Sunday, 1 January 2017

2017 - Here We Go!!!

Woke up to the shock discovery that it was a lovely day outside, that certainly wasn't forecast! From the bed I started my PSL Yearlist. Homo sapiens quietly snoring beside me (bless her cottons...), a Robin singing, a Blackbird chakking, Chaffinches pinking, House Sparrows chirruping and Hooded Crows sounding as vocally challenged as always, in a lovely sort of way.  

Ordinarily I rather fixate on building up as mahoosive a yearlist as possible on 1st January. This year I found myself on a somewhat more casual amble down the hill towards the beach and woods, my good lady beside me. The way I see it, NG3963 is still going to be here tomorrow, so am I, the species list will continue to grow. Today was a day to enjoy the unexpectedly pleasant weather with my lady and casually note what I see without getting too manic about it all. 

One development I didn't anticipate was that we both had a notebook and were both keeping a list of the species we saw. Ooh, a bit of friendly rivalry perhaps? Already I was being gripped off by the Blue Tit entry on Aimée's list, frustratingly absent from mine. A sudden hailstorm wreaked havoc across the pages of Aimée's notebook, I (seasoned notebook user that I am) managed to keep writing throughout and didn't miss adding the new additions as they were found. This evening Aimée asked if she could copy the list from my notebook...ha! The Blue Tit Suppressor Herself wants my help? I most certainly think not! Welcome to the world of Yearlisting, everyone is your enemy, everyone is out to beat you. Suppression and gripping, connecting and dipping - welcome to my world little lady!

Anyway, back to the beach. We turned quite a few stones finding several knots of Strigamia maritima when a tiny orange coloured beetle caught our attention. I potted a couple and managed a series of poor pics too. Bearing in mind the whole thing was between 2 and 3mm long I'm quite happy to manage any sort of a meaningful image. 

Pretty damn huge huh? And that's mud under my nail, not a weird fungal infection.
This is one of the Carabids in the genus Aepus. There are two species this could be, A.marinus or A.robinii. In theory it could be either up here on Skye, although only the former has been recorded so far. I'll have to whack it under the microscope and key it through to be sure which it is. (EDIT: it was Aepus marinus, and a lifer for me!) Unless it's both, they certainly occur together elsewhere further south. We saw maybe 7 or 8 in all, always under rocks with sandy substrate beneath, the exact same microhabitat as inhabited by Strigamia maritima. No small coincidence I feel. We saw several tiny spider mites beneath the same rocks too. Seems that littoral terrestrial inverts require a coarse sandy substrate to survive incoming tides. Presumably this offers a greater opportunity for tiny air pockets to develop, tiny refugia between low tides. That's my crackpot theory anyway.

Another highlight beneath a rock was a ragworm, the first I've seen up here. I made a swift grab and bunged it into a tube, note the obvious thin red line that runs down its back. This is a blood vessel and very handily allows us to confidently identify it as Estuary Ragworm (Hediste diversicolor), which is a new one for me, first lifer of 2017 is under the belt! 

It was thrashing around a bit in there so not the easiest subject to photograph.
One thing I've noticed up here is the large amount of Polysiphonia lanosa growing epiphytically on Egg Wrack, in much larger quantities than I've ever seen anywhere else. Here's a typical clump 

There's a fungus grows within Egg Wrack, I've yet to find that up here though.
The mouth of the Rha has held a Dipper the last couple of times I've checked, it only took a matter of seconds before I found it bobbing away on a rock, smart bird - it's one you just don't get down in Southampton or Scilly. I don't think I've even seen one for 2 or 3 years before last week. Next up we wandered into the woods, partly to bulk up the species list but mostly to get out of the cold wind which switched around to a northerly last night. Air temperature is still well above freezing but that wind chill factor brings it right down! We saw a whole array of bryophytes (which I gleefully ignored...), a good few plants new for the year and a bunch of lichens too. No animals at all though apart from a few woodland birds, Treecreeper being the best. Can't get over how my mind has been changed regards lichens. Prior to moving here a month ago they bored me senseless, I just couldn't work up enthusiasm. Now look at this, this is just awesome don't you agree? 

Degelia cyanoloma - a great hulking brute of a lichen!
I ended the day on 95 species. I'd have pushed it over the 100 mark had I realised earlier, but I'm not too fussed. I noted more than Aimée did and, let's face it, that's the important thing...mwahahahaaa...

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