I was down to work an evening shift in the kitchen tonight (I'm the KP once or twice a week at the mo in the absence of a full-time one) but had the daytime free. The weather was pretty crap, it started raining early last night and isn't due to stop for a few days yet. I donned my wet weather gear and headed off to see what I could find. Thankfully the wind had dropped so in reality it wasn't actually too unpleasant out there. So saying, I didn't encounter a single soul in the three hours I was out and about.
First up I checked and re-checked the gull flock. There are shedloads of Iceland Gulls (along with a few Kumlien's and Glaucs) dotted around the Outer Hebrides at the moment. There's even a Ring-billed Gull out there. Plus there are a bunch of Iceland Gulls by the fish farms in the straits between the mainland and Skye. Meanwhile, at Uig...bugger all. Dammit but I keep on checking, those white-wingers are out there somewhere. Maybe I'll get a Glaucous-winged or a Slaty-backed instead, that'd be nice. To be honest, even a homegrown Lesser Black-back would be nice at the moment!
A Grey Wagtail overhead was new for the year, I later relocated it in the wrack zone on the beach before it flew inland towards some sheep fields. I headed into Uig Woods and collected a pot of stream water for microscopic investigation back indoors (just two nematodes - worst sample ever!) before lifting rocks and debris in search of goodies. Lots of the usual slugs encountered plus a fair haul of millipedes including a small, whitish one that instantly struck me as being different. Here's the in situ pic
|That's 6 or 7mm of speedy millipede! Recognise it yet?|
Under the microscope it proved to be something entirely new for me. For the first time ever the key took me in a different direction, for this animal's first body segment did not overlap the base of the head. oOOoh...that's different! Happily my new compound microscope served me well and the ocelli were counted as were the 28 body segments leading to a robust identification of Skye's first recorded Melogona scutellaris. Checking the distribution it would appear that not only is this the northernmost record in Britain, but also the northernmost record of the species IN THE WORLD!!!! Dammit I just knew Skye would hold a few surprises. Here's a pic via the microscope, slightly better detail
|Note the extremely bulging cheek and the acute triangular patch of ocelli|
Talking of firsts for Skye, I found yet another Geophilus insculptus (or Geophilus alpinus as it should be known, I guess). First a pic of the animal dashing for cover as I lifted the rock it was beneath
|Can you see the diagnostic pore placement on the hind legs yet?|
|And the relevent hind legs. Note the diagnostic isolated pore beneath the main cluster|
The centipede I released unharmed, I simply sandwiched it between two microscope slides just long enough to determine the ID and grab a coupla images. And barely in the nick of time too for it was relentlessly squirming its way to freedom. I guess they are used to forcing their way between cracks and crevices in the soil, no mere microscope slide was gonna stop this bad boy from continuing on his way! I say 'bad boy' because the hindmost pair of legs seem to be slightly thickened which would indicate it being a male. This remains the sole species of Geophilomorph centipede I have yet found here in NG3963. The first one, back in December, was confirmed as being new for Skye.
Under a nearby stone I found Cepaea hortensis, the White-lipped Snail. I always get confused with white-lipped forms of Brown-lipped Snails but this seems to be pretty unambiguously the former, and a new record for NG3963
|Cepaea hortensis - found beneath a fair-sized boulder.|
Also found this marvellous looking Staphylinid under a rock. It looks to be the same species as I usually see. So far they have all evaded capture but I have this one safe and sound. I've yet to attempt identifying it, thoughts anybody? Maybe a Paederus or Philonthus or something? I haven't even tried picture-matching yet (working that evening shift has gotten in the way) EDIT - Othius punctulatus seems a likely candidate. I'll have a go with Mike Hackston's online key here. (And indeed it keys to Othiini from which O.punctulatus is an easy match - 11mm length) Nice!
|Othius punctulatus - it has already been recorded (once...) from Skye|
I noticed a "Scarlet Elf Cup" and suddenly realised that I'm now able to get it to species (of the pair) by checking the microscopic hairs of the cup. In one species they corkscrew, in the other they are just straggly. I did my first ever fungus squash (slice it finely and put it in water with a microscope cover slip over the top and gently tap it with the blunt end of a pen to "squash" it - NOT put it through a juicer and drink it). Stupidly I didn't even think to take a picture, so amazed was I to be staring at fungi spores! Wow, suddenly I have the capability to do fungi properly! I could see the spore-filled asci - it was amazing! I could see each spore had 'stuff' at either end - I was a bit gobsmacked actually, spore virgin that I am! Anyway - it was Sarcoscypha coccinea with straggly hairs. Coolness.
|Sarcoscypha coccinea - growing from a dead twig beneath the mosses.|
I also found some clumps of this, I think it is Sticta fuliginosa. The underside of the lobes were of a whitish colour, soon grading into a warm brown felt with big white 'holes' in it.
|Sticta fuliginosa - I think|
Here's a leftover slide from a couple of days back, it's how I prepare my seaweeds for close inspection nowadays
|Blindingia minima beneath a couple of cover slips on a microscope slide. Easy!|