A Bit of a Bindweed

August 25, 2017

Mike Wilcox has got me looking at Calystegia rather more closely than I have previously. Yesterday I collected multiple images of four Skye plants, which are roughly speaking C. sepium (twice), C. silvatica and C. pulchra. These are what I thought they were and Mike more or less agrees – but there are complications in this group.

The first C. sepium (Hedge Bindweed) has winged petioles:

Cal 1 f2 4 closeup

which is not really in the books but apparently is OK and within the range of C. sepium subsp. sepium.

The C. pulchra (Hairy Bindweed) is probably OK but I need to go and measure a few things to check for Calystegia x howittiorum (C. pulchra x silvatica):

A previously identified Calystegia silvatica subsp. silvatica (Large Bindweed) can be called var. zonata because of the zones of purplish colour on the outside of the flowers:

Cal 4 f3 3 cropped LR

The Lythrum salicaria (Purple-loosestrife) by the A855 in Portree is doing well this year with two robust plants, one on each side of the road.

Lythrum salicaria Portree LR

Lythrum salicaria in Portree

I added Scrophularia auriculata (Water Figwort) to the list for Trotternish and found a new site for Mentha x villosonervata (Sharp-toothed Mint (M. spicata x longifolia)) south of Portree close to where I spotted Hawthorn Shieldbug nymphs on Cotoneaster frigidus (Tree Cotoneaster):

Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale nymphs 3LR

Stephen Moran says “Hawthorn seems almost second choice up in the Highlands. Any Sorbus, Ilex and Cotoneaster is preferred. I noted some on holly and rowan on Tuesday slap bang next to hawthorn in full fruit…..where I was unable to find any nymphs at all.”

Holly seems a bit odd – the rest are all relatively close members of the Rosaceae family.

Insect News

August 21, 2017

Following up yesterday’s Heather Flies on Fladday, some joined me today in the garden while I cut the grass. My “lawn” contains a wide variety of plant species, but not heather.

Three beetles drowned themselves in the paddling pool a few weeks ago and it is now clear that they are Brown Chafers (Serica brunnea), recorded previously on Raasay by Richard Moore.

A few weeks ago Nancy spotted a Cinnabar Moth at Arduish on Raasay – there are previous Raasay records from  Holoman House and Dun Caan, but it is surprisingly rare locally.

Flies I have caught in the past three months and recently determined by Murdo included the blowfly Calliphora subalpina, one of the rarer ones, though I had it once before here, four years ago. Also, Merodon equestris (Narcissus Bulb Fly) a hairy bumblebee mimic that I have had once before, and probably Panzeria laevigata, a rare tachanid that has been sent on to a tachanid expert.

Last night’s moth trap produced some pretty things such as

and this micro-moth was attracted enough to sit on the adjacent wall, if not to enter the moth trap:

Moth 11

Eudonia angustea (Narrow-winged Grey)


August 21, 2017

Apart from playing with grandchildren by the causeway in Caol Fladda, I have not been to Fladday for ten years. Yesterday I did something about that and visited all six partial monads on Fladday with the intention of refreshing some pre-2000 records and also recording in the small northern area that forms all the land in tetrad NG55W. When I was creating the Flora of Raasay I did not record these little bits of land separately and so there were only three taxa recorded.  There are now 72, which isn’t too bad considering the tetrad is 97% sea and not endowed with a wide range of habitats.

Fladday N end

The North End of Fladday

I was surprised to add two taxa to the list for NG55: Salix repens var. argentea (the silvery variety of Creeping Willow), which I did not record separately during the Raasay Flora days, and Triglochin maritima (Sea Arrowgrass).

There was a sallow near Torran which is very close to Salix cinerea subsp. oleifolia (Rusty Willow)  – a decent-sized tree with smooth grey bark, leaves that are dark and shiny above with rust-coloured hairs underneath – but with persistent stipules (“ears”).

Sx x multinervis 1

Sx x multinervis 2a

Updated: From discussion with Irina Belyaeva-Chamberlain I learn that persistent stipules are frequent on this and related willows (e.g. S. caprea), so Salix cinerea subsp. oleifolia it is.

It was a good day for butterflies, moth larvae and dragons and damsels. This female Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) was particularly obliging:

Common Darter Female

Female Sympetrum striolatum

Heather Flies (Bibio pomonae) with their dangling red legs are now out in large numbers – it is that time of year.

