Not Just Litter
We have all seen discarded bottles and cans lying on grass verges and in ditches along roadsides in Assynt. Apart from being unsightly, they are also a death trap for insects, and small mammals such as shrews. First the insects crawl in, cannot get out, and die; then the smaller mammals are attracted to the rotting remains and they too crawl in and, if the bottle or can is at the wrong angle, they are trapped.
Ian Evans retrieved a Stella Artois bottle from just off the roadside at Bad an Dioboirich, Glenleraig (NC159317) on 16th March 2013 and sieved the contents, see photograph. These turned out to be mainly beetle ‘armour’, some bits of which he could identify, the larger ones being from:
• 3 Carabus glabratus (ground beetle), the biggest in the photo;
Sieved contents of discarded bottle. Click for larger image
Continue reading Not Just Litter
Grey Seal Pup Stoer Beach Photo B. Cook
On 4th November 2012 Bob Cook from Stoer spotted this Grey Seal pup on the beach at Stoer Bay.
He did the correct thing and did not touch it, which could have led to problems had its mother still been around, instead he took its photo and contacted Andy Summers, Highland Council’s Senior Ranger.
From the photo and information provided by Bob it was clear that the pup had been weaned and was on its own but in poor condition being thin and slightly emaciated. Given its condition it may be that the seal would have needed to be passed to the SSPCA but it did not hang around long enough for that decision to be made; by the time Andy reached Stoer the pup had made its own way back to the sea and swam off.
This is slightly early
Continue reading Grey Seal Pup on Stoer Beach
On 25th June Fiona Logan, a visitor to Assynt, discovered a sadly near death Cuckoo Ray Raja naevus stranded on the beach at Achmelvich. She took these great photographs of this captivating ray.
Cuckoo Ray Achmelvich Beach. Photo F. Logan
Cuckoo Rays are one of the rarest european rays and live on clean seabeds in depths from 20 – 150 metres. They are found from the north of Scotland and southern Norway down the Atlantic coast and North Sea into the west of the Mediterranean Sea. The ‘eyes’ on the wings are diagnostic.
The young feed on shrimps and worms while the adult’s diet is young fish, they grow to a length of 70cms.
Cuckoo Ray Achmelvich Beach. Photo F. Logan
When Andy Summers, the Highland Council Ranger, visited the following day there was no sign of the ray.
Continue reading Cuckoo Ray on Achmelvich Beach
Orcas around Assynt
Since first being sighted off Stoer Head Lighthouse on 18th June a pod of up to eight Orcas, or Killer Whales, has regularly been seen off Clachtoll, Raffin and Culkein Stoer. However on 27th June Leigh Sedgley, who operates Living the Dream food van at the Lighthouse car park, had a superb view of a huge adult male and a much smaller female.
Both animals were just out from the rocks below the car park and at one point the female swam between the rocks, perhaps looking for the Common Seals which are regularly seen there.
Orcas off Stoer Head Lighthouse. Large upright fin is male known as 'Hulk' with a smaller female behind. Photo L. Sedgley
Leigh was able to take some photographs which she sent to the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust in Tobermory. The dorsal fins on Orcas are useful identification aids as
Continue reading Orcas around Assynt
This photograph shows a Garden Snail Helix aspersa found by field club member Clarinda in her garden at Strathan early in May 2012. Although garden snails are almost ubiquitous around human habitation and on ‘waste ground’ in England, they are much scarcer in Scotland where they are almost entirely restricted to the coast. It is readily recognised when adult by its size (over 2.5cm) and broken brown bands following the whorls (although this one does not show the pattern well).
Garden Snail – Helix aspersa Photo by Clarinda
There are a few records from Assynt, where it was noted in the 1990s at Drumbeg, Clashnessie and around Lochinver. However, this may be the first Assynt record this millenium! It is almost certainly regularly re-introduced into Assynt with plants, but it is uncertain whether these introductions last long. There is a very flourishing population, however, further north, in a wall near
Continue reading Garden Snail at Strathan
Live Pictures from a Buzzard Nest! 3 Chicks Hatched!!
If you go down to the Assynt Visitor Centre in Lochinver you will see our local Buzzard sitting on her cliff nest! A small camera has been carefully installed to relay real-time images to the Visitor Centre.
This is a brilliant chance to see the fascinating behaviour of Buzzards at the nest. The female laid three eggs, which is the average, two hatched on 16th May and the third on 18th May.
The parents have been bringing in lots of food. Mostly field voles but we have already seen frogs, slow worms, mice, lizards, two blackbirds and a collard dove. After initial worries that the smallest of the chicks would miss out on the food, they are all doing really well and looking very healthy.
Buzzard chicks on nest
Continue reading Live Pictures from a Buzzard Nest
click on image for larger version – some are upsetting
American mink (Neovison vison) Photo courtesy UKNNSS
The number of American mink (Neovison vison) sightings reported in the northern Highlands has been steadily increasing in the last few years. A badly decomposed carcass was found on a farm on Loch Eriboll, Durness and was confirmed to be an American mink by the University of Aberdeen. By looking at the skull it is possible to identify between mink, ferret and pine marten. Each species’ skull has unique fissure lines and bone plates which can be used to identify a carcass which may have died a long time ago.
Since this discovery in 2011, there have been lots of sightings around Durness, on Loch Eriboll and as far east as Bettyhill. Then, a live mink was captured and humanely destroyed in Assynt near Kylesku. South of Assynt there has
Continue reading Mink in Assynt?
Glue fungus Hymenochaete corrugata from Inverkirkaig
A rare fungus of hazel trees was found recently by Stuart Belshaw at Inverkirkaig. It is called Glue fungus and has only ever been recorded in Assynt four times in the past.
The Glue fungus, Hymenochaete corrugata, is so called because it glues dead hazel twigs to living branches in the canopy, thus preventing them from falling to the ground where they would be available to other fungi to decompose. It is quite a clever way to avoid competition with soil fungi and also other wood rotting species that function in the damper conditions at ground level.
Observational evidence suggests there is a very close association between Glue fungus and the Hazel Gloves fungus. Hazel Gloves is confined to long-standing hazel woods and is a very rare species in world terms; it is a Red Data List and UKBAP priority species. The
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3 Common Frogs mating on the B869 near Loch an Ordain 28th February. Photo by Andy Summers
The first calling Common Frogs of 2012 were reported from Drumbeg on 16th February and then, within a few days, there were many reports of frog spawn – all on the 21st. These reports came from several locations ranging from the flooded cattle grid on the Glencanisp road to a garden pond in Drumbeg; there was also a report of an otter eating frog spawn from a garden pond at Inver Park.
Ian Evans on a ‘frog spawn hunt’ on 22nd February found over 5 clumps in a small pond on the Culkein Drumbeg road and more than 30 clumps in a roadside ditch near the Pollachapuill road. Some of this spawn had been ‘frosted’ which tended to indicate that the spawn had been there for a few days before the 22nd
Continue reading First frog spawn frosted
This 1st winter/spring White-fronted Goose of the Greenland race (Anser albifrons flavirostris) was spotted at Culkein on 28th January by David and Avril Haines.
There have only been two other records of this species of goose in Assynt since 1997.
This bird can be recognised as an immature due to the white blaze at the base of the bill not having yet developed and the indistinct neck groves – the adult Greylag Geese behind show how the neck groves will look on this bird as it ages.