Mines, Galls and Microfungi

October 13, 2020

By the front gate there is a small Hawthorn tree (Crataegus monogyna). Yesterday I spotted a small moth larva that turns out to be a young Light Emerald.

Light Emerald larva

Apparently this species overwinters as small larvae lying flat along stems of the food plant. As you can see the larva has a fringe of hair-like projections hanging down from the sides.

Also on the Hawthorn a couple of leaves had been spun together with silk and inside was another moth larva. The identity of this one has not yet been resolved.

Spun leaves

Before I left the premises I noticed a fungus on Solanum dulcamara (Bittersweet) which Bruce tells me is Alternaria solani.

Alternaria solani on Solanum dulcamara

This is not entirely good news as this fungus causes Early Potato Blight and we grow quite a lot of potatoes.

Moving on a couple of hundred metres to a strip of woodland by the Arish Burn, I noticed some leaf mines on Stachys sylvatica (Hedge Woundwort) caused by the true fly Amauromyza labiatarum.

Amauromyza labiatarum mines on Stachys sylvatica

and a little further on a Hazel (Corylus avellana) had leaf mines made by two different micro-moths.

Stigmella floslactella mine on Corylus avellana
Phyllonorycter nicellii mine on Corylus avellana
Phyllonorycter nicellii larva

Also there was a springtail, Entomobrya nivalis (sometimes called Cosmopolitan Springtail), though I almost missed it and have no worthwhile image to share.

A little further on there were galls on Ranunculus repens (Creeping Buttercup) caused by the fungus Urocystis ranunculi

Urocystis ranunculi galls on Ranunculus repens

I am grateful to various folks for identifying and confirming many of the species shown here: Bruce Ing, Roy Leverton, Murdo Macdonald, Stephen Moran, Nigel Richards and Mark Young.

A Few Minutes with an Alder

October 6, 2020

Yesterday, I spent a few minutes with my camera at an alder by my front gate. It turned out rather well….

This is the larva of the sawfly Platycampus luridiventris with no records on NBN for the west of Scotland. Thanks to Chris Johnson and Ian Andrews for i.d.

Platycampus luridiventris

This shows larvae of two more sawflies, the free-range one being Hemichroa crocea with just nine Scottish sites on NBN. Thanks Seth for i.d.

Hemichroa crocea larva plus one

This mine is caused by yet another sawfly, Heterarthrus vagans, which is more widespread but with no records for VC104 on NBN:

Heterarthrus vagans mine

On the other hand, it is a true fly, Agromyza alnivora, that causes this mine. I have recorded this before on Raasay, also in October.

Agromyza alnivora mines

Not counting two common galls caused by gall mites, my last find was of this leaf roll caused by the micro-moth Caloptilia elongella (Pale Red Slender). This is probably not uncommon but the only previous Skye/Raasay records I can find are from 1979 and 1998. Thanks to Seth for i.d. and Tony for confirming there is no other Scottish candidate for such activity.

Leaf roll caused by larva of Caloptilia elongella

What this shows most is how under-recorded our area is for inverts.


October 6, 2020

Seth has spotted a Mock-orange bush near the river at Budhmor:

Philadelphus near Budhmor Image S. Gibson

The underside of the leaves are pretty hairy suggesting that it is one of the hybrid groups, in which case full identification will have to wait until there are flowers next year.

Underside of leaf

More Plant Matters

September 25, 2020

Seth had a good day on Wednesday, finding two plants that are new to the vice-county. Firstly, Persicaria wallichii (Himalayan Knotweed) has encroached onto the road verge from a garden near Loch Bay House in Waternish:

Persicaria wallichii (Himalayan Knotweed) Image SJD Gibson

One of the key fatures of this species is the unequal petals:

Persicaria wallichii flower

Then he spotted Poterium sanguisorba subsp. balearicum (Fodder Burnet) beside a track at Edinbane.

Poterium sanguisorba subsp. balearicum (Fodder Burnet)
Poterium sanguisorba subsp. balearicum Image SJD GIbson

This plant is closely related to Poterium sanguisorba subsp. sanguisorba (Salad Burnet) and as the name suggests, used to be grown for fodder. However, it has also been included in “wildflower” seed mixes.

Meanwhile, Joanna has spotted Ulex gallii (Western Gorse) at two new sites on the Harlosh peninsula. This is a pretty rare plant on Skye though the golden yellow flowers now in evidence (with associated withered flowers rather than buds) make it stand out from a distance.

Ulex gallii (Western Gorse)

Mostly the common Gorse (Ulex europaeus) is not flowering at the moment but a few pieces are.

Ulex europaeus on left and Ulex gallii on right

Amongst other differences, in U. gallii the flowers are smaller and deeper yellow and the calyx has appressed rather than spreading hairs.

Yesterday I went to see these sites with Joanna and Julian and thus encouraged, I managed to re-find a 1998 site for U. gallii near Lonmore.


September 20, 2020

I was away for a couple of weeks, but here are a few items from before or after, mostly seen with Seth and/or Neil.

Acleris emargana Notch-winged Tortrix

Galls caused by the sawfly Euura venusta on Salix caprea (Goat Willow)

This Grey Dagger larva attached itself to me in the garden and then fell off onto the carpet. I took its picture before escorting it out again:

Grey Dagger larva

A seashore excursion to see Neil’s extensive Eelgrass (Zostera marina) meadows in the sea at Harlosh sadly did not lead to any seahorse sightings. (There are records this far north, but not from Skye.)

