Exploring Quinag: insect survey, June 2022

July 20th 2022

Exploring Quinag: insect survey, June 2022

Our knowledge of the insect life of Quinag is very patchy, with the emphasis on groups that can be identified on the wing, such as butterflies and dragonflies.  So, we were pleased that Stephen Moran of the Highland Biological Recording Group, a long-time friend of the Assynt Field Club, was able to spend a couple of days recording here on 4th and 5th June 2022.

Stephen’s particular interests are bugs (Heteroptera) and hoppers (Homoptera), but also include barklice (Psocoptera), beetles (Coloeoptera) and a selection of groups from other orders.  Apart from traditional sampling techniques such as sweeping and beating, he also employs a ‘bug hoover’, a two-stroke leaf-blower modified to suck rather than blow, to investigate the smaller invertebrates of grassy swards and other vegetation.  My duties on these occasions include noting observations and specimens retained, and naming any spiders that come to hand.  

Full lists will be appended when identifications have been completed, but this account is posted to give the flavour of his visit.

We met at the Boat Bay car park (NC201260) on 4th, where we logged the snail-hunting ground beetle Cychrus caraboides and the millipede Ommatoiulus sabulosus, before moving on just down the road.  

Doire Cuilinn

Our first stop was the old road and quarry just to the west of the Allt na Doire Cuilinn (NC207258).  This was followed by a brief excursion across the burn, then on to an area of disturbed ground containing a large goat willow (NC207257).  Small pearl-bordered fritillaries were flying on the banks of the river, with small heaths and common heath moths.  We also received unwanted attention from huge deer warble flies (photos 1-3).  

Stephen caught sight of a young wood mouse amongst rocks in the quarry.  This mammal is under-recorded in Assynt away from populated areas, where it is caught by cats and in mouse traps.

The afternoon of 4th was spent sampling tall herb vegetation and shrubs in Gwen Richards’s garden ground at Torbreck, which will be the subject of a separate report.

Allt a’Ghamhna 

The following day, 5th June, in the continuing and very welcome sunshine (after a very wet May), we visited two sites on the northern side of Quinag. 

The first stop was the ‘unofficial’ car park above the Allt a’Ghamhna (NC214321).  It has been a dumping ground for the products of road maintenance over many years.  These include left-over tarmac, tipped down a south-facing slope, and now well-vegetated.  It probably contains crushed limestone since, as elsewhere, it has colonised with wild thyme, the focus of attention for at least 10 small pearl-bordered fritillaries, and a variety of other insects (photos 4-8).  

After sampling this site, we enjoyed a leisurely lunch looking up at Quinag.  Stephen then took his sweep net and beating tray down the road to the bridge over the river (NC213322).  Here, roadside aspens and hazels, rowans and downy birches in the riverside woodland added a different dimension to the lists.

Unapool Bridge

The second stop was a small section of the former single-track road either side of the fine old bridge over the Unapool Burn (NC235303).  This was built when the first roads were cut through the local landscape in the 1820s and fortunately preserved when the road was doubled some 150 years later.  The vegetation here is quite species-rich compared with adjoining moorland and yielded a useful short list, including fast-flying black and white argent and sable moths (photos 9-10).  

Ian M. Evans

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