Posts Tagged ‘Slugs & Snails’

Port a’Bhata, Am Bile and Creag Mhòr

April 1, 2019

To the north-east of Portree along the coast lies a tetrad that I had hardly been into before last Saturday. It was showing up as having lots of records not re-found during the current recording date range (2000-2019) including taxa suggesting quite nice habitat like Arabis hirsuta (Hairy Rock-cress), Saxifraga hypnoides (Mossy Saxifrage) and Silene acaulis (Moss Campion). On Saturday I managed to find some of these (all of those above) and add a total of 57 new taxa to the tetrad list including a few plants of Petasites hybridus (Butterbur). The only other site for this in NG54 is at Brochel on Raasay where a handful of plants has persisted for over 80 years, and perhaps much longer.

There was a great deal of the well-named Shining Crane’s-bill (Geranium lucidum), only ever recorded from ten tetrads in VC104 and known from this area previously, but this has to be Skye HQ for it.

Geranium lucidum (Shining Crane's-bill)

Geranium lucidum (Shining Crane’s-bill)

Spring was springing:

NG54C March Plants

Bluebell, Red Campion, Thale Cress

I like to find Arabidopsis thaliana (Thale Cress) in places like this rather than as an urban weed – it is especially common in Portree and Kyleakin.

I found a couple of shells of Balea sarsii (Tree Snail) and brought one home to photograph, but at that point there was an accident involving a lens that was not the shape I thought it was:

Ex-snail shell

Ex-snail shell

Oh yes, and the first tick of the year attached itself to me. It was still March!

Loch na Feithe Seilich, Loch Glac Mairi Nic Colla & Allt Choire nan Clach

August 24, 2018

Tetrad NG72A was visited by a party from the 2005 BSBI Field Meeting on Skye. They visited the eastern side – Allt nan Con and Loch an Ime. This was clearly not a rich area as they recorded only 75 taxa. Memory suggests it was a pretty wet day, too. (I was leading another party at the time.) These were the only records for this tetrad.

Yesterday I went to see if I could improve matters. I intended to visit the western side but starting over at the eastern edge as that is the nearest road.  However, the Allt Mòr was in full spate and despite being in wellies, the depth and flow persuaded me not to cross it. So I collected a Hieracium specimen and drove round to the Sleat road so as to approach from other side. This, it turned out, meant navigating an enormous sea of Molinia.

Once I reached Loch na Feithe Seilich and Loch Glac Mairi Nic Colla I added a few aquatics including Utricularia stygia (Nordic Bladderwort) (confirmed once home by examining the quadrifid hairs on the bladders).


Utricularia stygia (Nordic Bladderwort)

However, the Allt Choire nan Clach turned out to be one of those pleasing Skye burns with rocky gullies and a diverse flora such as Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Bearberry), Juniperus communis subsp. nana (Dwarf Juniper), Populus tremula (Aspen), Rubus saxatilis (Stone Bramble) and so on, such that the taxon count now stands at a much more respectable 144.

There was a fine group of polypore fungi on a dead tree (probably Birch Polypore)

bracket fungus 180823


and a fine Black Slug (Arion ater) enjoying a piece that had dropped off:


Arion ater

I also spotted several different hairy caterpillars including these two, which I do not see frequently (thanks to Nigel for idents):

I really love your tiger feet.

SNG in Dunvegan Woods

April 15, 2018

Skye Nature Group walked the Two Churches Walk at Dunvegan on Wednesday. We recorded various invertebrates – molluscs, insects, arachnids, myriapods – plus some birds, a frog plus many tadpoles and of course I made plant lists.

Gerris costae

The pondskater Gerris costae       Image S. Gibson

The route took us through two tetrads and we added 15 taxa to the northern one, NG24P, and 44 to the less well recorded southern one, NG24N.

The woods have various planted shrubs such as Olearia macrodonta (New Zealand Holly) and Griselinia littoralis (New Zealand Broadleaf), the latter making the first record in the wild in VC104.

Griselinia littoralis

Griselinia littoralis

Something we thought might be a Cotoneaster has leaves similar in shape to C. salicifolius (Willow-leaved Cotoneaster) but they are larger than reported in the literature and lacking a tomentose underside – both of which might be effects of shading. Once identified, the leafspot fungus will probably be straightforward! I shall have to go back in the summer – as I will to check putative Ulex minor (Dwarf Gorse) and Lonicera nitida (Wilson’s Honeysuckle).

Cotoneaster sp. maybe

Cotoneaster sp. maybe

Dwarf Gorse is thought always to be an introduction in Scotland where it is sometimes planted as an ornamental and can escape. Given the number of other planted/naturalised plants in this area, that would seem likely. It is not known from the NW Highlands or any of the islands and so I want to see it in flower before recording it. Well done Seth for spotting it!

