Friday, 5 May 2017

Springtime - Fer Real!

The weather has been gorgeous here all week with blue skies and proper warmth at last. Maybe too warm, in fact. With the increasing temperatures have come the insects, but they're all moving at full-speed in the sudden heat. I used to have ninja-like skills with the butterfly net (think of Neo dodging bullets in The Matrix) but now I seem to be missing half of everything I swipe for. I'm seriously out of practice (heck, NO netting done at all last year!)

I'm seeing Green-veined Whites every day, including right here in the garden. Oh yeah, I've moved. Still in the hotel complex but now I'm up in a swanky house with a garden and a view across the hills to the north. My old room was nice but this is a definite step upwards. As I write this I can see Swallows buzzing low between the sheep on the hill, a Song Thrush is belting out his life story in the cherry tree outside the window. Same cherry tree that just a few days ago held a Tawny Owl that I suddenly noticed peering back at me as I was watched a Willow Warbler just a few feet above it's head. There's a pair of Tawnies in the garden, the male has taken to calling by day and hence being mobbed by small birds. I accidentally flushed it last week, it was quickly chased by two Hooded Crows as soon as it burst from cover. Here's a pic taken from just up the hill from the house

The church is next door to the hotel and pretty much at the bottom of the garden. My window is just offscreen to the left, all those trees you can see are in the garden itself. There's a burn runs past my room maybe 15 feet distant. It soon deteriorates into a quaggy gloop just beyond the clump of trees, offering quite an exciting microhabitat. I'm almost expecting to find a Northern Waterthrush or Little Crake in there! I'm going to build a moth trap and see what turns up. Should be brilliant I reckon. The only downside are the biting insects, midge season is drawing ever closer and I bet that burn has mozzies too. I had to nip into town today and spotted a midge net that you put over your entire upper torso. Intriguing, wonder if they're any good...

My boss is hellbent on me mowing the lawns to within an inch of their life because the Daisies and Lesser Celandines make it look 'untidy'... but I think I'll get away with leaving the lower area of the garden as a wildlife refuge - hopefully. I'll bioblitz it soon, see exactly what's living down there. Damn good habbo though. Here's one of those Green-veined Whites I was on about

Male Green-veined White (subspecies thomsoni)
Shame there's a whacking great bit of greenery in the way, but this is the first butterfly I've managed to photograph this year so the pic is going up. The individuals up here are more heavily marked than the subspecies that occur in England. Green-veined White is by far the commonest butterfly on Skye. Large White and Small White do occur but are much scarcer. Orange-tips are recent arrivals to the south of the island whilst Brimstones are entirely absent. Not sure I've ever had a springtime without seeing a Brimstone...

I went a-wanderin' on my days off and explored around the back of a barn at the top of the hill. Not sure what the owner hunts, but these look like poison darts for whales, each being about three feet long with rusty barbed wire wrapped around the shafts. No idea!

There was also a nice selection of plants growing in the entrance driveway, more new species for the tetrad list. But mostly I spent time down in Uig Wood and along the riverbank. The lack of recent rain has resulted in a lowering of the river level, it's now fairly easy to cross from one bank to another by jumping from rock to rock to log to rock etc. Ramsons is absolutely rampant in the gorge, as hoped for I soon found it's associated hoverfly - though only one and it was pretty wary, hence this poor, heavily cropped shot

Portevinia maculata on it's foodplant
I shared the image on the UK Hoverflies FB page. Roger Morris (Hoverly Recording Scheme) came back with "Thanks Seth, we don't get many records from Skye"...ha, where have I heard that before! 

Staying with Ramsons, I also found it's associated rust fungus, shown here in all it's 'glory' *ahem*

Ramsons Rust Puccinia sessilis - a lifer for me
Puccinia sessilis is also known as Arum Rust, but seeing as there aren't any Lords & Ladies on Skye (honestly!) I think I'll stick with Ramsons Rust. Also shedloads of scathophagids and a couple of large weevils on the Ramsons, I've yet to attempt keying them through but they'll be new for me (and probably Skye...) when I do. 

I found this bizarre Sycamore seedling amongst lots of perfectly normally-formed seedlings, maybe it was nibbled in the bud stage? Unless it's not a Sycamore...

Have you ever seen anything like this before?
A new range of flowers are now starting to burst forth, the Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage is starting to look a little worn out now though the Lesser Celandines are still going strong

The true native Bluebell. Squashed bulbs exude a 'glue' that was used to bind feathers to arrows! 
Ramsons - my favourite garlic and my plant of the month!
Water Avens - not a plant I've seen very often before. Plentiful enough here though
Back at the river I found a dead lamb sprawled across the rocks. A cloud of blowflies lifted as I approached, but spinning the carcass over I found a rather tasty beetle. Not literally, I'd probably die of some strange disease if I put it in my mouth! But this is what I found

If you're at all squeamish you should probably look away about...5 seconds ago
This rather marvellous beetle is Oiceoptoma thoracicum, one of the Silphids and one I've not seen before. I didn't pot it up for two reasons; firstly I can ID it from the pics and secondly they bloody stink - the pot would have to be chucked and my room fumigated! 

However I did pot this bad boy, didn't take too long to come to an ID which was later confirmed on the Skye Moths Facebook page. This is Depressaria radiella and, surprisingly, yet another lifer for me

Not a very flattering pic, it's much better in real life!
This beast was beneath a security light one night, and yet another new one for me! What a low-lister moffer I am (1053 species and counting...) 

Water Carpet Lampropteryx suffumata beneath a security light on the hotel wall. Sweet!
This awesome booger was also on a wall beneath a security light one night last week. I almost wet my pants when I spied it, straight into a pot and released the following morning in daylight where it's camouflage can be better appreciated.  And yep, yet another lifer for me #moffdude

Brindled Ochre - my absolute fave moff of the year so far!
Other bits n' bobs include this stunning weevil, seen here doing a weird prancing pony impression on top of a gatepost

Hylobius abietis posing for ze camera
Talking of camera poses, here's a pic of my good self exactly five years ago today

Proudest day of my whole fucked-up life


  1. I have had Oiceoptoma thoracicum a couple of times - once on Raasay and once on Skye. Can't think what else your odd sycamore seedling might be....

  2. Wonderful pictures Seth and what an amazing view you have.
    Hard to imagine that handsome fella in the last pic wearing a torso-covering midge net but stranger things have happened I guess.

  3. I have just seen a sycamore seedling like yours on Raasay - except that it is just the lowest pair of leaves that is really odd.