Saturday, 13 January 2018

What's in a Name?

Things have slowed down quite dramatically this past week, though I have slipped out and about a few times. The arrival of a new housemate has kind of messed up my routine somewhat. Instead of holing myself away in the man cave, listening to music and drinking wine whilst identifying specimens (which is what I usually do), I've been spending seemingly every spare moment being talked at by the new guy, pretty much everything and anything that pops into his mind it seems. The level of detail is intense, and usually irrelevant, it's quite endless. He watches tv a lot too, which is about the only time he stops talking. For that one small luxury alone, I have found myself watching more tv this past week than I've watched for months. He's a lovely fella though, I simply can't fault him otherwise. Apart maybe from his farting. But bloody hell...I've even started hearing myself think in his voice (like I don't have enough crazy voices in my head as it is!) But anyway.

The Iceland Gull was in amongst the gull flock again, it's now been four weeks since the first sighting and it has been reported on the Skye Birds site a total of ten times in that period, plus an adult bird on one occasion, as reported by another observer. The Glauc was seen on 3rd, 4th and 6th January but not since. 

I hit the beach on 11th Jan for a bit of marine exploration. The tides this month are pretty crap, the lowest low is still relatively high. Not sure when the real lows are this year, I shall have to find a 2018 tide table. Turning rocks seemed the most productive means of finding species new for the year. A Common Eel was a fine surprise, just the second one I've ever seen here. One large rock held seven Shore Rocklings beneath, they quickly churned the water to froth, thrashing their way out of their suddenly exposed hideaway before disappearing beneath adjacent rocks

Shore Rockling - this is of about average size for the ones I find here
I headed into the woods (this is Bryophyte Month, remember) and found a few bits n bobs of interest

The grey spots are Ramularia gei, a fungal parasite found only on the leaves of Wood Avens
Overhead were several eye-catching clumps of Yellow Brain Fungus

Tremella mesenterica - aka Yellow Brain Fungus
On a much smaller scale were these small greyish asco's. I spent rather a long time trying to figure out what they were. Back home again, I kicked myself for not collecting a sample. Then I read THIS AMAZING thread and am kinda glad I left them alone now! Here they are, found on the underside of a fallen branch

I think these are probably Mollisia, but which species?
After reading the amazing thread, I think there are several procedures to follow. Firstly I need to go back and grab a sample so that I can photograph the spores. I also need to make detailed notes of the substrate and habitat. I shall probably have to name it something like "Mollisia c.f. cinerea", but is this good enough to record? I guess it is, assuming it is actually a Mollisia, of course. And assuming it's a species currently known to science, Skye IS the unknown world, after all. Not good enough to make it onto my PSL though. Hmmm, this opens an interesting can of worms.

I have a millipede on my PSL that has yet to be named - it's completely new to science, you see. Similarly, I have a land nemertean new to science and a Sorbus tree that also has yet to be named. They're all on my PSL though. The millipede is awaiting naming, it will happen soon. I know the guy who found it, specimens are at the museums already. It'll happen, I'm ok with this - it just means I have to keep my eye on BMIG's notifications and change "Typhlopsychromosa (sp)" to the 'new' name when it arrives. The land nemertean is seemingly quite widespread in the far south-west of England, likewise it'll be described and given a name that sits better than "Argonemertes sp. (c.f. Argonemertes australiensis)", hopefully sometime soon! The Sorbus I'm not sure what will happen. It's on a nature reserve, there are at least three specimens of the species. For now I've dubbed it Grangelands Whitebeam Sorbus x.

Talking of millipedes, this was new for the year

Proteroiulus fuscus - rocking in at a whopping 5mm
I find millipede names very difficult to remember, there are generally almost as many vowels as they have legs. The big black one I call 'Tachy niger', the little pale one with red spots is 'Blanny guts', probably bad practice but there you go.  The worst shortening I ever heard was uttered by none other than Mark Telfer himself, father of PSL - "Porc scab" - yuck!!!

January. Bryophytes. Fuckit. Soon, I promise you, soon! I did manage a quite pleasing shot of these gemmae clustered in the halfmoon cup of Lunularia cruciata. They're just too cute!

