Monday, 9 January 2017

What's in a Name?

The sun came out (briefly) today! I sped out and down the hill, checked the birds at the beach as per usual. Six Great Black Backed Gulls and 14 Wigeon at the mouth of the river and 5 Grey Herons hunched over facing into the cold wind. Not a single Herring Gull to be seen, that's got to be a first. Plenty of Hoodies dropping shells onto rocks as per norm. It was below zero with windchill today, due to get colder later on this week. 

I figured Uig Woods offered me the best shelter from the wind, deep into the valley. Yup, but it was cold anyway seeing as sunshine barely penetrates at the best of times. I had a look at lichens (it's impossible not to here), couple of weird-looking ones that I haven't sussed yet. I've decided to give us all a few days off from looking at my rubbish lichen pics. It makes sense. Anyway, I tackled a couple of liverworts and, for a change, I managed to identify them - huzzah!!  This was on a rock face near the entrance, I've walked past it loads. This is the liverwort Saccogyna viticulosa. It's pretty common all up the west side of Britain and Ireland, bit of a stonking rarity in the east though.

The opposite leaves narrow this down to just a handful of species, handily!
Microscope pic of the distinctively-shaped underleaves. Crap innit!
The underleaves! This is from my copy of British Mosses & Liverworts by E.V.Watson (1968)
I'd forgotten that I'd brought this book up to Scotland with me! I was looking at images online thinking "I wish I had the books these drawings come from" so I Googled them in case any are still available and suddenly thought, "hang on that looks familiar!" Duh, what a complete donut! Nice to have back-up for the BBS Guide. Anyway, one liverwort down and one to go. 

Looked pretty diagnostic so I grabbed a bit to identify back in the warmth.
This chunky looking liverwort has been given a rather unflattering English name. I try not to use the common names of bryophytes, I have a hard enough time trying to remember their scientific names never mind the (quite frankly) ridiculous names they've recently been given. This is Aneura pinguis. Or as it's also known, Greasewort. Sad, very sad. Time for a quick diversion.

I used to spend a lot of time in the field with Jim Porter of moth fame. Used to spend quite a lot of time in his study too, trying to get my Phyllonorycters set half as neatly as his in twice the time. (Quick tip for setting the really tiny stuff - the clear wrapper that cigarette packets come in is perfect to use as setting strips as it allows you to actually see what you're doing!) Anyway, he compiled a set of English names for all of the microlepidoptera on the British list. I even helped, a few of those names are mine! Once published, his list was generally scoffed at by serious entomologists and scientists. It just isn't done, it's alright with something like butterflies (70 odd species on the list and even the smallest is relatively large and noticeable) but not with stuff you need to gen det or DNA to identify. Jim's idea was that if his newly invented English names helped newcomers to break into the world of microleps then it had to be a good thing. Well yes, I agree. But it still isn't done. Nowadays I believe that if an invert/fungus/lower plant is to be given some sort of a protected status then it must be given a common name. Makes no bloody sense to me. So I guess there are reasons for this recent craze to give everything a common name. Some are rough translations of the scientific name (hence the truly awful Spreading-leaved Beardless-moss) but how about the ├╝ber-catchy Lesser Cow-horn Bog-moss? Actually, flicking through my BBS Guide I see there's one called Skye Bog-moss (Sphagnum skyense) which is one I shall definitely have to make an effort to see. I didn't know Skye had a near-endemic Sphagnum, get in!!!  :)

Meanwhile, back in the real world....

I crossed over to the other end of Uig Woods and had a quick rummage around under rocks and in fallen logs. Found a handful of inverts which I potted up. There's a big patch of Elder growing near a drystone wall on the edge of the woods. It's a bit of a sun trap and fairly sheltered from the wind, but even so I think this particular Elder is in for a nasty shock in a few days time! 

Haha, crazy damn tree!
Those leaves have only just opened up in the last week, there were just the very first signs of greenery on New Year's Day.  A nearby Alder was under attack from a bizarre-looking resupinate fungus. I have no idea what it is, a quick flick through my fungus book didn't throw up anything too similar. Not sure where to start online either. So unless someone can tell me what it is (unlikely, I realise) it's just going to have to stay a mystery. Smart though, whatever it is!

(EDIT: Andrew Cunningham suggests Phlebia radiata, which looks like a good call to me)

Flaccid and rubbery to the touch. The branch is about 5" diameter and covered with this fungus on the underside.
And so for the second day in a row you get no lichen pics! Apart from the incidental background ones in the image above. Sorry 'bout that.


  1. Y'know what Andrew, you may just be right there. Which would be awful because I've seen that before but didn't recognise it in the slightest! Hope you're keeping active down there, buddy. Do you know if we ever got a name for that lichenicolous fungus on the Caloplaca suaeda at the PSL meet?

  2. Keeping busy with last year's flies. I don't even remember the Caloplaca at Portland, sorry. Maybe ask Nicola?

  3. Or Simon, he did say he'd look into it. How could you forget the tiny black dots in the apothecia of the tiny yellow scuzz on the tiny dead Suaeda twigs, what kind of a Pan-species lister are you? ;) Cheers again Andrew, hope to catch up with you again sometime!