Archive for May, 2018

SNG Comes to Raasay

May 30, 2018

Seth has published an excellent account of our day on Tuesday here. To whet your appetite here are four micromoths two of which were new to the Inner Hebrides.  All images from Seth.

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Lonicera nitida and Insects

May 26, 2018

The Lonicera nitida (Wilson’s Honeysuckle) at Dunvegan is now in flower:


Lonicera nitida (Wilson’s Honeysuckle)

At home I have spoilt my record of one per year by finding another two-banded longhorn beetle (Rhagium bifasciatum) this morning. I am also getting a lot of this cranefly, Tipula vittata, which was thought to be scarce on the west but seven of the 25 crane flies I have caught this year are this.

Tipula 180525

Tipula vittata

A Day of Surprises

May 25, 2018

John told me recently that there was now a (vehicle-grade) track all the way though Waternish Forest so today I used this to walk to NG35D, a tetrad with no records that before the track was built looked like a serious matter to get into. It is still a fair walk but the track goes right through the tetrad.

Unsurprisingly the new track is something of a botanical desert but once onto the adjacent crags and along the burns I managed a total of 117 taxa. The best thing in the target area was Orthilia secunda (Serrated Wintergreen):


Orthilia secunda (Serrated Wintergreen)

Elsewhere along the route I encountered several surprising plants:

The first Skye record for Erodium cicutarium (Common Stork’s-bill) since 1988. There were seven plants by the track and this was also the only spot I saw Sedum anglicum (English Stonecrop) making me think this is probably natural colonisation as also present were Aira praecox (Early Hair-grass) and Sagina procumbens (Procumbent Pearlwort), the whole assemblage being similar to coastal habitats where I might have expected to find the Erodium.


Erodium cicutarium (Common Stork’s-bill)


Erodium cicutarium site

Also by the track was this:


I can only think it is Epipactis helleborine (Broad-leaved Helleborine), a very rare plant locally. I would be grateful for any other ideas (See comments below) but will probably have to go back later in the year. It is a heck of a long way for one plant that may have been eaten by deer or flattened by a forestry lorry….

And there was this Acaena:


Acaena sp.

The upper leaf surfaces are devoid of hairs leading one to Acaena inermis (Spineless Acaena), the one that is quite widespread on Raasay and slowly moving onto Skye BUT the distal leaflets are longer than broad leading one more into Acaena anserinifolia (Bronze Pirri-pirri-bur), the one Seth found at Uig. I shall have to go back later. It is only May and my Go Back And Check list is getting longer and longer……

In passing I did some good to tetrad NG25Y, improving the taxon count from 78 to 120 and also made records in passing in NG25T, U and Z which I have yet to process.

This still leaves the nearby NG35E with no records, but it is only 6.3% land whereas NG35D is 69.2 % and was the tetrad with zero records with the largest land area. That accolade now falls on NG41T with 48.1% land.

Loch Vorvin

May 24, 2018

Loch Vorvin is at the southern end of Waternish and sits in tetrad NG25X. The only previous records for this tetrad were 16 species from the 1989 Freshwater Loch Survey. Yesterday Skye Botany Group set out to improve that and indeed we did, though this is a species-poor area and the taxon total now sits at a massive 86 vascular plants. Bryophytes were also thin on the ground. However, we did see Neottia cordata (Lesser Twayblade) in flower:

Neottia cordata Photo S. Terry

Neottia cordata     Photo: S. Terry

The good news was that the burn we followed from the road to get to the target tetrad was quite rich with both plant and invertebrate life so we were able to stand the tedium of the target area better – and the views from the top were excellent.

Nick recorded 95 bryophytes from NG25S and 80 from NG25X including Scapania aequiloba on the basalt outcrops by the burn low down and Philonotis arnellii on bare soil by the loch.

Vascular plants recorded on the day numbered 120 and 80 respectively.



May 24, 2018

I had a few hours before an appointment in Broadford on Wednesday so went for a limestone fix in the woodland from Kilbride to Torrin. It turned out there were rather a lot of records needing refreshing in that particular patch and I only achieved partial coverage. However, the Neottia ovata (Common Twayblade) was in bud in several places including a patch of over 50 plants of which this image shows just a part:


Neottia ovata at Torrin

Remarkably I added 28 taxa that were completely new to the tetrad taking the total to well over 300, including Tolmiea menziesii (Pick-a-back-plant):


Allt Tota Thaoig, Skriaig and Beinn na Greine

May 20, 2018

The tetrad containing Skriaig with its TV and radio transmitter had only three vascular plants recorded before yesterday, all from 1977/8, but one was Diphasiastrum alpinum (Alpine Clubmoss), something I always find strangely pleasing.  However, from adjacent areas this tetrad (NG44K) looks generally pretty uninspiring botanically.  Indeed some time in it yesterday resulted in records of a mere 75 plants including the three previously known. Yet amongst these were Lycopodium clavatum (Stag’s-horn Clubmoss) and Thalictrum alpinum (Alpine Meadow-rue) last recorded in NG44 in 1978 and 1974 respectively from the opposite end of this 10 km square.

