Archive for August, 2016

Great Fen-sedge in The Raasay Newsletter

August 30, 2016

My September contribution to the Raasay Community Newsletter can be found via a link on the Recording and Resources page of my website. The subject is Cladium mariscus (Great Fen-sedge).

The last tetrad with 100% land and no records

August 26, 2016

Yesterday I went to NG34E in which part of the Edinbane wind-farm is located. It was the last tetrad in VC 104 with no records ever. It now has 122.

There are still four tetrads with 20 -80% land and no records, mostly a bit of a pain to get to, plus more with <7% land, and then there are tetrads with earlier records but none since before 2000 (nine with 100% land and five with >20% land).

The wind-farm roads added quite a few species such as Capsella bursa-pastoris (Shepherd’s-purse), Cerastium glomeratum (Sticky Mouse-ear), Spergularia rubra (Sand Spurrey) and Urtica dioica (Common Nettle). There was also a nice wet area with Comarum palustre (Marsh Cinquefoil), Menyanthes trifoliata (Bogbean) and Sparganium natans (Least Bur-reed).

However, the tetrad to the west, NG24Z was less fun: lots of Molinia tussocks and not many plant species. In 2012 I recorded 74 taxa. After several hours in it yesterday that total has risen to 97.

It was a good day for insects, however. Heather Flies everywhere – this is their time of year – and several species each of butterflies, dragonflies and moths including this one which I have yet to sort out:

Moth NG2848

Also a lizard. I doubt if I shall ever get a photo of one, they skedaddle so fast.


Skye Botany Group at Eynort

August 26, 2016

On Wednesday went to Eynort and spent most of the time following the Allt nam Fitheach, particularly in its gorge in NG3827. It was tricky in places and we eventually had to climb out of the gorge and head along the top for a bit because of this:

SBG end of road

This tetrad already had 209 taxa recorded in it, mostly from a visit I made in 2006. However, we were in a different part of the tetrad this time and added the following to the 10 km square NG32:

  • Berberis darwinii (Darwin’s Barberry)
  • Bromopsis ramosa (Hairy-brome)
  • Ilex aquifolium (Holly) Really!
  • Larix x marschlinsii (Hybrid Larch)
  • Pinus contorta (Lodgepole Pine)
  • Trichophorum x foersteri (T. cespitosum x germanicum)
  • Tsuga heterophylla (Western Hemlock-spruce)

and a further 38 taxa to the tetrad.

There were plenty of fungi around including this:

Clavulina rugosa maybe 1

which I think is Clavulina rugosa.

Bay Continued

August 22, 2016

John went back the next day and explored one of the burns that runs into the next tetrad to look for Orthilia secunda (Serrated Wintergreen) where I had found it in 2003/4.

Orthilia secunda Waternish LR

Orthilia secunda            Photo: J Hawell

He also spotted Pinguicula lusitanica (Pale Butterwort) which we hadn’t found the previous day:

Pinguicula lusitanica Waternish LR

Pingicula lustanica                             Photo: J Hawell

and this rose which seems to me to be classic Rosa mollis (Soft Downy-rose) with prickly hips and straight thorns on the stems.

Rosa mollis Watrenish LR

Rosa mollis     Photo: J Hawell

I went back to the area the following day, mostly to pass through to the next tetrad to the west. This was the penultimate tetrad in the vice-county with 100% land and no records ever.  I intend to knock off the last of these shortly.  The next sets to aim for are those with no records since before 2000, and tetrads with very few records. There are still 82 tetrads with <50 records ever – but a few of these really do not have many species as they contain only  small areas of land  e.g. I have been to tetrad NM19M and there are no plants as it is all below mean high water springs and no Zostera. Again, I have been to NG63E and there really are only 10 types of plant in it. And so on.

Anyway, I went back to the Honey Fungus to look for fruiting bodies but failed to find any. Growing on a dead standing conifer, it is most likely Armillaria ostoyae which is common in the Highlands. (It is a specimen of this fungus that is thought to be the largest organism on the planet.)

I visited the estuary area that John and I didn’t get to, where I re-found most of the relevant old records and added Bolboschoenus maritimus (Sea Club-rush).  I also re-visited the Sagina apetala (Annual Pearlwort) we found by the road, just to double-check my identification.

I found a patch of Montia fontana (Blinks) that I thought might be subsp. chondrosperma but when I looked at the specimen I took home, there were no seeds. All dispersed already. Here is a seed from Montia fontana subsp. fontana that I took at Bay: very shiny and without tubercles:

Montia fontana

Montia fontana subsp. fontana seed


The Bay River

August 19, 2016

John and I walked a stretch of the Bay River today and then explored a bit more of the tetrad NG25R. We found 197 taxa – with a couple of specimens still to be studied.

Highlights included Cystopteris fragilis (Brittle Bladder-fern) – new to NG25, Equisetum pratense (Shady Horsetail) and the locally uncommon Veronica beccabunga (Brooklime).

