Archive for April, 2018

A Round Tour

April 27, 2018

Today I started at Caroy to see what Colin had found outside his garden. It turned out to be Allium paradoxum (Few-flowered Garlic), new to the vice-county and presumably escaped from his garden more than ten years ago before he took ownership.


Allium paradoxum – mixture of bulbils and flowers +triangular stem

Then I went to acquire a specimen of Utricularia stygia (Nordic Bladderwort) for tomorrow’s meeting. This makes the earliest record ever in VC104 for any Utricularia and in fairness if I had not known exactly where to look I would never have spotted it at this nascent stage.

At Dunvegan I checked a couple of things from the Skye Nature Group excursion there. The Erophila by the church was the same as the one up the hill, E. verna s.s. What we thought likely to be Lonicera nitida (Wilson’s Honeysuckle) looks all the more likely now it is near flowering with flower buds in pairs in the leaf axils:


Lonicera nitida

A visit to the Sawmill Burn allowed me to re-find Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Bearberry), the first record for NG24 since 1993. I walked a long way up the burn and back again before spotting it just by the road – but made other worthwhile records during my travels.

Finally I went to Romesdal Mill


Romesdal Mill

principally to re-find Arabidopsis thaliana (Thale Cress) which hadn’t been recorded in NG45 for 23 years and not at that site since 1971.  These things do tend to still be there through the decades.


Arabidopsis thaliana

There were also quite a few of these polymorphic bumblebee mimics, Eristalis intricaria on Caltha palustris (Marsh-marigold) flowers:


Eristalis intricaria

Finding Old Hectad Records

April 22, 2018

If one analyses plant records for the vice-county by hectad (10km squares of the National Grid), there are a great many plants that have been found in the past but not since 1999 or earlier.

Some of these are errors and many offer no assistance in relocating them e.g. Carex sylvatica (Wood-sedge), NG45, 1950-2005.

A few days ago Roger sent me a record for Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Bearberry) in Sleat and some images:

Arctostahylos (2)

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Bearberry)    Image: R. Cottis

Previously, the only record for NG60 was a 1967 record at “Allt a’ Cham-aird, NG60”. Unfortunately, as the Allt a’ Cham-aird runs through two tetrads, it has not been possible to allocate a tetrad let alone a monad to this record. Now, with Roger’s record there is both a tetrad and a recent record.

Looking at the distribution map I realised that there were other hectads where a visit might have the same effect – in those cases where a location was given. I always forget that Arctostaphylos is a bit sporadic on Skye, as it is widespread on Raasay. So, on excursions in the past week I have re-found it in NG43 at the far NE corner (Allt Osglan, last recorded 1970) and at the southern edge (Allt Coire Darach, 1986). On the Allt Coire Darach excursion I also re-found Juniper from 1986.

Extending this approach to other species, I found Nymphaea alba (White Water-lily) in NG42 for the first time this millennium – not far from Sligachan. I intend to do this for NG33 next.

There are a great many more species I could approach this way… at least it is keeping me amused until the season is sufficiently advanced to make tetrad-bashing worthwhile. Also, it sends me to spots I haven’t visited before. It is the intermediate species in terms of frequency of occurrence that particularly benefit from this, as rare ones are monitored and common ones are, well, common.

NG42 has a particular problem in that there appear to be very large numbers of species not re-found, but I think this is the result of finds made on Skye but given no grid reference being dumped in this central hectad at some point in the past.

As a special treat here is some sheep dung:

Sheep dropping fungus

with Cheilymenia vitellina or C. fimicola (probably).




April 22, 2018

Yesterday I saw my first Staphylinus erythropterus of the year, a Rove Beetle that I see fairly frequently on Raasay and Skye.

Staphylinus erythropterus

Staphylinus erythropterus

Not much of a picture – it was very unobliging and disappeared into the moss.  However, it does show the yellowish area between the wing cases that distinguishes it from others of this genus.

Last night’s moth trap caught 29 moths including two Heralds and one Double-striped Pug.

Introduction to Recording Workshop

April 20, 2018


The above is at


April 15, 2018

The moth trap a few days ago attracted 28 moths including this micro that I have not had before:

Agonopterix ocellana

Agonopterix ocellana

which has been given the name Red-letter Flat-body. Names for micro-moths do not seem to have caught on – I think I can see why….

This spider is, I think, Tegenaria domestica , the Common House Spider – though with no records in VC104 on the NBN Atlas. Later: Hayley tells me that specimens are needed to confirm the species of Tegenaria so this one will have to remain as Tegenaria sp.

Spider 180407

Common House Spider

Thanks to Seth for both these identifications.

I have also been finding River Limpet (Ancylus fluviatilis) and Water Cricket (Velia caprai) when out and about having had these brought to my attention by Seth.

