Archive for the ‘Who Has Seen What’ Category

Nacreous Clouds, February 2016, Near Tain

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

The early evening of 1st February was a good time for seeing NACREOUS CLOUDs.  Storm Henry was all around us with heavy rainfall and high winds, but for a time in the late afternoon  areas of clear sky were seen.

The date and the time were right for a very low sun when people were out and about, and as DISCUSSED HERE the presence of stormy weather and jetstream activity may have helped these clouds to form.

Near Tain Nacreous Clouds were seen by Russell who sent us this picture, taken on 1st February and by Pat who saw them on the 29th of January.

Nacreous Cloud, by RussellClick to view


Who has seen what? May and July 2015

Friday, July 17th, 2015

Our comon friends, the Juniper and the Hawthorn, share a fungal pest which requires both these plants be present and near enough to each other to allow transport of fungal spores from one to the other.

JuniperGall#1-DSC08556Click image to view

Gymnosporangium spore forming bodies on Juniper seen each spring at Ardgay.

Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae is the fungal pest which in turn attacks Juniper, then Hawthorn.  Juniper is infected in mid to late summer by spores created within galls on Hawthorn.  After over-wintering spring moisture causes Gymnosporangium galls to form on the Juniper.  Spores from the Juniper infect the Hawthorn.  This heteroecious cycle repeats.

HawthornGall#1-DSC08886Click image to viewGalls which form each summer on Hawthorn at Ardgay.


Heteroecious: noun/adjective, parasites (esp rust fungi) undergoing different stages of the life cycle on different host species. Compare Autoecious.

Who has seen what? 30/06/2016

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

Seen beside a local road – Roadkill ?

Coming back home from the Struie Road; a dead bird to one side. It was medium size-ish but colourfull yet whiteish under-neath.  Curious as to what it was, this is what I found to photograph:-

DSCF3215cBack View

What is it?
Why it’s a young Cuckoo.
The first I have ever seen in the hand as it were. Sadly dead probably hit by a car.
DSCF3214cBack View
What struck me though was the beautiful colouration of the bird, I knew they were brownish but not how lovely. Lets hope that some more fledged and are able to come and brighten up our spring next year.
June 2015

Surfing Otter?

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

An otter has been photographed running into the waves on a beach on Sutherland’s far north coast. [See HERE]

Gavin Ward captured the image while having a picnic with his wife Pam at Torrisdale Bay, near Bettyhill, on Saturday.

Several surfers were out in the sea at the time.

Surfing Otter at Torrisdale BayClick image to view

Scotland's North Coast

Mrs Ward said: “I saw something running down the beach towards the sea. It was absolutely a surprise, and a brilliant one at that.”

Mr Ward managed to get some shots of the otter before it reached the water and disappeared.

Torrisdale Bay is a hotspot for UK surfers.

Whooper Swans near Fearn Aerodrome

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

A huge build up of Whooper Swans (Cygnus cygnus) at the moment in the Loch Eye area. 2726 counted today. Around 2400 are on the Clay of Allan, along with a Black Swan and lots of geese. Another 130 down towards Kildary and 190 near Portmahomack. Thanks to Bob for the info.

Whooper Swans near Nigg, Nov 2014Click image to view


Mushroom with slug / worm eggs?

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

In a good year for mushrooms Chanterelles were a target for the menu on Wednesday, 27th August 2014.  After years of finding mushrooms this example turned up – not before seen by us here nor anywhere.

The black eggs are …… ?  There may be an answer at iSpot.

Chantarelle with Slug Eggs?  Or Worm Eggs?Click image to view



EDIT 30/08/2014: There are responses which indicate the black blob objects on the mushroom are a slime mold; iSpot likely belonging to the group Myxomycetes or plasmodial slime molds, possibly Leocarpus fragilis (1), (2), and elsewhere, astonishingly similar to Leocarpus: Trichia decipiens.

In 2012 I asked about ‘insect eggs’ in tree bark. Maybe that was a similar slime mold!

Keep checking this post to see if an answer emerges.

Leucistic Siskin

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

Seen on several days by Russell, at Cartomi, Edderton; a Leucistic Siskin. Continue reading “Leucistic Siskin” »

Badger work – bee nests opened

Thursday, July 31st, 2014
We were out down our lane on Saturday and we saw 3 holes dug in the banks of the lane.

I think that they were by Badgers, we get them about this time every year. Last year 1 was in the garden.

One of the holes pictured was for Bumblebee nests.

The other was for a wasps nest, not so dug out this one as you can see from the photo

I wonder if the wasps were too much for the badger. There was not much left of the bumblebee nests just a few bumblebees in the holes.

RussellBadgerdugholes1344Click image to viewBadgerdugholes1344

2014, July, Noctilucent Clouds

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014, and other observers, predicted that Noctilucent Clouds may be visible in early July 2014. From Ardgay the evening sky “just looked right/promising”.

In the night of 7th July both Phil in Ardgay and Pat in Balintore were, for an unknown reason, looking at the northern sky and saw noctilucent clouds at about 01:30 +/-. The view was basically to the north, in Ardgay slightly eastward.

Here are their proofs:

2014, July 7 Noctilucent Clouds by Pat RaeClick image to view

2014, July 7 Noctilucent Clouds by Phil

Simplified Geometry for observing NLC’s

Noctilucent Cloud Sighting Geometry has this to say about Noctilucent Clouds:

NLCs are Earth’s highest clouds. Seeded by “meteor smoke,” they form at the edge of space 83 km above Earth’s surface. When sunlight hits the tiny ice crystals that make up these clouds, they glow electric blue.

