Sunday, 5 February 2017

The otter ate my lifer

It's been a lovely sunny day today, still pretty nippy in the wind but almost pleasant out of it. Despite the tide being well in, I took myself down to the beach in search of goodies. There was a long line of washed up seaweeds along the beach so I spent a bit of time prodding through it for anything of interest. A few hardy Furry-legged Kelp Flies Coelopa pilipes were clumsily flopping through the wrack beds, plus lots of Sea Mat Membranipora membranacea and a fair bit of Dynamena pumila growing on kelp fronds and on Egg Wrack bladders respectively. Also seen on the Egg Wrack bladders were the fungal fruit bodies of Stigmidium ascophylli, I even managed a passable image! 

The blackish dots are the fungal fruit bodies. Note the epiphytic tuft of Polysiphonia lanosa too.
I found my first Mermaid's Purse since moving to Uig. This is the egg case of a ray, it hasn't really been lost/left behind by a mermaid (be an amazing addition to the PSL list that one!) I'm not sure which species it belongs to, Thornback Ray Raja clavata seems the most likely candidate I think. 

Probably too small for Blonde Ray. Thornback Ray occurs quite commonly up here so seems more likely.
It was then that the sudden crunching sounds began...I stood up, looked around and found myself no more than 50ft from this fine fella

Cor blimey, it's a flippin' Otter!!!!!
The crunching noise I could hear was the sound of a Green Shore Crab being broken into by a hungry Otter. I watched the Otter eat the innards before realising I could probably manage a pic or two, maybe even a quick video? It had the sun in its face and I honestly don't think it knew I was there. Absolutely my best views ever! 

I think it may have been a female, it didn't seem as large as others I've seen. Potentially this could be the same individual that Aimée saw last week, there's only quarter of a mile between sightings (as the Otter swims, bit longer than that if you walk around the bay...)

I decided to check out its prey item, a middling-sized Green Shore Crab. With a sinking heart I noted the barnacles, worm shells and encrusting pink coralline algae all across the crab's carapace. So what, you ask, why so sad? Well, because crabs moult their exoskeletons as they grow and this crab was not especially large - hence it should have recently moulted. This one clearly hadn't because things like barnacles, worms and pink coralline algae don't just appear overnight, it takes a while for them to get a hold. Something had stopped this crab from maturing and there's only one thing that does that. One thing that I have yet to see and tick - the Parasitic Barnacle Sacculina carcini. And where would I find my lifer? On the underside of the crab. And where was the underside of the crab? Inside the bloomin' Otter. Darnit, that was a bittersweet couple of minutes! 

Otter feeding debris. No sign of the underparts. Sigh...
I headed off the beach and wandered through the woods. Primroses are suddeny sprouting up everywhere, I only found one in flower but it'll look magical here in a few weeks time! On an old basal leaf I found the vacated mine of Chromatomyia primulae, one which I've not seen before. There's a summertime generation from July onwards so I'll have a second chance to add this fly to my PSL before too much longer. It's been recorded from Skye before, though possibly not from this end.

Vacated but distinctive enough to ID without the occupant.
Final pic for you, here's a bunch of fungi that are just erupting from a rotting branch. I'm pretty damn shoddy on fungus identification (though some microfungi are surprisingly easy) I think these are possibly something along the line of Coprinellus. Maybe?

Suggestions in the comments box at the bottom, please...
One further bit of news, Aimée had a Golden Eagle flying low over Uig Woods (ie well inside NG3963) a few days back, even heard it calling too! Bloody woman keeps finding ways to grip me least I've clawed Otter back though!


  1. Great stuff, I had to google that parasitic barnacle.

  2. Cheers Mick, hopefully I'll be able to find one soon and we can all see what one actually looks like!

  3. coprinellus micaceus - the "mica" has washed off in typical fashion :)