Wednesday, 30 November 2016

The mystery of the castles “What Window?”

Welcome to the 150th Firwood blog.  Enjoy the read.

The early part of October saw me once again trying to get organised, but this time it was bringing together my records of fungal smuts (Anthracoidea) found over the last three summers.  Along with fellow recorder Paul, the lists of finds, numbers, locations and photos would be needed as we both 

Spring sedge (Carex caryophyllea) with smuts - the start of the search
put pen to paper to write a joint paper of our finds for possible inclusion in ‘Field Mycology’.  If we could get details of our finds published we might tempt a few more people to go looking, adding to the picture of the smuts UK distribution and, more importantly, finding out which are rare or common.  By mid-month the basic shape of the write up was 90% complete and by the end of the 
month draft number nine was with the Field Mycology editor along with accompanying photos, for consideration.  What has been interesting is bringing together, for the first time, regularly found species like those on star and carnation sedge, and those which have been rarely found on mud and pale sedge.  A table of my finds to date is given above – should you be tempted to go looking!

A very rare event, nay a first, occurred mid-month – a dog came to live with us!  Daughter Ruth and family were off to Legoland, an amazing birthday present for Finlay whose years in numbers had reached double figures – 10.  After several ‘secret’ discussions between Ruth and Janet it was decided that Murphy dog was just too old to go into kennels whilst they were away, and Janet had 
offered to suggest to me that he would come and stay with us for five days when Ruth was away.  Help!  I needn’t worry, Janet said she would do all the walks and pick-ups and I would just need to sort out morning feeds, and with that Murphy arrived.  To be honest, I needn’t have worried and for most of the time it was hard to know that there was a dog in the house but no, we won’t be getting one!

An outing during this period also found something unusual, but not for the first time.  During plant recording outings to General Wade’s Military Road area west of Carrbridge, an old croft-type field, by the track, had several waxcap fungi on it, so worthy of another visit.  The track produced a few records of tooth fungi but the field, despite quite a bit of searching, had lost its waxcaps.  Grasslands, rich in waxcaps, are usually good indicators of natural, not messed about with habitats, and worth noting.  However, this one had previously been planted with conifers and whether in recognition that this shouldn’t have happened or the tree crop failed, I don’t know, but if left to grow on naturally, it 
Trembling brain fungus (Tremella encephala)
could once again be quite an important habitat for waxcaps.  Another thing I was doing as I wandered was checking fallen deadwood and sections of deadwood on live trees in the hope of finding the alternative habitat for the rare stump lichen (Cladonia botrytes).  Lichen experts agree that somewhere out there is the natural habitat the lichen occupies, it can’t rely solely on man-created stumps.  It has been found on dead heather stems and, on a dead pine twig in Sweden, but so far, I’ve not been lucky enough to find any away from the stumps apart from on one fallen dead pine.  Obviously, not going to be as easy as finding the alternative habitats for the green shield-moss.  The track eventually reached the Allt Lorgy river where an old gravel quarry was searched for anything 
Musketball as found
interesting, eventually paddling across the river to check out a few fallen pines on a steep bank.  The damp weather had brought out one of the jelly fungi Exidia saccharina, on dead pine branches but a more interesting and a less encountered fungus was the hard, white, brain-like fungus Tremella encephala (trembling brain), a parasite of another fungus on dead pinewood, Stereum sanguinolentum (bleeding conifer crust).  This blog is starting to sound like a hospital operating theatre!  An upright Scots pine stump looked interesting and as I searched a small, grey circular shape caught my eye.  An old broken branch, a pebble from the river or possibly something else?  A light was starting to pop on in my head and when I touched the object with the sharp blade of my pen-knife the light came on fully and I realised that it was lead and that I was possibly looking at a musket ball, having found one a few years previously in a mole hill!  I assumed that it had been fired at the stump, possibly when it was a live tree(?), and the section I was seeing was quite flat, probably caused by the impact whilst the other part of the ball, once the item had been extracted, still displayed its original round shape.  From a chart, I managed to find on the internet, the musket 
Musketball sizes, bottom photo compares sizes of the two finds
ball was about 17 bore, weighing in at 27g and measuring 18mm in diameter.  Could there be a link to the General George Wade’s road?  This road was built in 1728-29, after the first Jacobite rebellion in 1715.  Muskets were known to be in use from about the early 1700s.  There was also the Jacobite Rising of 1745 which would have seen lots of movements through this area.  However, muskets/musket balls were used by ordinary folk, a bit like shotguns are used today, to shoot deer and other prey, and this would have seen their use through to the mid-1800s.  Looking at the Roy Maps (Roy Military Survey of Scotland, 1747-1755) and the OS six-inch series 1843-1882, there are no obvious buildings to indicate someone was living or farming close to the find location.  This might indicate a military link or possibly a local doing a bit of target practice whilst out hunting.  So, a bit more work for someone in the Highland Council archaeology department to do at some time into the future.  General George Wade (1673-1748) was born in Ireland and looked like quite an amazing man and this wee extract from the internet gives a bit more information about what all he got up to in Scotland:
“During these sixteen years in Scotland (1724-1740) he was responsible for founding and constructing two new forts, Fort George (Inverness) and Fort Augustus, and upgrading several others, including Perth, Ruthven, Edinburgh and Dumbarton.  He was also responsible for constructing about 40 bridges and over 250 miles of roads between these forts, particularly along the Great Glen, and from Dunkeld and Crieff to Fort Augustus and Inverness.  He also had plans for further road developments, many of which were carried forward by his successor, William Caulfield, after 1740”.  Amazing.

