Archive for April, 2019

Catch-up: Non-botany at Home

April 23, 2019

Our first cuckoo of the year woke me up at 0450.  April 23rd is a popular date for the first cuckoo at West Suisnish.

For those living further south, a black-headed gull will be a common sight, but not here:

Black-headed Gull190409

Black-headed Gull at West Suisnish

This little spider is Textrix dendiculata, the toothed weaver (thanks for i.d. Gemma) and was basking on the outside of the house:

Textrix dendiculata

Textrix dendiculata (Toothed Weaver)

The moth trap has been out a few times with Hebrew Character moths being by far the most frequent but this Early Thorn was nice:

Early Thorn

Early Thorn

and Seth has kindly determined this carabid beetle from the bathroom basin as Pterostichus nigrita:

Pterostichus nigrita

Pterostichus nigrita


Catch-up: Botany

April 21, 2019

As well as filling the gaps i.e. visiting tetrads with no or few records, this year’s theme will be to look for missing hectad records i.e. those known in a 10km square before 2000 but not re-found.

Last Wednesday Neil, Seth and I walked the Osdale Burn and went two-thirds of the way up Macleod’s Table North looking for four such old records. We re-found Anemone nemorosa (Wood Anemone), though on a different burn from that of the original record, and Equisetum pratense (Shady Horsetail) sort of where it was known from previously. One version of the 1991 record said “above the gorge” whilst another said “west of gorge”. Taking these two together  I had taken above to mean upstream, which is also west.  However, it turned out to be above the gorge (in altitudinal terms) but north of the gorge. Ah well, modern technology means there is now an 8-figure grid reference for future searchers.

We failed to find Alchemilla alpina (Alpine Lady’s-mantle) or Trollius europaeus (Globeflower) at the 1990 grid ref for both. Indeed there was no suitable looking habitat. Neither could we find them on the more likely looking cliffs nearby.

We had a couple of day-flying moths – our first Common Heath of the year and Philedonides lunana (Heath Twist) which is a good record for Skye.

On Friday I went to Sgùrr na h-Iolaire and Loch Dhùghaill in Sleat as reported a couple of  days ago. Here I was hoping for missing hectad records for Galium boreale (Northern Bedstraw), Galium verum (Lady’s Bedstraw) and Hymenophyllum tunbrigense (Tunbridge Filmy-fern) but failed on all three. I also failed to find an old site for Osmunda regalis (Royal Fern).

However, it was a good day with a new tetrad record for Orchis mascula (Early-purple Orchid) which is not all that common in Sleat and a re-find of Rubus saxatilis (Stone Bramble).   Sean on Rum had beaten me to the first flowering Early-purple Orchid by three days, finding one at Kilmory on the 16th.

There were Common Heath on the wing again. Some plants in flower:

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Steve has sent pictures of a poplar which we think is Populus x jackii (Balm-of Gilead) (Thanks, Mike) planted at Skinadin:

Poplar hybrids always need a bit of care, so a little more checking is in order.

At Borve, Neil tells me that Daphne mezereum (Mezereon) has escaped along the road.

D. mezereum is new to Skye, there being an old record from Kinloch Castle on Rum, and P. x jackii is the first VC104 record since 1987.

Reptiles and Amphibians Today

April 19, 2019

I went to the Loch Dhùghaill area of Sleat today – more on botany this week later. But in this post I can report a Common Lizard (alive), 1 frog alive and 20 dead plus an adder that had recently been run over. I first found it looking like this:

Adder 1


and forgetting just how black they can be on the underside, wondered what the heck I had found. However, I turned it over and it looked as I expected:

Adder 2

That “Paperdry” thingy is 35 cm across, so it was a good specimen.

Adder 3


All those bluish dead frogs in the loch weren’t good though. Perhaps a fungus record for Bruce?

Dead Frog

Dead Frog

Neil’s Red Square Project

April 18, 2019

You may remember seeing my distribution maps like this:

tetrads 2000+ all

where the red squares represent tetrads with no post-1999 records. Some of these have less than 5% land and I had decided, slightly regretfully,  to give them a miss and prioritise other matters. (Some have no land above HWMS or just a slither of bare rock and so deserve no further attention.)  However, Neil has taken it on himself to reach some of them by sea kayak and take lots of photos for me to identify.  So far he has done two and hopes to cover three more during the season.

This is brilliant in my book.

On Pabay, not actually in the adjacent target tetrad, he spotted three of these growing at the strand-line. I am at a loss as to what they are and it is perhaps unlikely that anyone will be going back to Pabay this season, so if anyone can help please say. If you need a higher resolution image, please let me know. Later: On balance I think this is Oenanthe crocata (Hemlock Water-dropwort) showing unusual coloration for environmental reasons.

