Archive for June, 2013

Catch-up Time

June 30, 2013

Bill & Deirdre have another new site for Lepidium heterophyllum (Smith’s Peppérwort), this time in a new 10 km square near Eynort.

On Saturday Linda showed me her Lamium album (White Dead-nettle) and Rubus lacianatus  (Cut-leaf Bramble) at Ulllinish.  We had a look at local ferns and a site covered in orchids with especially large numbers of Platanthera chlorantha (Greater Butterfly-orchid) which appears destined to be built on.

Building Site?

Building Site?

Later I gave a talk on Raasay to the British Bryological Society Summer Meeting which is on Raasay this week.  This seemed to go OK and I am hopeful that they may make records for “honorary bryophytes” like Hymenophyllum tunbrigense (Tunbridge Filmy-fern). I also asked them to keep an eye out for Asplenium septentionale (Forked Spleenwort) and Lycopodiella inundata (Marsh Clubmoss), both last recorded here in the 1930s, but more in hope than expectation.

One early arrival (Gordon) had already found Botrychium lunaria (Moonwort) and Carex pauciflora (Few-flowered Sedge).

Fionn Choire & Sgùrr a Bhasteir

June 28, 2013

Bill, Deirdre and I spent a good day in Fionn Choire on Wednesday – and as we climbed up the side of Sgùrr a Bhasteir we couldn’t resist going to the top, at 898m just 54 ft short of a Munro (wonderful mixed units!).

The end of the ridge - Sgurr a Bhasteir

The end of the ridge – Sgurr a Bhasteir

We were above the snow in places:

Pinnacle Ridge

Pinnacle Ridge

The species list gets rather short up there but we spotted some nice things such as Arabidopsis petraea (Northern Rock-cress) and Luzula spicata (Spiked Wood-rush).  The cold Spring may have delayed some things and we didn’t re-find Saxifraga nivalis (Alpine Saxifrage) or Juncus triglumis (Three-flowered Rush). However the bryophytes were looking good:

High Mountain Spring

High Mountain Spring

Just below this spring there was a Cochlearia which under the current state of Cochlearia taxonomy I am calling C. pyrenaica subsp. alpina.

This fly came to visit us for lunch and didn’t want to leave:

Rhagio scolopaceus -Downlooker Snipefly

Rhagio scolopaceus -Downlooker Snipefly

Thanks to Murdo for i.d.

Raasay Slugs

June 27, 2013

Later on Tuesday I attended a workshop run by SLEF to learn to identify species in this much maligned and under-recorded group. Up to this point the only records of slugs on Raasay come from some casual recording on two short visits to the island giving a total of 10 species (out of the national list of about 40 species). The full Raasay list is below. As preparation for the course, I dutifully hunted slugs in the most convenient place – the garden. It was surprisingly difficult to find them in spite of the recent rain but it proved very productive.

I managed to find seven species including an unusually marked specimen of Limax maximus, (often known as the Tiger or Leopard Slug). Of these species, four were new to the island and were of particular interest. All four new species are associated with gardens and human disturbance. The garden habitat is one not searched during the previous short visits to the island. It is quite likely that the recorded distributions of slugs (and many other species) omit many common species found mainly in garden habitats – naturalists will spend far more time in exciting, wild habitats looking for rarer, more exciting species. The first of the new species was not surprising – one of the pestilential garden slugs, Arion owenii. This is very common but grossly under-recorded. Until the 1970s it was not separated from two other garden slug species. Records before that time cannot be assigned to this species as both it and another common garden slug species, Arion distinctus, occur on the island. Since the 1970s, little slug recording has been done in this area so the species remained unrecorded, even from Skye, until recently.

The other three new species are all species that are spreading and the spread has been facilitated by human activity. Slugs or slug eggs are transported unwittingly in plant pots or other garden artefacts from one place to another and it is possible that climate amelioration has allowed some species to survive and thrive in increasingly northward locations. The three new species are Boettgerilla pallens, Deroceras invadens and Tandonia budapestensis.

Boettgerilla pallens, the Worm Slug, is a small, elongated pale grey slug, often with a lilac tinge. It is usually only seen in small numbers and not a pest, indeed its diet is thought to be very small invertebrates which themselves may be pests. It is a European species first recorded in the UK in 1972. Since then it has spread widely and is now present from Jersey in the far south to Orkney in the north. The first Skye records were only a decade ago.

Boettgerilla pallens

Boettgerilla pallens

Deroceras invadens (sometimes called the Tramp slug) has taken longer to spread having first arrived in Britain in the 1930s. It is now abundant in many gardens where it can be a pest. It is easily recognised with its brown body, and always has a pale area around the breathing pore.

Deroceras invadens

Deroceras invadens

Tandonia budapestensis, the Budapest Slug, is a major pest of potatoes and has been in Britain for about 130 years. Unlike many other introduced species, its spread has been very slow and it is relatively uncommonly recorded in the Highlands. However, it is likely that it is far more common than it appears as so little recording has been done in ‘human’ habitats.

Fuller descriptions and pictures of all these species can be found in the web site Mollusc Ireland: http://www.habitas.org.uk/molluscireland/index.html

Thanks to Chris du Feu and Roger Cottis for sorting out the above.