Also present were Neottia cordata (Lesser Twayblade) and Salix herbacea (Dwarf Willow), two other plants that I like to find.


Salix herbacea (Dwarf Willow) Male flower

Because I was expecting a low count in NG44K, I approached from the east along the Allt Tota Thaoig which looked much richer. Besides, I couldn’t miss the chance to type “Allt Tota Thaoig”. This tetrad (NG44Q) already had 220 taxa recorded but I added nearly 50 more (imprecision owing to complexities of subspecies and aggregates). This tetrad also had Lycopodium clavatum (Stag’s-horn Clubmoss) and Neottia cordata (Lesser Twayblade).

Others additions of interest included Arabidopsis thaliana (Thale Cress) and Epilobium hirsutum (Great Willowherb), both infrequent in VC104 (60 and 16 tetrads respectively) and also naturalised Alnus rubra (Red Alder) and Ribes nigrum (Black Currant) both new to NG44.

Moth Trap

May 18, 2018

I put the trap in the polytunnel last night in an attempt to frustrate the robin who has noticed where I normally put it. By the time I got to it this morning it was quite warm in there so I don’t know how many moths had already disappeared, but most were not in the trap but on the walls of the polytunnel and pretty lively, creating something of a photographic challenge. One is still to be identified as it is still to be found lurking somewhere in the conservatory – perhaps at dusk?

I recorded 11, a twelfth being a bit too worn to be sure, including three Early Thorn and a Clouded Border:

Later: The thirteenth moth duly emerged and turned out to be a Brown Silver-line:


Brown Silver-line

Also, my annual two-banded longhorn beetle (Rhagium bifasciatum) turned up on the garage wall. Readers with long memories will remember that I see one of these every year at almost exactly the same date. I mustn’t look around the garden too carefully lest I find a second and spoil my run….


Culnacnoc and Port Earlish

May 18, 2018

Skye Nature Group went rock-pooling yesterday at Port Earlish and beforehand I took the opportunity for a little botany in the adjacent area. I re-found Crepis capillaris (Smooth Hawk’s-beard) and Veronica arvensis (Wall Speedwell) in NG56 – firsts since before 2000 and added Rosa canina (Dog-rose), Rosa spinosissima (Burnet Rose), Aegopodium podagraria (Ground-elder) and Geranium macrorrhizum (Rock Crane’s-bill) to the NG56 list.

I am left wondering how this large block comes to be on the top of a very tall sea stack:

The SNG rock-pooling will be recorded elsewhere but here are a few images:

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Lorgill, Creag a’ Bhealaich-airigh & Ben Corkeval

May 18, 2018

In the winter there is not so much to write about here. Now there is so much going on I struggle to find time for the blog… Anyway, Wednesday saw me parking at Ramasaig and visiting the places mentioned in the title. Tetrad NG14W had 16 previous records yet contains a botanically rich stretch of the River Lorgill. That figure is now at 137. There were lot of nice things like Orchis mascula (Early-purple Orchid) and Polystichum aculeatum (Hard Shield-fern) along the river and up on Creag a’ Bhealaich-airigh masses of flowering Silene acaulis (Moss Campion)


Silene acaulis (Moss Campion)

and my first flowering Anthyllis vulneraria (Kidney Vetch) of the year:


Anthyllis vulneraria (Kidney Vetch)

I went on to Ben Corkeval which is in tetrad NG14X with only 4 previous records. Cutting across a corner of it, I have upped this to 56 but it is never going to be scored as species-rich. I was after three montane plants from previous records at or near the summit: Diphasiastrum alpinum (Alpine Clubmoss), Salix herbacea (Dwarf Willow) and Vaccinium vitis-idaea (Cowberry) but I only found the last. There really doesn’t look to be any suitable habitat these days for Salix herbacea.

Among a range of interesting insects – they really are on the move now – was the caddis fly Philopotamus montanus in large numbers along the burns.


Philopotamus montanus


May 8, 2018

The moth trap last night attracted at least 24 moths, I say “at least” because when I went to it this morning I saw a robin take one off the wall. My favourite of today’s selection is the Streamer:



I also had a Black Sexton Beetle (Nicrophorus humator). I normally get Nicrophorus investigator, one of the ones with orange bands. NBN has no Raasay records for N. humator but Richard Moore reported it here “sporadically since 1999”. This one was a bit lively for a well-focused photo.


Nicrophorus humator