18 October 2011

Fish farm threat to Eigg

The Isle of Eigg is currently under threat from a proposal to site a fish farm on its east coast.

To read more about it, please visit http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/stopeiggfishfarm where you can also sign a petition to oppose this development.

15 October 2011

More about star jelly

During the past few years, we have seen star jelly on a number of occasions. The most common time to find it seems to be autumn, though it is not unknown for it to be found at other times of the year.

There are a number of pictures of star jelly on our original post, but here I want to post some pictures which I believe are NOT star jelly.

The picture above, taken on Eigg, just might be star jelly, but the quantity was extremely small and I had noticed what appeared to be slime moulds several times in the previous couple of days, so I think it is most likely that this is also a slime mould. In the picture below, there is a slightly yellowish fruiting body, and behind it and out of focus is some pure jelly, and I think it most likely that this consists only of the slime mould.

One of the commonest and most likely theories about star jelly is that it is frog spawn, most likely rejected by a bird which was eating the frog. Birds dropping this from a height could be the reason why the jelly was thought to come from the stars.

In the picture above, there are black eggs to the right of the jelly, and a cluster of eggs can also be seen in the picture below.

Unlike the other pictures which were taken in the autumn, those with eggs were taken in March.

Read "Star Jelly Mystery solved on iSpot" for more information about the frogspawn theory, though this doesn't explain why star jelly is most commonly found in the autumn rather than the spring.

Soay animals 2

In the summer we went back to the Isle of Soay, just south of Skye, where we had also been last year. We were looking forward to seeing how all the animals we met last year were doing.

Saffron, the lamb, has grown up and now has a lamb of her own.

We had to put up barricades at the doors to stop Arnold from coming into the house. He is now a full grown ram and could do a lot of damage if he got in.

The geese are now full grown.

There are two new additions - a mother goat and her kid.

In addition, there were bats living in the roof of the house where we were staying. One evening I went to an upstairs window to watch them emerge at dusk. Unfortunately one of the first to emerge somehow managed to come into the room by mistake and flew in circles around me. Later, although I had shut the upstairs door, we found it lying on the floor downstairs. Fortunately it was unharmed, and later flew off outside.

21 September 2011

Heather for Heather

I recently got back in touch with a friend's daughter called Heather, who was born in Scotland but has lived in the US all her life and never returned here since she was a baby. So here are some pictures of heather for Heather.

At this time of the year, many parts of Scotland turn pink with the flowering heather (Calluna vulgaris). I took this picture earlier in September when we were on the Isle of Eigg. That's the Sgurr in the background.

Calluna vulgaris, Heather, or Ling, is the commonest species.

In the picture below it is mixed with the darker flowers of another common species - Bell Heather (Erica cinerea).

A third species found very commonly, though perhaps not in quite such large quantities, is Cross-leaved Heath (Erica tetralix). The two flowers on the right in the picture below are Cross-leaved Heath, while the flower on the left is Bell Heather.

The ordinary Heather, or Ling, also comes in a great many colour variants. The two plants in the picture below are the same species.

Occasionally you can find "lucky" white heather.

All these photos were taken on the Isle of Eigg during this September.

20 September 2011

Eigg birds

While we were on Eigg, we had several close encounters with birds.

On a walk through the moorland in the centre of the island, several red grouse leaped out from almost under my feet. Unusually, they didn't fly off making their "go-back, go-back" alarm call, but just walked out of my way. That gave me the opportunity to take a couple of photos before they flew off.

A few days later, we visited a friend who lives in the north of the island. She put out some corn for the birds, and a group of rock doves flew down to feed.

These are the wild birds from which domesticated pigeons were bred. The two have interbred, and pure wild birds are now only found on the west and north coasts of Scotland and Ireland.

The wild version has two black wingbars and a white rump which mostly only shows when the bird is in flight.

Hooded crows frequently visited the garden of the house where we were staying. These are a subspecies of the carrion crow, and they replace the carrion crow in the north and west of Scotland.

18 September 2011

Easter Eigg - in September?

Somehow, whenever I have a lot to post, I don't have the time to do it. I now have a huge backlog of pictures taken, places visited, things seen, from the summer, and will try to post some of them over the next few days.

