Monday, 28 April 2014


Sunburn, April and Skye are not words that fit comfortably together, but last week was fantastic. Winds from the south east, breezy at best brought, several days of unbroken sunshine.  I got sunburnt planting out broccoli, brussels sprouts and salad plants and preparing a bed for peas.  The croft has looked terrific.

Greater wood-rush
Marsh violet
In flower are the first of the bluebells, plus lousewort, marsh violet, wood sorrell, greater wood-rush, and common cotton grass among others.

I had the moth trap out on two nights.   On the second night, in the garden, I caught over 130 moths but the species count was limited.  There were almost 50 Hebrew Character moths and a similar number of Red Chestnuts.  There were a few Powdered Quaker, and Early Tooth-striped, the first of the year.   Powdered Quaker are hard to differentiate from Common Quaker.   I am relying on the shape of the wing - Powdered pointed, Common rounded, but I might be wrong.

Early Tooth-striped
Powdered Quaker
Hoverfly (Eristalis pertinax)
The warmth in the daytime brought out bees (early bumblebee, white-tailed bumblebee and common carder bee), butterflies (small white, peacock and red admiral) and other insects such as hoverflies and house fly allies.

Grey Heron with Catch
Grey Heron
We heard the first cuckoo over on Scalpay, and lots of repoll have returned, unusually coming to the bird feeders.  I got very close to a grey heron which had eschewed the delights of standing motionless on the croft to hunt on the croft.  It caught what looked like a common shrew in the boundary ditch.


Otters?   The trail camera picked up an otter on the 24th in the early morning by the holt, but we had no sightings otherwise.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

More of the Same! (Otter, eagle etc etc)

I put a 12 volt external battery on the trail camera to try to extend the operating time. I got 3 video clips on each of the 9th and 10th early in the morning.   This is the nicest, taken just after dawn on Thursday, April 10  of an otter grooming before heading off over the cliff presumably to the shore.

I must have just missed it - if it did go into the sea - because I was down at the shore at 07.30 am.   I did though see something interesting, an eagle between Ard Dorch and Scalpay.   It circled over to Scalpay and settled on a fence post for a few minutes, tested by gulls who mobbed it, then it flew around 50 yards away, finding something to peck at for a further 10 minutes or so.    It then hopped a few yards away where 7 hooded crows surrounded it, like jackals around a kill, taking turns to attack the eagle's head.    The eagle's reaction was one of disdain, putting up with the nuisance for 20 minutes or so, before it finally flew off over Scalpay.   We think it was an immature white-tailed eagle. It was lightish on the back with a distinctive pale patch on the back just below the neck. Evidence of a white tail was hard to see - early morning and distance being a problem.   I took photos but they were next to useless.

I saw our first returning migrant swallow yesterday (I have not checked but this seems very early) and we had a reed bunting on the feeders. 

Meanwhile despite showers I put the moth trap out on Thursday night with a catch of 19 moths  in total of which there were 5 species,  Hebrew Character, Clouded Drab, Red Chestnut and these two, a Common Quaker and an Early Grey moth.

Early Grey Moth
Common Quaker Moth

Tick Biting Parts

I took a walk over the grazings last Tuesday to Loch nam Madadh Uisge, (literally 'fox water') a small lochan above Luib, where there will be lots of water lobelia later this summer.   Flowering bog myrtle was everywhere and a few sedges and rushes were beginning to flower.   I also picked up my first deer tick of the year.   Potentially they can carry Lyme disease.   I used to spray ticks which had bitten into my flesh by spraying them with after shave (or cheap perfume, if closer to hand). The alcohol solvent causes them to loosen their grip and they can be picked off with tweasers.   However the local chemist in Portree cautioned against this approach because the spray can cause the tick to vomit and increase the risk of pathogens entering the bite.   So now I use a little prong which slides under the tick and a quick twist then removes it.  I have lost the packaging but I think the brand name is the O'Tom Tick Twister. It works most of the time but is far less satisfying than seeing the tick visibly unhappy with the alcohol spray, and the chance for some serious revenge.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Early Spring Wildlife

In the day time sightings of otters have been scarce.   3 weeks ago I saw a family, mother and 2 cubs,  bring a large dogfish on shore but then I lost them.  I may have disturbed them because I did hear the alarm call - 'hah, hah' from the rocks though I could not see them.  That was the last sighting but the trail camera has been more successful.   I put an external battery onto it and changed the video setting to record for 30 seconds.   Two nights ago it picked up a single otter on 5 occasions - here are two clips:

If they don't play, then the You Tube links are: and

In flower are the first of the primroses and bilberry.   There are a few queen white-tailed bumble bees ambling about rather sluggishly.

We saw two sea eagles high up over Scalpay this morning whilst yesterday there was a large group of red throated divers together with mergansers, shag and a single black guillemot.

Towards the end of March there were several dry, but cold nights, so I had the moth trap out.   The absolute number of moths caught and the species count were low but after lots of rain it was good to see what was about.   Nothing special but here are 5 of the 6 species caught:
Hebrew Character
Red Chestnut

Clouded Drab

Red Sword-grass
Yellow Horned

Now it is time to see if there is anything else about outside!