Poor old Gilbert is getting restless. Despite the fact that there is more interest in wildlife than ever before, it seems that most of the so-called conservation organisations are losing interest in species. Instead they prefer to babble on about landscape scale conservation and ecosystem services (whatever they are). Could this be because most of their staff don't have any knowledge about species if they don't have four legs?
This is my attempt to encourage an interest in good old-fashioned natural history.

Monday, 9 April 2018

As Arnie would say

After a great day out there was still time for some last minute searches. We headed up to a small bog on private land behind the hotel. My main target was Lesser Clubmoss Selaginella selaginoides but we were unable to find this. Instead my eyes were drawn to some manky old seedheads of Common Cottongrass Eriophorum angustifolium. By this time of year they should have been blown away and their continued presence indicates that a larva of the micro-moth Glyphipterix haworthana - new to Skye (and me) has spun the seeds together. Our initial attempts to find the actual larva resulted in a parasite larva and an apparently empty spinning but we were both able to find larvae eventually.

Some Delicate Stonewort Chara virgata was new to me and a micro-fungus on the dead stems of Bog Asphodel Narthecium ossifragum would also have been, but for the fact that it appears that no-one knows for certain what it is.

Seth revealed during the evening that he was 10 short of the halfway mark in his 1000 in 1km square challenge in 2018. With him having to work the next day, we just had to head out with torches and nets to see what we could find in Uig Wood in order to push him over that milestone before the end of March. A biting cold wind meant no moths, no Carabids scuttling down the path, not even an earwig on a tree trunk so eventually we had to concede that Seth would have to achieve his target by going through previously collected material the next day. A couple of new spiders did at least reduce his target.

So Saturday morning came and it was time for the long slog back south. Cheers to Seth for a great week, even at such an unpromising time of year. I had an absolute blast.

The drive home was punctuated by a quick stop up amongst the snow in the mountains to collect some Sphagnum samples for a mad friend and another to check the features of some Early Pampas-grass Cortaderia richardii that I had spotted by Loch Lochy on the way up.

A good place to stop for Sphagnum mosses
Before the trip I had set Seth a light-hearted target of 155 new species so that I could overtake the 'James Bond villain' of Pan Species Listing. It really wasn't a serious target, just a bit of a wind-up. Did I achieve this? No, at the time of writing I have 102 new species from the trip. This will no doubt rise as I work through some of the insects that I brought back but there weren't that many due to the time of year and the cold weather. Any target that I had, no matter how light-hearted was soon forgotten once I started getting out in the field. I learnt loads as much of what we what we were looking at were taxa that I don't know well but the thing that inspired me most was how under recorded everything is on Skye. In southern England you get a few new species for a county each year, on Skye you can get a few new species in a day. I haven't got such a buzz from biological recording since I recorded micro-moths in Radnorshire (then the worst recorded vice-county in England and Wales) in the late 1990's.

I'll be back.

1 comment:

  1. And next time we'll do it properly (ie with warmth and sunshine!) Looking forward to it buddy, it really was a blast. Be even better next time though ;)