Posts Tagged ‘Slugs & Snails’

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:

DSC00065a

DSC00069a

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.

Canna & Sanday

May 24, 2015

The current ferry timetable allows eight hours on Canna on a Saturday. So this weekend I took advantage of that and got good weather for six of the eight hours.

I spent most of the time on Sanday as, inspired by my recent week on North Uist, I wanted to look for early annuals on the sand dunes. That part was pretty unsuccessful as I didn’t even manage to re-find a 2001 record for Valerianella locusta (Common Cornsalad) and found none of the others I had half a hope for. There is still no record for Erophila on Canna.

Anyway, first I had to get from the ferry to Sanday and I had a look in Canna House garden where I found Ficaria verna subsp. verna (Lesser Celandine – the one with bulbils in the leaf axils). This is new to Canna and follows the pattern elsewhere in the vice-county of being in or near a big house garden. Arabidopsis thaliana (Thale Cress) was also new to Canna.

The Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima (Sea Beet) that I found in 2009 has increased from 3 plants to 5. I have told NTS about it as it is just by their office and they are in a position to make sure that it is not suddenly bulldozed away.

Although the sand dunes were generally disappointing, the Ranunculus bulbosus (Bulbous Buttercup) was beginning to flower.

Ranunculus bulbosus        Note reflexed sepals

Ranunculus bulbosus                      Note reflexed sepals

Elsewhere the Mertensia maritima (Oysterplant) was also beginning to flower and one patch comprised a very healthy 60 plants.

Mertensia Sanday

Mertensia maritima

The overgrown lochan An t-Oban contained its usual goodies including most of VC 104’s Hypericum elodes (Marsh St John’s-wort) and the western end of Sanday had a great many flowering Scilla verna (Spring Squill) and Orchis mascula (Early-purple Orchid):

.Orchis mascula Sanday Scilla verna Canna

The dunes had lots of snails that appear to be Cornu aspersum, the Garden Snail. I was slightly surprised by this and brought a couple of empty shells home to check but that seems to be right and I find that at least in Ireland they are “Commonest in gardens and on sand dunes at the coast.” At least according to NBN, this will be a new record for NG20 post-1999.

On Canna I spotted the usual galls on thyme and rust on nettles.

The Common Garden Snail

April 7, 2015

It may have been a gardening afternoon but it doesn’t stop one from making a new record. Look at this:

Garden snail vc104 map

Cornu aspersum VC104 Distribution Map

Yellow squares are 2000 onwards, so now another yellow square can be added for NG53.

Cornu aspersum, previously Helix aspera, has a very coastal distribution north of the Central Belt. Anyone fancy adding some more yellow squares?  I bet there are Garden Snails in Broadford and Portree. Send records to HBRG or I can always include them in my next batch……Snail

Wrap-up

July 14, 2014

In the end, the Fladaigh Chuain lists featured 35 bryophytes and 92 or 93 vascular plants (Atriplex seen from the boat was probably A. glabriuscula seen on land, but it was impossible to be certain). Also recorded were 29 species of bird, some in large numbers and including a single peregrine. We managed a few other records including rabbit, grey and common seals, the first ant record from the islands, Myrmica ruginodis, our commonest red ant locally, and Arion ater (Great Black Slug).

There was some distinctive-looking Ranunculus flammula (Lesser Spearwort) on Fladaigh Chuain with small flowers and glossy bright green leaves. I would like to make it R. flammula subsp. minimus which is known not far away in the Outer Isles, but it doesn’t seem right. The lowest leaves are key but it is possible that I just don’t have them on my specimen, which has now grown roots – so I will attempt to overwinter it.

Jean has found Stellaria graminea (Lesser Stitchwort) in the Dunvegan area, the first record for 50 years in the 10 km square NG24.

John reports that the Ononis repens (Restharrow) is flourishing:

Ononis repens

Ononis repens          Photo: J Hawell

This remains the only plant ever found in the vice-county.

