Sunday, 16 April 2017

Soft and Velvety

The sun was out by mid-afternoon and despite the best attempts of a rather fresh breeze, it was almost warm! I shot off down to the beach in search of any inverts that may have emerged in these suddenly pleasant conditions. 

The gull flock was pretty distant today - still no white wingers.
Marine algae are starting to become much more noticeable on the beach, the same view just six weeks ago would have shown empty, barren looking black sands.  I'm hoping the sea creatures are also going to become much more obvious as the summer progresses, it's hard work finding much diversity on that beach.

A quick bit of scrabbling around in loose rocks revealed this beauty, Trombidium holosericeum a Red Velvet Mite and a new one for me

Note the hugely broad 'shoulders' and covering of dense red hairs
I brought this mite back indoors with me for a closer inspection, they really are bizarre things up close. At the advice of Matthew Shepherd (one of Britain's leading mite experts) I treated myself to a big bag of 1.5ml microcentrifuge tubes and have started a collection of mites stored in alcohol. When I have a decent enough sample size I shall send them off to him for identification and entering onto the Recording Scheme. Mites are a specialist subject, though I think I have the identity of this one nailed. Matthew will soon put me right if not.

Six quid for a bag of 500. All I gotta do now is fill 'em!
As an aside, whilst researching Trombidium mites I discovered that the red mite often found on Marbled White and Meadow Brown butterflies is Trombidium breei, so that's an easy retrospective tick in the bag!

On a sunlit fencepost was a stonefly. I potted it up and keyed it through - yet another Protonemura meyeri, but a male this time with highly distinctive genitalia. Plus those weird vestigial gills hanging like ET's fingers from its neck

Protonemura meyeri - the commonest stonefly around here it would seem
In the undergrowth I suddenly spied a couple of spikes of Butterbur, a new addition to the NG3963 List. I found a patch last week but close examination of the map showed that I was a good 10 metres outside the square, so it's nice to have clawed it back

There's a moff associated with this, I think. Probably microfungi too
There's also a big patch of what appears to be Rhubarb sprouting up along Cuil Road, I've seen some others dotted around too. It's either Rhubard or Monk's Rhubarb, I shall have to check it out more closely, see if I can suss which it is. Monk's Rhubarb shouldn't be in this part of Scotland, but then again I wouldn't really expect to see Rhubarb scattered about either. 


In total I added just a few additions to the  tally. Approaching the halfway mark in the 1000 species Challenge, I'll be there by the end of the month for sure. Especially if the temperatures bump up a notch. Unbelievably I still haven't seen a butterfly yet!

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