The first task was to look for Carline Thistle Carlina vulgaris which had been reported in the area but not seen for many years. As we worked our way towards the reported area the ground got steeper and steeper and eventually it got to the point where I decided that wellies, wet ground and my fear of heights dictated that a search of the scree lower down for Wood-sorrel Oxalis acetosella (which had never been recorded in this 10km square) was in order. It wasn't long before Seth and Stephen returned, having been unsuccessful. I was a bit concerned that they had aborted their search early because I had wimped out, when I was actually quite happy doing what I was doing. It was only when we moved round to the other side of the bay that the reason for their early reappearance became apparent.
|Slightly tricky ground for searching for Carline Thistle|
|Downy Currant asleep|
I look forward to returning at some point in the future to see these plants looking a bit more impressive. It didn't take long though before Stephen called us over to the species I was really looking for.
|Purple Saxifrage Saxifraga oppositifolia|
We headed off to a stream just outside Dunvegan, I can't remember if we were looking for something in particular but it gave me an opportunity to look for stoneflies. A search under the bridge produced an exuviae of Perlodes mortoni - a valid record but frustrating as it would have been a new species for me. Having spent a while looking round the site, we came to leave and Seth spotted something crawling up Stephen's cheek - Perlodes mortoni!
|Male Perlodes mortoni (Photo taken after it was removed from Stephen's cheek)|
Our final stop was at a quarry just outside Dunvegan which had been used as something of a dumping ground. At the entrance Seth turned over some dumped material to reveal something that he got very excited about.
What is this rather gross thing? It is a New Zealand Flatworm Arthurdendyus triangulatus. You may have heard of it as there was a lot of media attention regarding this species a few years ago. As its name suggests, it is a non-native species and it is also a predator of earthworms. The media line when it became established in the wild in Britain was that it would 'wipe out' native earthworms, causing massive knock-on problems with things like soil fertility, and loss of species like thrushes which feed on earthworms. The media reaction obviously had an effect on some people, apparently there is someone on Skye who has killed over 30,000 New Zealand Flatworms! I am sceptical. We keep on hearing this sort of hype (e.g. Harlequin Ladybird) and I'm afraid that the little boys are crying wolf too often for my liking. An interesting article in the latest BSBI News showed that the impact of non-native plants on rare native species was much lower than a number of other factors, including invasive native species such as bramble.
The quarry held a number of alien (dumped) plants, including a couple which had evaded identification thus far. We also saw a couple of Field Voles Microtus agrestis. They're huge, I reckon they've been on the fried Mars Bars. On the way out I saw my second ever Water Cricket Velia caprai in a horribly polluted puddle, somewhat ruining my image that they inhabit the backwaters of pristine mountain streams.