Archive for April, 2014

Moths, Diving Beetle, Cuckoos, Corsican Mint

April 30, 2014

The cuckoos arrived on Raasay at the weekend. Spring is sprung.

A moth trap I put out ten days ago caught 28 moths of which 13 were Hebrew Characters.  Two were Powdered Quakers, the first time I have recorded this species:

Powdered Quaker

Powdered Quaker

Martin sent me an image of a beetle he saw flying in Glen Brittle. It is clearly one of the diving beetles, genus Dytiscus.  It will be either D. marginalis or D. lapponicus but Murdo tells me that but these need close scrutiny to separate. I have sent the image to Richard Moore but suspect he may not be able to make this distinction from an image, either. Later: The consensus, including Richard, is that this is probably, but not certainly, D. marginalis.

Dytiscus     Photo: M. Izzard

Dytiscus sp.                Photo: M. Izzard

I have discovered the origin of the Mentha requienii (Corsican Mint) found on Raasay last year     It used to be grown in the garden of No.  4 Balachuirn, about 500m from its main site now.

Mint Gall, Birds, etc.

April 26, 2014

Dinner time. Raasay lamb, well, sheep. Chops needing mint sauce so out the back gate to the mint forest. It is Mentha spicata or a hybrid close to it and a long-established garden escape.  It has galls!

Mentha gall

Mentha gall

Underside

Underside

This fails the first couplet in the Mentha galls section of the generally excellent book British Plant Galls:

1 Young shoot, including stem and leaves at shoot tip, deformed and distorted, sometimes affecting whole plant.

OR

1 Gall on stem or on individual leaves, not affecting whole plant, on Mentha aquatica.

On further investigation I found this:

Sporangia?

Sporangia?

which makes me think it’s a fungus. From images on the web it does not seem to be Puccinia menthae which affects many Mentha species.  Perhaps it is in fact Physoderma menthae, the one that in the key is listed only for M. aquatica. I can’t find any images of it but the book says stems and leaves with thick pustules containing golden sporangia which sounds encouraging….

Settling down for dinner there was a Great Northern Diver a few metres offshore and a grey seal cruised by. The first swallow appeared a few days ago but tonight there are quite a few. I haven’t heard a Raasay cuckoo yet this year.

 

Portree Allotment Site

April 22, 2014

While the car was being attended to at the garage today I had a wander over the area of Home Farm where it is proposed to put allotments. It is still early in the season but I recorded nearly 130 different plants and the river bank on the border of the site was quite nice with Ulmus glabra (Wych Elm) and the locally scarce Epilobium hirsutum (Great Willowherb). I doubt if the riverbank will suffer from the allotment development – though overenthusiastic tidying of this area and an associated wet area with Chrysosplenium oppositifolium (Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage) and Crepis paludosa (Marsh Hawk’s-beard) should be discouraged.

There are several things to go back and check later and also, no doubt, more things yet to emerge.  The first of the bluebells were in flower:

Hyacinthoides non-scripta

Hyacinthoides non-scripta

Myrica gale (Sweet Gale, Bog Myrtle) is dioecious i.e. has male and female flowers on separate plants , and both were looking good today – though my photo of the female flowers is a bit fuzzy, I am afraid:

Male

Male

Female

Female

There were many caterpillars of the Drinker moth and I also spotted one Garden Tiger caterpillar:

Drinker

Drinker

Garden Tiger

Garden Tiger

The weather has been dry and warm for several days and there have been many Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies in the garden – plus bats above (probably pipestrelles) and Red Deer on the brae opposite.

The Arish Burn

April 10, 2014

Nick came to do the bryophyte survey in connection with the proposed hydroelectric scheme on Tuesday and I went along for the ride. It was the best day this week weather-wise and I was able to do some preliminary  vascular plant recording as well as being the official photographer.   However, several things really will have to wait until later in the season – some grasses and sedges plus orchids, if any.

We spotted some tufa forming on what Nick identified as Palustriella commutata

Tufa in the Making

Tufa in the Making

Nick found one Nationally Scarce moss, Gymnostomum calcareum, but there are several sites for it on Raasay.

Bryologist in Action

Bryologist in Action

One section of the burn was unfamiliar to me and it may be that I have never got there before. Until a few years ago it would have been hidden in the middle of a conifer plantation and it may have been missed. Anyway, like other parts of the burn it shows some influence of basic rocks and had Galium odoratum (Woodruff). Plants fully in flower included Chrysosplenium oppositifolium (Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage), Luzula sylvatica (Great Wood-rush), Primula vulgaris (Primrose)and Viola riviniana (Common Dog-violet).

Celandines

April 1, 2014

Lesser Celandine was Ranunculus ficaria for many a year. These days it is Ficaria verna and it is now in flower locally.  Four subspecies are recognised as occurring in the wild in Britain but two are garden escapes and not known in VC104 – though they could be here.

Our plant, outside of “Big House” gardens is F. verna ssp. fertilis, previously Ranunculus ficaria ssp ficaria.  In a few castle and large house gardens there is F. verna ssp. verna, previously R. ficaria ssp bulbifera.

F. verna ssp. fertilis never has tubers (bulbils) in the leaf axils but forms a complete head of achenes (fruits).

F. verna ssp. verna forms tubers (bulbils) in the leaf axils after flowering and forms no or few achenes.

Because the whole plant disappears by mid- to late summer, records are not as comprehensive as they might be so it would be good to fill in some gaps. F. verna ssp. fertilis is common but does not tolerate acidic moorland. However, if you can’t see it anywhere else, under bracken is a good bet.

The following distribution maps reflect current knowledge.

Ficaria verna ssp. verna

Ficaria verna ssp. fertilis

Ficaria verna ssp. verna

Ficaria verna ssp. verna

Ficaria verna  No subspecies specified

Ficaria verna
No subspecies specified

March Plant Records, Moths and that Ground-beetle

April 1, 2014

Steve has sent over 250 plants records from Skye during March including several nice records like Lycopodium clavatum (Stag’s-horn Clubmoss) and Viburnum opulus (Guelder-rose).

Richard tells me that my Carabus from the polytunnel is C. problematicus, the commonest Raasay species.

Last night I put out the moth trap and trapped four different moths: Mottled Grey, Common Quaker, Hebrew Character and Clouded Drab, which Brian tells me are the four most common species around here at this time of year.

IMG_4274a

Clouded Drab

IMG_4276a

Hebrew Character

IMG_4277a

Common Quaker

Mottled Grey

Mottled Grey