Archive for May, 2020

In the Garden 29th May 2020

May 29, 2020

I had omitted Plantago lanceolata (Ribwort Plantain) and Ranunculus repens (Creeping Buttercup) from my list of weeds flowering in the garden. Both have been flowering for some time, but now I can add Conopodium majus (Pignut), Galium saxatile (Heath Bedstraw), Trifolium repens (White Clover) and Veronica serpyllifolia subsp. serpyllifolia (Thyme-leaved Speedwell). The last flowers are on the Ficaria verna subsp. fertilis (Lesser Celandine); I am not sure that it will quite make June.

Ficaria verna subsp. fertilis

Ficaria verna subsp. fertilis (Lesser Celandine)

I fell over a large toad on my way to turn on the moth trap a few nights ago, but my other recent animal records have involved arthropods. This Ichneumon is Ophion sp., but that is as far as I am going as it is a very tricky genus, and the taxonomy is in flux. Even if that were not so, it would undoubtedly challenge my skills to sort it out.

It has been a good couple of days for micro-moths with my very own Large Longhorn (the arrows show the end of the antennae, explaining the vernacular name):

Nematopogon swammerdamella

Nematopogon swammerdamella

plus three others, two of which I had not seen here before:

Brilliant hairstyle.

Other critters of note have included this sawfly with a pentagon on its thorax

Pachyprotasis rapae

Pachyprotasis rapae    (Thanks, Jenni)

and this spider

Microlinyphia pusilla

Microlinyphia pusilla     (Thanks, Katie)

In the Garden 26th May 2020

May 26, 2020

It is not the peak time for fungal fruiting bodies but this one has appeared in the veggie bed. Chris tells me it is Tubaria furfuracea, commonly known as the scurfy twiglet.

Scurfy Twiglet

The gooseberries have small quantities of Puccinia caricina as usual, which is colourful and not at a level to cause concern:

Puccinia caricina

Flowerng weeds in the garden now include Poa trivialis (Rough Meadow-grass) and Rumex acetosa (Common Sorrel). The weeds aren’t doing as well as usual as we are spending much more time this year removing them, owing to lockdown. Many seedlings of Gnaphalium uliginosum (Marsh Cudweed), Ranunculus sceleratus (Celery-leaved Buttercup), Spergula arvensis (Corn Spurrey), Veronica persica (Common Field-speedwell) and Veronica peregrina (American Speedwell) from the veggie beds have ended up on the compost heap, but they will have considerable seed banks in the soil.

Insects have contiued to arrive in variety. The moth trap has yielded my first Streamer of the year and the first Shears I have had for five years.

Also this splendid Poplar Hawkmoth

Poplar Hawkmoth

and in the garden my first and second ever Large Longhorn (Nematopogon swammerdamella). I didn’t manage a picture but here is one Katie found on Raasay a week or so earlier

Large Longhorn (Nematopogon swammerdamella) Image: K. Guerra

This litle beetle is probably Contacyphon padi (thanks, Ralph)…

Contacyphon padi

and this hoverfly is Xylota segnis (sometimes called Orange-belted Hoverfly). (Thanks Steve and Seth):

Xylota segnis

though I had to check for this spine at the base of the hind femur to make sure it wasn’t the rarer Xylota tarda (sometimes called Aspen-wood Hoverfly):

Xylota segnis Hind femur

In the Garden 19th May 2020

May 19, 2020

A fly I caught yesterday turns out to be Delia radicum known variously as the cabbage fly, cabbage root fly, root fly or turnip fly. Thanks, Laurence. Whilst pleased to have the first record in VC104 on NBN, I am less than fully delighted given we have just planted out all our Brassicas.

Delia radicum

Delia radicum

The Goat Willow (Salix caprea) out the front is developing galls that I suspect are caused by the gall wasp Euura pedunculi.

Euura pedunculi gall on Salix caprea

Euura pedunculi gall on Salix caprea

and not far away an alder (Alnus glutinosa) has the early stages of Alder Wrinkle gall caused by the fungus Taphrina tosquinetii. Compare the size of the infected leaf with normal leaves.

Taphrina tosquinetii on Alnus gluinosa

Taphrina tosquinetii on Alnus gluinosa

A spider in the polytunnel turns out to be a Toad Spider or Walnut Orb-Weaver (Nuctenea umbratica). Thanks, Katie.

Walnut Orb-Weaver

Walnut Orb-Weaver

In the Garden 15th May 2020

May 15, 2020

Last Sunday a young otter was exploring our garden – something we have never seen before, though we see them beyond the garden on the shore and in the sea. There has been a Great Northern Diver in the bay for some time and, as it is May, we can hear cuckoos.

I managed to identify a harvestman – probably the easiest to recognise with its spiky headdress:

Megabunus diadema

Megabunus diadema

and Bruce kindly identified a fungus for me that is growing on dead Euphorbia griffithii (Griffith’s Spurge) stems as Phomopsis euphorbiae. It is not the most photogenic of things, but there are only two records on NBN Atlas one of which is in Scotland by Murdo – identified by Bruce a few years ago.

