Archive for June, 2016

Steve’s June Records

June 30, 2016

Steve has sent over 860 Skye records from June including many interesting additions, such as X Dactylodenia st-quintinii (Gymnadenia borealis x Dactylorhiza fuchsii) near Torrin, Dactylorhiza traunsteinerioides (Narrow-leaved Marsh-orchid) with unmarked leaves from Coire-chatachan and Baldellia ranunculoides (Lesser Water-plantain) from the Broadford River downstream from its known location in Loch Cill Chriosd.

He also passed on some records from Tim, including a new site near Calligary for Cephalanthera longifolia (Narrow-leaved Helleborine). This is not far from a known site but five days later the single plant had disappeared.

Scottish Moth Caterpillars by Habitat

June 28, 2016

The East Scotland branch of Butterfly Conservation has been busy again. They now have pages of Scottish Moth Caterpillars by Habitat split into

Grassland & Marsh
Road verges & Woodland edges
Hedge, Scrub & Carr

Hybrid Thistle

June 27, 2016

Michael Braithwaite has sent me a specimen from Muck of Cirsium x celakovskianum (C. arvense x palustre). This is a first for the vice-county and perhaps needs to be looked out for elsewhere.

Cirsium x celakovskianum

Cirsium x celakovskianum from Muck

Ellishader Escallonia

June 23, 2016

Last month I was puzzled by a shrub at Ellishader and the consensus after folks looked at my images was that it was probably an Escallonia.  Today on the way to Staffin Island I stopped for another look and it is now flowering. I still think it is an Escallonia but it is clearly not the standard Escallonia rubra var. macrantha. Here is a photo of a piece beside  one of the standard issue:

escallonia x2

Later: Mike Wilcox says it looks like looks like Escallonia x langleyensis.

Staffin Island

June 23, 2016

Bob, Nick and I took a dinghy to Staffin Island  today. I didn’t take my camera in case we ended up in the water but it was much more profitable than I had expected.

Staffin Dinghy

We made 132 vascular plant records on Staffin Island, the following (remarkably, in most cases) new to NG46: Atriplex glabriuscula (Babington’s Orache), Atriplex prostrata (Spear-leaved Orache), Juncus ranarius (Frog Rush) and Puccinellia maritima (Common Saltmarsh-grass). And there was another near the slip on Skye: Aira caryophyllea (Silver Hair-grass).

I have also taken a Euphrasia (Eyebright) specimen for expert determination – it looks like one of the uncommon ones to me. Later: Chris Metherell has determined it as Euphrasia foulaensis.

Bob recorded 21 bird species, 17 of them breeding.  This includes about seven pairs of bonxies.

557A5640 copy

Great Skuas on Staffin Island            Photo Bob McMillan

Nick found a small number of bryophyte species, but some rather good ones.

Druim na Coille

June 22, 2016

Druim na Coille is a lower stretch of the Trotternish Ridge and lies within tetrad NG45H for which there were until today just two records, Gymnocarpium dryopteris (Oak Fern) and Salix caprea (Goat Willow), both of which I re-found today, along with 173 other taxa.

Gymnocarpium dryopteris 20160622

Gymnocarpium dryopteris

The Druim (ridge) does have some trees (Coille = wood): Betula pubescens (Downy Birch), Corylus avellana (Hazel), Salix aurita (Eared Willow), Salix caprea (Goat Willow) and Sorbus aucuparia (Rowan) in contrast to stretches of the ridge to the north and south.

The Lòn Shobhar-airigh is a rich burn with two sites for Orthilia secunda (Serrated Wintergreen).

Orthilia 20160622

I also spotted this on an apparently unnamed pinnacle below Druim na Coille.


Unnamed pinnacle

The only previous record for this species in the 10km square NG46 is from 1968 “near Steinscholl”.

There were montane plants on the ridge like Oxyria digyna (Mountain Sorrel) and Saxifraga oppositifolia (Purple Saxifrage) and plants that were both up high(ish) and along the burn like Saxifraga hypnoides (Mossy Saxifrage) and Trollius europaeus (Globeflower). There was moor and bog and Epilobium alsinifolium (Chickweed Willowherb) and Saxifraga stellaris (Starry Saxifrage) in springs and rills.

All in all a very pleasing day.

Carex bigelowii

June 18, 2016

Unless it is in flower, I have trouble with Carex bigelowii (Stiff Sedge), not just because it is rather like some forms of Carex nigra (Common Sedge) but also because the two hybridise (Carex x decolorans). However, yesterday there were some nice flowering specimens at about 800m above Coir’ an Eich. It is usually very much an upland species.

