Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Skygazing, fishing and spending too much time with a microscope

The last few days have been eventful.   We saw a few more birds that are winter visitors to Skye; a brambling struggled to get at the garden bird feeders against competitive sparrows, a few fieldfare settled on the remaining rowan berries, and a black headed gull mingled among other gulls .   The birding highlight though was a resident, a sea eagle, with its white tail glinting in the sunlight around a kilometre away, mobbed by gulls - it's tough being an eagle.   The same goes for the buzzard we have seen on most days, which has been regularly harassed by crows and ravens,


Aurora Forecast
But the eagle was not the big highlight.  Last Tuesday, one of several clear dry nights (for the last 10 days the weather has been superb, though it  ended at the weekend with heavy rain and today strong winds and more rain) coincided with an appearance of the Northern Lights.   The only sighting I have had on Skye was 18 months ago, and although the Kp index was a modest 5 as measured by the Kjell Henriksen Observatory on Svalbard, such that Skye was on the very edge of visibility, there was a display which lasted 20 minutes or so. With the naked eye they lights were not greatly obvious - a brightness and colouring, gentle rather than psychodelic - but the camera exaggerated the colouring and drama.

Northern Lights over Raasay
Northern Lights over Raasay
Northern Lights over Raasay

                                                                                          Back to the more commonplace.   During the period of clear dry nights I put the moth trap out a couple of times but the catches were small, (one night like a British Eurovision song entry - zero) not least because the temperature overnight was at, or near, freezing. There were a couple of Feathered Thorn and an Angle Shades.

Feathered Thorn
Angle Shades

I have spent a lot of time, probably too much,studying and identifying the fungi I have found on the croft.   Some of the earlier identifications I have made might be incorrect and I will take a look at them again over the winter.   I am reasonably confident that the examples below of recent identifications are correct to species level after using several fungi handbooks and then checking them against Fungi of the Hebrides - R W G Dennis, which comprehensively lists all the fungi recognised in the Inner and Outer Hebrides in 1986, long before the days of the NBN Gateway.

Pale Waxcap (C. berkeleyi)

Pale Waxcap (C. berkeleyi) Spores

Star Pinkgill (Entoloma conferendum)

Star Pinkgill (Entoloma conferendum) Spores
Waxcap (H. euroflavescens)

Waxcap (H. euroflavescens) Spores

Whenever I see an otter fishing I want to know what the fish species might be that the otter is eating but it is just about impossible to tell, so I have put a creel out by the kelp where otters regularly fish, on calm days when I can get the creel in and out using a canoe.   I caught 2 cod on the first day, but then things went awry on the second day.   I probably had the creel in water that was too shallow because the creel was almost literally full of crabs, 47 in total, and they took ages to pull out of the narrow necked creel.  45 were shore crabs and the other 2 were velvet swimming crabs,  The next day from deeper water I had 2 velvet swimming crabs, easily the most evil looking crab, and on the last day of fishing, what I think were two juvenile Norway pout.  None of these were eaten, least of all the fierce and threatening swimming crabs.

Velvet Swimming Crab
A Creelful of Crabs

Young Cod

Probably a Juvenile Norway Pout

No comments:

Post a Comment