Lunularia cruciata gemmae just awaiting that big fat raindrop to splash them out into the big wide world
Also spotted a bit of rust fungus on a bramble leaf, whacking it under the microscope allowed me to name it

Phragmidium violaceum - each spore is of 3 or 4 septate
Bryophytes. Next time. Almost certainly, yup...

Saturday, 6 January 2018

What Dwells Beneath

As anybody who knows me will testify, take me out into the field and sooner or later I'll inevitably start lifting rocks, logs and bits of debris in search of whatever dwells beneath. I've been like it since childhood, I don't know why, but it's found me a lot of good stuff. Geo-caches on occasion. Apparently it's severely frowned upon to move them...oops, my bad.

I ambled down to the beach, the gulls were just arriving as the tide started to fall. Found the first winter Iceland Gull almost straight away, but was positively thrilled to see the first winter Glaucous Gull in the flock too! No pics, unfortunately - too busy chatting with a couple of the locals. Poor timing, the Glauc had flown by the time I stopped rabbiting away, I didn't even see it depart. A pair of Great Northern Divers were in the bay along with three Red-throated Divers and a Black Guillemot which is already transitioning into its breeding splendour. 

It was hardly low-tide, more like three quarters in, but I took myself down across the cobbles in search of seashore life. No fish, but a few Green Shore Crabs, masses of Orchestia gammarellus and a single Beadlet Anemone. I'll just have to wait for a low tide and try again properly. 

The top of the beach is littered with small boulders and large cobbles, embedded in the coarse grey volcanic sand. Despite being well below the high water line there are plenty of air-breathing invertebrates to be found on the underside of these rocks, surviving in air pockets until the next low tide. Incredible really. 

Strigamia maritima being photobombed by an Aepus marinus
Aepus marinus - a 2.5mm long beetle found under rocks on the beach
You won't find either of these species anywhere apart from along the upper reaches of beaches (below or near the HWM), an incredibly specialised niche for land animals, but they both occur here in great numbers, so it's obviously a productive zone for them. 

Next I turned my attention to the boulders embedded in the woodland floor of Shore Woods. Usually pretty reliable for stuff like millipedes, woodlice, flatworms, slugs etc. Today was no exception

Kontikia andersoni - another two today, currently the commonest flatworm I'm finding!
A couple of Microplana terrestris - this is a native species of terrestrial flatworm
Microplana scharffi - another native species of terrestrial flatworm
I had hopes of completing the entire Uig Woods set with a Marionfyfea adventor, but it eluded me. Not surprising really, it's only ever been discovered a handful of times in Britain (my single example from here is the northernmost record in the world!)

Geophilus alpinus (insculptus) - still the only geophilomorph I ever find in these woods
Lithobius melanops - a split second before it burst into action. Gotta be quick with these guys!
Cylindroiulus punctatus - far more obliging than the centipedes!
Those of you on the ball will be wondering why I'm not busily keying through mosses and liverworts, what with this being my Bryophyte Month. Umm, yeah. Just let me finish this mad list-building phase (it's the start of a new year, I just have to get the list going!) and then I'll knuckle down to some proper bryologising. Fo sho....

Not that it matters, but I'm on 244 species out of my hoped for 1350. Only another 26 species and I'll be 20% there. Then I'll start with those mosses, honest guv!

Music time. I was going to entitle this blog Rocky Horror Show, except it wasn't at all horrific so it seemed a bit stupid. That got me thinking about Rocky (the films) music, but they've been played to death. Instead, here's the theme to Sylvester Stallone's First Blood. I absolutely love the film, though the book is, of course, far better. It's not as ridiculously over-the-top, gung-ho as the sequals either, it's actually a very good film. And I love the theme, here goes!

In keeping with the lonely lyrics of It's a Long Road (aka the First Blood theme, c'mon - keep up!) here's tonight's second choice. The guy in this video is just brilliant, the whole thing must have cost under $5 to make. Watch out for the head peeking through the office window - blink and you'll miss it!

Blogger is telling me that this is my 100th post of Skye's the Limit, whoop whoop! Guess I ought to celebrate, maybe I'll open a bottle of red, by way of a change (...ahem!) Thanks to all who read this nonsense, here's looking forward to the next 100

Friday, 5 January 2018

Colourless Times

Had a couple of hours spare early in the day, so I nipped out a-hunting species new for the year. I wandered down through the woods and emerged at the top of the beach. No dogs today. Scanning through the gulls I found myself eye-balling a first winter Iceland Gull, sweet! I seem to be pretty much the only birder on Skye who hadn't seen it this year, so it was rather nice to claw back my own bird at last...

