Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Fifty Shades of Green

It's been pretty crap the last couple of days, both emotionally and meteorologically, but I forced myself back into action today. I headed down to the woods and shoreline in-between outbreaks of rain and somehow managed to stay moderately dry. The wind is really picking up now though, meant to become severe overnight, the Outer Hebs are going to take another bashing I think. 

The tide was mostly in but I had a look across the top of the beach anyway. I could see a long line of yucky white gunk along the water's edge and headed off to investigate. Nothing to worry about, it was just spume. First time I've seen it here though, I've seen it at Portland Bill being smashed into the cliffs and blown upwards on the wind looking for all the world like foamy snow! Here it simply ebbed onto the stones and weed, coating everything in a slimy froth.

Spume in all of its glory

Spume is a soup of decayed organic marine matter (fats and lipids, dead plankton etc) whipped up into a froth by water agitation. It's an entirely natural phenomenon and not a sign of pollution or poor water quality, despite looking pretty grim. I couldn't find anything noteworthy amongst the froth, though I did fancy my chances with a deep green alga carpeting the mud at the edge of the saltmarsh. I figured the unusually intense colour would narrow it down to maybe a couple of species and the microscope could do the rest. Fool that I am.

Distinctive colour, how hard can it be?
Back at the microscope I cranked up the zoom and found myself staring into a miniature carpet of green tubes, nice! I reached for Green Seaweeds of Britain & Ireland, only to quickly discover that I'll undoubtedly need a higher magnification to ID the green scuzz photographed above. 100x would probably do it, which is more than double the power I can currently achieve. Dammit. I really do need to beg, borrow or steal a proper compound microscope in the near future. I shall add it to my list of priorities, somewhere between getting a car and buying a laptop that works. Then I'll be able to do lichens properly, have more confidence with bryophytes and I'll even be able to start keying through stuff like springtails. I have the literature, I just need more zoom!

The only object that caught my attention on the beach was this rather lovely razor shell covered in the calcified tubes of Spirobranchus triqueter. Despite dunking them into the sea I failed to see any sign of the worms inside.

Triangular in cross-section with a sharp 'spike' above the mouth of the tube
Leaving the beach I headed into the woods and discovered a large pile of rocks behind the community hall car park. I had a search under several rocks finding plenty of slugs including a single Worm Slug Boettgerilla pallens and several Budapest Slugs Tandonia budapestensis complete with accompanying 'slug mites' scurrying across them. It has recently been discovered that the mites on slugs are a different species than was first thought. In Britain (and across much of Europe) they have proved to be Riccardoella oudemansi and not Riccardoella limacum as was assumed. According to the brilliant FSC Slugs of Britain & Ireland Budapest Slugs have not been recorded from northern Skye before, in fact there's just one dot on the map for Skye as a whole. But it is a successfully expanding species (much to the dismay of farmers and gardeners, this really is a pest species!) so I'm not at all surprised to find them in Uig. Worm Slug was only discovered on Skye in the early 2000s (and only discovered in Britain in 1972) so it's done well to move this far in little over 40 years. There was also a single Tramp Slug Deroceras invadens beneath the stones. I shall have to come back here when the weather is better and do a bit more in the way of slug searching and photographing. I think I may start a photographic album of the slugs up here, yeah I think so! 

This is the pile of rocks in question. Doubtless I shall come here again (and again...and again...)
As you can see, the woodland floor is starting to burst into life with thousands upon thousands of seedlings thrusting through. Give it another month and I'll be able to start identifying them! Actually I can do a few, even at this stage. Ground Elder is most evident in the above image, but there's a Dandelion and some Cow Parsley in there too. 

Common Nettle, a nice easy one! Here amongst Cow Parsley and Ground-ivy
Big clump of Montbretia by the woodland stream

A few Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage are in flower already!
Naturalised (or maybe fully wild?) Daffodil clump
Seeing as it had been raining and the lichens were looking at their best, I visited the Lobaria virens tree. Yep, no getting away from it, this looks pretty damn amazing when wet! This is without flash or image manipulation

Lobaria virens - translates literally as "the Green Lobaria"
And with that I've run out of greens. I didn't find any lifers out there today, or at least none that I could identify, but it was good just to get out into the woods despite the buffeting wind and ever present threat of a drenching. I'm liking the idea of starting a gallery of slug pics too. Keep your eyes open for the 'Slugs' tab appearing on the navbar sometime soon!


  1. Green Seaweeds - that's what I need to complete the trio. "Add to basket"

  2. For what it's worth you don't need to go crazy to get a workable compound - I use an Apex Practitioner which has served me well. I've slightly upgraded with a 100x lens (oil) and a graticule for measuring but you don't necessarily need them. I've used it nigh on every day for over three years

  3. (important info omitted - £118 inc. p&p on Amazon)

  4. That's exactly the kind of info I need as I'm pretty much in the dark regards requirements for a suitable compound. A graticule would be an important component of a successful set up, I think.

  5. Guess what, in the time it took to check out the reviews, faff around umming and aahing etc, it appears I've *accidentally* just gone and ordered one! Should be here within a few days (or more likely a week - this is the Hebrides...) Yay!

  6. Should have ordered the scaler too. Another 40 quid though. I've bookmarked the page for if (when...) I feel the urge to start taking micro-measurements. Or when the ID keys demand, which is more likely in truth!

  7. Yeah, I started with the basic kit and added graticule, 100x and carrying case because I take it to various fungus-bothering gatherings. I did get a scaler which showed that my graticule was spot on. If I can find it maybe I can send it to you and then it will only cost postage. Now you just need some chemicals ...

    I hope it works for you now I've recommended it!

  8. I hold you entirely responsible for any eye-strain, headaches and banging of heads against brick walls. Although it may well open up a whole new world for me to play in! (cue that stupid, shitty, crappy, utterly detestable Disney Aladdin song - no apologies if there are fans out there. Go kill yourselves)