Friday, 28 February 2014

Unidentified Mite

Escaping from egg case. Made no attempt to identify it, but I like the picture. Wish it was sharper and brighter, obviously

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Diary 27th Feb - 5th Mar

27th Feb
Nice spring-ish weather at Cullaloe. Another few leaves in the box for ID, but nothing obviously new and precious few ducks on the water.

I found this in the car park, already lopped off. Pretty, eh? (and doesn't it look like a cultivar? Lots of petals)

Male Fern, Dryopteris filix-mas, also added to the list. Keyed out with Poland

White-legged Snake Millipede, AKA Black millipede, AKA Tachypodoiulus niger turned up from beneath a rock in the woodland. Also the mosses Ulota phyllantha and Rhynchostegium riparioides from compartment 7, the first an epiphyte on Salix sp., the second on the very few rocks in one of the water channels.

Mar 4th
Lunchtime visit turns up Meadowsweet, a common to abundant plant on the reserve (and everywhere else!)

Mar 5th
For the first time in the year I was able to go for half an hour after work, watching the Herring Gulls commute back south to roost as the sky darkened at 6:15pm

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Vascular Vegetation

Elder added to the list - with some nice buds coming through in the early morning sunshine - just prior to the morning rain!

Daffodils are on their way (who knows what variety!), and so are Dandelions, while Ribwort Plantain leaf rosettes are popping up along the verges. There are also a couple of Rumex species (Dock/Sorrel) but I'm still ruminating on those. Poland may have to come off the shelf.

(edit: pulled some leaves out my collection box - Common Sorrel, Rumex acetosa)

Friday, 21 February 2014

Diary 19th-26th feb

Feb 19th
A blustery couple of days with no new additions but lots of emerging greenery. Should lead to a sudden jump of vascular plant recording shortly I predict.

Feb 21st
Hairy Bitter-cress, Cardamine hirsuta, beginning to flower on the path. A first for me, although a common enough plant. NBN shows it just about everywhere, and I have seen it before in lots of places. At least, I suppose I have. There seem to be other candidates that could confuse without close inspection.

Feb 25th
Dropped into the reserve during a sunny lunchtime. Picked up a couple of mosses for closer inspection, but I'm sure they're already listed. The green shoots (... of recovery ...) are well advanced now, and I'll be able to add some of those shortly I hope. The water was strangely quiet with a few Coot and a couple of Tufty hanging about

Feb 26th
A few vegetative additions this morning. Better to get the ones I know out of the way before I have to start keying out plants en masse! I also have a couple of Rumex spp. (Dock/Sorrel) to check out and a thistle leaf which should be identifiable - should I be embarrassed not to know already? Feels like it.

178   Taraxacum officinale agg.   Dandelion
179   Sambucus nigra   Elder
180   Plantago lanceolata   Ribwort Plantain
181   Narcissus sp.   Daffodil

Hairy Bitter-cress

Cardamine hirsuta, Hairy Bitter-cress 


Growing on the path  - don't worry - there's plenty more where that came from. This is not a species which was on the reserve list. Maybe it was past in the annual cycle before any plant surveying was done? Or it could be an artefact of the new gravel path providing a suitable habitat.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Creeping Cinquefoil, Potentilla reptans

Having become used to seeing this at Cullaloe and other places, I assumed that it was pretty common. Now I look at the BSBI atlas online I see that it's on the northern edge of it's range in Fife, give or take the stragglers, although within its range it is common, I suppose.


Diary 12th-18th Feb

Feb 17th
A long weekend away and rain meant no visits until the 17th, when it was raining.There are leaves of various kinds emerging all over the place. There are about 200 snowdrop clusters on the banking from the car park, and the path is lined with daisies coming into flower. Greenfinch added to year list, singing from usual place beside the cottages.

Feb 18th
Didymodon insulanus found on the filter bed concrete and not previously recorded finishes the week on 176 species

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Didymodon insulanus

I thought I was just photographing this for the record, but it seems that it isn't a species we picked up on the recording meet, so I need to check it out. Looks OK to me, though. (On checking, the ID was fine and we did have it on the list from the recording meet after all!)

Didymodon insulanus, Cylindric Beard-moss

BBS Field Guide page


Brown Hare photographed, finally

This handsome beast was on the banking above the car park this time, so they can be seen all around the reserve really.

Why use Latin names?

A common question asked with respect to identification of various organisms in various groups, and which usually receives the same stock answers. These answers include, but are not limited to, some form of the following:

Why use Latin, rather than common names?
1. They are unique and international whereas one species can have several different vernacular names
2. They convey information about the species
3. Related species are listed together

However, consider how much of this isn't true.

1. They are unique
    > They are hardly unique! In theory, yes. In practice, keeping up with synonyms is an ongoing task. Studies show that scientific names change much faster than "vernacular" names, and if you use resources of various vintages you may need to know several names for an organism.
    > When I say "organism" of course these names may ultimately refer to several species which are later split (e.g. Hypnum cupressiforme), or there may be more than one name for one species which has previously been incorrectly split.
    > Consider that whether it's fungi (Philips) or botany (Stace) you will need the absolute latest to know what the current taxonomy is - assuming it has caught up, and you will probably need an older reference as you speak with people who use former names. By the time a reference is published it is in the process of going out of date and you will in fact need at least periodical literature to keep abreast of changes.

1. They are international
     > This is true at least in written form IF different authorities in different countries agree on standardisation. In practice, for some taxa authorities disagree, so one authority may or may not recognise the divisions of another. In pronunciation, no two people say Latin names the same, so you may have to write it down too.