One day it'll be a Kumlien's....
I was almost as excited to note a pair of Black-headed Gulls in the flock, an adult and a first winter bird. BHGs are less regular than Iceland Gulls of late!

In the woods I found quite a lot of these white jelly-like blobs on Sycamore twigs

Exidia thuretiana - White Brain Fungus
 And nearby was a small quantity of its near relative

Exidia nucleata - Crystal Brain. Note the two calcium oxalate crystals showing through the membrane
Whilst mooching about the Sycamores I spied a dead branch with what looked like tar painted across it. I've seen this before, in England, but this was the first time I'd found it on Skye. 

Cryptostroma corticale - Sooty Bark Disease of Sycamore
So far, nothing has been particularly eye-catching or brightly coloured. A pretty drab post, in fact. All I can say is that I've saved the very best for last. Ladies and gents, behold!

Pass me my sunglasses...
Talking of Iceland Gals (tenuous, I know) here's my all time fave Björk track. She's undoubtedly a complete nutter, but I bet she's a good laugh at a party

And my completely random choice tonight is....

No Goshawk feeding frenzy, just damn good (if slightly quirky) music. Enjoy, please.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Hazel Waxy Crust

A few days back I spotted a thick Hazel branch that appeared to have a section of bark ripped away. The exposed wood beneath was covered in a smooth, waxy fungus. I figured I'd never be able to name it and moved on. Last night, whilst flicking through one of my fungus guides I saw a photo of the mystery fungus, clear as day. Wow, what a jam! The book said it was a Vuilleminia, a genus I'm not familiar with. Today I had to go back and see about finding that particular Hazel branch. I skipped out of work early and headed off in search of the fungus, yearlisting as I went. Nothing dreadfully exciting, though I grabbed a handful of moss samples which I'll tackle later tonight. 

Somehow I managed to relocate the exact Hazel branch in question, and it was with a small degree of excitement that I checked off the various Vuilleminia features, No doubt about it - this was the real deal and my first lifer of 2018 

Note the pale lilac coloured coating where the bark is missing
Feels smooth and waxy, though is completely dry to the touch
This is Vuilleminia coryli, the only one in the genus to occur on Hazel. The genus is known as Waxy Crust, so I'm dubbing this Hazel Waxy Crust. Looking around, I spotted several other patches including some on quite slender twigs. It's the fungus itself that causes the bark to peel back (probably the easiest way to spot it in the first place), rather than colonising a wound, as I at first suspected to be the case.

Totally diagnostic "peeled" look with the waxy crust on the exposed wood beneath
Seems to be quite a common species in the southern part of Britain, but only a handful of records from up here in Scotland - and none from Skye. Here's the NBN Map

I suspect the Scottish records are all from HBRG, they're pretty hot on their fungi.
Pleased with that, I wandered down to the beach in search of the recently elusive Iceland Gull. The gulls were pretty distant, all down at the water's edge and the tide was quite a way out. Plus the light was poor, which didn't help. Anyway, I'd only just started my first scan when I did a massive double-take - Whoaaaa!!!!

Can you see it yet?
I managed a miserable four shots before the flock were spooked by a certain spaniel that I know quite well. These are all MASSIVELY cropped and pretty shoddy anyway, but it's the best I could do. Glad I didn't turn up two minutes later, else I'd have missed seeing this brute of a bird.

Heads up as they catch sight of the dog running at them.......
For the non-larophiles out there, the left hand bird is a first winter Glaucous Gull, it would have been born last summer in the very far north, right up in the Arctic Circle. If ever you see wildlife documentaries that show big, white gulls at Polar Bear kills, there's a good chance that it'll be this species. However, they do turn up each year in British waters. Some years there are just a handful, usually restricted to the northernmost parts of Britain. In exceptional years there may be a few hundred scattered around the coastline, even along the south coast of England. They are rare away from the coast, but do sometimes turn up at inland rubbish dumps. Glaucous Gulls are like oversized Iceland Gulls, though proportionally deeper chested, stronger billed, bigger headed and shorter winged. Together, the pair are known as white-wingers, thanks to a lack of grey or black at the wingtips or across the mantle. Technically, Mediterranean Gulls are also white-wingers (as is the mega rare Ivory Gull), but I'm not sure Med Gull is very likely in Uig - though they are seen on Skye from time to time. Ivory Gull is hugely unlikely, being a gross rarity anywhere in Britain. One did turn up here three years ago, spent most of its time at the pier but did enter NG3963 on occasion. Unfortunately, the chances of lightning striking twice are exceedingly slim, probably zilch in fact. Oh, and Ross' Gull, I forgot about that. I've seen a three of those, but never on a beach. Still, something to bear in mind. Probably.

