Monday, 12 August 2013

The Wildlife of Meall an Tarmachain

The scenery through which we have the privilege of walking is spectacular, and we stop often to look around and enjoy it.  But there's a second, much smaller landscape which we would be foolish to ignore - the one across which we tread.  It's probably true to say that we could stop at any point on our journey and, if we were prepared to give the time, find some wonder or other hiding amongst the vegetation.  So it was when we climbed Meall an Tarmachain yesterday.

At this time of year three plants of the heather family are in bloom.  The bell heather, Erica cinerea, the more purple in this picture, is probably at its best, though some of the flowers are already turning brown, while ling, Calluna vulgaris, in the foreground, has yet to come into full bloom.

Cross-leaved heath, Erica tetralix, does very well here, especially in the slightly marshy areas.  It varies greatly in colour, from a dark, reddish-pink through paler shades of pink to....

....a rare white.  In one restricted area on our way up Meall an Tarmachain, we found three or four white cross-leaved heaths.  We've only found it in two other places on West Ardnamurchan.

It was while we were trying to get good pictures of ling that we found this magnificent caterpillar feeding on the ends of its shoots.  It was seven to eight centimetres long and beautifully camouflaged.  If we hadn't been searching for a good specimen on ling we'd never have seen it.  It's the caterpillar of the emperor moth.  What intrigued us was that, although we searched, he appeared to have no brothers or sisters nearby.

This would be identified as the common frog, Rana temporaria, but there's nothing common about this character as he's particularly finely marked.  He was hopping across the top of a clump of grass and heather when we saw him, and didn't seem at all bothered by our stopping to watch.  We also saw some toads, rather dark and skulking characters compared to this frog.

As the year comes around towards autumn, and with the recent rain, there were many more fungi in evidence.  We particularly liked the colours of this little collection, and how clean and fresh they looked considering the material from which they were sprouting.

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