Late in the month we headed south to Lancashire to visit Janet’s mum whilst at the same time popping my laptop in to Barrie’s shop for repair.  The drive both ways was blessed with good weather as was our stay.  My morning leg-stretch saw me doing a short circuit of the adjacent park, keeping a list of bird species as I walked (24 species) to send to BTO Birdtrack.  As with Nethybridge, most trees still had a good covering of leaves and many flowers were still in bloom.  On the first day out I was guided expertly by Janet’s mum along the country lanes to Longridge for lunch the return run taking in views over Longridge Fell with Pendle Hill whale-like in the distance.  An odd marked ladybird on our return to the flat turned out to be a harlequin.  Our next outing saw us in Ribchester visiting one of the properties shown on TV during last winter’s floods as the bar and dining room disappeared under water.  Everything had recovered well and a good meal was had by all.  With a bit 
Great horsetail (Equisetum telmateia)
of spare time late that afternoon I zoomed down to one of my childhood haunts, ‘the Dunk’ or the Dunkenhalgh/Mill Wood for a wee wander.  This rather damp wood has a good mix of tree species but it was the oaks that received my attention first and straight away knopper galls were found on fallen acorns along with spangle (Neuroterus quercusbaccarum) and silk button galls (Neuroterus numismalis) on fallen leaves.  A dipper on the Hyndburn Brook shows just how clean these once heavily polluted rivers are now, but I missed out on a kingfisher on this outing.  In Mill Wood lots of great horsetail plants (Equisetum telmateia) had me reaching for the GPS to record location, a plant I had obviously missed in the past.  A vivid red plant by a bridge over the river had me scratching my 
Red bistort
head – red bistort (Persicaria amplexicaulis) but the fern growing from the wall was easier, hart’s tongue (Asplenium scolopendrium) something I would see quite a bit of during this short wander.  Lots of conkers were found under the horse-chestnuts, one of the reason for visiting this wood when a lot younger, and still not able to stop the urge to pop a few in my pocket!.  At the top of the wood the reservoir held no surprises so I decided to drop down through the trees to the old mill by the river.  
Wall lettuce & graffiti!
Petty spurge (Euphorbia peplus) seeds
This amazing building (once a papermill?) is made of the famous red Nori bricks, made just a couple of miles away, but with the building having been empty now for many years the walls supported good populations of hart’s tongue fern, but a small dandelion-like plant also growing from between the bricks had me puzzled and it was only once back home I found it was wall lettuce (Mycelis muralis).  The invasive weeds Indian balsam and Japanese knotweed were everywhere and a wee plant by the road was petty spurge (Euphorbia peplus) though I had to take a bit home to be sure.  When I checked this plant, I found that the small holding tub was full of odd-shaped what looked like seeds, thankfully confirmed via the web.