Mystery Plant

Mystery Plant                       Image: N Roberts

Brae, Raasay

April 14, 2019

I made a shortish visit to the Brae area of Raasay today to update some old plant records i.e. try to re-find some more of the things I recorded before 2000. This was reasonably successful given the time of year, but I also spotted a couple of insects and a fungus worth mentioning.

I have seen four specimens of the Green Parasitic Fly (Gymnocheta viridis) in the past couple of weeks, but today I spotted another tachinid that may be Botria subalpina, a fly first recorded in the British Isles, in NW Scotland, in 1994. There are still only 13 records on NBN, all in the Highlands, one of which was at my home three years ago. If right, and that will have to wait until I see Murdo at the end of the month, this will be a second 10km square on Raasay where it is known.



I also spotted a Violet Oil-Beetle (Meloe violaceus), the second in less than a week seen on Raasay as Jonathan and Sarah found one at the far north end last Tuesday. One has to be careful to distinguish this from Meloe proscarabaeus – a useful guide is here. There are about as many Raasay records as there are Skye records, so may be something to look out for across the water.

Meloe violaceus

Meloe violaceus

The fungus is worth mentioning because now is the time of year to find it:

Uromyces dactylidis

Celandine Clustercup Rust (Uromyces dactylidis)

Return to Kinloch

April 12, 2019

I decided that I needed better images of the wintergreen at Kinloch and so on my way to Edinburgh for the BSBI Scottish Recorders Conference yesterday I went back with a camera more suitable for long-range photography and did OK:

Orthilia Kinloch

Orthilia Kinloch

The serrated leaves are clearly visible and the relatively short petioles compared to the leaf blades are also apparent – another feature not shared by Pyrola spp.  An excellent guide to the wintergreens inter alia is here.

There were Peacock butterflies about, too.

Recent Insects

April 2, 2019

Last month there was a vine weevil in the house:

Vine Weevil

Otiorhynchus sulcatus

Today there was a Green-veined White butterfly in the greenhouse – I imagine it hatched there early in the warmth.

Green-veined White

Pieris napi

and today I recorded the earliest ever tachinid Gymnocheta viridis in the Highlands – but only by three days.

One More Table for 2019

April 1, 2019

These are top of the list for plants not re-found in entire hectads (10 km squares) of Vc104 since before 2000:

Taxon Vernacular

# Hectads where not re-found

Carex pauciflora Few-flowered Sedge


Coeloglossum viride Frog Orchid


Lycopodium clavatum Stag’s-horn Clubmoss


Pseudorchis albida Small-white Orchid


Sparganium natans Least Bur-reed


Carex limosa Bog-sedge


Hammarbya paludosa Bog Orchid


Melampyrum pratense Common Cow-wheat


Potamogeton alpinus Red Pondweed


Catabrosa aquatica Whorl-grass


Draba incana Hoary Whitlowgrass


Hippuris vulgaris Mare’s-tail


Hymenophyllum tunbrigense Tunbridge Filmy-fern


Orobanche alba Thyme Broomrape


Potamogeton berchtoldii Small Pondweed


Prunus padus Bird Cherry


Utricularia vulgaris sens. lat. Greater Bladderwort


Vicia sylvatica Wood Vetch


Vulpia bromoides Squirreltail Fescue


Some of these come as a bit of a surprise and may influence my choice of survey areas this season. Some were apparently widespread in some areas in the past e.g. five tetrads in NG33 for Pseudorchis albida. Some of these may represent genuine decline.

Port a’Bhata, Am Bile and Creag Mhòr

April 1, 2019

To the north-east of Portree along the coast lies a tetrad that I had hardly been into before last Saturday. It was showing up as having lots of records not re-found during the current recording date range (2000-2019) including taxa suggesting quite nice habitat like Arabis hirsuta (Hairy Rock-cress), Saxifraga hypnoides (Mossy Saxifrage) and Silene acaulis (Moss Campion). On Saturday I managed to find some of these (all of those above) and add a total of 57 new taxa to the tetrad list including a few plants of Petasites hybridus (Butterbur). The only other site for this in NG54 is at Brochel on Raasay where a handful of plants has persisted for over 80 years, and perhaps much longer.

There was a great deal of the well-named Shining Crane’s-bill (Geranium lucidum), only ever recorded from ten tetrads in VC104 and known from this area previously, but this has to be Skye HQ for it.

Geranium lucidum (Shining Crane's-bill)

Geranium lucidum (Shining Crane’s-bill)

Spring was springing:

NG54C March Plants

Bluebell, Red Campion, Thale Cress

I like to find Arabidopsis thaliana (Thale Cress) in places like this rather than as an urban weed – it is especially common in Portree and Kyleakin.

I found a couple of shells of Balea sarsii (Tree Snail) and brought one home to photograph, but at that point there was an accident involving a lens that was not the shape I thought it was:

Ex-snail shell

Ex-snail shell

Oh yes, and the first tick of the year attached itself to me. It was still March!