Friday, 31 March 2017

Beware the Tides of March

So the lowest tides of the spring are here. It takes me about a ten minute amble to get to the beach, door I'd been looking forward to a crazy tickfest of goodies over these two days of lowest water. Day one was rained off before it got going, day two was far better weatherwise but I had to hustle back for a workshift. Oh well, there's always the next time. 27th April is the next really low tide, I shall try again.

There aren't any rockpools here as such, just wet bits beneath and between small boulders
I did manage to find some fish though, 3 Shore Rocklings and 37 Butterfish. 40 fish under rocks! Pity the diversity wasn't a tad higher though. Here's a pic of one of the Shore Rocklings

12x less common here than Butterfish. Scientific FACT!!!
A flock of 40 or so Common Gulls had formed a long skirmish line across the beach and were following the receding tide across the sands. I could see them picking things from the water. Every once in a while a Herring Gull would fly off with something in its beak. Eventually I flushed them off in order to have any kind of a chance of finding something myself! It's a big enough beach, they settled a hundred metres away and continued their work. Four summer plumaged Black-headed Gulls were new arrivals, I've had a handful of 1st winters but these were the first adults I've noted here. I'm not really sure where they're heading to, Black-headed Gull is a passage migrant in small numbers on Skye. Two adult Lesser Black-backs were also new in, again just passing through on passage though they also breed in small numbers. Despite quite a bit of searching I only managed a rather pathetic two species new for the year including this young Common Starfish

Common Starfish Asterias rubens - I managed to beat the gulls to this one!
I quit the beach disappointed that I couldn't replicate the mass of goodies that the Sussex Boys had found a couple of days before. March tides suck. Maybe the summer lows will be more productive.

A big pile of well-vegetated road planings offered up another yeartick in the form of Field Horsetail, the fertile fronds thrusting upwards. Somehow these always put me in mind of a scarcely remembered, but obviously important to me, picture of the Carboniferous Period - a time when ferns were truly huge, horsetails were a hundred feet tall and club-mosses were as tall as trees, sharing the world with giant dragonflies, pelycosaurs and the early amphibians. These plants have been doing their thing for over 600 million years, pretty much unchanged in all that time, though just a wee tad shorter nowadays! Anyway, here are those fronds

No sign of the fearsome Eryops lurking in the undergrowth...
In the woods I finally got around to ticking off Milesina carpatorum on manky brown Male-fern pinnules. The underside of a rotten log revealed my next lifer in the form of an intricate looking slime mould. I did a lot of image searching and figured I had it nailed, putting the images up on the Facebook group confirmed my guess. This is the slime mould Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa, apparently a frequently encountered species though I can't recall seeing it before.

Known as Coral Slime on account of the finger-like protuberances
And that was it until I finished my shift at 10pm. It had started to rain at about 9pm, reducing to a drizzle by 11pm. I went out checking the security lights on site and, amongst absolutely masses of the black millipede Tachypodoiulus niger, managed to find a single Hebrew Character tucked into the corner of a door frame, a male of The Engrailed in the laundry shed (that's a good moth here on Skye) and a couple of the rather smart craneflies Tipula rufina also in the laundry shed. I captured an Amaurobius that was wandering around - they seem to have suddenly become very common in the outbuildings and corridors here - and it checked out as Amaurobius similis, no big surprise there. 

Tipula rufina - patterned wings and a big black line across the thorax to under the wings
The Engrailed - I may have to paint the walls a slightly more photogenic colour...
I was really hoping to hit 450 species by the end of March, pretty much a full month ahead of when I hit 450 in 2013. But did I manage it? Yes, yes I did. I'm on 453 species in NG3963 for the year and it's still only March (for another 2 hours...) I'm pretty bloody chuffed with that. 45% of the way into the 1000 in the first quarter of the year, fkk yeah I'm very happy with that!


  1. I must have seen the same artist's impressions of giant dragonflies patrolling a world of gigantic ferns and horsetails Seth. Even though that was 50 years ago, I can still visualise them...

  2. Have you seen this Steve, cracks me up every time! :)

  3. Naturally I spent a weekend of lovely sunshine cutting grass and all those other domestic chores that are possible when things dry out! 450 seems just a short stretch away though