Monday, 12 December 2016

Tasty Tepals

Today I decided to take a look around the two small cemetery plots up the top of the hill, they're just ten minutes walk away. There aren't any old graves up there for one simple reason - the old cemetery was washed away in a freak flood in October 1887. It's an incredible story, the soil of the hillside was literally washed away with many hundreds of coffins and their gruesome contents deposited downslope, hundreds of sheep were washed out to sea with many properties totally destroyed. Read the full story here, it's well worth it.  Here's the first cemetery, not exactly a greatly appealing habitat to search through is it? 

I didn't enter, seeing as I'm not very clued-up on mown winter grasses...

Second cemetery with its rather productive drystone walls.
Moving on to the next small cemetery I entered and began exploring the drystone perimeter walls. Lifting a few stones I found Nebria brevicollis, Petrobius maritimus, gathered a small collection of snails and stared in mild horror at the array of mosses and lichens adorning the wall. To be fair, I did recognise a handful. The recurved seta of Grimmia pulvinata, the long necks of Tortula muralis plus a weird jelly-like lichen that I'd been shown a few years back Collema auriforme

Collema auriforme, a so-called Jelly Lichen
Also in the wall were several small Megabunus diadema, surely the swankiest looking harvestman on the British list, and a couple of the amazing hairy-arsed globbie Dicyrtomina saundersi. Not a bad wall, I shall have to come back and pay it more attention soon. 

Leaving the cemetery I bunked over a few fencelines and into the uppermost reaches of Uig Woods. I could hear the river somewhere down below but couldn't see it through all the trees beneath me. Lots and lots of strange lichens and bryophytes, which I mostly managed to avoid. One day... 

I reckon I must be the only birder on Skye who, upon hearing a Coal Tit calling, thinks, 'Hmmm, Yellow-brow. Nice. Hang on, that's a Coal Tit - yeah wicked!!' After spending the whole summer and autumn on Scillies where Coal Tit is a major rarity, and after encountering up to nine Yellow-browed Warblers a day in October, I think I have my avian priorities somewhat mixed up!

I suddenly stumbled across this shy couple in the trees, bit embarrassing really so I gave them a wide berth. 

He looked ready to defend his lady's honour. I kept my eye on him until I was well clear.
Descending the hill I crossed the road and headed through the trees towards the seashore. After checking lots of Rumex I eventually struck lucky and found my first ever Northern Dock amongst masses of Broad-leaved Docks. This time of year it's all about the tepals, seeing as the rest of the plant is dead and dry. Northern Dock is distinct in that its tepals are smooth-winged and have no tubercule (or, as Stace describes it, suborbicular, cordate, entire, without tubercules). Broad-leaved Dock tepals have a single tubercule and the wings are toothed (triangular- to oblong-ovate, with variable teeth, a smooth tubercule). Cheers Mr Stace. Here are a couple of pics that I took to show the differences. Sorry they are both a bit blurry, they looked alright on the back of the camera!

Northern Dock - smooth outline and no tubercule. And a tick!!!!
Broad-leaved Dock - lots of jagged teeth and a central tubercule.
The Northern Dock did show a few green basal leaves, but according to The Rules I'd be well within my rights to have ticked it off just by the seeds. Glad to see a bit of green too though. Out on the sea were a few Wigeon and Red-breasted Mergansers but nothing much else of note that I could see. I later discovered there's an overwintering White Wagtail currently on Uig Pier, just a few hundred metres outside of my square. Apparently pretty darn bizarre up here. 

I wandered back across the road and explored the river again. Alder Bracket Inonotus radiatus was another lifer for me, found growing on a dead stump. 

Alder Bracket (Inonotus radiatus). Annoyingly over-exposed.
I bit the bullet and, with a heavy heart, picked a wee bit of a distinctive looking moss off a rock in the river. Taking it back home I surprised myself by narrowing it down to just two species and eventually (hopefully...) got it to Cinclidotus fontinaloides, a lifer for me. Lots of the Greater Water Moss Fontinalis antipyretica present on the rocks too. 

Fontinalis antipyretica doing it's sexy thang
And Cinclidotus fontialoides not doing any kind of sexy thang...
I figured that with imminent rain forecast I had pushed my luck quite far enough for one day. Heading back up the road for home I noted large (well pretty damn frickin huge actually) patches of grey wrinkly Dog's Lichen growing in the grass/heather verges. Back indoors I decided to have a quick look online at Peltigera. There's a brilliant lichen site I look at sometimes, the author is based on the West coast of Scotland would you believe, and scrolling through the dog lichens I found this page which rather helpfully led me to my final lifer of the day. I think the sheer size of Peltigera membranacea rules out just about any others and the habitat and distribution fits nicely. Cool. I'll grab a photo next time I amble past it. 

My NG3963 List now stands at 182 species, 15 of them being lifers for me.

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