Geary Ravine and the coast to the North

April 15, 2018

Geary Ravine is a plant-rich SSSI that I have not visited since 2008. This time I was hoping to find Saxifraga oppositifolia (Purple Saxifrage), recorded there in 1972 and 1982. I failed on this but did find Carlina vulgaris (Carline Thistle), also 1972 and 1982, and Hymenophyllum wilsonii (Wilson’s Filmy-fern), last seen in 1972.

Carlina vulgaris Geary

Carlina vulgaris at Geary

The Equisetum hyemale (Rough Horsetail or Dutch Rush) was doing well:

Equisetum hyemale (Rough Horsetail) at Geary

Equisetum hyemale at Geary

I then headed north along the coast towards Caisteal an Fhithich though time and tide stopped my getting to it. It looks unscalable by mere mortals anyway.

Caisteal an Fhithich

Caisteal an Fhithich

This sits in a tetrad with no previous vascular plant records and I was able to find 91 plants, which feels OK for mid-April. There was Vicia sylvatica (Wood Vetch) and Orchis mascula (Early-purple Orchid) not yet in flower, but some of the Angelica sylvestris (Wild Angelica) and Geum rivale (Water Avens) was just about there.

Orchis mascula

Orchis mascula

Angelica sylvestris (Wild Angelica)

Angelica sylvestris

SNG in Dunvegan Woods

April 15, 2018

Skye Nature Group walked the Two Churches Walk at Dunvegan on Wednesday. We recorded various invertebrates – molluscs, insects, arachnids, myriapods – plus some birds, a frog plus many tadpoles and of course I made plant lists.

Gerris costae

The pondskater Gerris costae       Image S. Gibson

The route took us through two tetrads and we added 15 taxa to the northern one, NG24P, and 44 to the less well recorded southern one, NG24N.

The woods have various planted shrubs such as Olearia macrodonta (New Zealand Holly) and Griselinia littoralis (New Zealand Broadleaf), the latter making the first record in the wild in VC104.

Griselinia littoralis

Griselinia littoralis

Something we thought might be a Cotoneaster has leaves similar in shape to C. salicifolius (Willow-leaved Cotoneaster) but they are larger than reported in the literature and lacking a tomentose underside – both of which might be effects of shading. Once identified, the leafspot fungus will probably be straightforward! I shall have to go back in the summer – as I will to check putative Ulex minor (Dwarf Gorse) and Lonicera nitida (Wilson’s Honeysuckle).

Cotoneaster sp. maybe

Cotoneaster sp. maybe

Dwarf Gorse is thought always to be an introduction in Scotland where it is sometimes planted as an ornamental and can escape. Given the number of other planted/naturalised plants in this area, that would seem likely. It is not known from the NW Highlands or any of the islands and so I want to see it in flower before recording it. Well done Seth for spotting it!


April 3, 2018

My contribution to the April edition of the Raasay Newsletter concerns the primrose and is available via a link here.

Skye Nature Group Returns to the Sea

April 2, 2018

We went back to Broadford Bay yesterday and found lots of things we hadn’t seen last time.  Such as:

shag rug sea slugs

Shag-rug nudibranch (Aeolidia papillosa)

Astropecten irregularis maybe

Astropecten irregularis (maybe)

Peanut worms

Peanut Worms      Image: S. Terry

spider crab

Spider Crab – but which?    Image: S. Terry

Yarrell's Blenny

Yarrell’s Blenny     Image: S. Terry

Yarrell’s Blenny was a really good find – unknown from rock pools until 2008.

comb jelly

Comb jelly     Image: S. Terry

Spotted by Judith but easier to see its shadow!


North of Kilt Rock

April 1, 2018

There were four 10km squares in the vice-county where the only records for Saxifraga oppositifolia (Purple Saxifrage) were from before 2000. (There are also quite a lot of squares where it has never been recorded.) One of these was NG56 where it was recorded in 1980 from North of Kilt Rock, NG5066, on boulder scree.

Yesterday I went looking and found what is almost certainly the same site just over the monad border in NG5067 – fair enough given 1980 was well before GPS receivers were available.  I also found a few plants in NG5066 at the base of a cliff about 160m from the original site. No point in posting another picture of this plant – see previous post!

The Skye Botany Group went there last year and when Ro and I climbed up the scree we must have missed the saxifrage by a few feet at most.  Given that we were there last year it is not surprising that I only added two to the tetrad list.  However, one of these, Tripleurospermum maritimum (Sea Mayweed), was the first localised record and the first post-1999 record for NG56.

The fertile stems of Equisetum telmateia (Great Horsetail) were emerging:

Equisetum telmateia

Equisetum telmateia (Great Horsetail)