Zostera marina at Harlosh

It was the equinoctial tide and we found many interesting critters such as a Stalked Jellyfish Calvadosia campanulata, a Tube Anemone Cerianthus lloydii, Risso’s Crab (Xantho pilipes), Star Ascidian (Botryllus schlosseri) and the Small Brittlestar (Amphipholis squamata).

Risso’s Crab

A Small Tree

September 19, 2020

I have not been able to identify a small tree at Gedintailor on Skye that was found a few weeks ago.

Tree at Gedintailor

My initial thoughts were of Prunus sp. but then these ear-like stipules suggested a Salix.


There were the remains of inflorescences:

Remains of inflorescence

There are Prunus-like glands on some of the petioles

Twig & upper side of leaves

Having shared images with various experienced botanists, the consensus is that this is a member of the Rosaceae (e.g. Prunus). However, I think it will have to wait for flowers next spring to be sorted out fully.

Plant Matters

September 16, 2020

The final batch of Hieracium specimens for the year produced two notable species, H. dasythrix (Dense-haired Hawkweed) on Glamaig with only one previous record in the vice-county (in 1973) and H. cyclicum (Round-leaved Hawkweed) from Leathad Beithe (Talisker) which has five earlier records, one in 2002, the rest considerably earlier. H. cyclicum does have distinctive round leaves:

I started the year with five specific Hieracium targets in addition to the more general suveying:

  • Seth’s 2019 H. beebyanum or H. deganwyense at Uig
  • My H. subcrinellum at Allt Daraich, Sligachan
  • An attempt to refind H. stenopholidium at Hallaig, Raasay
  • My 2019 H. reticulatiforme or H. strictiforme at Talisker
  • H. drummondii at Laig, Eigg

None of these has been fully resolved:

  • Seth’s Uig plant matches no known species but before attempting to describe it as a new species it would have to be found in other locations.
  • Only H.shoolbredii and H. anglicum have been found at the Allt Daraich site.
  • H. stenopholidium was not found at Hallaig.
  • H. cyclicum and H. triviale have been found at the Talisker site.
  • I did not get to Eigg.

Elsewhere Joanna and Julian have moved to Harlosh and found Lepidium didymum (Lesser Swine-cress) as a weed in their garden – a first for the vice-county.

Lepidium didymum (Lesser Swine-cress)
Lepidium didymum (Lesser Swine-cress)

Neil and Seth have each been adding useful records for e.g. Salix purpurea (Purple Willow) and Zostera marina (Eelgrass).

Catch-up Time

August 25, 2020

A family expedition to Brochel at low tide produced this fine fish under a rock:

Cornish Sucker (A Clingfish) Lepadogaster purpurea

The taxonomy of Lepadogaster was confused for many years but a 2003 paper sorted out the difference between this and L. lepadogaster using a combination of morpholgical and molecular characteristics. This diagram shows a reliable difference:

Yesterday, walking to the south of the River Drynoch I spotted this proliferative Dactylis glomerata (Cock’s-foot). This is a known phenomenon in this grass, see e.g. here.

Proliferative Dactylis gloerata

Nearby there were two Light Knot Grass caterpillars

Light Knot Grass Larva

and a couple of adult Shaded Broad-bar moths:

Shaded Broad-bar

Neither of these have large numbers of records locally.

Spar Cave and Surrounds

August 20, 2020

Ludicrously, I had never been to Spar Cave near Glasnakille on Skye – until last Tuesday. It is well worth a visit, but one needs to be prepared for a steep climb down, slippery rocks on the shore and total darkness in the extensive cave.

Spar Cave

Spar Cave

Unsurprisingly, there was no plant life apart from around the entrance. Hopes of finding the gametophyte of Trichomanes speciosum (Killarney Fern) remained unrealised even though it is known in a couple of sites not far away. Animal life was also thin on the ground but a few fungi may turn out to be of interest.

Just outside there were moth pupae on Asplenium scolopendrium (Hart’s-tongue) which Seth is checking whether the culprit is Psychoides filicivora or P. verhuella. (Later: Confirmed as P. filicivora from larval charcaters.)

Psychoides pupa

Down on the shore there was Devonshire cup-coral (Caryophyllia smithii)

Devonshire cup-coral Caryophyllia smithii

Away from the shore we found a patch of Calamagrostis epigejos (Wood Small-reed) together with Agrimonia procera (Fragrant Agrimony) and later on the roadside there was Linaria repens (Pale or Striped Toadflax) – only the third site in the vice-county. It has been known in Portree for getting on for 50 years and there is a single 1978 record from Kyleakin.

Linaria repens (Pale or StripedToadflax)

More New Moths

August 16, 2020

My latest effort with the moth trap produced three moths that I have not seen here before, which takes my total number of adult moth species seen here to 190.

Common Footman
Dotted Carpet
Northern Spinach

Meanwhile, out on the hill there were several Brown China-mark (Elophila nymphaeata) moths near Camas Malag. The China-marks are unusual in that their larvae are entirely aquatic, feeding on water plants. There were leaf mines in Potamogeton polygonifolius (Bog Pondweed) that were likely produced by the larvae.

Brown China-mark (Elophila nymphaeata)