In the northern hemisphere, July is the best month to see them. NLCs appear during summer because that is when water molecules are wafted up from the lower atmosphere to mix with the meteor smoke. That is also, ironically, when the upper atmosphere is coldest, allowing the ice crystals of NLCs to form.

The natural habitat of noctilucent clouds is the Arctic Circle. In recent years, however, they have spread to lower latitudes with sightings as far south as Utah and Colorado. This will likely happen in 2014 as well. Observing tips: Look west 30 to 60 minutes after sunset when the Sun has dipped 6o to 16o below the horizon. If you see blue-white tendrils zig-zagging across the sky, you may have spotted a noctilucent cloud.

It seems our ’sunset / sunrise’ lasts all night as far as seeing phenomena like noctilucent clouds.  It just remains for you be awake, there to be few obscuring clouds, and tiny ice crystals at just the right position between you and the sun.

Moonwort, Botrychium lunaria

Monday, May 19th, 2014

Moonwort, Botrychium lunaria, is presently abundant on Nigg dunes, as seen by David.

If you haven’t seen Moonwort (Botrychium lunaria) the small grassland fern, it is present in profusion at Nigg dunes at the moment (NH 802 689).
It is easiest to find along the edges of the path in the slightly loner grass areas.
Single Moonwort among grasses - by David #1Click image to view

2014 Aspen Catkins

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

It is not since 2010 that breeding Aspen has been seen locally – SEE HERE.  On April 14, 2014 a single Aspen was seen near Ardgay with a good display of male catkins.

2014 Aspen Male Flowers, ArdgayClick image to view

There are many Aspen stems in the area but none other than this one show any sign of catkin flowers.  It may be time to start noting whether any other Aspen will flower this year.

April 19; about 200m away from the Aspen stem above another showed signs of catkins (photo below).  These are female flowers and are so far restricted to only a few upper branches.

19 April 2014, Aspen with female catkinsClick image to view

19 April 2014, Aspen with female catkins19 April 2014, Aspen with female catkins, Ardgay

Russell has seen female Aspen flowers in Edderton, see below:

2014 Female Aspen Flowers at Edderton DSCF0095cClick image to view

2014 Female Aspen Flowers at Edderton, by Russell

Contact us if you see any flowering Aspen; take photos and note the date and location/grid reference.

Waxwings in Tain, March 2013

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Sylvia Park managed to take photos of Waxwings in March.

Waxwings in treeClick image to view


2013 – Frog Spawn Appears

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

13th March and finally we see our local frog spawn at Oldtown, Ardgay.  In the sun the water / jelly temperature was 10.5 deg C ; underneath, 6 cm down on the bottom, it was 4.5 deg C.

FrogSpawn on 13th March 2013Click image to view

Snow lying around frog spawn pool
Snow lying around frog spawn pool
Snow lying around frog spawn pool

Cloud Iridescence

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Before dawn on 12th January, 2012 observant watchers of the southeastern sky would have seen two persistent, small clouds which held the imagination.  They were of a lenticular shape but their colour was classic ‘mother of pearl’.

2012-01-12-Iridescent-01Viewed from Tain.Click image to view

3463-first-sightViewed from Ardgay.

These clouds were very bright even though sunrise was 20 or 30 minutes away.  This timing and the presence of other small, low, very dark clouds in the same view indicated these iridescent clouds were, from a very high position, catching (and refracting) sunlight that the darker, lower clouds were not.

An additional special feature was virga below both clouds.  This developed as one watched and succeeded the clouds, being faintly visible after the original cloud was all but vanished.

Additionally, a clear anvil developed at the top of one cloud – shown in the picture gallery by clicking an image.

There are a few names that could be attached to these clouds: Lenticular, Nacreous, Polar Stratospheric, Iridescent.

Nacreous clouds typically look very filamentous and cover wide areas of the sky, and have the same mother of pearl colouring seen here and are similarly very high in the sky, visible after sunset or before sunrise.

Iridescent clouds are ‘normal’ but sunlight passes through them at the precise angle to display a spectrum of colour, as in this case.  The spectrum can be affected by the cloud composition as well – that may be water droplets, ice crystals, or nitric or sulfuric acids in water.

Here are some references for these types of cloud:

Iridescent Clouds

Polar Stratospheric Clouds, or also Nacreous Clouds

Cloud Iridescence

Virga , or fallstreaks, or precipitation shafts

Lenticular Clouds, HERE or HERE

This whole cloud performance was over in 15 minutes.  Watchers before or after would have no idea what took place.

EPOD ( a service of NASA’s Earth Science Division and the EOS Project Science Office (at Goddard Space Flight Center), and the Universities Space Research Association ) has suggested that these clouds were Nacreous Clouds and they have published David’s photo as their photo of the day on Valentine’s Day – see comment, below, of 15th February.

Visible virga
From Ardgay, start of virga

First Frog Spawn – 2012

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

Please let us know of early sightings of frog spawn in Sutherland or Ross-shire.

Mating frogs by Sadie, March 2011Send a comment from the box below.

Please report your first sighting this year and where that was.

If you are checking for early frog spawn and want to report it please add a comment below with date and location with these details, (minimum essentials shown in bold):

Place (a name from an OS map is best)
OS Grid Ref
Person who recorded this
Notes e.g habitat details, time, altitude
Please take a few minutes more and record your observation on the Amphibian & Reptile Conservation web site:
HERE.  Every single observation helps build the bigger picture.