Phomopsis euphorbiae

Phomopsis euphorbiae

Last night’s moth trap was very limited, but gave me my first Pale-shouldered Brocade of the year.

Pale-shouldered Brocade

Pale-shouldered Brocade

The Tutsan (Hypericum androsaemum) is nearly in flower:


Tutsan in bud

and I found evidence of sharks in the garden.

lesser-spotted dogfish

Lesser-spotted Dogfish Egg Case

The egg case of what is now officially known as the small-spotted catshark, will have been brought in with seaweed used to fertilise the vegetable beds, it has not decomposed over the winter as has most of the seaweed.

In the Garden 12 May 2020

May 12, 2020

There are plenty of hoverflies about. Here are three that I have managed to name  – and thanks to those who have helped or confirmed, especially Seth.

The moth trap contained 17 moths of 12 species, though nothing I haven’t recorded in May before.

The trap also contained two black sexton beetles (Nicrophorus humator). This was on 8th May. The only other time I have recorded this species was on 8th May 2018 – from my moth trap.

Nicrophorus humator

Nicrophorus humator

In the garden, Herb-Robert, Tormentil and Thyme-leaved Speedwell are now in flower and by the front gate the mites have galled the alders:

Eriophyes laevis

Eriophyes laevis on Alnus glutinosa

though they do not seem to have received the memo that the galls “start off shiny yellow, becoming green then red, purplish or brown.” Maybe they have turned red in the cold.

In the Garden 7th May 2020

May 7, 2020

One of the small pleasures of living here is the way native bluebells pop up all over the place in the garden:

I have spotted a couple of interesting insects today, Firstly, there was a sawfly in the polytunnel that turns out to be a male Dolerus species. Unfortunately, this requires microscopic examination that is beyond my current skills so it is going to Jenni who will determine the species, I hope. There are no records on NBN for any Dolerus sp. on Raasay – and only one post-1999 on Skye, so it is worth getting this one determined if possible.

Dolerus sp.

Dolerus sp.

Next up was an Ichneumon that looks like a male I. deliratorius and therefore probably isn’t – ichneumon species are notoriously difficult with many lookalikes.  However, it is a handsome thing:

Ichneumon deliratorius maybe

Ichneumon deliratorius maybe

Later: Apparently not I. deliratorius.  Perhaps I. extensorius (Thanks, Christine). I have now e-mailed an expert whom I hope will be able to help.

Another unusual fly was one of the Lauxiniidae, perhaps Minettia inusta. Later: Confirmed by Ian Andrews who says, “It is very poorly marked on the wings, but the key does mention that in very young specimens the only dark on the wings is the stigma. I am used to seeing them with extensive dark on the leading edge and wing tip.”

Minettia cf inusta

Minettia cinusta maybe

The moth trap has yielded limited excitement recently, though this Small Phoenix from the polytunnel was nice. I am hopeful that tonight being warmer will result in a wider variety of moths – though it is currently raining.

Small Phoenix

Small Phoenix



Moth Summary

May 3, 2020

I have recorded 145 species of moth, counting adults only, at West Suisnish over the past three years.

Adult Moths at West Suisnish by Month 2

September (and January) may be artificially low as I am often away for three weeks or more in those months. I keep records on Excel spreadsheets so it was not difficult to analyse the raw data. Here is part of the analysis, which lists species seen for each month.

Adult Moths at West Suisnish by Month

I am hoping this will help me to recognise moths this year that I really ought to know from previous encounters. Here is my first micromoth of the year, the not entirely welcome White-shouldered House-moth.

White-shouldered House-moth

White-shouldered House-moth

This one seems to be missing a bit, possibly following an encounter with the 4 mm long Linyphia hortensis which lives in the shower room where the moth was found.

Linyphia hortensis

Linyphia hortensis

The only other record on NBN for VC104 is 23rd April 2019 ……….. in my shower cubicle.

In and Out the Garden 1st May 2020

May 1, 2020

A couple of days ago, this mayfly settled on my watch in the garden – we are not very far from the Arish Burn. It is probably Baetis rhodani. (Thanks, Craig.)

Baetis cf rhodani

Baetis cf rhodani

A short-palped cranefly was determined as Dicranomyia chorea. (Thanks, Ryan)

Dicranomyia chorea

Dicranomyia chorea

and I can add Sweet Vernal-grass to the list of weeds flowering in the garden. Between here and the shop there are now quite a lot of wild plants in flower including Great Wood-rush, Water Avens, Wood Speedwell and sallows. I spotted a single plant of Astilbe japonica (False-buck’s-beard) and thought that was a new find, but looking at the database I see I recorded it thereabouts in 2008.  However, just along the road from home I found this

Primula x polyantha cultivar (Cultivated Primrose)

Primula x polyantha cultivar (Cultivated Primrose)

which has no doubt escaped from a garden. I have only recorded this twice before  – in Kyleakin and Broadford.