July 12, 2018

I hadn’t been to Wiay for nine years during which time there has been no grazing – well almost no grazing: I saw one enormous old sheep with a huge shaggy coat and immense horns who had obviously been missed when the rest were taken off abut ten years ago. Anyway, it made the going pretty tough over much of the island with thigh-high wet Molinia.

I added 56 taxa to the list for NG23X, which I had only visited briefly in 2009. The far west had some splendid water-lily pools and Nick found Vaccinium oxycoccos (Cranberry) just over the border from its known locations in NG23Y.


Wiay Pool

I did spot the Cranberry in NG23Y where I had seen it before:


Vaccinium oxycoccos (Cranberry)

– a rare plant in NW Scotland.

We may have had a bit of rain recently but in some places, the vegetation is not going to recover this year:


Cliff-top Vegetation

Nick ended up with 72 bryophyte in NG23X and 80 in NG23Y. Neither of us got into the part of the island in NG33D – but this tetrad has more land on Oronsay and near Ullinish on the Skye mainland, so we concentrated on the tetrads unique to Wiay.


Strath Mòr

July 12, 2018

Strath Mòr runs from Luib in the north to near Torrin in the south and contains lochs and marsh with interesting species. The highlight of my recent visit was a single flowering Hammarbya paludosa (Bog Orchid), the first record for NG52 since 1976.


Nor for the first time, I failed to find any Eriocaulon aquaticum (Pipewort) in Loch na Sguabaidh. My predecessor also failed to find it. The source of the records is the 1989 NCC Freshwater Loch Survey and I suspect rosettes of Isoetes lacustris (Quillwort) may have been mistaken for it. Either that, or a small population was there and has been lost.


Isoetes lacustris in Loch na Sguabaidh

Also, Schoenoplectus lacustris (Common Club-rush) is not to be found at “Abhainn an t-Sratha Mhoir, 1km length above NG562249” as reported in 1990. Again I have tried before and so did my predecessor. However, small colonies are missable – the only known Raasay site is a few chewed stems that were overlooked until 2000.

There were several sites for Utricularia stygia (Nordic Bladderwort). A single plant had flowered though was a little past is prime:

Utricularia stygia Strath Mor

Utricularia stygia (Nordic Bladderwort)

Otherwise….. lots of smuts on Star Sedge, various dragons and damsels, too many green-eyed Deerflies, a Brown China-mark moth and lots of toads.

Planted Trees and Wildflower Seeds

July 6, 2018

This week has led to some reflection on just what should be recorded. At Dunvegan the estate undertook some roadside planting quite a few years ago so there is now a variety of semi-mature exotic trees like Acer campestre, Acer platanoides, Betula papyrifera, Betula utilis var. jacquemontii, Crataegus laevigata, Prunus cerasifera, Quercus rubra and Salix x sepulcralis nothovar. sepulcralis.  Conveniently they are all labelled!

I have recorded these as they are by the road rather than behind a wall in the estate and so the records will will serve as a record of origin should they spread.

At Tayinloan, there is a neglected arboretum between the new road and the old. The edges of this area gave me the Laburnum records mentioned recently but there are also many other introduced trees such as Cut-leaf Beech (Fagus sylvatica Asplenifolia):


Fagus sylvatica Asplenifolia

and much more exotically, Chilean Flame Tree (Embothrium coccineum):

Chilean Flame Tree Embothrium coccineum

Chilean Flame Tree Embothrium coccineum

I haven’t ventured into the area (yet) but there looks to be a variety of exotic conifers and who knows what else. So far I have not recorded these formally.

And then, on Raasay, the new Distillery has planted a wildflower meadow with all sorts of things never seen in these parts before, plus a few that have or may have been – like Medicago lupulina (Black Medick).  Should I record these using the same logic as the planted trees at Dunvegan i.e. they may spread?

But no…. BSBI guidance says record:

  • Everything up to boundary of gardens [this would include parks and estates (public or private), and cemeteries, though the boundaries will often be obscure]. This should include anything planted outside these, including street trees.
  • Planted trees in estates etc. are as worth recording as street trees.
  • Cultivated crops (annual or perennial), allotments, game cover and wildlife strips… should be treated as gardens, i.e. ignored other than the weeds of the planted/seeded area.

Hmm.. always room for debate around these things.  But maybe I should record planted trees in e.g. Dunvegan Castle grounds and tackle the exotic conifers at Tayinloan.

Later: Less than 12 hours after writing this I have had a report of Medicago lupulina (Black Medick) (and Phleum bertolonii (Smaller Cat’s-tail)) from a recently re-seeded area beside the Coral Beach car park. Thanks, John.

Glen Sligachan

July 6, 2018

Yesterday I walked well over 15 miles from Sligachan, south to Loch an Athain, up Meall Dearg, into Harta Corrie and back. This took me past the Bloody Stone, the site of a fierce encounter between the Macdonalds and the Macleods, the bodies of the slain being piled round the base of a huge rock, topped by a Rowan tree.


The Bloody Stone

More peaceably, I added lots of plant records at low level to tetrads with small numbers of previous records – mostly the alpines that attract folks to the higher levels. That said, much of the Cuillin is not species-rich.

I spent too long diverting to Loch an Athain in order to improve the recent plant list for tetrad NG52B (higher level covered recently) and climbing Meall Dearg, so that my time in Harta Corrie was distinctly limited.  The climb up Meall Dearg was not useful in itself, the hill being devoid of interesting plants, though the views were good.