Next day saw us in Skipton where lots of folk were setting off for trips on barges on the Leeds and Liverpool canal, which reached its bicentenary this year with Janet’s brother, Alan, travelling the whole 127-mile length of the canal over two weeks in his narrow boat as part of the celebration.  Lunch over, we made our way up to Skipton Castle and whilst standing on the slope leading into what looked like the gatehouse debating whether to pay to go in, I pointed out to Janet an unusual window 
Skipton Castle window  - oval in centre of photo
above the gatehouse arch.  It was a ‘bull’s-eye’ type window, oval in shape and surrounded by wedge-shapes bricks and worth getting a photo to check later.  Decision made, we paid to go in and, with tickets bought, a guide was in the gatehouse arch to welcome us and give a bit of guidance as to the best route to follow.  “Can you tell me anything about the unusual window above the arch” I enquired.  “Which window” came the reply, and with that I showed him my photo and went back outside to point it out.  Our guide called over a second one to ask if he knew and again we got the 
'The Window'!
response “Which window”!  In addition to my photo below you will see it also is visible on several photos on the official website.  The guides promised they would make enquiries in case anyone else asked.  The entry fee was well worth it and there was lots to see.  Outside we saw more harlequin ladybirds along with a 10-spot.  The visit ended with a walk up through the Woodland Trust’s Skipton Wood where we heard both kingfisher and nuthatch.  The next day we headed back north getting to Aviemore in time to collect the laptop to get on with catching up with entering my records before the end of the year.  Now up to June but the laptop wasn’t happy and with the horrors of having to contemplate a new one was starting to become a reality (one reason for this late blog).  Help!

Bird news.  I had my first ‘autumn’ woodcock by the road early in the month, probably a new arrival.  A chiffchaff calling up the road from the house on the 7th was followed up a few days later 
Deer ked
with one in the village.  A brambling was seen on the 18th, the same day snow was visible on the tops of the mountains.  There have been a few redwings knocking around but not fieldfares.  The numbers of deer keds this year has been huge, annoying flies which are quite difficult to get hold of.  On some days there have been dozens meaning quite a bit of time devoted to catching and squashing.

Following a visit to Firwood by Brian and Sandy Coppins I am going to declare the old wooden bench in front of the chalet an unofficial Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).  For some time now I have been aware of the good number of lichens that have made their home on this bench but, not being expert enough to identify them, I’ve just admired them in passing.  Brian put his vast knowledge of lichens to work and whist here made a list of all the species present and arrived at the impressive total of 22, one of which (Micarea coppinsii) bares his name as he was the first person to 
find and describe it in 1992.  Not sure if the number of species is linked to the quality of the oak wood making up the bench but it was bought by us way back in 1973 when we moved to work and live on the Isle of Rum when it was installed, with plenty of cushions, in the house as our ‘setee’!  It moved with us to Loch Garten where eventually it became our outside bench and has followed this life ever since, moving to its present home in about 1990.  For a wooden bench to survive so long living outside (38 of its 43 years) and still be strong enough for me to stand on occasionally when cleaning the chalet windows seems pretty remarkable and is probably the reason that so many lichens have made it their home.  Details below:-
Bacidia neosquamulosa, Bryoria fuscescens, Buellia griseovirens, Evernia prunastri, Hypogymnia physodes, Lecanora farinaria, Lecanora pulicaris, Lecanora symmicta, Lecidella carpathica, Lepraria incana s. lat., Melanelixia subaurifera, Micarea coppinsii, Ochrolechia microstictoides, Parmelia saxatilis, Parmelia sulcate, Placynthiella icmalea, Platismatia glauca, Protoparmelia oleagina, Trapeliopsis flexuosa, Usnea subfloridana, Violella fucata and Xylographa parallela.

Doreen Owen
Early in October we received some very sad news which brought to an end a friendship dating back to our work at Loch Garten in 1977.  The sad news was that Doreen Owen had died just a few months after her husband John.  See the Firwood blog link below which covers the amazing things John and Doreen did to add to our knowledge of beetles and other insects living on the reserve.  During the last couple of years Doreen had been most helpful in chatting over some links to their work as an RSPB work colleague worked through the immense task of writing a book about the history and natural history of Abernethy Forest.  Doreen’s passing also brings to an end perhaps one of the most remarkable eras of voluntary work on Abernethy Reserve and possibly across many other RSPB reserves.  At the same time that John and Doreen were visiting, another UK expert, Peter Orton visited the reserve, annually, to record fungi.  John’s beetle list topped 900 species and Peter’s 750, both totals only achieved by regular, dedicated visits.  Will their likes be seen again?  Our thoughts are with David, Robert and Tom at this sad time.
Stewart and Janet