Right, I guess I better go check out the mosses I collected this afternoon and throw you some more random tunes. Apparently my taste in music is "the equivalent of a Goshawk ripping apart prey in a frenzy" so tonight I'm toning it down. Not that I ever really felt it was "up", so to speak...  

I only discovered these guys a few months back, introduced to me by a guy who used to work here (he also managed to get me into Jack White, so I guess I owe him a beer or two if ever I see him again). First song is just so darn catchy, if it doesn't get you tapping your feet and bobbing your head there's clearly something wrong with you.

Andrew, it's just dawned on me that you're missing out somewhat. I'll see what I can come up with, buddy.

Oh, I crawled across the 200 species mark today. Whoop whoop!

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Bryophyte Club

The hotel is shut for the next five weeks, which means I'm free to crack on and help with the ripping out of doorways and ceilings and radiators whilst the workmen are in. Or, as is more likely, filling holes, painting walls and generally pottering about in the guestrooms whilst the heavy work goes on downstairs. Today I helped remove/move stuff around in preparation for the destruction that is about to hit the main lobby/reception/dining room areas. 

Also, seeing as I'm cooking for myself until the kitchens re-open, for the first time in a long while I get to choose my own dinners - result! I have a case of a coupla hundred eggs to help get me through the month. Well, two of us actually - there's a guy coming to stay the day after tomorrow, apparently he's pretty handy with an axe (we have a sliced tree trunk, maybe three and a half feet diameter and about thirty feet long which needs to be reduced to firewood-sized pieces and stacked in the log shed, that could take a few days in itself!) So, I can see me living off omelettes and my own 'speciality' which is some kind of scrambled egg with peppers, onions, chillies, tomatoes, mushrooms and anything else I spy that looks like it should work. Bit of salad on the side, maybe some baked beans, glass or two of red...happy days! Ideally it should have homemade tortillas and guac, but I know my limits. Shop bought tortillas will have to suffice, shop guac is an abomination so I'll just have to do without. Sure won't win any prizes but it's as tasty as you like. Just need to source some cajun, probably be some in the drystore. Oooh, there are limes that need using up too. Hmmm, maybe I will try that guac after all. Never seen an avocado on Skye yet, maybe I could order some off Amazon.

But presumably, dear reader, you are here for the natural history interest rather than hearing all about my (lack of) culinary skillz? I agree, moving quickly along....

I've rather rashly allocated January as my Bryophyte Month. I didn't get out today (in fact, thinking about it, I haven't left the hotel complex all day - bloody hell!) though I did manage to yeartick Pied Wagtail and Raven as they flew overhead. A Coal Tit on the peanut feeder was also a yeartick. But what about those mosses and liverworts? I casually stepped out of the front door, walked an entire ten feet, stopped at a moss-covered stone plant pot and grabbed a bit of moss from the rim. It was already dark, I found it by touch. No skill at all, really. Back indoors I whacked it under the microscope and set to with the keys. 

My nice, neat workspace. Nothing is staged - this really is how it looks when 'in action'
So it turns out that my small cushion of moss comprised two species growing completely intermixed with each other. The first set of leaves I whacked under the microscope quickly keyed through as Bryum capillare, probably one of the commonest mosses in Britain, certainly in built-up, man-made environments. Here's a particularly poor pic of the leaf tip which shows the main ID features

Bryum capillare - note the cells along the edge are highly elongated and narrow
Things to look for here are the shape of the cells across the leaf - the marginal two or three rows are massively elongated and narrow compared with those across the width of the leaf. Note also the high chloroplast content of these cells (you may have to squint a bit...) The entire leaf length is between 3 and 4mm, yeah really!

