Friday, 15 August 2014

Days Out

I had a couple of days out last week.   

The first was an outing with the Skye branch of the Scottish Wildlife Trust  to look for water plants at Storr Lochs, a few miles north of Portree.  A botanical trip, so as ever Stephen Bungard was the leader and his comments on the walk are at    We found four pondweeds (bog, perfoliate, broad-leaved and red) and several horsetails.  

Field Horsetail showing branch and stalk nodes x10
 Broad-leaved Pondweed (Potamogeton natans)
In the damper grassland, there was lots of Grass of Parnassus, a very handsome plant which deserves an exotic name.   Despite being brought up in the Lake District I was not aware that Grass of Parnassus featured on the arms of the county of Cumbria.   It appears to have a preference for slightly basic soils and further south, such as Ainsdale on Merseyside, I have seen it in damp duneslacks.  

Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia palustris)
Although the walk had a botanical focus it was good to see some other wildlife including 2 short-tailed voles, and several  fungi in fruit (Egghead Mottlesgill, Dung Roundhead and Persistent Waxcap) before rain brought matters to an early end.

Egghead Mottlegill (Panaeolus semiovatus)

 Persistent Waxcap (Hygrocybe autoconica)

 Dung Roundhead (Stropharia semiglobata)

Then on Saturday in the sunshine, we went to a National Trust for Scotland event at Balmacara Square, across the bridge, a few miles beyond Kyle of Lochalsh.    There is a lovely village pond there and  I took off my shoes and socks, rolled up my trouser legs to go pond dipping along with the other children.  I found lots of water boatmen, and larvae of palmate newts, while damselflies danced around the edge of the pond.  

 Water Boatman (Notonecta obliqua)
Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans)

Creeping Lady's Tresses (Goodyera repens)
 We then went on to the nearby Lochalsh gardens to see an orchid, Creeping Lady's Tresses, (Goodyera repens) growing under Scots Pines.  Its distribution is primarily northern in Britain, in pine and birchwoods.   It is common for example at the RSPB reserve at Loch Garten, but not at all common on the west coast because these habitats are unusual.  

Meanwhile on the croft I put the mammal trap out over a single, well used vole run over a 36-hour period, inspecting regularly.    We caught 4 short-tailed vole, a common shrew and a wood mouse, all of which therefore seem to use the same track.   (Voles are eating brassicas, wood mice are eating peas). 

To add to voles and mice, further pests, cabbage white caterpillars, are now attacking cabbages with some ferocity.   
Wood Mouse
There have been lots of slow flying black flies around,  with legs dangling down as they fly, so that they look ungainly and rather fierce.  I caught a couple in a butterfly net and worked out that they are Bibionids - Heather Flies.  They are harmless and despite the name it appears that there is no connection with heather other than they emerge just as heather comes into flower.

 Heather Fly (Bibio pomonae)

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