Saturday, 5 August 2017

Babies

A few weeks ago I found myself chatting to a local chap who's somewhat into nature. He happened to mention that the local postman had photo's of a stork he saw in a field last year, a field where there are often herons standing out in the open. So I didn't precisely rush to follow it up. 

Yesterday I was chatting with the postman and asked if he was certain it was a stork and not a heron he'd seen. "Well I don't really know myself, it looked different so I took a few pictures and then Andy thought it was a stork. Let me get my camera and find the picture for you..." Several minutes later he showed me the set of images. Boom! Today he handed me a hardcopy of one of the images, he'd printed it out and written a few details on the back. Top man!


This is by no means the best shot that he took of the bird, in some pics it's almost full-frame. But he felt this image gave a good idea of the behaviour he witnessed. The farmer is Willie, he's ploughing in potatoes and the stork is on the look out for exposed food items. On the Continent this could be frogs, mice, lizards or grasshoppers. Here in Uig it was probably leatherjackets and worms. Each time the tractor created a furrow the stork would walk in and investigate, then walk back into the field as the tractor passed by, before returning once more to the disturbed earth. Nice sighting. Amazing, actually. Great that he had his camera with him in the van!

Now that I was happy with the identification, I needed to notify the local and regional bird recorders, White Stork is a proper Skye Mega! According to Bob McMillan's Skye Birds book there is only one previous record for Skye, one at Broadford on 21st April 1977. The Uig bird was seen on 22nd April 2016, exactly 39 years and a day after the first! 

I emailed Bob (Skye bird recorder), who brought in Peter Stronach (Highland Region bird recorder) who advised that despite this not being my record, I still need to fill in the description form. The photo's are conclusive, the time of year is perfect for a spring overshooting migrant. Job's a goodun, they just need a record to be submitted. I've never submitted someone else's bird before. Seems a bit weird, but Bob says it's fine. 

In other news, the local Buzzards fledged one youngster which has been pulling some crazy aerobatic antics in the evening sun. They nested just across the road from the hotel, much to the annoyance of the local Hooded Crows, so I see them daily. Tonight I watched the parent birds and the youngster engaging in mock battles, all necessary skills for a youngster to learn and master. Here he is right outside my window


Kids, with their perfect, undamaged flight feathers. The poor parent birds are looking a bit worse for wear, tatty secondaries and nicked primaries, one is missing part of its tail. 

Anyway, here's a toon for the masses. Holy crapsters, this song is 23 years old, HOW did that happen??? Please, enjoy



Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Potty about Montbretia

Last week, whilst gate-crashing the Wild Flower Society field meeting, I learnt of the existence of a plant called Potts' Montbretia  (Crocosmia pottsii) which apparently grows wild on Skye. Ian Green, BSBI recorder for Moray and our glorious leader on the day, had found a clump the night before (in/near Portree, I think) and had brought a plant with him to exhibit to the rest of us. Happily it appears that I actually took in the relevent details, for this evening I spotted a large clump of a suspicious-looking 'montbretia' growing along the verge at the top of Cuil Road. I've seen it before but had always assumed it was bog standard Montbretia. I grabbed a plant and brought it home with me. 


This, I believe, is Potts' Montbretia. Note the short flowerheads which are held in a more upright position and are of a deeper reddish-orange colour than the usual Montbretia.

Note also that the stem between the flowerheads is far straighter than the zig-zag effect of Montbretia


And finally, unlike Montbretia, the leaves are very upright and spear-like, not at all floppy or droopy. Also note that it is now August and I am wearing a thick jumper. The weather up here is a fickle ol' thing. All I know is that the midges were positively teeming this morning and again this evening. Maybe one day I'll be able to identify them to species level.

I'm off plant-bothering with the Skye Botany Group tomorrow. I shall be bringing my Potts' Montbretia with me, see if between us we can't put a few more dots on the map for it. I'll also finally be meeting Steve Terry, a Broadford based naturalist who seems to know his stuff. Let's hope it stays dry...