Oisgill and Elsewhere

April 1, 2018

On Friday Seth, Tony and I went to Oisgill so that I could show them Ribes spicatum (Downy Currant) and Saxifraga oppositifolia (Purple Saxifrage). They had to take my word that the Ribes is this species as it has yet to sprout any leaves let alone flowers, but there is a good population of over 60 plants there.

Ribes spicatum

Ribes spicatum (Downy Currant)

The saxifrage, however, was flowering well as expected at this time of year.

Saxifraga oppositifolia

Saxifraga oppositifolia (Purple Saxifrage)

We added eight taxa to the tetrad plant list, though two of these were the result of subspecies recording, captured some ants and spotted other invertebrates before moving on Abhainn an Lòin Mhòir near Dunvegan.  Here we added 12 to the tetrad plant list – the result of my not having recorded along the river gorge before – and did well for stoneflies, river limpets and native flatworms. Seth tells me that a large stonefly that had to be collected from my face was Perlodes mortoni, a recently split endemic (previously lumped with the Continental P. microcephalus).

After that, as a special treat,  I took them to my favourite quarry, east of Dunvegan where material from Dunvegan Castle gardens has been dumped years ago, plus an exciting collection of rusting white goods. Here apart from the unusual plants I have reported before, we spotted a New Zealand Flatworm (Arthurdendyus triangulatus), Field Vole (Microtus agrestis), Palmate Newt (Lissotriton helveticus), Water Cricket (Velia caprai) and Garden Snails (Cornu aspersum)

Flying Eagle, Other Matters

November 9, 2017

The day started well with a golden eagle flying slowly past the window during breakfast, pursued by a heron and squads of hooded crows and herring gulls.

Last Saturday was the Scottish Annual Meeting of the Botanical Society of Scotland and the Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland, held at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh. It was an excellent day with 150 participants. For me the highlight was being able to compare herbarium specimens of Agrimonia eupatoria (Agrimony) and Agrimonia procera (Fragrant Agrimony). This confirmed my view that the Skye plants are the latter – see e.g. this previous post. To be even more certain, I have today sent a specimen to Douglas McKean at RBGE. Images of Skye specimen by Steve Terry:


Tuesday saw the second Skye Nature Group expedition which seems to have gone well – slugs and snails, pseudoscorpions, centipedes and white disco fungi featuring amongst other finds. I was sorry to miss it but had a better offer!

This coming Saturday (11th) is the Highland Biological Recording Group’s autumn meeting at Strathpeffer Community Centre, 10.30 for 11.00. The main talk is

Rare Invertebrates in the Cairngorms – A lesson in treasure hunting.

Gabrielle Flinn, Rare Invertebrates in the Cairngorms Project Officer

Also coming up soon:


Geary – Updated

May 3, 2017

In the past I have driven to the end of the road at Geary in order to hasten to the botanically rich Geary Ravine SSSI. Today I stopped a little sooner and had a go at tetrad NG25Q, in particular the coastal woodland.

This tetrad is unusual in VC104 in that there were lots of records (155) from before the year 2000 but none since. There is one other in a similar category with 96 earlier records but none recent, but that is more difficult to reach.

The reason for all these earlier records at Geary is a 1996 visit by Jackie Muscott and the Edinburgh Natural History Society. Despite the earliness of the season, I was able to re-find the majority of the previous records – and add some more.

The woodland ground flora was at its best, flowering before being shaded by tree leaves. Along the road there were some interesting escapes like Myrrhis odorata (Sweet Cicely), Tolmiea menziesii (Pick-a-back-plant), Rubus spectabilis (Salmonberry) and Symphytum x uplandicum (Russian Comfrey).

Some plants in flower, or nearly so:

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This little fellow dropped onto my recording card but I didn’t have the heart to take him home and try to determine exactly which land snail he is as he was unlikely to survive the experience:

Snail Geary 2

Clearly a Balea, just need to check the species….. see comments below.

There were interesting fungi on plants too, some awaiting determination; the one on  Veronica beccabunga (Brooklime) may be unusual:

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Later: Bruce has confirmed my tentative identifications of

Uromyces muscari on Bluebell
Ramularia calthae on Marsh-marigold
Puccinia obscura on Great Wood-rush

and says that the rust on Brooklime is probably Puccinia veronicae on a previously unknown host, but wants the specimen I took.

Raasay SSSI Part 4

July 20, 2016

Yesterday I completed the field work for this round of Site Condition Monitoring in the Raasay SSSI. The target species were Dryas octopetala (Mountain Avens), Epipactis atrorubens (Dark-red Helleborine) and Pyrola rotundifolia (Round-leaved Wintergreen).

