Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Bryophyte Club

The hotel is shut for the next five weeks, which means I'm free to crack on and help with the ripping out of doorways and ceilings and radiators whilst the workmen are in. Or, as is more likely, filling holes, painting walls and generally pottering about in the guestrooms whilst the heavy work goes on downstairs. Today I helped remove/move stuff around in preparation for the destruction that is about to hit the main lobby/reception/dining room areas. 

Also, seeing as I'm cooking for myself until the kitchens re-open, for the first time in a long while I get to choose my own dinners - result! I have a case of a coupla hundred eggs to help get me through the month. Well, two of us actually - there's a guy coming to stay the day after tomorrow, apparently he's pretty handy with an axe (we have a sliced tree trunk, maybe three and a half feet diameter and about thirty feet long which needs to be reduced to firewood-sized pieces and stacked in the log shed, that could take a few days in itself!) So, I can see me living off omelettes and my own 'speciality' which is some kind of scrambled egg with peppers, onions, chillies, tomatoes, mushrooms and anything else I spy that looks like it should work. Bit of salad on the side, maybe some baked beans, glass or two of red...happy days! Ideally it should have homemade tortillas and guac, but I know my limits. Shop bought tortillas will have to suffice, shop guac is an abomination so I'll just have to do without. Sure won't win any prizes but it's as tasty as you like. Just need to source some cajun, probably be some in the drystore. Oooh, there are limes that need using up too. Hmmm, maybe I will try that guac after all. Never seen an avocado on Skye yet, maybe I could order some off Amazon.

But presumably, dear reader, you are here for the natural history interest rather than hearing all about my (lack of) culinary skillz? I agree, moving quickly along....

I've rather rashly allocated January as my Bryophyte Month. I didn't get out today (in fact, thinking about it, I haven't left the hotel complex all day - bloody hell!) though I did manage to yeartick Pied Wagtail and Raven as they flew overhead. A Coal Tit on the peanut feeder was also a yeartick. But what about those mosses and liverworts? I casually stepped out of the front door, walked an entire ten feet, stopped at a moss-covered stone plant pot and grabbed a bit of moss from the rim. It was already dark, I found it by touch. No skill at all, really. Back indoors I whacked it under the microscope and set to with the keys. 

My nice, neat workspace. Nothing is staged - this really is how it looks when 'in action'
So it turns out that my small cushion of moss comprised two species growing completely intermixed with each other. The first set of leaves I whacked under the microscope quickly keyed through as Bryum capillare, probably one of the commonest mosses in Britain, certainly in built-up, man-made environments. Here's a particularly poor pic of the leaf tip which shows the main ID features

Bryum capillare - note the cells along the edge are highly elongated and narrow
Things to look for here are the shape of the cells across the leaf - the marginal two or three rows are massively elongated and narrow compared with those across the width of the leaf. Note also the high chloroplast content of these cells (you may have to squint a bit...) The entire leaf length is between 3 and 4mm, yeah really!

The other moss was also a very commonly encountered species, Tortula muralis. According to the books, they often grow together on, for example, wall tops. Here are a couple more headache-inducing pics for you to squint at

Note that the tip of the leaf disappears off into a long, colourless point. This is what's known as a 'hyaline' tip, which means that it is colourless, giving the impression of a white or silver looking 'hair' at the end of the leaf. Note also the cell shape, utterly different to that found in Bryum capillare. The rather broad nerve is often, as here, tinged reddish and the hair point itself is smooth - a character that helps distinguish it from other members in the genus. This is a huge bugger, entire leaf length is around about 2mm...

I take comfort from the fact that neither of these mosses presented me with any real difficulties in the keys. Ok, so they're common as muck and not exactly tricky anyway, but I've always struggled with mosses in the past. Maybe I'll finally be able to overcome this, now that I'm using three lots of literature and both the stereo and compound microscopes. And not taking a few dozen samples back with me each time. That undoubtedly helps too.

Music time. I'm in the habit of jumping onto Youtube, choosing either a band or a genre and letting it autoplay from one song into the next. If it's something I don't like, I just skip to the next track. Anyway, thanks to the magic that is autoplay, I've rediscovered some old stuff that I haven't listened to in years. Here are two of the best* that I've heard so far tonight

* in my opinion, but then it's my blog and you should know the Rules by now... 

Disturbed - Down with the Sickness (released 2000). Could have been written for a pan-species lister... By the way, this is the full explicit version

Tool - Forty Six and Two (released 1996 - What, NO WAY!?!?!) The footage is from the utterly brilliant Pan's Labyrinth (2006), a film I haven't seen in probably five or six years. 

Hope you enjoy these coupla gems, I certainly did (and so did my housemates - mwaah ha ha haaa!)

Yearlist for NG3963 currently stands at 176 species. Only 1174 species to go, heck I'm almost there already!                                                                                                                                                                                                               


  1. Wonder what natural history endeavours are going to be accompanied by Stinkfist ...

  2. The co-op does sell avocados, but probably not at this time of year!

  3. Only 1174 to go, looks like you can sit back and relax for a while! Plenty of time to put those culinary skills to the test.
    That's quite some work area you've got set up even if I don't understand a word of what you do when sat there.

    1. I've dragged that desk from house to house to house, it goes wherever I go. I've had plenty of funtimes (and plenty of pulling my hair out in frustration) whilst IDing stuff with those microscopes.

  4. Seth....your musical taste is the equivalent of a Goshawk ripping apart prey in a frenzy... just chill my friend, chill...

    1. But Steve, that IS what I listen to when chilling. I love it! You want to see me in a killing frenzy, just lock me in a room with modern r n b music, or the latest kiddie band crap playing at me for a couple of hours.

  5. Added a few mosses to my square list this morning. Not as nice as the HUMPBACK WHALE though. Sadly not in my square, but it'll do :D

    1. Humpback!!! Wow, I'd love to see one of those beasts.