The other moss was also a very commonly encountered species, Tortula muralis. According to the books, they often grow together on, for example, wall tops. Here are a couple more headache-inducing pics for you to squint at

Note that the tip of the leaf disappears off into a long, colourless point. This is what's known as a 'hyaline' tip, which means that it is colourless, giving the impression of a white or silver looking 'hair' at the end of the leaf. Note also the cell shape, utterly different to that found in Bryum capillare. The rather broad nerve is often, as here, tinged reddish and the hair point itself is smooth - a character that helps distinguish it from other members in the genus. This is a huge bugger, entire leaf length is around about 2mm...

I take comfort from the fact that neither of these mosses presented me with any real difficulties in the keys. Ok, so they're common as muck and not exactly tricky anyway, but I've always struggled with mosses in the past. Maybe I'll finally be able to overcome this, now that I'm using three lots of literature and both the stereo and compound microscopes. And not taking a few dozen samples back with me each time. That undoubtedly helps too.

Music time. I'm in the habit of jumping onto Youtube, choosing either a band or a genre and letting it autoplay from one song into the next. If it's something I don't like, I just skip to the next track. Anyway, thanks to the magic that is autoplay, I've rediscovered some old stuff that I haven't listened to in years. Here are two of the best* that I've heard so far tonight

* in my opinion, but then it's my blog and you should know the Rules by now... 

Disturbed - Down with the Sickness (released 2000). Could have been written for a pan-species lister... By the way, this is the full explicit version

Tool - Forty Six and Two (released 1996 - What, NO WAY!?!?!) The footage is from the utterly brilliant Pan's Labyrinth (2006), a film I haven't seen in probably five or six years. 

Hope you enjoy these coupla gems, I certainly did (and so did my housemates - mwaah ha ha haaa!)

Yearlist for NG3963 currently stands at 176 species. Only 1174 species to go, heck I'm almost there already!                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Monday, 1 January 2018

Hola 2018!

Finally the clock struck midnight, metaphorically speaking (there are no clocks in this house, apart from the one on the cooker display) and I dashed outside to start my big natural history year with a bang. Species number one fell quickly enough

Male Winter Moth. One down, just another 1349 to go
A peer around the various security lights was pretty fruitless. Anyone would think it was midwinter or something. The outbuilding was a bit better with a lacewing on the ceiling. Zero out of ten for technical ability, I was in a rush...

Haha, it may be a  new year but it's the same crap quality pics as ever!
I potted it up and keyed it through using the FSC's Key to British Lacewings (currently available on Amazon for just 50p!!!) With lacewings it's all about the positioning, colour and hairiness of the veins in the wings. Plus a few other bits n bobs, but the veins are pretty important. Anyway, I quickly narrowed this specimen down to the genus Chrysoperla. Here's a pic of the critical veins in the forewing

Apex of cell IMC in forewing not extending as far as cross vein RMCV - check!
I checked both forewings to be sure (lacewings can be a bit odd like that), add the fact that the only one that turns from green to brown and hibernates as an adult is Chrysoperla carnea and I think it's a safe ID. This remains the only species of lacewing I've ever recorded from here, must try harder in the summertime.

The only other thing of interest I noted on my prowl around the buildings were a few spiders in window recesses, they all proved to be the ubiquitous Zygiella x-notata
This is the same species which spins webs across your car wing mirrors, in case you've ever wondered
Back indoors I hunted the cupboards and checked around the skirting boards until I finally found a Pholcus phalangioides hiding in plain sight up by the ceiling. Outside a Tawny Owl started calling, my first vert for the year. Then I finished off the bottle of red I'd opened and promptly went to kip.

It was a stunning morning outside when I stirred next, blue skies with the sun bathing the far hills in glorious light, colours aglow. I leapt out of bed and was soon wandering down to the beach, yearlisting every step of the way! Xmas can go disappear on a one-way trip down the nearest drain for all I care, pointless crap anyway (unless you're into your Scandinavian paganism), but the start of a new year is different, it is for we natural historians anyway. Well, some of us at least. Y'know, those who are mad keen yearlisters who set themselves ridiculous targets to try and keep. Alright, it's me. I'm a nutter. So what, you think this is news to me?  :)

I quit the house and headed into the world. As the first car drove past me I was on 31 species for the year, hence human was number 32 instead of the usual number 1. By the time I reached the bottom of the hill I was nearing 50 species. 

