Friday, 8 August 2014

Height of Summer

This is very much a catch up of observations over the last 3 or 4 weeks.

We had some remarkable weather at the end of July; hot and dry with temperatures up to 30°C. We had lots of windows open in the house for the first time in years.   I managed the annual haycut on half the croft during those days, a little earlier than last year.   I have let the grass lie to give some help to the spread of biluebells which seem to require some fertility in the soil.

The remaining part of the croft still has orchids setting seed and the cut there will  as usual be delayed until the middle of September.    Seed set amongst the lesser butterfly orchids looks to have been very limited.   I have yet to work out the pollination rate, the number of flowers that develop into seed pods, but of the 35 flowering spikes this year, 14 failed to produce any seed pods.  A few simply died off while some were chewed off by voles or slugs.  

The orchids flowered early this year because of the warm spring and maybe flowering did not synchronise with the appearance of pollinators.   I never managed to trap any moths with pollinia attached during the peak flowering period.   

During the hot dry spell I had the moth trap out on a 23 and 24 July.   The species count was 34 and 37 and the number of moths 72 and 83 respectively.   The total species count for the year to date is now 111.    There were a few interesting ones.   Whilst not very spectacular but a first record for Skye, was a Green Pug, whose larvae feed on plants of the Rosaceae family, and I am now fretting that I might have inadvertently introduced the moth when I brought up an apple tree from the south, where it is common.  However the moth is locally present throughout Scotland so a Skye occurrence is not out of the question.

Green Pug

One of the more attractive moths was a Coxcomb Prominent, and of course the Garden Tiger which usually turns up in small numbers at this time of year.

Coxcomb Prominent

Garden Tiger (and midges!)
Voles are everywhere, though not often seen.   Every mound has nest holes and there are vole runs every few yards.   I caught an adult near the vegetable garden yesterday in a Longworth mammal trap and a young vole this morning in the same place.

Vole Burrow
Another Vole Picture Because They Are Neat

The roe deer returned; it is the same individual from some weeks ago, recognisable because one of its antlers is damaged.   A couple of days ago it was feeding in the kale yard which can be seen from the house.   My wife "chased" it off (she tapped on the window!) because it damages blackcurrant bushes, but it came back again later in the evening.   However my attempt to get close enough for some more photographs proved too much and persuaded the deer to make a getaway, jumping  the fence though not without difficulty.

There are some otter signs about on the Loch Ainort side - fresh(ish) spraints and an otter run that looks recently used because the grass has been flattened.   I caught a very brief glimpse of one earlier this week, the first for several months.

Scotch Argus butterflies made their first appearance in the middle of July, and the first waxcap fungi, H miniata, with bright red caps sitting low in the grass began appearing at the end of July.    Another early event.
Scotch Argus Butterfly

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