Friday, 26 July 2013

End of a Marathon

I finally finished the orchid spike count last week.  There are still a few stragglers coming into flower but they will be ignored.    It has been a bit of a marathon over several days, labelling each, noting the position and in the case of the butterfly orchids, measuring height, number of flowers and the leaf width.    The numbers are up slightly on last year:  

                                               Flowering spikes
                                                         2013          2012            
Early marsh  (D. incarnata)             76            63
Northern marsh (D. purpurella)        20            18
Heath spotted (D. maculata)         471           380
Heath fragrant (G. borealis)          307           303
Lesser butterfly (P. bifolia)             42            36
Greater butterfly (P. chlorantha)     103          106

The numbers might get slightly revised, once I have tidied up my notes which got wet three times.  

I photographed all the hybrids, noting also the leaf arrangement, and whether the leaves were spotted or not.   There is a selection of photos below.   Most are maculata x purpurella but there were 3 G borealis x D. maculata.   There was also one which defies attribution to parents but nevertheless looks very neat.  
D. maculata x purpurella
D. maculata x G. borealis
D. maculata x purpurella
The 'neat' hybrid 

I am analysing the butterfly orchid data and hope to produce a note later this year, on the features that discriminate between the two species.

I attended a sedge identification course led by Stephen Bungaard under the auspices of the Skye and Lochalsh Environment Forum.  Stephen's knowledge of the plants one might encounter in the area is phenomenal, both in terms of the taxonomy but also plant locations, so the day was extremely useful.

There are 37 species of true sedges in Skye, Raasay and the small isles, 12 of which are described as common, the focus of the course.    7 of these common species occur on the croft:

Oval sedge,  Star sedge, Common sedge, Common Yellow-sedge, Green-ribbed sedge, Carnation sedge, Flea sedge

Flea Sedge
Oval Sedge

Small heath butterflies are commonly on the wing and for the last few days, meadow brown butterflies are around.    Apparently we get a different sub-species in NW Scotland (ssp splendida) to that in the rest of Britain.

I put the moth trap out 2 weeks ago, catching at least 120 moths, then last weekend on two separate nights I got counts of 76 and 130 (a few escaped) including both buff and white ermine, flame shoulder, campion and various carpets.   I am slowly working through the identifications.

I found the first fruiting waxcap of the year, last weekend, probably Vermilion Waxcap (Hygrocybe miniata), growing on the short trampled grass at the foot of a slope.  The cap measures 15mm and the fruiting body was 28mm high. The spores were white, oval and measured 7 micron.

We had only one otter sighting last month - a brief sighting just before low tide.   Nothing this month.