Archive for March, 2019

Kinloch Ravine and Allt nam Criopag

March 24, 2019

Fresh snow on the hills, hail beating at the window at 8 am, yesterday was obviously the perfect day for my first serious botanical expedition of the year. In fact it turned out reasonably pleasant with just a few drops of rain now and then.

The woods of “Kinloch Ravine” to the northeast of Kinloch Farm were surveyed in 1986 but the site spreads over three tetrads in two hectads and records were not kept separate. Also not far away is the Allt nam Criopag which turns out to have a very impressive and long gorge which, apart from the lower end, can only be accessed at rather few points.

Most plants recorded from the woods were re-found yesterday and assigned to 1 km squares. A few remain that would have been nice to sort out but which were unlikely this early in the year such as Carex pallescens (Pale Sedge), Melampyrum pratense (Common Cow-wheat) and Trollius europaeus (Globeflower).  However, there was a very pleasing colony of Orthilia secunda (Serrated Wintergreen), a new hectad record and only the second site in the south of Skye. It is about 5m up a vertical cliff above the river:


Kinloch site for Orthilia

With a little zoom one can see the one-sided infructescence with straight exserted styles and on one image with the eye of faith, serrated leaf margins. The only other possibility is Pyrola media (Intermediate Wintergreen) but as well as the one-sidedness and probable serrations, the general growth form is typical of Orthilia.  (I wish I had had my other camera with me; it is better at the telephoto effect.)


Kinloch Orthilia

On to Allt nam Criopag where seven 1968 records from John Birks demanded a search, even though it is March. A small patch of Alchemilla alpina (Alpine Lady’s-mantle) was located whilst Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Bearberry), Hymenophyllum wilsonii (Wilson’s Filmy-fern) and Vaccinium vitis-idaea (Cowberry) were in a number of sites – and elsewhere in the general area.  Lathyrus linifolius (Bitter-vetch), Thalictrum alpinum (Alpine Meadow-rue) and Trollius europaeus (Globeflower) await another visit (maybe).

Holly had mines of the fly Phytomyza ilicis (Holly Leafminer) and on dead leaves the spore bodies of the fungus Trochila ilicina (Holly Speckle), the latter being apparently the less frequent locally.

This fungus growing on a long-dead detached lump of unidentifiable tree looked distinctive but so far I haven’t a clue as to its identity:



Fungus on Figwort

March 22, 2019

Scrophularia nodosa (Common Figwort) is common enough locally and grows in my garden as a weed. It does not spread too much and I am always happy to let a few specimens flourish. A while back I noticed that last year’s capsules had small black dots on them and a few days ago I took some images and sent them to Bruce who tells me it is Didymella commanipula. He says it supposed to common though he has never seen it. There are only two records on NBN and seven on FRDBI (Fungal Records Database of Britain & Ireland) with none from Scotland on either database. If it is common it appears to be massively under-recorded.


March 22, 2019

It being the time for equinoctal tides, I went to Eyre here on Raasay for another attempt to find the source of Zostera marina (Eelgrass) that washes up there. As last year, I failed. I am beginning to think the pieces washed up may come from Skye or Scalpay across the water. It would probably be better to search at the autumn equinox when the plants would be bigger – but I am not usually here at that time of year.

There were, of course, lots of these:

Edible Sea Urchins

Edible Sea Urchins

and these:


Seven-armed starfish

Seven always seems an odd number of limbs and it is, I think, pretty unusual.

Planning for 2019 Part 2

March 19, 2019

Taxa per tetrad recorded from 2000 to 2018 are shown here:

tetrads 2000+ all

Some of those red squares really do have no plants, the only land being bare rock just above the high water line. More usefully, in terms of targets, the following tetrads have >5% land and <50 taxa recorded post-1999 :

Tetrad Taxa post-99 % land



























These, or most of these, are a priority if only to achieve a sense of completeness. Many are not suitable for Skye Botany Group outings as they are a long walk in and/or potentially dull. An exception is NG47G where a walk along the Kilmaluag River should be profitable.

NG41T and Y will be tackled by boat from Elgol. Nick and I plan to do this and our skipper from last year’s Soay trip said he could drop us near Ulfhart Point. Others may wish to join us but be warned, this looks like rough country.

