Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Skye Botany Group at Brothers’ Point

September 23, 2021

A couple of days ago, we went to Brother’s Point on Skye to try and find Gentianella campestris (Field Gentian), last seen there in 1964 and last seen in the 10 km square NG56 in 1985. In this we succeeded though only one plant was found and that, unsurprisingly by late September, was somewhat past its prime.

We took a break from botany to check out the dinosaur footprints and the putative quernstone quarry, finding large numbers of Blue-rayed Limpets on the kelp, in passing.

We added four taxa to the NG56 list: Atriplex glabriuscula (Babington’s Orache), Atriplex prostrata (Spear-leaved Orache), Polygonum aviculare s.s. (Knotgrass), though there were records for P. aviculare agg. (1997) and P. depressum (previously P. arenastrum) (2019) and Spergularia marina (Lesser Sea-spurrey).

Polygonum aviculare on a promontory at Brothers’ Point

As well as the gentian, the following had not been recorded in NG56 since before 2000: Carex lepidocarpa (Long-stalked Yellow-sedge) (1997), Hydrocotyle vulgaris (Marsh Pennywort) (1997), Isolepis setacea (Bristle Club-rush) (1999) and Neottia ovata (Common Twayblade) (1958).

We also added Ervilia (Vicia) sylvatica (Wood Vetch) to one of the two tetrads we looked at, which is not common on Skye.

Both here and at Borve (see previous post) and also in the garden at home there were lots of Nettle-taps about.


A Couple of Hours near Borve

September 23, 2021

I had to get something checked by Highland Motors at Borve and so I was able to spend a couple of hours wandering along the road, then along the Lòn na h-Iolainn and back across the bog, all in the 1 km square NG4447.

This turned out to be unexpectedly good botanically with Carex hostiana x demissa, the hybrid between Tawny Sedge and Common Yellow-sedge and Impatiens glandulifera (Indian Balsam) both new to the 10 km square NG44. Additionally, I found a single plant of Artemisia vulgaris (Mugwort), a locally uncommon plant for which there was previously an old but undated and unlocalised record in NG44. Furthermore, there was Alnus cordata (Italian Alder) in only the fourth monad in VC104 and I made only the second vice-county record for Erythranthe (previously Mimulus) x burnetii (Coppery Monkeyflower). I made the first record for this in 2013 about two-thirds of a kilometre away in a different tetrad and on a different watercourse.

I also spotted the rust fungus Coleosporium tussilaginis on Tussilago farfara (Colt’s-foot). This fungus produces tubules containing rust spores on pine needles and later rust pustules on the leaves of Colt’’s-foot, Butterbur and other species.

Coleosporium tussilaginis on Tussilago farfara

Aphids & Hawkweeds

September 12, 2021

Prompted by Neil’s observations on Skye, I went looking for a couple of aphid species here on Raasay. I had to walk all of 200 metres from my front gate to find both:

Yarrow Aphid (Macrosiphoniella millefolii) on Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) The pink ones are males.
Large Knapweed Aphids (Uroleucon jaceae) on Knapweed (Centaurea nigra) The black cauda (“tails”) and tibiae (“calves”) distinguish it from Uroleucon jaceicola

My second 2021 batch of Hieracium (Hawkweed) specimens has been determined and it turns out that I had collected lots of the locally common H. triviale (Common Hawkweed) and H. shoolbredii (Shoolbred’s Hawkweed). At least the distribution maps for these are filling out, with these two species accounting for three new 10 km square records this year.

However, I also found H. strictiforme (Strict Hawkweed) near Flodigarry, only the second post-1999 record in the vice-county and Neil took me to see a plant that he found last year galled by the cynipid wasp Aulacidea hiercii. This turns out to be H. subcrocatum (Dark-styled Hawkweed), also only the second post-1999 record in the vice-county.

Aulacidea hiercii galls on Hieracium subcrocatum (Dark-styled Hawkweed)

Aquatics & Caterpillars

September 10, 2021

A sub-group of Skye Botany Group went to Loch Connan and Loch Niarsco, principally to look for Potamogeton berchtoldii (Small Pondweed), which had been recorded in the NCC Loch Survey in 1989 but not since in the 10 km square NG34. We succeeded in Loch Connan, but not in Loch Niarsco:

Potamogeton berchtoldii (Small Pondweed)

We found Potamogeton alpinus (Red Pondweed) at an old site in Loch Niarsco and also this unusual looking Sparganium that is probably the S. emersum x S. angustifolium hybrid, Sparganium x diversifolium, though a specimen has been sent for expert determination. This would be new to VC104. Later: Determined as most likely diminutive S. emersum – though there was a big patch like this. Disappointing.

On the shore I spotted some leaf mines on Caltha palustris (Marsh-marigold) which Seth determined as being caused by Phytomyza calthophila. This was confirmed by the national scheme recorder as a first for the Inner Hebrides.

And, for something different, recent moth larvae from the garden:

From the top: Angle Shades, Bright-line Brown-eye, Brimstone Moth and Knot Grass

New Moths

September 1, 2021

A moth trap at home a few days ago yielded five moths I haven’t had here before:

Thanks to Keith and Mark for some of the identifications. So far this year I have added 31 moths to my list of adult moths found here in West Suisnish, making a running total of 232.

Loch na Crèitheach

September 1, 2021

Ten members of Skye Botany Group went to Loch na Crèitheach, north of Camasunary on Skye last week. We were in search of Potamogeton epihydrus (American Pondweed) based on a putative record from 1989. It was never fully confirmed and as a native plant it is only known in a few lochans in the Outer Isles. Despite our best efforts including snorkelling, wading, grapnels from the shore, a boat with grapnels and bathyscope, and shore searches, the only Potamogeton we found was the common P. polygonifolius.

