Thursday, 13 April 2017

Definite Signs of Life

I've been slacking haven't I? My first blogpost in two weeks, disgraceful. What can I say, I've been watching sasquatch documentaries almost back to back. I'm now an expert, ask me anything! Two things that grip me; sasquatch and werewolves. I don't want to become a werewolf believer, they kinda terrify me enough already. But sasquatch, hell yeah it's a real thing. If you're a non-believer it's just because you haven't looked into it deeply enough. Metal music and sasquatch documentaries, this is why YouTube was invented! Anyway, what have I been finding on my wee jaunts of late?

Well the weather hasn't been great for invert activity. Wet, cool and usually windy pretty much sums up the past couple of weeks. It's now mid April and I've yet to see a single butterfly! I've seen maybe half a dozen bumblebees, white-arsed jobbies and hence presumably Bombus cryptarum which research suggests is the early season white-arse bee around here. I did manage to coincide a walk along Cuil Road with a splash of warm sunshine on the 5th. Insects! Just like that they emerged all around. I potted up a couple of Bibio flies, no good I need the RES key to nail them. I managed to narrow it down to six species but that's that. They're currently pinned awaiting later determination. A grassy verge was suddenly full of large Drinker larva with a couple of half-grown Garden Tiger larva present too, all busily catching rays

Drinker Moth larva on an unknown grass covered in an unknown microfungus. PSL is harsh.
If you're the type of person who hurls on roller coaster rides or suffers with seasickness then it may be a good idea to skip this short video. My smooth panning technique is in need of slight refinement. Put it down to excitement. Otherwise, just hold on tight and enjoy the ride

Garden Tiger larva - thanks to the Skye Moths FB Group for confirming ID.
Trees are putting out flowers at last, I realised with a jolt that I've been merrily walking past a large Wild Cherry tree and several Rowans every time I head down Cuil Road. To be fair I'm usually concentrating on the gull flock not tree trunks, but cherry is an easy one. Bit remiss, to put it mildly.

Wild Cherry or Gean. Also known as Geen, Guin and Guean up here. Nice big obvious blossom...
Blackthorn. Bit more delicate than the cherry blossom
Sycamore - also getting in on the act
Fuchsia magellanica - just about ready to open up in the more sheltered spots
Ferns are currently erupting all over the place, mostly Dryopteris by the look of them. I need to take a bit of time over these, several will be lifers for me. I've already found Hard-fern and Hart's-tongue new to the tetrad (the latter is common, no idea how it's been overlooked thus far) so who knows what else is patiently awaiting discovery.

Seems that throwing rocks at sleeping snakes is a bad idea, who knew?
Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage - it's a very sexy plant
A ridiculously stunted Common Scurvygrass successfully doing it's thing on the exposed upper beach
Whitlowgrass - I'm happy that this is verna, though glabrescens is commonest up here apparently.
Slender Speedwell growing at the edge of a garden lawn
Rather fortuitously I've found a second bush of Flowering Currant in the monad, this one is growing in Uig Woods well away from any gardens. I'm certain the bush in the Cuil Road garden is absolutely fine to count, but this one conclusively clinches it's place on the NG3963 list.
Flowering Currant (note how you can't see the garden centre tag from this angle...)
Obviously, wherever there are plants there's a chance of finding their associated microfungi. I've found a few this month that are new to me. Despite my methodically checking Tutsan all over the place, I finally found it's associated rust, Melampsora hypericorum, whilst jet-washing a wall at the back of the hotel! That's one major advantage of being a PSLer, you really don't have to travel far to find lifers. In my bad ol' blinkered twitching days I once travelled from Surrey to Shetland and back again to tick a BrĂ¼nnich's Guillemot. A three day round trip which cost a small fortune. Now I get ticks without leaving the hotel where I work and live. And in case you were wondering, I dipped the BrĂ¼nnich's.

Daffodil Leaf Scorch Peyronellaea curtisii. The Daffs may be plastic dross but the fungus is good to tick!
Pignut Rust Puccinia tumida - found on the very first plant I checked!
Of other bits n bobs, Larinoides cornutus was an addition to the NG3963 list, very successfully trapping the mystery Bibio flies in it's web. I only managed poor shots, luckily it's a particualrly well-patterned individual so I'm happy with the ID despite not taking it back for microwork

Larinoides cornutus on a Raspberry cane. Raspberry is a very common plant here
On a somewhat larger scale was this beauty, seen today whilst scanning a field for Twite (not yet...) It flew in and perched in a tree for maybe two minutes, affording great views, before shooting off low eastwards across a hilltop and out of sight. Simply a case of being in the right spot at the right time

Merlin Falco hardasnailsii - the absolute epitome of a 'Record Shot'
Apparently falcons are now nothing more than carnivorous parrots. This sits uneasily with me. Don't get me wrong, I've seen some pretty damn awesome parrots in my time. You can't spend time in Nicaragua, Australia, New Zealand and Bushy Park without experiencing parrots. But falcons aren't parrots. Please. I'm gonna stick my fingers in my ears and sing "na na naah na naaaah" and just pretend it never happened.

I spied a White-tailed Eagle soaring over a distant headland, at least a mile (and some) south of my square but pretty fkkn obvious all the same. It was being mobbed by several gnats. Herring Gnats I think, possibly Great Black-backed Gnats. It was A.W.E.S.O.M.E. Even at extreme range I almost wet my pants! But it gets better. After an age it landed in a tree. The Tree, in fact. I think it may be a nest tree. My boss tells me that there's a pair nest in that general direction, I think I've nailed it. Time will tell. It's only taken me four and a half months to see the bugger but I'll be keeping an eye on that Faraway Tree from now on.

Thanks to the recent weather, the river is running just a tad high. Here's a short clip of the lower stretch. Ordinarily it's unusual to see white water this side of the bridge

And here's a short clip of the upper section. You'll notice that I zoom in on a white mass caught up in a fallen tree. That's the body of a drowned sheep. They descend off the hills in bad weather, presumably uncontrollably slip/slide their way down the ridiculously steep gorge sides and end up in the river. Throw in the odd broken bone (body goes into shock) or a nasty head strike (body falls unconscious) and it's easy to see how sheep keep on dying in this river, they usually end washed up on the shore. I think I've found at least six freshly dead ones in the bay since moving here.

Anyway, that sheep carcass was a good four feet above water level last week. I was about to chance my luck and work my way across to it in search of carrion beetles, no chance of that at the moment. It'd be a human corpse snagged in low branches if I tried. 

Talking of death, here's the opposite miracle that happens every springtime. This wee fella was gallavanting around without a care in the world. Yoof of today, they've never had it so good...

Cute at this age, I agree. And they taste great too
So that's the first half of April addressed. If this weather ever pulls it's socks up and starts acting like a proper springtime I'll hopefully have loads of invert action for you. Or maybe this is proper springtime weather up here, Skye is an unusual place.



  1. I must get into these rusts Seth - my PSL list has remained dormant for too long...

    1. It costs an absolute bomb Steve, but try and get hold of a copy of Ellis & Ellis as per this link: