Archive for June, 2018

SBG on Soay (Updated)

June 30, 2018

Yesterday Skye Botany Group went to Soay hoping to re-find some plants not recorded there – or indeed anywhere in NG41 – since before 2000.

We added three plants new to NG41: Carex extensa (Long-bracted Sedge), Cotoneaster integrifolius (Entire-leaved Cotoneaster) and Ribes rubrum (Red Currant), the last two being garden escapes, but the first is welcome – if a bit of a surprise that it had not been recorded before.

We also saw four that had not been recorded in NG41 since before 2000: Carex oederi (Small-fruited Yellow-sedge), Carex leporina (Oval Sedge), Elytrigia repens (Common Couch) and Rosa mollis (Soft Downy-rose) – probably – see below.

In tetrad NG42L, which we visited briefly we recorded 69 taxa of which two were new. In tetrad NG42M, where we were for most of the day we recorded 143 taxa of which 30 were new. This was already the Soay tetrad with most taxa recorded.

We checked up on the Cladium mariscus (Great Fen-sedge) which was thriving in Loch Doire an Lochain.

We found a rose that leaves me a bit uncertain. It is mostly OK for Rosa mollis (Soft Downy-rose) but some hips devoid of glandular hairs worry me a bit – and there was a  hint of apple scent about the crushed leaves – though they are supposed to smell resinous.


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Nick spent a very hot day exploring the south-west of Soay in a tetrad with no previous bryophyte records and found 81 species. He recorded some vascular plants on the way, adding Hymenophyllum wilsonii (Wilson’s Filmy-fern) to tetrad NG41G and Eleogiton fluitans (Floating Club-rush) to NG41L.

I was pleased to find the Bumblebee Fly or Giant Tachinid Fly (Tachina grossa) again just a week after seeing it on Colonsay.


Tachina grossa on Soay

It appears to be new to Skye (if Soay counts as Skye) according to NBN. Later: Neil tells me he saw one in Drumfearn in 2014 but it doesn’t seem to have hit the NBN.

We all liked the look of this Deerfly – Chrysops relictus – but beware, it bites.

Deer fly

Chrysops relictus                             Photo: Neil Roberts

Seth has written this visit up from a different perspective -see here.


June 30, 2018

Joyce showed me around Knott on Thursday and we added 79 plants to the list for tetrad NG35W which was clearly a bit under-recorded previously.  There were lots of Gymnadenia borealis (Heath Fragrant-orchid) and Platanthera chlorantha (Greater Butterfly-orchid) and also many Dactylorhiza fuchsii (Common Spotted-orchid), plus a few planted specimens opposite a garden. Near Tayinloan Lodge there was a lot of what I think is naturalised Sorbaria sorbifolia (Sorbaria) as well as the Lysichiton americanus (American Skunk-cabbage) that Joyce had told me about earlier in the year. There is also a mature planted Chilean Flame Tree (Embothrium coccineum), but I don’t think it merits formal recording.

I went on to the north to Rubha nan Cudaigean and added 61 plants to the list for that tetrad, earlier records all being from the other side of Loch Snizort Beag around Kingsburgh. Nice things included Blysmus rufus (Saltmarsh Flat-sedge) and Carex oederi (Small-fruited Yellow-sedge).

I didn’t do well with the camera but I shall go back for a pondweed that I couldn’t reach without a grapnel, so may take a few more photos next time.

Here is a Hawthorn Gall that may be caused by Dysaphis ranunculi, the Hawthorn-buttercup mealy gall aphid, but if it turns red later it may be one of the Dysaphis crataegi group (the Hawthorn-umbellifer aphids).


Dysaphis ranunculi gall, maybe



Eilean nan Each

June 27, 2018

Eilean nan Each (Horse Island) lies off northwest Muck and sits conveniently within a single 1 km square of the National Grid. The island was visited in the 1938 by King’s College, University of Durham (now Newcastle University), in the 1960/70s by the Dobsons who lived on Muck and wrote a flora, by my predecessor as vice-county recorder C W Murray plus two colleagues in 1996 and also by N Taylor in 1996.

However, no records have been made since then until yesterday when I travelled with Nick (bryophytes), Bob (birds) and Roger & Pat (mammals). It is quite floristically rich with several orchid species. We found large numbers of Platanthera bifolia (Lesser Butterfly-orchid) including some pretty robust specimens.



Platanthera bifolia (Lesser Butterfly-orchid)

and added Gymnadenia borealis (Heath Fragrant-orchid) to the island list

Gymnadenia borealis (Heath Fragrant-orchid)

Gymnadenia borealis (Heath Fragrant-orchid)

but failed to find the previously recorded Coeloglossum viride (Frog Orchid).

As on other small islands it seems to me that Greylag Geese are changing the vegetation as evidenced by the addition of plants like Capsella bursa-pastoris (Shepherd’s-purse) and Matricaria discoidea (Pineappleweed) to the list.


Capsella & Matricaria

As usual I recorded some rusts, galls and insects. We had a good selection of butterflies including Painted Ladies and I think this fungus on Caltha palustris (Marsh-marigold) may be Puccinia calthae, with few records on NBN and only one in VC104. I await Bruce’s verdict. Later: He says Puccinia calthicola. (No VC104 records on NBN).

Puccinia calthae maybe

Puccinia calthae maybe

This micro-moth, Keith tells me, is Chrysoteuchia culmella (Garden Grass-Veneer).

ENE Micro 2

Garden Grass-Veneer


June 24, 2018

I have just spent an excellent week outside my patch on Colonsay with David, Kevin, Pete and Simon. Colonsay is about 2/3rds the size of Raasay and the highest point 1/3rd that of Raasay, but the other major difference is the presence of sand, lots of sand. So its has several plants at I hardly ever see such as Anchusa arvensis (Bugloss) and Anagallis arvensis (Scarlet Pimpernel) and several that have never been recorded from VC104 such as Radiola linoides (Allseed). It also represents the northern limit (more or less) for the fen plants Epipactis palustris (Marsh Helleborine) and Juncus subnodulosus (Blunt-flowered Rush).

Interestingly, there was a great deal of Utricularia stygia (Nordic Bladderwort) in flower. Whilst this appears to be the only representative of the U. intermedia aggregate in  my patch, I have only once seen it in flower on Skye.


Utricularia stygia (Nordic Bladderwort)

There were good insects too:

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June 15, 2018

Other Botanists’ Efforts. I have been a bit remiss in reporting here what other folks have found recently, so in no particular order:

At the beginning of June Ian spent five days walking the Cuillin covering over 65 km with 5000 m of ascent, and on the way recorded and/or photographed plants. He made very helpful improvements to the records of several tetrads.


Saxifraga stellaris (Starry Saxifrage)         Photo: I Moir

Jean and Keith found a new site for Spergularia rubra (Sand Spurrey) on a forestry track:


Spergularia rubra (Sand Spurrey) Photo J & K Sadler

Martin has been filling in missing species in the Quiraing area and  finding sites for Arabidopsis petraea (Northern Rock-cress), Neottia cordata (Lesser Twayblade) and Salix herbacea (Dwarf Willow).


Salix herbacea (Dwarf Willow)        Photo M . Perry

Steve has been beavering away as usual and re-found a 1967 site for Osmunda regalis (Royal Fern):

Osmunda ST 201806

Osmunda regalis (Royal Fern) Photo S. Terry

and a second Sleat site for Ammophila arenaria (Marram). This makes only the third recent record for Skye, the second being not too far away found in 2013.

Jan gave me a report on how the Cephalanthera longifolia (Narrow-leaved Helleborine) was doing in her wood – well, but not helped by the recent drought.

Janes has been visiting various sites after photographs for his forthcoming fern book and has thus refreshed earlier records for Lycopodiella inundata (Marsh Clubmoss) and Ophioglossum azoricum (Small Adder’s-tongue).

Ophioglossum azoricum (Small Adder's-tongue) JM

Ophioglossum azoricum (Small Adder’s-tongue)        Photo J. Merryweather

Seth is of course recording anything and everything at Uig.

Apologies to anyone I have missed out! Apply here for full refund.


June 13, 2018

Following my excursion into the heart of the Cuillin I have had a couple of shortish lowland trips. Firstly, I went into a tetrad with only two records (ever) southwest of  Mugeary. Secondly, in between the dentist in Kyle and a forestry meeting back on Raasay, I  visited Loch nam Madadh Uisge and Luib, principally to resolve the ridiculous position of having no post-1999 record of Eleocharis palustris (Common Spike-rush) for the entire 100km2 that is NG52. (Well, 92.8km2 that is land or freshwater, if anyone is counting.) There are 20 pre-2000 records in eight different tetrads.

The Mugeary tetrad was mostly pretty dull – forestry plantation or uninspiring moor, but to get there I passed though some really nice marsh/wet meadow and at the end of my time in the target tetrad (NG43I) I found a stretch of burn that had many of the common species I had not seen plus a splendid bog with Comarum palustre (Marsh Cinquefoil) and Carex canescens (White Sedge) which cheered me up and helped raise the taxon count for the tetrad to a magnificent 85.

There were also Large Heath (as well as Small Heath) butterflies and a fine Northern Eggar moth:

Moving on….. At Loch nam Madadh Uisge, finding Eleocharis palustris (Common Spike-rush) turned out to be harder than I expected. The loch is full of the similar Eleocharis multicaulis (Many-stalked Spike-rush), but I eventually found a few spikes in the wee burn at the north end. I had forgotten that this loch is a Pipewort loch and the flower stalks were now above water level – though the leaf rosettes alone are very distinctive.

I also spotted my first flowering Dactylorhiza incarnata (Early Marsh-orchid) and Platanthera bifolia (Lesser Butterfly-orchid) of the year:

Ruadh Stac

June 10, 2018

Yesterday I set off for Ruadh Stac as it sits in a tetrad with no post-1999 records. It is a tetrad that I intend to cover in two parts – the high part, Ruadh Stac itself, from the east and the low part from either the north (Sligachan) or the south (Camasunary). Most pre-2000 records appear to come from the lower area.

I walked up the Abhainn Ceann Loch Ainort and then the Allt Coire na Seilg and climbed out of the corry rather higher up Garbh-bheinn than I had originally intended – but the plants were of course changing as I got higher and I wanted to add what I could to this tetrad whilst passing through.


Oxyria digyna

Some of the Arabidopsis petraea (Northern Rock-cress) had light purple petals which is not unknown but not frequent on Skye:

Arabidopsis petraea (Northern Rock-cress)

Arabidopsis petraea (Northern Rock-cress)

Despite being at nearly 600m I resisted the temptation to carry on to the top at 808m and descended to 330m in order to head up Ruadh Stac at 493m. The views were great in all directions, if slightly hazy.


Lochan Dubha and the Black Cuillin

I watched a Golden-ringed Dragonfly take a Large Red Damselfly in mid-flight and carry it off. The LRDF had been in cop so all in all not a great result for any of them except the GRDF.

Couple of random critters:

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Garden Insects Today

June 7, 2018

This sawfly may be Rhogogaster sp. (Thanks, Seth) on hawthorn:

and Hawthorn Shieldbug not on Hawthorn:


Hawthorn Shieldbug

Yesterday I had this little moth which is common across the British Isles but according to the Butterfly Conservation database is new to Skye:


Argyrotaenia ljungiana – Heather Twist

However, I can see a record in Strathaird by Stephen Moran in 1998. So, the second “second for Skye/Raasay” in a few days.

Boreraig & Creag an Daraich

June 7, 2018

I walked in from the east, parking at Heast. There were 1996 records of Eupatorium cannabinum (Hemp-agrimony), Saxifraga aizoides (Yellow Saxifrage) and Ulmus glabra (Wych Elm) from the Allt na Peighinn waterfall. They were all still present, as were Carex remota (Remote Sedge) and Geum urbanum (Wood Avens).


Allt na Peighinn waterfall

Up on Creag an Daraich I refound Carlina vulgaris (Carline Thistle), though just over the border from the tetrad where it was recorded in 1998. I didn’t manage Ophioglossum vulgatum (Adder’s-tongue), also 1998, but I ran out of time at that end of the trip having spent too long peering at things on the way.

Vulpia bromoides (Squirreltail Fescue) was plentiful on one of the old houses at Boreraig – and new to NG60.

I saw my first Six-spot Burnet imago of the year:


Six-spot Burnet

my first definite Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary of the year:


Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary

this fly, which is probably Chrysopilus cristatus (Black Snipefly):


Black Snipefly probably

and Phragmidium rosa-pimpinellifoliae on Rosa spinosissima:


Phragmidium rosa-pimpinellifoliae



Lòn Salach, Braes

June 5, 2018

Yesterday I had a look at the lower reaches of Lòn Salach near Gedintailor in Braes. It turned out to be quite a nice burn with a long wooded gorge. It sits in tetrad NG53C which previously had just three records from when I dipped into the very edge to the north of Ben Lee and recorded three alpine species in 2012.

There was Trollius europaeus (Globeflower) in flower and as is so often the case in these gorges, a great deal of bird-sown Cotoneaster simonsii (Himalayan Cotoneaster). Some of this is reaching tree-like proportions.


Cotoneaster simonsii (Himalayan Cotoneaster)

There were lots of moths about and I managed to photograph a few including the Broken-barred Carpet (thanks Keith for i.d.) which does not have many Skye records:

Other plants typical of these gorges included Galium boreale (Northern Bedstraw), Orchis mascula (Early-purple Orchid), Polystichum aculeatum (Hard Shield-fern) and Rubus saxatilis (Stone Bramble).