General Wade
OS six-inch series 1843-1882
Roy’s Maps
Malaise trap and other collecting/recording equipment
John and Doreen Owen
Leeds and Liverpool Canal bicentenary
Skipton Castle
Mapmate recording database
NBN Gateway
Fungal Records Database of Britain and Ireland (FRDBI)
BSBI – Botanical Society of the British Isles
Highland Biological Recording Group (HBRG)
and how to join HBRG
River Feshie - but who is the man in the bubble?
Pink-feet overhead
Accrington Pals display - Broadway Accrington
"We will remember"
Photos © Stewart Taylor

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Goodbye swallows hello redwings

Summer arrived late this year.  Compared to April, May and June when the winds were generally from a northerly direction, July, August and September benefitted from winds regularly from the south-south-west and much warmer weather.  September was particularly good with the temperature 
One of the first spiders webs covered in dew
for the first 15 days averaging 19.50C, the highlight being 250C on 15th!  Despite our good weather, the first pinkfeet were passing overhead on the 15th and a late curlew was heard flying east the same morning.  Even though this day was very warm, a cool night ensured we had a typically, misty September morning so I combined a tooth fungi check near Loch Mallachie with a camera outing to 
Loch Mallachie
photograph the water droplet covered spiders webs and I wasn’t disappointed.  A misty Loch Mallachie didn’t disappoint either.  Progress was slow and, as I walked the sun started to burn through the mist and spiders webs became even more photogenic.  However, this was a morning to check the last of the rarer tooth fungi sites and there was huge disappointment when the main site in 
Hydnellum cumulatum on track
and the nearby spiders web
Abernethy Forest for Hydnellum cumulatum (new to the UK in 2001) produced no records.  Nearby Phellodon niger and Hydnellum aurantiacum where found in almost the exact same locations as in 2011 and all was not lost re H. cumulatum as I knew of another site close by that might still support the fungus despite quite a lot of trackside vegetation encroachment.  Despite not having checked this location since 2012, the fungus was still present at two of the three locations and, looking up, there was an amazing glowing spiders web, back-lit by the strengthening sun.  I have no doubt that this will be the only UK record for this fungus this year. 

Local moth expert Mike had also suggested that with the very warm southerly winds mid-month we should remain alert to the possible arrival of migrant moths and butterflies.  Certainly, red admirals were being encountered but the real surprise came when I saw Aileen in the village who told me that she had seen the biggest ever moth on her windowsill the night before.  My “do you have a photo?” query saw one arrive by email that evening and despite going through my moth book a couple of 
Convolvulus hawk-moth - copyright Aileen MacEwan
times I wasn’t sure what it was.  Initially I thought it looked like a dark arches (Apamea monoglypha) which is quite a big moth, but the moth in the photo lacked the distinctive ‘W’ markings on the outer edge of the wings of that species.  The photo also lacked any other feature by which to determine how big was “the biggest ever” moth.  Another run through the moths field guide didn’t help so as a last resort I went on to the brilliant UK Moths website and clicked on the systematic list under the Species tab and worked my way down to the start of the bigger moths (beyond the micros) and when I arrived at the Family Lasiocampidae, I was able to click on links to photos.  Could it be a hawk-
Painted lady
Red admiral
moth?  Checking the moth book hadn’t led me to this group despite it being the first I checked but, clicking onto convolvulus hawk-moth (Agrius convolvuli) I saw a likeness of the characteristic features, mainly because there was a similar photo of the moth with wings closed, and this was confirmed a little later by expert Mike.  Phew!  Garden arrivals were painted lady and red admiral butterflies.

