Apologies for the lack of blogging of late, two weeks it would seem.
I trust you all had a nice break, haha?
So the world has gone mad, Swallows and House Martins are back already, butterflies flitting in droves and temperatures peaking at over 20°C - all down south, obviously. But we've had it crazily mild up here too, it topped 10°C the other day and one (presumably mental) guy reckoned it hit 16°C coming over The Quiraing! Needless to say, no hirundines or butterflies here, though there have been a few moths
|Mottled Grey - first recorded on 16th March last year|
|A male Pale Brindled Beauty (females are essentially wingless) - I've been seeing loads of these lately|
Rather annoyingly, my light trap is still languishing in a friend's garden some miles away. I really must get it back, he was only meant to be borrowing it until October....
My Challenge 2019 is bumbling along at a slow but steady rate. Bugger all in terms of flies or bugs, but I've found a few beetles to keep me quietly ticking along.
|Loricera pilicornis with its crazy antennae and dimples down the elytra|
|Paranchus albipes - a common ground beetle up here, usually found near to running water|
No pics, but tonight the head chef called me into the kitchen to identify a beetle he'd found beneath a fridge. It was Dermestes haemorrhoidalis, the so called Black Larder Beetle. The genus is pretty much cosmopolitan nowadays, the larvae feed on all kinds of organic waste from vegetable clippings to dried produce, from other dead insects to animal hides. Not ideal in a kitchen, but definitely one of the more benign denizens of dark corners. Happily, it was alive and so was duly added to the tally.
By far my favourite beetle so far this year was found in a rotten log laying amongst mosses in Uig Wood last week. Here's a pic and a short video clip of it
|It may not look it, but this is a staphylinid!|
Using this 65 year old key I determined that I had an exceedingly pale Olophrum piceum, a lifer for me! It's a species that has been regularly found on nearby Raasay, plus there are a couple of records from elsewhere on Skye itself. I figured it was a teneral individual yet to colour up. Indeed, I carded it that evening and the next day the head and pronotum had started to darken towards a chestnut colour - despite the beetle being dead, which I found interesting. So is it almost an oxidation process rather than biochemical? I honestly don't know, but I really didn't expect a dead specimen to darken up.
Whilst messing about in fallen logs, I manged to add a couple of springtails to my PSL. Despite being 'very common throughout' I've never knowingly seen this beast before
|Neanura muscorum - 2mm of bumbling cuteness|
This drops out of the key right near the very start (always a joy) being one of just two hairy, fat, grey blobbies lacking a furcula. Three ocelli per eye names the species as Neanura muscorum - wow, I wish all collembolans were that simple. Typically, I saw maybe six or seven more after this. Got my eye in now! The very (very) common Entomobrya nivalis was another springtail that I'd never knowingly seen before. I then saw lots.
|So many, in fact, that I couldn't be arsed to take a single pic that was in focus....|
It's amazing what you can find whilst checking beneath rocks and fallen branches
|A not-very-well Woodpigeon|
I managed to approach to within about four feet of this adult Woodpigeon. Despite the mild weather, it held its feathers fully fluffed up, clearly feeling the non-existent cold. It's possible that it had survived a Sparrowhawk near miss, but I suspect this is just an old bird who's time was almost up. I felt quite sad watching this bird, I backed off a respectable distance to limit any distress I may have been causing it. It didn't move in the 15 minutes I spent watching over it, I quietly departed and didn't look back. Doesn't matter if it's a slime mould, a hawthorn bush, a woodpigeon, your best friend or a mighty whale, they're born and they live and then they die. Of course, nobody weeps when a slime mould dies.
But life! What about life? Today I found three of these tenacious plants growing amongst barren rocks along the edge of the car park down by the pier
Looks like Hedge Veronica (Veronica elliptica x speciosa = V. x franciscana) though there are other alternatives that need to be discounted. I pinged a few pics to the BSBI Recorder, he agrees that it looks to be Hedge Veronica, though he's going to look more closely in the morning. I may have to grab a bit and key it through. I've noticed several bushes of the stuff in gardens around the village, but I have no idea from where these three plants originated.
Talking of colonising plants, 'my' patch of Mitella ovalis in Uig Wood has made its way into the brand new edition of Stace, which is quite probably the only time Uig is mentioned in its masterful text!
|Mitella ovalis - my first plant new to Britain :)|
And here's a pic of the stuff in question, it's positively flourishing
|Very happily naturalising its way along the watercourse|
Down at the beach I made an amazing discovery. Here's the Habbo pic
|Henderson's trashed yacht, clinging onto the Old Slip for dear life, haha!|
That yacht suddenly began sinking some weeks back, the lifeguards that were called out apparently told the owner he was using the pump all wrong - he should have been pumping water IN not OUT, haha bless 'em all. Anyway, you see the large rocks in the foreground? Well I didn't check beneath those (weigh a bloomin' tonne!) but I did check beneath the smaller stones embedded in the grit and dirt all around them. And this is what I found
I found good numbers of these on the underside of rocks embedded in the narrow strip of saltmarsh, I was quite taken with them too. To the point of making a few short video clips, in fact...
I did a bit (ha, more like two hours' worth!) of internet trawling and have come to the conclusion that this is Uteriporus vulgaris, a marine flatworm that also occurs well up saltmarshes, hidden away beneath stones and foreign matter. If anybody out there can offer up a better identification, I'd be very pleased to hear it.
Other than faffing about with nature, my spare time is currently revolving around a pooch that goes by the name of Leon. His poor owner is ill with some sort of plague at the moment, so I've taken over dog-walking duties for the morning shift. Leon loves me, we're rapidly becoming best mates. Tonight I learned that he's "a traitor and a bit gay" - that from the owner who is obviously feeling a bit left out at the moment....
|Leon the Black Lab - he told me that he wants to be an otter when he grows up :)|
I'll make an effort to blog more often, work should be a bit quieter for me during the coming few weeks and the days are lengthening at last. Roll on Springtime!