Archive for June, 2012

A New Plant to Raasay

June 27, 2012

A couple of plants of Epilobium hirsutum (Great Willowherb) have appeared near the ferry terminal.

Epilobium hirsutum

This is a plant that appears to be extending its range in north-west Scotland where it was very infrequent a few years ago.

Fairy Glen Part 2

June 27, 2012

The SWT walk  in Fairy Glen caught the last day of the recent dry spell with rain starting just as the last of us neared the cars. We were 19 in total and enjoyed the curious landscape of Fairy Glen as well as some interesting plants and other aspects of the natural world.

We saw Arabis hirsuta (Hairy Rock-cress) and Draba incana (Hoary Whitlowgrass – apologies to those present for whom I got the vernacular name wrong) plus Saxifraga hypnoides (Mossy Saxifrage).

Draba incana   Photo: Chris Mitchell

In the river we noticed a  lot of white deposits on the rocks where the water level was below normal.  I tasted it and found it not to be salt, but Robert took a sample home and looked at it with a microscope where it proved to comprise, as he suspected, mainly small diatoms:

Diatoms    Photo: Robert Arnold

The one thing we failed to find for which there is a previous record was Orobanche alba (Thyme Broomrape). The dry weather plus grazing pressure may explain its absence. There again, we didn’t go rock-climbing in the most likely area.

Waternish Point

June 27, 2012

Monday saw me on a long trek around the northern part of Waternish including Waternish Point.  I passed through five tetrads that had no previous records – though there were some records for the area given only at the 10km square level.

Coast near Waternish Point

Obviously at this pace it was not possible to undertake comprehensive surveys of so many tetrads, but I gained nearly 600 records on the day with numbers in the tetrads with no previous records ranging from 85 to 136.  In addition I have a view of which parts merit a return visit – especially the sea cliffs where I can get at them from below.

There were several plants that are always a pleasure to find such as Anagallis tenella (Bog Pimpernel), Botrychium lunaria (Moonwort), Cerastium diffusum (Sea Mouse-ear),  Koeleria macrantha (Crested Hair-grass), Ligusticum scoticum (Scots Lovage), Saxifraga hypnoides (Mossy Saxifrage) and Trollius europaeus (Globeflower).

Amongst commoner plants, these were looking good:

Trifolium medium (Zigzag Clover)

Sedum rosea (Roseroot)

and I recorded Meadowsweet Rust Gall which is quite common but needs to be recorded more frequently.

Meadowsweet Rust Gall

Raasay Moths

June 23, 2012

On Wednesday I spotted what Brian tells me is a Snout (Hypena proboscidalis) on the wall of our house:


As I was seeing a lot of moths in the garden (and disturbed two large toads) I put the moth trap out that night and collected a small haul including Flame Carpet, Green Carpet, Spectacle, Small Square-spot, Bright-line Brown-eye, Pale-shouldered Brocade, Common White Wave and Silver-ground Carpet.  One got away before I could take its photo.

Common White Wave

Green Carpet

For good measure here is one of this week’s fine sunsets:

Some Sleat Sites

June 23, 2012

On Friday I returned to Dun Scaich which Joanna & Julian and I visited briefly a few weeks ago.  I ran out of time on that occasion as I had to  catch the last ferry home.  I still didn’t find the Erodium cicutarium (Common Stork’s-bill) nor the Catabrosa aquatica (Whorl-grass) recorded previously, but added plenty of species to the tetrad list including some dwarfed cliff-top Ophioglossum vulgatum (Adder’s-tongue). The short turf on the clifftop showed clearly the effects of recent dry weather:

Dwarfed Pilosella officinarum (Mouse-ear Hawkweed)

In the nearby salt-marsh I spotted some Salicornia sp. (Glasswort or Samphire):


I also tackled two tetrads with no previous records in the expectation that they would probably be pretty dull, but in fact they both had their charms.  A burn running through the northwest corner of the first was rich botanically with Platanthera chlorantha (Greater Butterfly-orchid) and Comarum palustre (Marsh Cinquefoil):

Comarum palustre (Previously Potentilla palustris)

There was also an area of salt-marsh in the northeast corner and a major road, plus moorland, so that the total records for this tetrad now stand at 168. Further study would undoubtedly add more.

