Saturday, 21 January 2017

Birthday Treats

Woke up, had a stupendous fry up for breakfast, saw the sun was shining and was out the house at the crack of midday. Well, it IS my birthday. 

I'm a bit crap to buy presents for. Chocolate is always good! Otherwise I generally compile a list of books that I'd like and request one or two from the list. Anyway, I sneakily found out which 'one or two' Aimée had ordered and promptly ordered myself a shedload more. And some of them arrived on time. Here's the latest installment to my (quite frankly) ridiculous collection of simply-must-have PSL-orientated literature

Just had this pic described as "sad lol" on Facebook! Some folks eh?
So they're the ones that made it on time. The others include such diverse gems as keys to Freshwater Bryozoans, four books/keys covering British weevils, one on Blowflies (although I was subsequently sent a link to Falk's blowfly key which looks simply phenomenal) and a big book on lichens. I need all the help I can get with those buggers. Oh, and I got chocolate too, happy days! 

The above books are an attempt to get to grips with some of the species that abound up here. Well maybe not charophytes and nickar-nuts (bit hopeful with those!) but the rest are definitely going to come in very handy now that I've relocated to Skye. Plus I need to start getting my head 'round these groups anyway. The stonefly key is an original from 1958, seemingly still the only key to British species out there?!? We found a nymph in the river the other day (I thought it was a mayfly at the time, now I know it was actually a stonefly) so it'll come in useful soon enough. Sedges and grasses? Well, I just need to sit down and start studying them properly, may as well have a couple of decent books dedicated to the subject matter to hand. I have Stace and the Veg Key with me, plus the usual Collins guide etc, but the BSBI guides have distribution maps and lots of clear illustrations too. And the illustrations and level of detail in the Liverwort and Moss floras are just incredible. I'm very definitely going to be using those on a regular basis, in conjunction with my beloved (haha...) Mosses and Liverworts of Britain and Ireland: A Field Guide which may finally help me overcome my inate dislike of moss identification. 

But before all this we went out for a walk through the woods and along a bit of the shoreline. I finally found a lichen I've been looking out for here, Rhizocarpon geographicum. I expected to see lots of it here, yet it's taken me 7 or 8 weeks to notice two patches growing on a drystone wall. Too busy looking at everything else all the time! 

Rhizocarpon geographicum the Map Lichen
Plus there was this, which I think is probably Lecidea lithophila although I ought to check it microscopically to be 100% sure of that.

The rust-stained white thallus strongly suggests Lecidea lithophila.
In the woods I found a galled Usnea. I remembered seeing something about a lichenicolous fungus that causes galls like this on Alan Silverside's brilliant Images of British Lichens website but it turns out that it isn't Biatoropsis usnearum at all. This is what I found

Possibilities include the lichenicolous fungus Cystobasidium usneicola - as suggested by Jenny Seawright.
Jenny really knows her lichens, so I listen when she talks. She suggested I contact Brian Coppins (lichen recorder extraordinaire) to see if he can ID it for me. I emailed him, no reply yet. I'll keep you updated in case it turns out to be something significant. 

I took a rubbish pic of Physcia leptalea a few days ago, one I've not seen before. Today I took another rubbishy pic of another clump growing on a hawthorn twig

Physcia leptalea growing amongst the yellow lobes of Xanthoria parietina.
I successfully clambered up the extremely steep slope that runs from the River Conon up to the zigzag road above without killing or maiming myself in the process (although I did have one nervy moment when I stood up straight after examining a liverwort and nearly toppled over backwards such was the angle of the ground beneath my feet...) Check out the contours in this map, I clambered the section that runs directly north of the weir up to the the yellow road. Damn, I totally nailed that slope!

Remember each square represents 200 metres at this zoom!
And it wasn't in vain either, a quick scurry of movement just below me was soon tracked down to a Field Vole (Microtus agrestis) beneath a log. I didn't really expect it to be Field Vole, I thought Bank Vole more likely in this habitat. But apparently there are only Field Voles up here and they occur in woodlands too. Weird but true. So that's the fourth mammal for NG3963 and the second rodent. 

A singing Greenfinch was the first I've recorded this year and I finally noticed that the buds on a large tree were unfamiliar whereby Wych Elm was belatedly added to the list too. 

Back home I started trawling through my new collection of books with childlike glee. I noticed Aimée disappear with a chunk of Ramalina that earlier I'd been examining beneath my microscope which puzzled me. I soon discovered why she nabbed it though...lights off and all together now... 

Note the 'locally gathered decorations" - including my bloomin' Ramalina, ha! 

And no, sadly I'm no longer 18 years old. The candles lie.


  1. Seth, this blog of yours goes from strength to strength. Informative and entertaining. Keep it up mate, I look forward to each and every new post.

  2. Aww...and I thought my birthday couldn't get any better :) Thank you Steve, you're a lovely ol' bugger deep down y'know!

  3. Haven't read through all yet but what about this?

  4. p.s. Brian is up to his eyeballs in preparing BLS dataset for NBN so he might not be back to you in a hurry. He is remarkably accomodating for someone whose advice is in high demand (i.e. everybody wants to ask him something!)