Loch an Athain from Meall Dearg

However, the lochans to the southwest were lovely.  Harta Corrie is spectacular and deserves a dedicated visit; even after this visit the relevant tetrad taxon list stands at a mere 57 vascular plants.

It is certainly dry out there:


Allt nam Fraoch-Choire

In passing I found the smut Anthracoidea karii on Carex echinata (Star Sedge) for the first time this year (in a new 10km square):


Anthracoidea karii

and also spotted Claviceps purpurea (Ergot) on Anthoxanthum odoratum (Sweet Vernal-grass):





July 6, 2018

On Tuesday, Skye Nature Group went to Tokavaig to look at Dorothy’s croft which is managed by her and Andy for the benefit of wildlife and the environment  – which includes scything the bracken and woodland regeneration.

We recorded 156 plant species and 92 other species from lichens to amphibians, but mostly invertebrates. It contains a variety of habitats and at least two of us want to make a return visit, preferably with Nick to cover bryophytes as well – perhaps next year.

In the process I added a few plants to the list for both NG61A and NG61B and down in the wet area I was able to show Dorothy her Sparganium erectum (Branched Bur-reed) which I struggled to find back in 2012.


Sparganium erectum (Branched Bur-reed) – with a rust?

We found several orchids that seemed to me to be pretty clearly Dactylorhiza x formosa (D. maculata x purpurella), but they smelled sweet, like Gymnadenia. Further investigation showed that the nearby Dactylorhiza purpurella (Northern Marsh-orchid) also smelled  sweet. Not a property I was aware of before, but then who smells orchids that are not supposed to smell?  Well, obviously Hilary does. And now so do I.

The best thing of the day for me was a shower of Keeled Skimmers (Orthetrum coerulescens), something I do not remember seeing on Skye before and which on Skye is almost restricted to Sleat.


Keeled Skimmer

Clearing Up – though not finished yet. Part 2

July 2, 2018

From Tayinloan to Waternish to check on the Aceana. It looked like this:


Acaena Waternish

which looks exactly like the A. inermis on Raasay this evening, but I still want see it look like this later in the year:

Acaena inermis Moll 0509

Acaena inermis

From there to Dunvegan to check things found during a Skye Nature Group outing in April. What we thought might be a Cotoneaster turns out to be Crinodendron hookerianum (Chinese Lantern Bush):


Crinodendron hookerianum

I  have entered this directly to the BSBI database as MapMate doesn’t recognise it. Third Scottish record on the database, the other two being not far away in VC105. (Just two in England.)

I wasn’t sure that I re-found the putative Ulex minor (Dwarf Gorse) but have a specimen to examine some time soon……

To finish off the day I went to Roskill to up the species count in tetrad NG24X and added 52 taxa, though this had me baffled for a while:


Hesperis matronalis (Dame’s-violet)

Thanks, Tim, for helping me out.

I could go on, but finally here are a couple of insects:

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Clearing Up – though not finished yet

July 2, 2018

Today, I took a tour of things seen earlier in the year that needed another visit. Firstly to get better images of some things near Knott:

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Next onto Laburnum. Last year Seth recorded Laburnum x watereri (Hybrid Laburnum) from Uig which made me wonder about earlier Laburnum records. The one I had seen near Tayinloan is in fact the hybrid too, with few ovules forming seeds:


Laburnum x wateri

However, a short distance away on the old road there were two trees of Laburnum alpinum (Scottish Laburnum), with a full complement of seeds in the fruits and basically glabrous:

Laburnum alpinum 2

Laburnum alpinum

To be continued……



Tetrads per Taxon

July 1, 2018

It is very simple to extract a list from the BSBI database of how many tetrads in VC104 every plant ever recorded here has been seen in. Examples for your amusement (there are 709 full or partial tetrads in the vice-county):

Taxon Vernacular Tetrads
Calluna vulgaris Heather 665
Succisa pratensis Devil’s-bit Scabious 665
Viola riviniana Common Dog-violet 660
Potentilla erecta Tormentil 657
Anthoxanthum odoratum Sweet Vernal-grass 652
Plantago lanceolata Ribwort Plantain 640
Rubus idaeus Raspberry 226
Juncus gerardii Saltmarsh Rush 223
Plantago coronopus Buck’s-horn Plantain 223
Rubus saxatilis Stone Bramble 223
Crataegus monogyna Hawthorn 222
Pinguicula lusitanica Pale Butterwort 222
Fragaria vesca Wild Strawberry 220
Hymenophyllum wilsonii Wilson’s Filmy-fern 218
Rosa caesia subsp. vosagiaca Glaucous Dog-rose 217
Tussilago farfara Colt’s-foot 217
Salix cinerea subsp. oleifolia Rusty Sallow 211
Comarum palustre Marsh Cinquefoil 208
Glaux maritima Sea-milkwort 206
Ilex aquifolium Holly 204
Juniperus communis subsp. nana Dwarf Juniper 203
Allium vineale Wild Onion 1
Carex acutiformis Lesser Pond-sedge 1
Lythrum portula Water-purslane 1
Ononis repens Common Restharrow 1
Pyrola rotundifolia Round-leaved Wintergreen 1
Saxifraga tridactylites Rue-leaved Saxifrage 1
Spiranthes romanzoffiana Irish Lady’s-tresses 1
Trifolium campestre Hop Trefoil 1
Typha angustifolia Lesser Bulrush 1
Woodsia alpina Alpine Woodsia 1

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