In August I met up with three SNH staff regarding a planned visit towards the end of September to a couple of sites in RSPB Abernethy Forest.  The visit was aimed at showing a larger staff group the effects of disturbance in the landscape both natural and man-made and my link was to the latter and the reason why most tooth fungi are found associated with tracks and small quarries linked to them.  The effects of natural disturbance would be covered by visiting a section of the River Nethy where heavy winter rains had caused major changes to the course of the river.  The August visit was aimed at visiting the possible sites so that an agenda for the later outing could be prepared.  At the first site lots of tooth fungi were seen along with deadwood creation and the group were well impressed by what they saw overlooking the River Nethy.  Heading back to our cars from the latter site 
Exobasidium splendidum?
Exobasidium splendidum?
lichen/fungus man Dave spotted a group of cowberry plants (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) which had been turned completely red by a fungus attack and he queried whether this was linked to the common fungus on cowberry - Exobasidium vaccinia or cowberry redleaf.  I said I wasn’t sure but the reddened plants were something I regularly encountered in the forest though E. vaccinia was a fungus I knew created concave leaves on the living plant and with the lower surface white-felted with the reproductive part of the fungus, much different to what we were seeing.  Dave took a few photos to check.  An email the next day informed me that the reddened cowberry plants could be linked to another fungus going by the name of Exobasidium splendidum, a brilliant name for this bright red fungus.  However, there were few records for it and there were problems identifying it but if I had time, could I return to the site and collect a specimen to send off to the experts at Kew.  This I did but 
Cowberry red leaf left & others
and more of the same or, perhaps, different?
in making my way back to my car I wandered away from the track, seeing if I could locate more red infected plants as I walked.  The cowberry redleaf fungus was everywhere and I had no problem finding it as I walked.  At the site where I collected the totally red infected plants I realised that they were around the base of the Scots pine, almost tightly so, and as I walked I checked the bases of more pines.  In the few hundred metres between my first find and my car I found another seven infected plants, the red plants growing at the bases of the pines and growing quite happily with non-infected plants.  A few more specimens were collected to send off.  Back home I tried to find fungal spores but was unsuccessful, but reading the literature and checking the various websites I found there were just four records for E. splendidum in the UK and that it wasn’t formally assessed re rarity, but potentially Critically Endangered.  Did I have the right species?  In a few hundred metres I had almost doubled the total of known UK locations for the fungus so I awaited the results from Kew with interest.  Brian at Kew did some amazing work with the specimens and with very limited other 
Blaeberry bumblebee (Bombus monticola) found the same day
material to compare with suggested that we were possibly dealing with Exobasidium spendidum but it could also be E. juelianum or a species that has yet to be fully described.  Complex sequencing will be the only way to get to the bottom of this group of species and with more material at home drying, there could be more work to be done to arrive at the true species.  I think this just confirms the complexity of some of these closely related species, and this is for just one plant species.  There’s a lot more out there that is in need of more work so hopefully, one day……..

A phone call from Gus in the village alerted me to the possibility that one of our most deadly fungi could be growing in Grantown.  The local Strathy newspaper editor had been in contact about the destroying angel fungus (Amanita virosa) and because he knew little about it had contacted me to see if I could help.  I had only ever seen this fungus once before in 2012 but was familiar with what it looked like and its key features and hoped that the general location details supplied by the editor might let me see it again, so, off I went to Grantown.  I walked the track where the fungus was supposed to have been seen and did manage to find a similar looking white fungus but growing from deadwood and in another place something that might have been the false death-cap, a member of the same family but not quite so deadly.  But no destroying angels.  I began to think that there had been a misidentification by someone unfamiliar with the fungus but when the editor supplied a poor photo of what had been found along with the name of the finder, I knew we were dealing with the real thing.  
The Grantown destroying angel
The editor was working to a tight deadline so I supplied what information I had about the fungus along with a photo of my 2012 find and thought that was that.  An informative write-up appeared in the newspaper warning readers to be careful if collecting mushrooms to eat, along with the poor photo (the fungus was on its side and a bit out of focus) to accompany the article.  Returning to Grantown for a bag of bird food a couple of days after the paper was published I was tempted back to the path through the woods to see if I might have more luck finding the fungus via a slightly wider search.  People walking their dogs must have wondered what I was up to as I wandered back and forth, but there, perhaps two or three times the distance into the wood than reported, was a white fungus with a slightly bent stem (stipe) and also displaying the ‘ring’ on the stem, characteristic of this fungus.  The ring is the remains of a covering that enclosed the gills when the fungus was young (look at the button type mushrooms in the supermarket) and as the cap expands the cover tears 
The Boat of Garten version
resulting in the floppy ring around the stem.  Close by was another specimen and on the bank below were the decaying remains of another four, one of which might have provided the original photo.  The information that was correct said ‘growing under a beech tree’.  Heavy rain between my visits might have been responsible for the two fresh specimens emerging.  Would there be anything to see at the site found in 2012?  Next day I was on site but couldn’t find anything in the gap amongst the birches and aspens where first found.  However, nearby, and protected a little by the branches of a fallen tree were two fruiting bodies but both well past their best and starting to disintegrate.  A few metres away 
Amanita virosa spores x1000 oil