There was also this honey fungus on Picea sitchensis (Sitka Spruce):

Honey fungus

Rhizomorphs or Mycelial cords. Probably Armillaria ostoyae.

Mullach Ben Sca and Crò nan Caorach

August 17, 2016

South-west of Edinbane a walk through the forestry plantation takes you to Crò nan Caorach and Mullach Ben Sca, the latter at a massive 210m above sea level.

First thing this morning, I thought I was off to two tetrads with previous records for 1 and 10 taxa. Checking what the one was, I discovered it was the result of an erroneous grid reference and so I had three rather than two tetrads left with 100% land and no records. I am now back to two.

It was a pleasant day with few plant records worthy of a more specific grid reference: Alnus incana (Grey Alder – planted but spreading), Spergularia rubra (Sand Spurrey), Malva moschata (Musk-mallow – a garden throw-out presumably, but known there for nine years now) and Neottia cordata (Lesser Twayblade).

Taxa counts are now 111 and 152.

There was also this fine Red Admiral on Senecio jacobaea (Common Ragwort). Whilst I see a few every year, they are never common here.

Red Admiral

and a leaf spot fungus on Lotus corniculatus (Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil):

Lotus corniculatus leaf spot

I noticed that a tetrad near Portree which I would drive through on the way home had only a couple of records. Twenty minutes along the roadside raised this to 90.

Loch Vidigill

August 15, 2016

I suspect not many folks get to Loch Vidigill. It is a well-vegetated loch with a moderately interesting selection of plants e.g. Comarum palustre (Marsh Cinquefoil), Menyanthes trifoliata (Bogbean) and Sparganium natans (Least Bur-reed). It was cloudy after the recent rains and so I didn’t get a chance to assess any bottom-dwelling flora properly. It does not appear to be very acidic – no bladderworts or sundews.

Loch Vidigill

Loch Vidigill

The forest track that follows the Allt Meadale had lots of Gnaphalium uliginosum (Marsh Cudweed) – it is very common on Skye on roadsides and tracks where it is a bit muddy or at least stays damp.  When well developed it looks like this:

Gnaphalium uliginosum 4

but in these ruderal habitats, where it can occur in large numbers it can look like this:

Gnaphalium uliginosum

Gnaphalium uliginosum on the Allt Meadale track

More from Sgùrr na Coinnich

August 15, 2016

There was lots of Vaccinium vitis-idaea (Cowberry or Lingonberry for those of you with Scandinavian connections) in fruit – often this is a shy fruiter in our area.

Vaccinium vitis-idaeus fruit

Vaccinium vitis-idaeus in fruit

and on the tops quite a bit of the montane form of Solidago virgaurea (Goldenrod) which can be recorded as subsp. minuta though whether it retains these characteristics if transplanted to a less stressed environment, I do not know.

Solidago virgaurea ssp minuta

Solidago virgaurea subsp. minuta

Sgùrr na Coinnich and Beinn Bhuidhe

August 9, 2016

Yesterday I ascended Sgùrr na Coinnich in the hope of finding some old records from the area. I had some successes: Luzula spicata (Spiked Wood-Rush) on Sgùrr na Coinnich and Parnassia palustris (Grass-of-Parnassus) by the Allt Beinn Bhuidhe, but also a number of failures: Gnaphalium supinum (Dwarf Cudweed), Oxyria digyna (Mountain Sorrel) and Persicaria vivipara (Alpine Bistort) last recorded around there in 1983, 1975 and 1967 respectively.

The plateau of Beinn Bhuidhe continues to harbour Arctostaphylos alpinus (Alpine Bearberry) as it has since at least 1772. Also Hieracium holosericeum (Shaggy Hawkweed), one of very few Hieracium species I am able to determine and that Lycopodium that I mentioned earlier in the year. Having had another good look at it, I think it is just environmentally stressed Lycopodium clavatum (Stag’s-horn Clubmoss).

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I found a variety of leaf spots and other fungi and sawfly galls on Salix herbacea (Dwarf Willow), such as I have only seen on the Trotternish Ridge before.

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On the way back to the road there was a single bush of Juniperus communis subsp. communis (Common Juniper) – unusual hereabouts compared with the dwarf subspecies.

Juniperus comm comm

and a bright yellow fungus, I am asking Bruce for help with

Later: He tells me this is Lichenomphalia alpina.

Yellow job

and a lizard – far too fast for me to obtain a useful image.

Steve’s July Records

August 9, 2016

Despite being away for a good chunk of the month, Steve has sent over 400 plant records from Skye in July. Included in these were Diphasiastrum alpinum (Alpine Clubmoss) and Cryptogramma crispa (Parsley Fern) from an altitude of just 92m. For the former this is about the lowest ever recorded in the British Isles

Some records from Ardnish were also very welcome: Sagina nodosa (Knotted Pearlwort) is within a few metres of a 1995 record not previously re-found and the nearby Salicornia (Glasswort) is a new site.

He has also been finding smuts on Carex echinata (Star Sedge) and Carex panicea (Carnation Sedge), the latter being uncommon locally.