East of Tormore and Ard Thurinish

June 27, 2013

On Tuesday I had a go at two tetrads in Sleat each with only a small area of land, the rest being sea.  To the east of Tormore a patch amounting to about 0.1 sq km yielded 167 taxa. The Skye coastline has many fine natural arches but this one was special:

IMG_2030a

There was plenty of Ligusticum scoticum (Scots Lovage):

Ligusticum scoticum

Ligusticum scoticum

and less happily, Cotoneaster integrifolius (Entire-leaved Cotoneaster):

 

Cot int

Farther along the coast, Ard Thurinish lies  in in a different  100 km square from almost all the rest of Skye. There are two tiny pieces of land in NM59Z and Ard Thurinish is the larger at about 0.016 sq km where I found 97 taxa including more Ligusticum and Cerastium diffusum (Sea Mouse-ear). Getting there through NG50V there was a fine ravine:

Ravine at Aird

Ravine at Aird

with Melampyrum pratense (Common Cow-wheat):

Melampyrum pratense

Melampyrum pratense

and on the shore, several specimens of Gymnadenia borealis (Heath Fragrant-orchid):

Gymnadenia borealis

Gymnadenia borealis

and an interesting rock formation:

Rocks on Aird shore

Rocks on Aird shore

White Dead-nettle

June 24, 2013

Linda reports Lamium album (White Dead-nettle) from Ullinish:

Lamium album  Photo: L Henderson

Lamium album                Photo: L Henderson

The only previous vice-county record for Lamium album is from Armadale Castle in 1987, apart from some poorly localised records dating back to at least 1950.

Micromoths

June 23, 2013

Keith Sadler kindly volunteered to look at a couple of images of micromoths from my moth trap a couple of years ago. The first one he says is a Eudonia, perhaps E. truncicolella but is unable to be definite without dissecting it:

Eudonia sp.

Eudonia sp.

The second he is confident is Udea lutealis:

Udea lutealis

Udea lutealis

Erica tetralix f. fissa?

June 23, 2013

Steve Terry found this odd Erica tetralix (Cross-leaved Heath) on Skye recently:

Erica tetralix f. fissa?

Erica tetralix f. fissa?

Carl Farmer kindly tried to find out about it and came up with

E. tetralix f. fissa : corolla not urn-shaped but irregularly split into segments”  at http://www.heathersociety.org/heather-descriptions/?heatherSubtype=ericahardy.

There is no picture, unfortunately. I have e-mailed the Heather Society to see if they can help but “The administrator is on holiday until 30 June and unable to respond to emails”, so I shall have to be patient.

LATER: Charles Nelson (BSBI Erica referee) says:  “Yes, that is certainly within the concept of f. fissa. It may well be mite-induced. Perhaps also of interest is the evidence that the stem apex continued to grow. Usually an inflorescence is the terminal point on a flowering stem. The foliage also seems to be almost eglandular, although the calyx segments certainly have gland-tipped cilia, and, it is perhaps also not a normal 4-leaves per whorl plant.”

Talisker Bay – SWT Walk

June 22, 2013

Despite a damp start at home, by the time we reached Talisker Bay for the 10 am start the weather was dry and by lunchtime we were basking in the sun. The early rain may have put some folks off so we were a select band who made our way along the north side of the bay to see the Vicia hirsuta (Hairy Tare), Orobanche alba (Thyme Broomrape) etc. and found a single specimen of Carlina vulgaris (Carline Thistle) last recorded in 1968 and which I had missed on my recce.

Chris Mitchell had kindly mugged up on the geology and was able to explain the lava flows and the international importance of the site which is  designated for geological reasons but is also home to the Talisker Burnet. See http://gateway.snh.gov.uk/sitelink/siteinfo.jsp?pa_code=1515

I had prepared cards of several groups of common plants  (thistles, horsetails, plantains and umbellifers) so that folks were able to brush up their identification skills. Like this:

Plantain card

Plantain card

On return we spent some time in the marsh and by the burn. There are escapes from Talisker House along the burn such as Common Bistort (Persicaria bistorta) and Tuberous Comfrey (Symphytum tuberosum). I am told that there is Leucojum probably vernum (Spring Snowflake) as well but we were too late in the year to spot it.

Foolishly, I had left my camera battery charging at home so couldn’t take any photos. So here are a couple from my recce a few days before:

Yellow Shell

Yellow Shell

White Vicia sepium

White Vicia sepium

Bill and Deirdre took us to their meadow as their orchids are in full flower. Always a pleasure to see – especially the Pseudorchis albida (Small-white Orchid) of which at least 15 were in flower. Tea and cakes also much appreciated.

Rubus laciniatus

June 22, 2013

Records for Rubus laciniatus (Cut-leaf Bramble or Parsley-leaved Blackberry) were limited to Dunvegan in 1958 and Portree in 1970 until Linda reported it from Ullinish this week. This is not normally listed as a seriously invasive alien but it sounds as though it could be a problem where it is. On the other hand it is providing cover for small mammals and birds…..

A New Orchid

June 20, 2013

Steve Terry has found  Dactylorhiza tranusteinerioides sensu stricto (Narrow-leaved Marsh-orchid) near Strollamus.  We do of course have subsp. francis-drucei (previously called D. lapponica (Lapland Marsh-orchid)), but this is the first definitive record of this type of orchid in the vice-county.

Dactylorhiza traunsteineroides

Dactylorhiza traunsteineroides       Photo S. Terry

dd

Dactylorhiza traunsteineroides              Photo S. Terry