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This remains the only known site in VC 104 for Pyrola rotundifolia; as in most years there were no flowers.

In passing, during the day I spotted this slug:

Raasay slug 1

Deroceras reticulatum

(Thanks to Chris du Feu for the determination)

and a Meadow Grasshopper (Chorthippus parallelus):

Chorthippus parallelus Meadow Grasshopper

Meadow Grasshopper

I checked up on the Chara vulgaris (Common Stonewort) at its only known site in VC 104, here being grazed by a pond snail:

Chara vulgaris

Chara vulgaris

By contrast, Chara virgata (Delicate Stonewort) is widespread:

chara virgata map copy

Limax maximus

August 1, 2015

A welcome visitor in the polytunnel as it eats smaller slugs and snails:



Kilmory, Rum

June 10, 2015

Yesterday was the SWT Skye Region Group’s trip to Rum. A RIB from Elgol gave us five hours at Kilmory  – or the chance to walk through and be picked up from Kinloch. I elected to spend the day in the Kilmory and Samhnan Insir area, mostly on the dunes. This proved very worthwhile. Top of the list and new to VC104 was Saxifraga tridactylites (Rue-leaved Saxifrage):

Saxifraga tridactylites on Rum

Saxifraga tridactylites on Rum

Next up were several sites for Catapodium marinum (Sea Fern-grass) recorded from this area up until 1992 but not recorded anywhere in VC104 since 1996 (on Eigg):

Catapodium marinum Rum

Catapodium marinum on Rum

There was a lot of Atriplex laciniata (Frosted Orache) along the shore. This had been recorded at Kilmory up to 1997 but it was not found during the years of recording for The Flora of Rum.

Atriplex laciniata on Rum

Atriplex laciniata on Rum

I also found six plants of Polygonum oxyspermum subsp. raii (Ray’s Knotgrass), another plant that had been recorded there before (until 1984) but not found during the Flora surveys. Maybe the grazing pressure has reduced.

Polygonum oxyspermum subsp. raii on Rum

Polygonum oxyspermum subsp. raii on Rum

There were also, of course, lots of plants that were seen during the Flora surveys from Cakile maritima (Sea Rocket) to Ophioglossum azoricum (Small Adder’s-tongue) and Cerastium semidecandrum (Little Mouse-ear) to Equisetum x trachyodon (Mackay’s Horsetail (E. hyemale x variegatum)).

In the dunes there were Garden Snails (Cornu aspersum) and in the boggy bits away from the dunes lots of Bog Beacons (Mitrula paludosa), these according to NBN being first records for Rum, though I haven’t delved any deeper into other record sources.

Ord and Glenbrittle

May 24, 2015

As I couldn’t get back to Raasay from Canna until today, I chose on the way home to visit Ord to look for a known Valerianella site and, while I was in sandy beach mode, to go to Glenbrittle and see what was what.

Valerianella locusta (Common Cornsalad) has been known at Ord since 1967. Unlike most sites in NW Scotland this is not on a sandy soil but on a boulder. I have not found this site before and there were only two plants but they look good – at least 48 years is a remarkable achievement for a tiny population of an annual. This is the only known Skye site.

Valerianella locusta Ord

Valerianella locusta Ord

Nearby, there were two plants of Moehringia trinervia (Three-nerved Sandwort). Amazingly, this is the first record of this plant for Skye. There are several sites on Raasay and Eigg and an old record from Rum. Foolishly, I didn’t think to take a photo. I also spotted Arabidopsis thaliana (Thale Cress) – best found early in the season.

At Glenbrittle beach there was again (like Canna) Ranunculus bulbosus (Bulbous Buttercup) beginning to flower and more Cornu aspersum (Garden Snail) – this time a new record for NG42 according to NBN. I notice that the AIDGAP guide to land snails says “occurring in woods, hedges and dunes as well as in gardens”.

This time the dunes did contain Erophila glabrescens (Glabrous Whitlowgrass) and the sandy shore had plants known previously such as Atriplex laciniata (Frosted Orache), Cakile maritima (Sea Rocket) and Elytrigia juncea (Sand Couch).

The single young specimen of Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima (Sea Beet) that Jean-François found last September appears to have been lost to the winter storms, though it might be under a pile of seaweed.

There was also a sandy hollow with at least 50 plants of Pentaglottis sempervirens (Green Alkanet). First reported from this area in 1996 by Paul Smith and Tim Rich, Carl Farmer recorded three in 2005. It has clearly done well since then.

Pentaglottis sempervirens

Pentaglottis sempervirens

It presumably came from the same source as all the Aegopodium podagraria (Ground-elder) and Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora (Montbretia) that accompanies it.

Some of the Cirsium arvense (Creeping Thistle) was covered in Puccinia punctiformis, a common rust that is seriously under-recorded.