Carex bigelowii 00

Carex bigelowii

Some key things are the clustered flower spikes and the short lowest bract – in C. nigra and C. x decolorans the lowest bract is about as long as the whole inflorescence.

Carex bigelowii 01

Also, the red-purple stem bases and rhizome scales exclude C. nigra.

Carex bigelowii 02

In theory one can distinguish the two parents and the hybrid by checking for stomata on both sides of the leaves: both = hybrid, lower surface only = C. bigelowii, upper surface only = C. nigra BUT C. nigra can have a few on the lower surface. And then there is robust C. panicea in some of these habitats.

Coir’ an Eich

June 18, 2016

Yesterday was windy but otherwise great walking weather and I followed the Allt Coir’ an Eich up into the Cuillins, reaching 800m. I failed to find the Kalmia procumbens (Trailing Azalea) recorded there in 1981 and 1983 despite having a 6-figure grid reference, which was disappointing. However, I did re-find Cerastium nigrescens (Arctic Mouse-ear) in two spots.

Cerastium nigrescens

Cerastium nigrescens

and almost everything else previously reported from the area. I also added over sixty new taxa to tetrad NG42G such as Carex bigelowii (Stiff Sedge) – of which more later in a separate post – Luzula spicata (Spiked Wood-Rush) and many commoner species.

Much of the Saussurea alpina (Alpine Saw-wort) was showing little sign of flowering but a few were on the way:

Saussurea alpina

Saussurea alpina

and there were plenty of other nice alpines.

Salix herbacea and Silene acaulis

Salix herbacea and Silene acaulis

There were a few scruffy looking specimens of Picea sitchensis (Sitka Spruce) at about 750m which I wasn’t very pleased to see, though they look unlikely to turn into a forest.

Picea sitchensis


I had planned to traverse the ridge to Sgùrr nan Gobhar, but the wind was so strong that I decided against it.

Sgurr nan Gobhar

Sgurr nan Gobhar

It wasn’t much of a day for flying insects but I managed a few records, mostly lower down, and also spotted Puccinia violae (Violet Rust) on Viola riviniana (Common Dog-violet) high up in the hills.

Puccinia violae

Violet Rust

I also found this high in the Cuillins almost exactly two years ago.

N of Portree, E of the A855

June 15, 2016

I had a few hours yesterday after a lunchtime appointment in Portree and so headed a little way north on the A855. I had two things in mind – to up the taxon count for NG44Y from 73, which I did, to 163, and to re-find a 1991 record for Equisetum pratense (Shady Horsetail) at Lòn Druiseach, SE arm, NG5047. This too was easily accomplished with over 200 shoots by the upper reaches of this burn.

I parked in a lay-by by the A855 where garden rubbish has obviously been dumped in the past and found Carex pendula (Pendulous Sedge) and Epilobium hirsutum (Great Willowherb) there. I wonder which gardens in Portree have Carex pendula?

There were several clumps of Parnassia palustris (Grass-of-Parnassus) with flower buds in a marshy area by the Lòn Druiseach.

Parnassia in bud

Parnassia palustris in bud

Raasay, East of Arnish

June 13, 2016

It was ten years since I had last checked up on the Allium vineale (Wild Onion) on Sìthean Mòr. It looks much as it did in 1991 when I first found it and it remains the only known location in the vice-county.

Allium vineale Raasay

Allium vineale

Yesterday was a very pleasing day with lots of locally unusual but not rare plants such as Calamagrostis epigejos (Wood Small-reed), Carex otrubae (False Fox-sedge), Carex remota (Remote Sedge) and Vulpia bromoides (Squirreltail Fescue).

The butterflies are really out and about now with lots of Common Blues and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries.

There were quite a few moths too

plus other insects that I could identify like Common Green Grasshopper, Common Ground-hopper and Common Earwig. I don’t remember seeing a Ground-hopper on Raasay before but they are well camouflaged and leap quickly if disturbed.

There was a leaf mine on Sonchus asper (Prickly Sow-thistle) that I thought might lead to a useful record

Sonchus asper leaf mine In situ

but it turns out that there are two species of the dipteran genus Chromatomyia that might be responsible and the difference is visible only in interior details of the male genitalia so the only way to distinguish them is to rear the adult, hope for a male, and then have the skill and patience to check out the anatomy. Thanks for that, Murdo.