though another specimen was found and this was in good order and with all key features still visible.  A small section of one of the decaying fungi was carefully popped into a tube so the spores could be checked once home.  Lots of washing of hands followed as gills were removed, sectioned and squashed to provide a view of the spores under the microscope.  New photos were forwarded to the Strathy editor allowing a second article to be written showing the deadly fungus in situ emphasising just how similar it looks to similar sized edible species.

4th September 2016 and I did it.  A late afternoon walk to stretch my legs saw me wander off track and into ‘stump land’, an area which initially I had written off as unsuitable to check for the stump lichen.  The further into the thicket of natural regeneration of birch and Scots pine I walked the more open it became and the stumps from the felling of lodgepole pines in 2000/2001 appeared.  Location number 49 was found quite quickly but it took quite a bit more wandering to find another occupied 
stump. After 138 stumps checked (this outing) my 50th location for Cladonia botrytes was found.  Once again I had to phone Janet to say sorry, I was going to be late for my evening meal as measurements and photos had to be taken.  The number of locations for this lichen in Abernethy Forest has now passed the total known within the UK spanning the period 1955 to 2015 (x30) but because the stumps supporting the lichen are usually in an advanced state of decay, few of these survive today.  I have no doubt that there are more to be found in Abernethy but 50 will be enough for now!  More work though was to follow.  The editor of The British Lichen Society’s members Bulletin had issued an urgent request for articles for the next edition and the experts that had helped me 
The 50th population of the stump lichen
identify my first finds had also suggested a write up would be very helpful.  So, it was time to put pen to paper, sort all my records into order along with stump details (sizes/heights) and to match up my photos to my finds.  Drafts were circulated and comments acted upon and with the final draft signed off by Sandy Coppins (thank you), text and photos were sent to Paul to incorporate into the next Bulletin.  Not sure that the 20-odd photos will all be used but hopefully enough will be used to reflect the range of stumps occupied by the lichen.

After an early start on the 18th to set up Janet’s craft stall in Aviemore I headed up to the carpark on Cairngorm to try once again to find plants of bog bilberry (Vaccinium uliginosum) which had been turned bright red by the fungus Exobasidium expansum.  The route I was following was a wee burn 
Bog bilberry & Exobasidium pachysporum fungus
running below and adjacent to the funicular railway whose occupants must have wondered who the strange chap was wandering about below them, especially if I was there on their trip up the mountain AND down!  Because the plants in this area are close to areas visited by the public many grow quite well when compared to the deer nibbled plants a little further out on the hill.  Many plants were covered with the fungus I’d found on previous visits, Exobasidium pachysporum, a species classed as rare in the UK but probably under-recorded.  As I wandered higher up the burn the plants started to 
Peacock butterfly
peter out so the single recent record for the fungus in the UK remains.  I made my way to areas bulldozed flat all those years ago when Cairngorm started to develop as a ski area and the first 
Interrupted (top) & alpine clubmoss (bottom)
surprise was finding a peacock butterfly sitting on the ground enjoying the sun (the temperature was 150C!) but when it realised I was close by taking its photo it rose into the air and kept on rising just like a bird of prey.  Perhaps it was a recent migrant arrival?  Plants of the clubmoss family were the other highlight with stag’s-horn, interrupted and alpine species found growing fairly close together.  Time to descend and help Janet to pack up after a none too productive day.

Late in the month the last visit to the Osmia inermis trial nest site near Blair Atholl was made on yet another warm, sunny day, weather that wasn’t too kind on this bee and other insects earlier in the summer.  The orange, ceramic saucers, installed to see if the bee would find them suitable as nesting 
Nest site saucer in place
A disappointing end
sites were searched for, inspected and removed as this was the end of the two year project.  At the first site, a bit of limestone outcrop, saucer after saucer was checked but without any having been used.  Quite a disappointment and with the fifty saucers collected we made our way back to the car.  The second site which is again slightly lime-rich, comprises an area of bird’s-foot trefoil rich heathland and the last site in the UK where the wee bee was known to be breeding (old nest found 2008).  Sadly, nothing was found at this site either and with all the potential nesting saucers now removed it is debatable whether another artificial nest creation project will be considered.  Ideally, site visits during hot, sunny weather in June to early July would be best to watch for the bee visiting flowers, but with a trip each way of around 80 miles and the guarantee of sunny weather when there make this type of visit fairly impractical.

