Tuesday, 5 July 2016

North of Glendrian Moss

In old maps, the flat area to the northeast of Achnaha is called Glendrian Moss. It was drained in the eighteenth century on the orders of Estate owner Alexander Murray, Lord Stanhope, as part of his doomed attempts to 'improve' Ardnamurchan by introducing modern agricultural techniques. In the years since, the ditches have silted up so it's probably almost as boggy now as nature originally intended.

It's separated from the north coast by a line of hills, including Meall Clach an Daraich and Sgurr nan Gabhar, part of the outcrop of the Ardnamurchan ring dykes. It's a lonely place, and a bit miserable on a damp day like Sunday, with a drizzly force 5 westerly blowing across the tops. Yet, even on such a day, there's plenty to be found if one is prepared to look.

On the exposed summit of a small hill just to the west of Meall Clach an Daraich we found a low-lying, fleshy-leaved plant with what looked like tiny, red flowers. As can be seen in this close-up, the red is leaves with what may be a microscopic, white flower in the middle. It was the only place we found it, so it's not a common plant hereabouts.

I have tried, but this is the first of the day's identification failures. Does anyone know what it is?

I'm becoming wary of identifying wildlife after a couple of bad mistakes recently, but I think this is the caterpillar of the fox moth.

However, I have no idea of the identity of this beautiful beast as I couldn't find anything like it, in books or on the internet. It was busy eating heather, if that helps anyone identify it.

After yesterday's find of greater butterfly orchids in Tobermory, it appears that West Ardnamurchan's butterfly orchids have flowered earlier. This is, I think, a lesser butterfly orchid, found not far from the Cat's Face. It was good to see it as, last year, we didn't find any of these delicate flowers in a location which usually has two or three.

We walked across the flat land above the Cat's Face and sat at the end of the headland, called Rubha Carrach on the OS map, looking out across the sea to the Small Isles - that's Muck just visible along the horizon. It's a lovely, lonely place to pass time but the weather didn't encourage us to stay.

Perhaps finding this will bring us some luck. White bell heather is uncommon, more so than either white ling or white cross-leaved heath. This is only the third white bell heather we've found. Perhaps the luck could include some sunny days.


  1. Billy Williamson5 July 2016 at 23:34

    Fleshy leaves plant looks like a sedum (stonecrop) possibly coral carpet,or it's wild ancestor.

  2. You are right, it is a young Fox moth caterpillar. They have a beautiful velvety black coat when young which is gradually covered with longer brown guard hairs as they age. The second caterpillar is the Beautiful Yellow Underwing, Anarta myrtilli, a lovely little moth.

  3. Several people who emailed me with suggestions for the identification of both the caterpillar and the red-leaved plant. Les, Ken and Kevin agreed with Derryck (above) that the caterpillar is that of the beautiful yellow underwing moth. The plant remains a bit of a mystery, with stonecrop/sedum and crowberry being suggested. Ken asked me for a close-up of the flowers - they're tiny, smaller than a pinhead, but next time I'm that way I'll have a go.

    Many thanks to all of you for your help. Jon