Someone who shall remain nameless has been promising to do NG52D and E for many a year but the time has come for me to do them. The remainder, I shall trudge into.

I have been through taxon by taxon looking at distribution maps like this one, where red dots on yellow squares mean a plant has not been seen in the hectad since before 2000 but has an earlier grid reference at least at the tetrad level – and often better.


For Skye, Raasay and Scalpay only (i.e. omitting the Small Isles, Soay and Rona) I have traced and analysed records of this type . This has been a subjective exercise both in terms of taxon selection and where there are several red dots for a taxon in a single yellow square, how many to trace.  I have mostly not included hybrids, microspecies and neophytes.

I ended up with 831 records of 299 taxa in 281 tetrads. Of the 299 taxa, 84 are listed in the VC104 Rare Plant Register.

Some of these are known to have gone e.g. a pool at Corran, Kensaleyre that contained Ruppia maritima was no longer there by 1997. Some I have already looked for and given time constraints I am unlikely to have another go this year.

Clearly, there are too many to attempt them all, so here are those 831 by hectad:


It looks like NG71 deserves some attention. The top ten tetrads in this system, each with ten or more taxa not re-found are:

Tetrad Location Count
NG64E Umachan, Raasay 26
NG26R Geary 20
NG71C Kinloch 14
NG50Z Tarskavaig/Achnacloich 14
NG71B Isleornsay/Duisdalemore 14
NG52Q Torrin 13
NG13Z Loch an Fhridhein 13
NG37Q Bornesketaig 11
NG26F Trumpan 11
NG32P Stockval/Loch Sleadale 10

Some of these could well make suitable sites for Skye Botany Group outings.

It is worth remembering that tetrad recording was not commonly undertaken in VC104 before 2000, so only 201 tetrads had 50 or more taxa recorded (and 125 had 100 or more of which 32 were down to my activities on Raasay). Some of the tetrads listed above are there because they are/were relative hotspots and so attracted recording last century.

Hectads shared with other vice-counties (NG60, NG71, NM47 with VC 97 (West-Invernessshire), NG63, NG64, NG65 with VC 105 (West Ross) and NG72, NG82 with both VC 97 and VC 105) arguably deserve less attention as there are also hectad records from these other VCs.

The taxa appearing in the Rare Plants Register also deserve more effort than the rest but I am going to stop there as I seem to have found enough to do for rather more than one recording season.

Planning for 2019 Part 1

March 18, 2019

This post concerns vascular plant & charophyte records only. Looking at records to date at the hectad level gives some idea of where to concentrate in this final year of recording for Atlas 2020.

VC 104 comprises part of 51 hectads (10 km squares of the British National Grid). No hectad is 100% land (including freshwater bodies), though four are >98% (NG43: 99.8%, NG42: 99.7%, NG45: 98.1%, NG34: 98.0%).

Total taxa per hectad recorded from 2000 to 2018 are shown here:


The low numbers are in hectads with small amounts of land. The following plots help to sort out any that are below the trend:


Some of those at the lower edge i.e. with fewer than might be expected for the land area, are noted.

The next image shows numbers of locally common plants not recorded during 2000-2018 for each hectad. In this context, locally common means that the plant has been recorded in at least 200 tetrads of VC104. (The vice-county has a total of 709 tetrads of which 654 have ≥5% land.)


High numbers of missing common plants are unsurprisingly associated with small land area. Again, plotting numbers against land area and omitting hectads with very small areas helps to sort out the outliers:


I have undertaken a lot of analysis of tetrad records and will present these in the next post. In general these are what will determine the recording strategy for 2019.

After a Bit of a Gap….

March 2, 2019

Quite a long gap really, since I last wrote on this site.  However, a review of plant recording in VC104 for July-December 2018 is on my BSBI page. With Jim McIntosh I have recently completed a country round-up for Scotland for the next BSBI News due out in April.

I have started on plans for this year’s recording and will publish some thoughts here soon. Members of Skye Botany Group can expect an e-mail some time this month.

The mild weather has brought out the insects with a white-tailed bumblebee in the garden in February and many moths being recorded on Skye. I put out the trap a couple of nights ago and had 5 Dotted Border, 1 Early Grey, 1 Common Quaker and 1 Chestnut.