On reaching Loch na Crèitheach Image J Walmisley

However, at Camasunary we re-found Carex arenaria (Sand Sedge), last recorded there in 1974 and we added about forty taxa to the list for the Camasunary tetrad (NG51E).

Whilst using a grapnel from the boat we obtained an unusual looking moss of which Nick says, after seeing a specimen: “I was really puzzled by it for a while until I did a cross section of the leaf and found it had vestigial lamellae on the surface of the nerve, so it must be a submerged form of Polytrichum commune (Haircap moss).”

Polytrichum commune

Plants, Moths & Flies

August 24, 2021

Joanna found Cornus alba agg. (White or Red-osier Dogwood) in Portree, which made me re-examine plants on Raasay and at Flodigarry that had been recorded as C. sanguinea (Dogwood). They both turn out to be C. alba agg. too. It is not clear that C. alba and C. sericea, the two taxa that make up the aggregate, are in fact different species. Fruit is needed to separate these two reliably. The Flodigarry plant is not flowering so there is no hope of sorting that one out this year.

In Portree we also have a Filago/Logfia, which I think is Logfia (previously Filago) minima as the leaves are very small.

Logfia minima Small Cudweed. Divisions are mm.

This is a first for the vice-county. In the same area there are both Centaurium erythraea (Common Centaury) and Vulpia bromoides (Squirreltail Fescue), both infrequent locally.

Nick has found Euphorbia peplus (Petty Spurge) in his garden at Earlish, the only other localised records on Skye are from Kyleakin. I was less than delighted to spot Gunnera tinctoria (Giant-rhubarb) by the Allt Mòr north of Totador. It can become a monstrous invader.

Gunnera by the Allt Mòr

Ian S has re-found the Hammarbya paludosa (Bog Orchid) on Beinn Airean, Muck, previously recorded in 2007. This something I have looked for but failed to find.

On the moths front, the most interesting find was Prochoreutis myllerana (Miller’s nettle-tap or Small metal-mark). I found mines and pupating larvae on the host plant Scutellaria galericulata (Skullcap) and raised one to adulthood. Whilst that was going on I spotted two on flowers of Tripleurospermum maritimum (Sea Mayweed), just near the Skullcap. New to VC104.

Prochoreutis myllerana

I spotted Manchester Triple-bar in marshy moorland near Flodigarry. There are not that many records for the vice-county though Seth has also been finding it recently. Poor image taken through less than perfect plastic pot prior to release:

Manchester Treble-bar

I found and identified a fly mine on Filipendula ulmaria (Meadowsweet) that turns out to be new to the vice-county:

Agromyza filipendulae mine on Meadowsweet


August 13, 2021

In early June I took a piece of Prunus padus (Bird Cherry) that had some leaves tied together with silk in the hope of rearing a moth form the larva responsible. So far no moth has emerged, but a few days ago I found this nymph in the pot, which is Anthocoris sp., very probably A. nemorum (Common Flowerbug), though bright red is unusual.

Anthocoris nemorum nymph

A quick sweep with a net along the shore near the house a couple of days ago produced a number of different bugs, four of which I have identified:

The Philaenus spumarius is an unusual colour form and I have been baffled by the variation in this species before. I am grateful to Petro for sorting out the Lygus – a difficult group.

The Atriplex glabriuscula (Babington’s Orache) at the top of the shore is heavily galled; the leaves are rolled and some bracteoles are also galled by large numbers of this waxy green aphid:

Hayhurstia atriplicis

Mountain Sorrel & Hawkweeds

August 9, 2021

Last year a visitor to Skye reported Oxyria digyna (Mountain Sorrel) from Greshornish Point, just above sea level. This was an unusual site, this plant being found at least moderaely high up or else where it has been washed down along the course of a river. In the absence of an image or specimen, I didn’t add it to the database until it could be confirmed. A week or two ago Skye Botany Group went to look for it, but despite pretty clear instructions as to its location, we failed. However, Catherine, the original recorder, has now produced a photo of it and I am convinced she was right all along.

Oxyria at Greshornish Image C. Mowat (edited)

So, apologies to Catherine for ever doubting her – and congratulations on a new 10 km square record!

Fourteen Hieracium (Hawkweed) specimens from VC104 have been determined by David McCosh. Hieracium grampianum (Grampian Hawkweed) from Coire na Creiche on Skye, appears at first glance to be a first record for VC104 but a deeper look at the database shows that a 1979 record from Braes has recently been marked as rejected because “it is outside the known range”. This will need to be reviewed – and perhaps the plant should be looked for at the 1979 site: Balmeanach, Braes. I am grateful to Dave G for spotting this as something unusual when we were that way a couple of weeks too early to take a specimen.

Hieracium grampianum from Skye

Joanna found a hawkweed that has been determined as Hieracium beebyanum (Beeby’s Hawkweed), only the second post-1999 record. The following were all worthwhile in the sense of there being few recent records:

  • Hieracium cerinthiforme (Clasping-leaved Hawkweed) from The Storr
  • Hieracium eucallum (Spreading-toothed Hawkweed) from Stockval
  • Hieracium langwellense (Langwell Hawkweed). from Glenbrittle and The Storr. Plenty of pre-2000 records for this one.

Urban Finds

July 26, 2021

The survey of Portree for the Urban Flora of Scotland continues to yield useful results. The following three garden escapes are new to VC104:

and this is the first Skye record for 52 years (though known on Rum):

Astrantia major