Records from Rum

August 18, 2017

Nick Stewart has sent over 800 records from three days on Rum, adding Alchemilla filicaulis subsp. vestita (Common Lady’s mantle), Rosa canina (Dog-rose) and Hieracium latobrigorum (Yellow-styled Hawkweed) to the 10km square NG30. The only previous record for this hawkweed on Rum was by W A Clark, J W Heslop Harrison’s son-in-law, in 1938 and appears to have been arbitrarily assigned to NM39. Perhaps it should have been NG30…?

He made new tetrad records for various plants including Carex pauciflora (Few-flowered Sedge), Chara virgata (Delicate Stonewort), Drosera intermedia (Oblong-leaved Sundew) and Epilobium obscurum (Short-fruited Willowherb).

Centunculus minimus (Chaffweed) at Harris refreshes a JWHH record from the 1930s and Nitella translucens (Translucent Stonewort) in NG3501 may explain JWHH’s record from Glen Shellesder, not previously re-found.

WFS on Skye

August 17, 2017

I was delighted to receive some records from The Wild Flower Society following their recent visit to Skye. They added Berberis buxifolia (Box-leaved Barberry) to the vice-county list and made new hectad (10km square) records for a further eight taxa.  The latter were mostly introductions but a muddy roadside edge near Sligachan yielded Centunculus minimus (Chaffweed) and Juncus ranarius (Frog Rush). Both of these are scattered around the coast but whilst I have seen Chaffweed in muddy roadsides, this is the first time Frog Rush has turned up in this habitat in VC104.

Emeralds on Raasay

August 5, 2017

Phil Kirk, visiting from Lancashire, spotted Northern Emerald dragonflies (Somatochlora arctica) near Fearns and said “In addition to the pair we saw at the start of the walk along the coast at Fearns, we did see 3 or 4 other similar looking dragonflies as were driving around the island. They were certainly the right sort of size and colour, and certainly not Golden Ringed or Common Hawkers. So I should think the Northern Emeralds are going to be found elsewhere on Raasay as well.”

This is a first for Raasay. The British Dragonfly Society distribution map shows no records for Skye or Raasay but the NBN Atlas has a 2012 record for Skye by the A87 south of Portree.

These are Phil’s images:

Northern Emerald FemaleNorthern Emerald Raasay 3Northern Emeralds Attempting Mating

Skye Botany Group’s August Day Out

August 4, 2017

On Wednesday we went to part of Loch Dunvegan that was under-recorded and made 133 bryophyte and 193 vascular plant records in NG24J.  We also added 9 vascular plant species to the list for NG24I to the south. Vascular plant highlights: Centunculus minimus (Chaffweed) and Orobanche alba (Thyme Broomrape).

Dunvegan Castle from Uiginish Point

Dunvegan Castle from Uiginish Point


Edible Plants

August 3, 2017

My contribution to Am Bratach, the Raasay Community Newsletter, this month concerns Edible Plants and can be accessed via a link on the Recording & Resources page of my website.

Water-purslane – New to Skye

July 29, 2017

Seth has found Lythrum portula (Water-purslane) near Flodigarry. This is a first for Skye though there are older records for Canna and Muck. This is Seth’s photo of it with Centunculus minimus (Chaffweed).

Chaffweed n Water Purslane

Chaffweed (on left) & Water-purslane (on right)       Photo: S J D Gibson

Vegetation Monitoring in Coir’ an t-Seasgaich

July 25, 2017

Long-term followers of this blog will know that I do this every year. This is the final year of the current contract and yesterday I had my first day of the season up there.

Quite apart from the vegetation itself there were a couple of notable occurrences. Firstly, one of the experimental plots has recently had a large boulder through it from the cliffs above, breaking down the Rylock & rabbit wire on all three fences and smashing a fence post:

Site 4 RU divide fence damage (2)LR

I was glad this did not happen while I was kneeling on the grass.

Secondly, in order to assess litter cover I throw a quadrat within the treatment site to give random locations. On the final site I threw my quadrat about 2 m. It stood up on end and headed off down the hill, over a cliff and on to the corry below, making a metallic clanging sound and scattering sheep. It travelled about 250m down the slope, from whence I recovered it.

Just as well it was the last site.

It is very dry underfoot up there this year.