1. One species can have several different vernacular names
    > Or none. Or one. I saw an Eastern Olivaceous Warblera couple of years ago. A week later it was in a different genus. Fortunately I only have to remember that I saw an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, regardless of what taxnomists do to it. that's not the whole picture, of course, but it's certainly helpful - and at least a split between Eastern and Western Olivaceous Warbler is natural and memorable.

2. They convey information about the species
    > To a degree. On the other hand they may present false information given the frequency of reclassification that has to occur when things are later examined more closely.
   > They also mask information. The British birds we know as "tits" usefully are grouped together in English - they're similar in appearance and this grouping is helpful in the field. They are, however, now all in separate genera, which masks their similarity. (Note, I don't argue the division is unjustified - just that English names in addition are beneficial)

3. Related species are listed together.
    > ... until they aren't. You can only say this with any certainty when you know the species are related absolutely. Which we don't, although our idea of it is improving daily. Compare species order in a Collins bird guide of 2014 with a guide from 10 years previous if you doubt it! Up until the last few years you could say, as a point of fact, "related species are NOT listed together".

Basically then these points are all perfect in theory, in the lab and in maybe even in the future. However they are all at best half truths in fact, in the field and in the present. What could be useful, actually, is a standard English name around which taxonomists can pirouette to their heart's content.

Still, we've only been using this system for a few hundred years, so I'm sure it will come good in the end...

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Diary Feb 5th-11th

Feb 5th
Dusky slug and Kneiff's Feather-moss added from lunchtime visit. Drake Gadwall continues to hang around, along with a flock of Fieldfare, although today that flock also contained some Starlings. Weather continues to be mild (c6 degrees) and overcast/rainy

Feb 6th
Drake Pochard is back. Coot numbers up to 13 (or at least I was able to see 13).

Found healthy colonies of Climacium dendroides and Calliergon cordifolium at the spillway at lunchtime, and another species from the side of the spillway channel which I need to ID. Looks like something I didn't see before (it was Hygroamblystegium tenax, which I'd seen before at Blairadam)

Feb 7th
A lunchtime visit to collect a moss from the eastern leg walltop, as yet unidentified, helped with two additions to the bird list - a Jay screeching from the woods and a Skylark in full song in the wintery sunshine.

Feb 10th
Added Racomitrium ericoides to list from Mossy Barrens. List from the January Bryo meet came out with some new additions for the overall list, including some I don't yet know how to identify

Feb 11th
Last day of this week rained off, with Plagiomnium rostratum, Long-beaked Thyme-moss, added from the field collection box. 174 spp seen, and about 1 per day average required to make 500.

Plagiomnium rostratum

This one was hiding amidst Lophocolea bidentata at the base of the wall in compartment 8

Tuesday, 11 February 2014


Here's a rough idea of the coverage of the reserve so far this year from GPS captures. Other trips have been made with no GPS on but they have more or less covered the same ground. Still a quite large part of the reserve hasn't been visited this year, and the new parts have usually coughed up something new.

Friday, 7 February 2014

The alien landscape of Frullania fruticulosa

This little liverwort is a weird looking thing, especially close up. Here's what it looks like on a tree, and then a selection of microscope views. The leaf cells close up look like some kind of antique glassware.

Hygroamblystegium tenax

While the spring dallies, there are still more mosses to add to the Cullaloe list. Further digging around the spillway produces a riparian species in the form of Hygroamblystegium tenax. It lives on the spillway walls where it must sometimes be submerged but mostly not.

Hygroamblystegium tenax, Fountain Feather-moss

BBS Field Guide page

Life in the splash zone

Strongly nerved leaves to the tip

Under the microscope

Lightly toothed margin separates from species fluviatile

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Kneiff's Feather-moss

With a record from 1974, this is one I've wanted to catch up with, and it turned out to be one I've eyed with suspicion for a while but not ID'd. Pulled from the rocks in the burn, this dingy moss closes the gap on species recorded but not seen by me at Cullaloe.

Leaves c2mm, margins entire, cells c. 3 times as long as wide, nerved to beyond half way but not to tip

Leptodictyum riparium, Kneiff's Feather-moss

BBS Field Guide page

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Stripey slug surprise - Arion subfuscus

A nice surprise in amongst mosses at lunchtime, this attractive little stripey slug presumably enjoying the moist surrounds

Not sure what my expectation should be for February. January was a much bigger month than expected, and I should aim to be somewhere up around 400 by midsummer I expect. Vascular plants are starting to show through but aren't really kicking off. That is to say, they could be manageable in terms of how many I can try to identify. Mosses are harder to add to now, obviously, although weekend forays to the back of the reserve could still turn up a few I am hoping. March will not only include a ramp up of plants but also inverts, including the first moth night. I reckon by the end of March that I'll be in between 250 and 300 somewhere.
I guess in February I will hope to be somewhere between 200 and 250 then, at about 1 species per day added.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Weekend roundup

Made a foray into parts of the reserve that I haven't visited in over ten years, including 30 inches of water that I stuck my leg into. It was cold.

Found a new moss on the edge of the pond, Calliergon cordifolium, Heart-leaved Spear-moss, and took some pics of other previously discovered mosses which I had no pictures for (Big and Little Shaggy Moss!).

Lots of signs of vascular plants coming through, with green tips here, there and everywhere.

Calliergon cordifolium, Heart-leaved Spear-moss

BBS Field Guide page