Dragons, Sedges and a Sika Deer on Raasay

July 18, 2013

SWT’s Dragonfly Walk on Tuesday took place in Waternish and even though the weather was not good for flying dragons, we did see flying Common Blue Damselflies and by guddling in lochs and pools the larvae of three other species – Common Hawker, Four-spotted Chaser and Large Red Damselfly.  Thanks Babs for taking the time to lead it.  And I made some plant and slug records!

Arion ater

Arion ater: The Great Black Slug

I ran Sedge Day on Raasay on Wednesday which seemed to go well with 10 attendees plus myself.

Sedge Day

Sedge Day

Some folks left with an awareness of sedges that they didn’t have before and some left feeling able to identify all the common sedges on Skye & Raasay:

Sedges to Identify

Sedges to Identify

A key I had created worked better in the field than in the room because colours e.g. blue-green versus green were less apparent indoors.  In general the colour issue was a bit of a problem but nonetheless with a bit of help most folks were able to identify the 14 true sedges in front of them.

While we were  out in the field near Eyre Judith is sure that she saw a Sika Deer. Another new mammal record for Raasay!  By the time I saw it, it was too far away for me to be sure. It is known on Skye towards the Bridge.

Raasay Slugs

June 27, 2013

Later on Tuesday I attended a workshop run by SLEF to learn to identify species in this much maligned and under-recorded group. Up to this point the only records of slugs on Raasay come from some casual recording on two short visits to the island giving a total of 10 species (out of the national list of about 40 species). The full Raasay list is below. As preparation for the course, I dutifully hunted slugs in the most convenient place – the garden. It was surprisingly difficult to find them in spite of the recent rain but it proved very productive.

I managed to find seven species including an unusually marked specimen of Limax maximus, (often known as the Tiger or Leopard Slug). Of these species, four were new to the island and were of particular interest. All four new species are associated with gardens and human disturbance. The garden habitat is one not searched during the previous short visits to the island. It is quite likely that the recorded distributions of slugs (and many other species) omit many common species found mainly in garden habitats – naturalists will spend far more time in exciting, wild habitats looking for rarer, more exciting species. The first of the new species was not surprising – one of the pestilential garden slugs, Arion owenii. This is very common but grossly under-recorded. Until the 1970s it was not separated from two other garden slug species. Records before that time cannot be assigned to this species as both it and another common garden slug species, Arion distinctus, occur on the island. Since the 1970s, little slug recording has been done in this area so the species remained unrecorded, even from Skye, until recently.

The other three new species are all species that are spreading and the spread has been facilitated by human activity. Slugs or slug eggs are transported unwittingly in plant pots or other garden artefacts from one place to another and it is possible that climate amelioration has allowed some species to survive and thrive in increasingly northward locations. The three new species are Boettgerilla pallens, Deroceras invadens and Tandonia budapestensis.

Boettgerilla pallens, the Worm Slug, is a small, elongated pale grey slug, often with a lilac tinge. It is usually only seen in small numbers and not a pest, indeed its diet is thought to be very small invertebrates which themselves may be pests. It is a European species first recorded in the UK in 1972. Since then it has spread widely and is now present from Jersey in the far south to Orkney in the north. The first Skye records were only a decade ago.

Boettgerilla pallens

Boettgerilla pallens

Deroceras invadens (sometimes called the Tramp slug) has taken longer to spread having first arrived in Britain in the 1930s. It is now abundant in many gardens where it can be a pest. It is easily recognised with its brown body, and always has a pale area around the breathing pore.

Deroceras invadens

Deroceras invadens

Tandonia budapestensis, the Budapest Slug, is a major pest of potatoes and has been in Britain for about 130 years. Unlike many other introduced species, its spread has been very slow and it is relatively uncommonly recorded in the Highlands. However, it is likely that it is far more common than it appears as so little recording has been done in ‘human’ habitats.

Fuller descriptions and pictures of all these species can be found in the web site Mollusc Ireland: http://www.habitas.org.uk/molluscireland/index.html

Thanks to Chris du Feu and Roger Cottis for sorting out the above.