The second record-free tetrad only got a fairly short treatment but what I had expected to be a botanically dull, almost vegetation-free lochan turned out to be something quite different:

Lochan Uisge

A horsetail from the side of the lochan looks like Equisetum x dycei, the hybrid between E. fluviatile (Water Horsetail) and E. palustre (Marsh Horsetail) so I collected a specimen for expert determination.

I managed 94 records including Dactylorhiza incarnata subsp. pulchella (Early Marsh-orchid) and spotted this fine moth:

Northern Eggar

as well as various other beasties requiring records to be passed on to HBRG such as juvenile frogs, Common Blue, Small Heath and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary butterflies.

The River Rha

June 19, 2012

The River Rha is formed from small burns on the Trotternish Ridge and near the Quirang which combine and flow south-westward to Uig. Not that far from Uig there were tetrads through which the Rha flows with zero plant records, and in the higher reaches there was an unlikely record of Ranunculus fluitans (River Water-crowfoot).  Yesterday I had a look at these matters.

The water-crowfoot was not to be seen – perhaps an error for Fontinalis antipyretica (Greater Water-moss)?  or filamentous algae?

The tetrad nearest Uig has a deep, botanically-rich river gorge with an unusually varied wooded bank for Skye containing Viburnum opulus (Guelder-rose) and Prunus avium (Wild Cherry) as well as many locally commoner tree species such as Hazel, Hawthorn and Ash – though none of these are common in this part of Skye.

Wooded Riverbank

Whilst there were no great rarities, there were these unusually pale Early-purple Orchids (Orchis mascula) still well in flower:

Pale Orchis mascula

and some fine Crepis paludosa (Marsh Hawk’s-beard) just coming into flower:

Crepis paludosa (+ragwort)

I spotted some Achillea ptarmica (Sneezewort) with a gall that may be Rhopalomyia ptarmicae but I shall await expert opinion.

Fairy Glen Part One

June 17, 2012

On Tuesday week I am leading a Scottish Wildlife Trust botanical walk at Fairy Glen near Uig.  Today I went on a recce to see if I could find plants recorded at least twenty years ago.  By and large I succeeded and so am ready for the fray on 26th. I shall not give away what we are going to see, so here is a taster of where we might go if we finish with Fairy Glen and still want more:

Near Fairy Glen


June 17, 2012

Mull is not in my patch but I went there last week to help Lynne as she nears her final tetrad to record – still about 15 to do as I left.  Highlights included a dead pine marten – they have not been on Mull long and this one was in a new area some distance from known records.  Also a live slow-worm:


We spotted two lizards, many butterflies and moths including a lot of Clouded Buffs (Diacrisia sannio) which I haven’t seen on Skye or Raasay.

Clouded Buff

On the plant side (the main purpose of the exercise) we found what is only the second site for Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccus) and there was an invasion of American Skunk Cabbage (Lysochiton americanus) near Craignure:

American Skunk Cabbage

Other goodies included Carline Thistle (Carlina vulgaris), Globeflower (Trollius europeaus), Northern Rock-cress (Arabidopsis petraea) Bird’s-nest Orchid (Neottia nidus-avis) and a new site for Wood Bitter-vetch (Vicia orobus):

Wood Bitter-vetch

Peacocks In the Making

June 10, 2012

Just by our back gate, right beside the sea, is a nettle covered in peacock butterfly caterpillars:

Peacock Caterpillars

I am off to Mull tomorrow and so will probably not have much to report on Skye matter this coming week.

Hybrid Orchid

June 10, 2012

Steve Terry has found this hybrid at Broadford next to a group of Northern Marsh-orchids:

Orchid Hybrid      Photo Steve Terry

Clearly D. purpurella is one parent but even after discussion with Richard Bateman and sharing images of leaves and flowers, we are undecided as to which of the spotted orchids is the other.  Not sure how to record this…?