Sunday, 16 April 2017

Huffin an' Puffin

The hotel was pretty rammoed this afternoon, kids hunting for Easter Eggs and families wandering everywhere. I was messing around splitting/stacking logs and generally trying to keep out of the way. A large Lithobius centipede dashed away from beneath one log and I suddenly realised I was completely without pots. I quickly grabbed a few plus my camera in case anything else of interest was discovered. Best sighting was a Brandling Worm Eisenia foetida which is new for my NG3963 list (new for Skye too if the new NBN is to be trusted) but no further sign of that big Lithobius darnit. Must make sure I always have a few pots about my person from now on.

Eisenia foetida, also known as the Tiger Worm for obvious reasons (ie it growls and can bite)
Eventually I simply had to scoot off adventuring, the sun was shining and there were bees and flies whizzing past. I just had to get out there and immerse myself in some invert action. Unlike yesterday, which was sunny but still quite cool, today it really was warm. I didn't bother with a coat and just headed off to Cuil Road with its flowers and shoreline. Soon afterwards it clouded over and I started to regret not bringing that coat. Ho hum.

A Great Northern Diver was fairly close inshore, halfway through moulting into its breeding splendour. I took a load of pics but they're all crap. I read somewhere that they sometimes sing at this time of year, I thought they only did that on the breeding grounds but apparently you can hear it in northernmost Britain too. That'd be pretty bloody amazing, fingers crossed. One bird that I did get some half decent pics of was this Puffin

And if you're squeamish you should probably look away

This is a real sad sight, the only plus point I guess is that it's too early in the season for a chick to starve to death because it's lost a parent bird. I checked it for rings, then for carrion beetles, but drew a blank on both. Looks like a very fresh kill to me, the eyes hadn't even sunken in yet. Wonder if it was that Gyr that's been on the Outer Hebs this winter? I still need Gyr as a world lifer. Been close to a couple (famously saw a Fulmar at dusk get strung for one once, ha!) and seen a kill at another twitch, but not the beast itself. Not yet. 

I spun a seaweed-covered plank of wood and found myself eyeballing a great heap of mites and a few small shiny black beetles - at least half of them got pootered up rather rapidly! Mites for Matthew Shepherd and beetles for...another day probably. 

I was feeling a bit cold so headed up off the beach and started turning stones in a small quarry area. Realising I was risking mixing up mite samples, I emptied the contents of my pooter into a tube and jammed it into my jeans pocket. No coat, tight pockets. Then I pootered up a load more mites, smug that I now had a decent selection and hadn't mixed up the samples. Best find was my first Striped Millipede up here, though it's already been recorded from elsewhere on Skye. 

 Striped Millipede Ommatoiulus sabulosus (not aka Tiger Millipede coz these obviously can't growl or bite)
Feeling chilly I headed back for dinner, stopping to chat with the boss's son who happened to be walking his dog along the beach. Explaining that I had some inverts in pots, I reached into my pocket to discover that the lid had come off the tube with the mites and beetles inside, dammit!!! First stroke of bad luck. A little further on I accidentally hooked the hose of my pooter around my notebook and it went flying onto the road and, being glass, smashed into pieces - fkksakes! My dear friend the late Ian Menzies helped me make that pooter many years ago, he bent the glass tubes in his workshop for me. I've had that pooter for nearly 20 years. Damnation. At keast it was just the collecting tube that smashed, the rest of it seems to have survived mostly intact. 

Small progress made towards the halfway mark of the 1000 species Challenge. I'm on 490 species now. Christian Owen is blitzing away across the horizon, 513 species already and hoping for 600 by end of April (assuming he gets his moff trap running). I've been well and truly relegated to second position. 

Here's a gem of a classic for you, my good friend Danny the Pirate and I duetted this in front of everybody on my wedding night. We may have been just ever so slightly tipsy. In case you're wondering, check this blogpost's title. Enjoy! 


  1. Iceland, honeymoon, Summer 2006. Climbing around the stacks of Dimmu Borgir (which I had only recently discovered was not just a band). Suddenly a frenzy of high pitched calls breaks the silence. Three Gyrs come into view chasing each other around the stacks... the illustration in Lars Jonsson is maybe my favourite bird painting ever.

    Sorry to hear about the pooter. Sore one.

  2. p.s. classic stoner riff - very nice.

  3. THREE Gyrs?!?!? That's just gratuitous piss-taking that is ;)