To start with, some pictures from the Isle of Eigg.

A very out-of-season primrose, taken on 5th September.

Ten days later these flowers had been eaten, but the plant had produced another flower and bud.

Although garden primroses quite commonly flower out of season, the wild ones are less inclined to do so and mostly flower in March to May. Other out-of-season ones I've seen have been December (Eigg, 2005) and 18th August (Skye, 2008).

And how about an Easter bunny?

13 July 2011

Tall Ships and Red Arrows

Yesterday we went for a walk along the coast near Kilcreggan. Part of the object was to see the tall ships sail from Greenock, and to watch a display by the Red Arrows.

First, the Red Arrows

The paddle steamer, the Waverley, was also cruising nearby

And finally, the tall ships

09 July 2011

Alpine saxifrage revisited

The trouble with a blog is that, just when one has most to write about, one is also busiest with other things. It's 9 days since I went back up Beinn Dorain to look for the Alpine Saxifrage (Saxifraga nivalis) I found last year (see The Perils of botanical identification) and I have only just found the time to write about it.

After some hours of climbing in showery weather I managed to find the ledge in the rock again, but there was initial disappointment that the plant was smaller and hadn't produced a flower this year. My disappointment soon disappeared when I found another plant in flower a couple of yards away. There was no doubt that this flower was Alpine Saxifrage.

We hunted around for other plants of interest and these seemed to be most abundant along a narrow band of crags which were presumably calcareous. They included Luzula spicata, perched on a ledge with a view of hills to the east.

The yellow heads of Roseroot (Sedum rosea) were easy to spot and a good indicator of likely ledges as it frequently had rare species as companions. It had been growing on the ledge where I found the first Alpine Saxifrage.

Towards the end of the day we found a rather unusual Buttercup with a mixture of shiny and hairy leaves and an unusually large flower.

Further research suggests that this is likely to be a rather rare variety of Meadow Buttercup - Ranunculus acris var. pumilus - which has only previously been found on the Cairngorms and Skye in the UK. Once again, we will need to return for further verification of its identity.

07 July 2011


Last summer someone told me that the stigma of Mimulus flowers move quite rapidly when touched, in order to prevent further pollination. I was challenged to try and take photos of this.

Yesterday we found some Mimulus flowers by a nearby river. Touching the stigmas produced an immediate reaction, though it seemed to be necessary to touch the stigma twice to trigger this.



I was surprised to find that the stigma returned to its original position after about 15 minutes. This seems to be a response to lack of pollen so that the flower gets another chance at pollination.

I took some videos of this which can be seen on YouTube:

See also
Stigma behavior in Mimulus auranticus (Scrophulariaceae) by A. Elizabeth Fetscher and Joseph R. Kohn

14 June 2011

After the storm

It's just over 3 weeks since the storm of 23rd May. The effects on trees everywhere have been noticeable, but at the coast the results have been dramatic.

Yesterday we visited Ardmore Point near Helensburgh. Unfortunately the weather was very overcast most of the time, so I was unable to take many pictures in good conditions.

In this picture, taken by the car park which is quite sheltered from the worst of the wind, one tree is bare and the hedge is brown.

This isolated tree and those behind it look quite autumnal.

Many trees lost all or many of their leaves.

Ash trees in particular were left bare.

Closer examination showed that most trees, including this ash, were beginning to sprout new shoots.

On the west coast of the peninsula, all the leaves of the trees were totally brown.

Even in more sheltered places, many leaves were damaged.

This rose had shrivelled leaves, but the flowers were unaffected.

The picture below shows the windward west side of a hedge.

On the east side of the same hedge, the leaves were protected and remained green.

An isolated tree which had been stripped nearly bare of leaves.

An ash tree with few remaining leaves, despite being in a more sheltered position on the east side of the peninsula.

Another bare tree by the shore.

Brown trees along the main coastal road at Helensburgh.

Today we went further inland, well away from the coast. Even here, many trees were browned, with fallen branches lying along the verges.

Below - Copper beech leaves from far inland showing storm damage.

See these links for further information:


Largs & Millport Weekly News