The sun had yet to reach this side of the bay, but the hillside above Idrigill was positively afire! 

Sometimes I actually have to pinch myself
I gave the bay some serious attention but couldn't drum up anything better than a single Great Northern Diver. The gull flock held no surprises, no white winger today. I'm sure I'll see it again before the month is out, though. My fingers were cold again, fooled by the blue skies. The frozen puddles had produced the most incredible swirling patterns, so eye-catching that I simply had to stop and appreciate them for a moment. Big namby jessie that I am

Beauty encapsulated - until the first bastard car drives through it...
Heading into the woods I found myself turning rocks and logs in search of the denizens of such dark places. I was happy to find the alien flatworm Kontikia andersoni beneath one rock. What I didn't expect was to find a second and then a third beneath nearby rocks!

Kontikia andersoni - I've never seen more than one in a day before, nevermind three!
Beneath the capstone of a wall I was thrilled to find this wee fella

If these bad boys were the size of spaniels, nobody would ever leave their house for fear of attack!
This is the pseudoscorpion Neobisium carcinoides, still the only pseudoscorp I've recorded up here so far.  I'm really pleased with the new camera's abilities, there's no way my old camera would have managed an image like this. All the images you see now have been taken with an Olympus TG-4, my laptop won't process the images in RAW (16 million pixels) so I'm using it in its dumbed-down 8 million pixels setting for the moment. But it'll be awesome when I do get the software!


January is my Bryophyte Month. So far there's been nary a sniff of anything non invert/bird orientated. Well, first up my fingers were really cold. And I was busy yearlisting. And I was hungry...and...and...ok, alright, enough already! I did manage to identify a few (eight) species of bryophytes. I'm waiting for a warm day, like when my fingers are working again, but I decided for no good reason that this cushion was not going to beat me.

Sat all pretty on an Elder at the top of the beach
My first thought was that it was an Orthotrichum. I took a fragment home, whacked it under the microscope and started keying. I went wrong. It was all going fine up until the couplet which asked how the dried leaves behaved - did they curl up and frazzle or stay pretty much straight? They looked pretty straight to me, and the keys laughed at me! Suddenly I noticed a small fragment that had properly dried out under the lamp and was looking decidedly corkscrewed and frazzled. Back to the keys...Ulota phyllantha came out as the culprit. But wait, I've seen this before - often, in fact. Where were the red tips to the leaves???? Well, it turns out that only the young leaves are tipped in reddish gemmae, the older leaves just have orange-hued tips where the gemmae used to be before being washed away. Looking closer I soon found quite a few young leaves buried in the cushion with a full complement of gemmae clusters. Here's a couple of images I managed down the barrel of my compound microscope

Gemmae bundles on the tips of young leaves - weird huh?
So what you're seeing are bundles of gemmae, each attached to the tip of a young leaf. Most mosses hold their spores in capsules borne on the end of long stalks called seta. In a few species, these stalks are quite short, the capsules may not even project above the leaves of the moss in question. And sometimes, as in this instance, the moss decides to buck the trend and just grow the spores (gemmae) directly out of the leaf tissue. I don't know why, I'm sure somebody does, but not me. All I know is that I was rather surprised to learn that good ol' Ulota phyllantha fooled me, the one Acrocarpous moss I thought I knew. Here's a pic of a single gemma followed by a picture from the book

Looks about right to me
After discovering that Ulota phyllantha can be a sneaky bugger and look like an Orthotrichum, I was tempted (momentarily!) to jack in the whole Bryophyte Month shenanigans. But then I realised that I'd just expanded my knowledge of a species I thought I was familiar with. Surely this is the whole point of allocating a month to an order, to allow myself to work through the bottlenecks and come out the other side wiser and an authority on each subject matter. No? Oh ok, well at least I can maybe learn something along the way. Ulota phyllantha does not always exhibit red tips to the leaves, fact. And I now realise that, fact. I learned something! Fact. Cool, anyway - at the end of play I'd managed to scramble together a grand total of 171 species. I could have easily topped 200 but what's the rush? Surprise omissions were Raven and Buzzard (!), Goldfinch, Goldcrest and Coal Tit. Where they went to I have no idea, but clearly it was 'elsewhere'.

One final slice of my day for you to laugh at...I clicked on the Skye Birds site and discovered that Bob MacMillan was in Uig today (the hub of Skye birding and the guy who runs the Skye Birds website), at the beach it appears. MY beach, and he saw MY juvenile Iceland Gull. I did not see my juvenile Iceland Gull. Do you have any idea how badly that smarts? A visiting birder drops into MY patch, sees MY bird, in MY square and I only learn of it when logging in later that night! Humphhh - Bob's right off of my xmas card list from now on...haha!

The next post will (hopefully) be more bryophyte orientated and might even be written whilst I'm in a slightly more sober state. Probably best not to lay good money on that, though...

Sheesh - I almost forgot! I'm gonna start signing off with a toon or two, no special meaning to it, just whatever I happen to be listening to whilst blogging away. At the end of this year I will be able to look back and laugh at the crap I've been listening to.  Meanwhile you get to listen to some stuff you may not have heard before. So here's tonight's offerings, in two different versions. Ray is so the man! Hope you like KoЯn, here they are anyways...

Seeing as I was chatting paganistic stuff, I was going to unleash Bjork's Pagan Poetry at you, but I'm just not that bloody-minded. So maybe have a go with this, instead? Personally speaking,  I absolutely love these sisters, such an amazing talent

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Adios, 2017

It appears that many of the blogs I follow are signing out of 2017 with the customary "review of the past twelve months" or "plans for 2018" postings. Well, it is that time of year, to be fair. I'm not gonna do that, though. I've already written about my plans for 2018 (which were met with varying degrees of ridicule and astonishment, but all in good humour naturally) and you can read them by clicking here

Despite saying that my next day off work would be the 1st January, it appears that I've already met my hours for this month, so (apart from fitting a couple of door latches) I skived out of work and headed down to the beach where I could see the gull flock loitering by the river mouth. The weather was pretty grey and miserable, with a bit of drizzle that turned to sleet, but thankfully no wind to speak of.  

It took me a couple of scans, but I soon found the Iceland Gull bathing just offshore where the river spills into the sea. I took another barrage of pics but they were ALL crap, apart from this one, which shows the spread wings quite nicely. In a blurred, crappy kinda way

Lucky timing, I was just clicking away and hoping for the best!
Suddenly the gulls scattered, I looked up expecting to see dogs or walkers on the beach but no sign of anybody. Odd. Then I looked properly up and saw this beast cruising overhead

Massively cropped full adult barn door - and there were two of them!

oooOOOooh, look at that, a pair of adult White-tailed Eagles directly overhead! I've only seen their youngster flopping across the bay and into NG3963 before, this is the first time I've seen the parent birds here. They nested a couple of miles away on the wooded cliffs across the bay, I occasionally see them at long range. They did a bit of wheeling around before slowly drifting off southwards and out of my square. Smart buggers. 

A Black Guillemot, a pair of Black-throated Divers and the usual Grey Seal, Eider and Red-breasted Merganser combo constituted interest in the bay. The Wigeon flock was back up to 15 birds. I suspect they never really did drop to 13, I probably just missed a couple amongst the rocky shoreline where they tend to hang out. 

Last pic of the year from me, this is the habbo at the top of Uig Wood slopes. Sycamore with some Downy Birch and Hazel along the edges with a screen of planted Sitka Spruce bordering the open sheep pasture. I'll be up here often next month, what with it being my Bryophyte Month. There's a good selection of mosses on the branches of the larger trees and quite a decent array of liverworts on the smoother trunks. There's also a complete and utter lack of people up at the top. No footpath and a steep ascent helps. So I don't have to worry about being stared at or challenged by anybody whilst "hiding" behind tree trunks....

The quieter part of my playground   :)

If I may take just a moment more of your time, I'd like to offer a heartfelt thank you to all you guys and gals who visit this blog, especially those of you who leave such lovely comments. And I'll try not to have any more three month gaps between posts... Happy New Year to you all, if you set any resolutions or challenges I hope you do well with them. 

Oh, speaking of challenges - now is the perfect time to sign up for the 1000 species in a 1KSQ Challenge. You just need to drop an email or tweet and that's it. Find out about it all here. The guy to contact is Andy Musgrove, you can do that by emailing him at andy at bubo dot org, or tweet @andymus1 (obviously put the email address together properly first) and that's it. Easy.

Right, catch you's on the other side, folks. Countdown is initiated!