The moth trap on Saturday night caught Small Angle Shades, Bordered White, Flame Shoulder, White Ermine, Garden Carpet and Spectacle Moths. A couple of the more impressive ones:

White Ermine

Spectacle Moth

and a caddis fly!  Thanks to Brian Neath for the id’s.

Skye Aliens

May 29, 2012

As well as useful records of native plants, Steve Terry has reported a number of new sites for garden escapes including:

Geranium x oxonianum (?)     Photo: Steve Terry

We are still checking whether this is the hybrid or one of the parents, G. versicolor.

Gaultheria mucronata (Prickly Heath) is scattered on Skye and Raasay and in some places pretty invasive so a new 10km square for it is not all good news:

Prickly Heath   Photo: Steve Terry

Allt na Meacnaish

May 29, 2012

Skye was looking at its best though the high temperature was daunting for a longish walk.


Allt Coire Lagan

The primary purpose of Saturday’s trip was to try for catkins on last year’s putative Salix x grahamii.  Whilst the small shrub was looking in good health and much the same as last year, there were no catkins. Maybe I was too late but I couldn’t attempt it earlier given knee problem (now better but far from perfect). There again the S. aurita (Eared Willow) and S. repens (Creeping Willow) within a few metres were both covered in catkins, so perhaps there just weren’t any this year. I collected specimens of all nearby willows for expert examination but I fear that I shall have to make the trek again next year, perhaps a little earlier.

I then travelled south to the coast along the Allt na Meacnaish and was rewarded with the adder of the previous post and many plants from richer ground such as Asplenium scolopendrium (Hart’s-tongue), Orchis mascula (Early-purple Orchid), Osmunda regalis (Royal Fern), Rubus saxatilis (Stone Bramble) and so forth.

Mouth of Allt Na Meachnaish (1)

Mouth of Allt Na Meachnaish (2)

This was a pretty thing:

Polygala vulagris (Common Milkwort) colour variant

Adder Basking and Oak Under Attack

May 26, 2012

Lots to say about today’s expedition but most of it will have to wait. Meanwhile here is a fine adder I met:

Adder Basking in the Hot Sun

Secondly, I found an oak with edges of leaves rolled under as a home for insect eggs:

Oak Roller

I have found reference to both a moth,  Green Oak Tortrix (Tortrix viridana) and a beetle, Oak Leaf-roller (Attelabus nitens) that do this sort of thing. Neither seems well-known in northwest Scotland judging by the NBN gateway. From what I can find from a brief search on the web, the moth looks the better candidate, but I shall seek opinion from Higher Authority.

A is for Andromeda (or Absence)

May 24, 2012

In 1931 Hugo Osvald and party recorded Andromeda polifolia (Bog-rosemary from Glen Sligachan, but as was the way in those days, gave no grid reference better than a 10km square. My predecessor as Vice-county recorder spent many hours searching for it without success. When the BSBI Distributional Database became available recently I discovered another record by P. Immirzi in 1993, with a six-figure grid ref. This was also given as Glen Sligachan, but the grid ref was not in what is normally known as Glen Sligachan. However, it is near Sligachan and I went there today.  I failed to find any. But the odd plant could be easily missed. I may try again.

I decided to look for Eriocaulon aquaticum (Pipewort) as this was a tetrad that had no post-1999 record for it, but several earlier ones.  It was present in several locations. Although not flowering yet, the rosette is distinctive:


I can’t help feeling that if this basically North American plant had been recorded for the first time in the past twenty years it would have been viewed as an alien. However, the first Skye record is from 11 September 1764. This plant is only known in Europe from western Scotland and western Ireland.

I had limited hope of confirming a 1993 record for Vaccinium oxycoccus (Cranberry) and didn’t. It is perhaps a little early in the year but whilst there was a great deal of bog, I didn’t spot much habitat that looked right for this plant.

I had high expectations of finding Sparganium erectum (Branched Bur-reed) in the River Varagill as it was reported in 1990 with a six-figure grid ref and said to be along a 1 km length of the river – but I didn’t.

On a higher note, at the third attempt I found the locally scarce Mercurialis perennis (Dog’s Mercury) “Between Loch Portree and main road” which does not allow localisation even to a tetrad. It is now pinned down with an eight figure grid ref.

It was a good day for amphibians – palmate newt, frog and many tadpoles, and dragons and damsels with lots of Four-spotted Chasers and Large Red Damselflies.

Glen Eynort

May 19, 2012

I spent the day in the northern part of Glen Eynort. It is still cold

Fresh Snow on the Hills

though we have warmth forecast within a few days.

Despite the cold the invertebrates are busy:

Pond snails – Lymnaea sp.

Insect Larvae

The valley of the River Eynort is rich and many plants are in flower now. I re-found an old record for Viburnum opulus (Guelder-rose) and added a new record for it in an adjacent tetrad. Some of it was infested with a blue-grey aphid making it look like our currants do when they suffer an aphid attack:

Viburnum opulus under attack

Up on the hill I found Crytogramma crispa (Parsley Fern)

Parsley Fern

and re-found old records for Alchemilla alpina (Alpine Lady’s-mantle) and Saxifraga stellaris (Starry Saxifrage).

A pleasant day in the sun, if a little chilly, accompanied by the sounds of cuckoos and skylarks.

Perennial Problem

May 18, 2012

Someone seems to think that the nearest thing we have on Raasay to a village green, with the phone boxes and a bench, is the ideal place to dump rubble and garden waste:


For a month or so I have been wondering whether to record or uproot the Centaurea montana (Perennial Cornflower) that is growing in this mess. It has obviously come from a garden but on balance I have decided that it improves the fly-tipped rubble.

Perennial Cornflower

To my surprise, I also spotted today a well-established specimen of another garden plant that had previously escaped my attention. Symphoricarpos x chenaultii (Pink Snowberry) is growing by the Arish Burn about 130m from our house. That’s two new plants to add to the Raasay list – though neither is particularly welcome.

An Absence of Tussocks

May 13, 2012

Steve Terry and I went to check a 1989 site for Carex paniculata (Greater Tussock-sedge) on the hill at the back of Breakish.  Sadly we didn’t find it – though we found likely habitat at the grid reference given.  It is interesting that this plant is quite plentiful on Muck at the southern end of the vice-county and there is a good patch on the southern edge of Eigg, the next island to the north, but there is none on Rum or Canna and on Skye I know only two extant sites, each with rather few plants and each new when I found it.  I have now checked the three older sites where there is a decent grid reference or location and not found it.  Perhaps it is not long-lived on Skye. There remain three other old records, two of which just give a 10km square but the third is for Glen Eynort which is a bit more specific.  Perhaps I will try for that some time though this record is from 1958 so if my hypothesis is right, it has probably gone…..

Anyway, Steve and I had a pleasant walk with the skylarks singing and the moorland plants coming out of their winter rest. The knee stood up to the test which is good news.


May 2, 2012

Yesterday was Bealltainn (Beltane) which marks the beginning of summer. The swallows, cuckoos and ticks are out and about to help celebrate. The sun had been shining brightly for days and we are having to water the garden.

Steve Terry reports Barbarea intermedia (Medium-flowered Winter-cress) from Camas na Sgianadin, north of Broadford, the first record in that area since 1957.