As the autumn colours were becoming evident across the countryside the last of the BSBI recording tetrads was visited early in the month.  This outing took me back to Glen Markie, west of Laggan, with the aim of trying to visit a deep gorge along the River Markie (seen on an earlier recording visit) to see if there might be a few lichens of interest along with plants.  A couple of surprises were found by the track.  In the track-side grass I could see a tiny yellow, spindle-shaped fungus, an indicator of a fairly rich grassland habitat, and a guess that these were known as the ‘handsome club’ (Clavulinopsis laeticolor) was confirmed once back home.  The second fungus was a much bigger 
The 'handsome club' fungus
surprise - two fruiting bodies of the tooth fungus, Sarcodon squamosus, which was new to that area.  The boggy area between track and river produced records of the usual plant species and as I reached the river I could see that I would have fun trying to get into the gorge despite the fact that I was about half a mile down river from it!  In places there was accessible boulder strewn riverbank but most of the side of the river was sheer rock outcrops, not very high but not very easy to get on to check.  Plants from the higher, mountain sections of the river were evident, mountain sorrel (Oxyria digyna
River Markie
Mountain sorrel
and tea-leaved willow (Salix phylicifolia) along with several aspens growing from rocky areas where they had escaped browsing deer.  Close to the main section of the gorge I found an accessible section with a good mix of tree species, including hazel and aspen and some nice, damp sections of rock, which looked right for one of the lichens I was hoping for: Peltigera britannica.  Sure enough, several small populations were found along with its rarer relative Peltigera leucophlebia, which is often found along river-sides.  Rocks on the other side of the river looked very interesting and would be much more accessible but it just wasn’t possible to get across.  One for the future.  As I made my way back down the track to my car, parked by Spey Dam, lots of mistle thrushes were in the trees and adjacent fields, but it would be much later in the month before the first redwings would appear.  
Peltigera britannica top & leucophlebia bottom
Recording visits completed all that was left to do was get all my records into Mapmate, ready for forwarding to Andy to add to the 2016 report for the Park and to forward to the BSBI database.  My recording outings this year had produced 5700 plant records (I’ve yet to work out how many species) adding to a current ongoing total from all recorders of 23,400.  Over the three years of the project, but with a few more records still due for this year, an impressive total of just over 75,000 plants were recorded by the 10-15 recorders, comprising just over 1000 plant species, quite an amazing result.  It has been a great project to have been involved in which shows the real benefits of targeted area recording, but the biggest ‘thank-you’ has to go to Andy Amphlett who organised the project, kept everyone informed of progress, and highlighted some of the rarer species to keep an eye open for whilst out in the field.

And lastly, thanks has to go to Janet’s sewing machine for a great outing right at the end of the month.  Due its annual service we dropped the machine off in Fochabers before making our way to Spey Bay just a few miles up the road.  Cool and a bit breezy we made our way out over the pebble ‘beach’ to the shore to be met by many gannets fishing just off-shore.  Perhaps a combination of a high tide and a fresh run of water down the River Spey after recent rains had brought the fish close to the shore, but as we watched gannet after gannet plunged into the sea in front of us attracted by a plentiful food supply.  So, out came the camera and, after several attempt the technique was established to capture some of them during their spectacular dive process.  We hope you agree.

One of many sets of photos!
Hm! Don't know what all the fuss is about!

Enjoy the read.

Stewart and Janet

UK Moths
and, for convolvulus hawk-moth
Destroying angel Firwood blog
Fungus rings via photos
British Lichen Society – and The Lichenologist
Osmia inermis
July 2015 blog first Osmia inermis visit
Mapmate recording database
NBN Gateway
Fungal Records Database of Britain and Ireland (FRDBI)
BSBI – Botanical Society of the British Isles
Highland Biological Recording Group (HBRG)
and how to join HBRG

Chanterelles near 'the gorge'
Grandson Archie's photo of dung beetle rolling rabbit dropping
A daytime moon

Photos © Stewart Taylor