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A scarce fungus   Marine springtails   Two more harvestmen   A rare weevil   House-fly   Saxon Wasp   Pine Harvestman
Bumblebee course   TRY!  Tree Bumblebee  Jellyfish   Ranavirus   Adder slough   Cuttlebones   Feb. Red Stonefly   VC105-106 fungi

Push back the frontiers of science!

Everyone can help with two of our current projects - monitoring the spread of the Knopper Gall and the Saxon Wasp.  All the information you need is in the linked files.  See what you can find, and let us know.

Prunella with R. abundans

Rosenscheldia abundans

A fungus on Self-heal.

Among some dead vegetation Sue Tarr collected recently for Bruce Ing's fungal inventory was a distinctive species
Rosenscheldia abundans on the dead stems of Self-heal Prunella vulgaris.  This was new to VC106, but it has since been found in several other sites.  Why not find some elsewhere in Highland?

Self-heal is very common, and even now is easy to spot (see image on left).  Look at the old black dead stems, and with a lens you might see the oval clusters of black spore-bodies of the fungus.  Infected stems are much blacker and rougher than clean ones, with little hint of brown or green, so can be recognised in a clump.  However, early infections show as obvious elongated black marks on green stems.  If you do find it, let us know, and ideally keep a sample for confirmation, or if you have the equipment, take a picture of the fungus. 

The Fungus Database has only 24 records in the British Isles, including nine in Scotland of which three are from Highland.  Left is our current HBRG map.

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R. abundans map
Rosenscheldia abundans on Prunella vulgaris.

Photo © Murdo Macdonald.

Marine springtails.

Wolfgang Bilger was visiting the East Ross coast and found these striking springtails, probably
Anurida maritima, at N Sutor.  There are, however, a couple of lookalikes (as there almost always are!).  They congregate on the surface film of shore pools, and the colour attracts attention.

If you find any we would need a couple of specimens to determine the exact species, and Stephen Moran would be happy to do the essential microscope work.  Contact the Webmaster at the email address above for details.  A very similar species A. denisi might just occur in our area on the shore.

Yet another, rather darker, relation, A. tullbergi is also found on the shore, though it is more typically associated with sewage works.  If you like the idea of collecting in such places, in the interests of science, let us know!  Back to the top.


Photo © Wolfgang Bilger.

Dicranopalpus ramosus

Dicranopalpus ramosus

Photo © Mike Taylor.

Two more harvestmen.

Mike Taylor has been finding two more alien harvestmen along the Moray Firth coast between Hopeman and Inverness, at the northern known limit of their range in Britain. 
Dicranopalpus ramosus was thought to be the only British species in that distinctive genus, but recently another, D. caudatus, previously regarded as a synonym, has been found to be a separate species making identification a bit more of a problem.  Only ramosus has been found so far in the north.  The characteristic stance, legs spread straight out to the sides, and the forked pedipalps, are diagnostic of the genus, but if you find one please take a picture to confirm the species.  Whitewashed walls in the vicinity of outdoor lights seem good hunting grounds for the D. ramosus (and naturalists trying to find them).  Opilio canestrinii is more difficult to recognise, but has a peachy body with contrasting almost black legs.  Some specialist input will be required for its identification, so if you think you have it, take a picture and let us know.  Back to the top.

An exciting weevil find.

Nigel Richards noticed a little weevil on Alder in East Ross, and it turned out to be only the third record in Scotland, and the farthest north by a long way, of
Curculio betulae.  The others were in Stirlingshire.  This shows again just how much of our wildlife in Highland is unknown, and what you might find in your garden or on your favourite walk.  Although particularly associated with birches and alders, it has been recorded on a variety of trees.  If you see a reddish weevil with scattered white scales and an evenly-curved rostrum (snout) as long as its body (around 8mm in total), please take a picture and let us know the usual details.  Back to the top.

Curculio betulae

Photo © Nigel Richards.

Musca domestica

Photo © Eddie Dunbar.

Find a House-fly.

Contrary to popular belief, the House-fly is actually very scarce in Scotland, and we would like to know more about its distribution.  Read more about this insect and how to recognise it, and let us know if you are lucky enough to have it in your kitchen.  Back to the top.

A new wasp to look for ...

Mike Taylor recently found the most northerly example of the Saxon Wasp
Dolichovespula saxonica near Forres. This species was only recorded in Britain in 1987, and spread steadily northwards to at least Aviemore by 2016.  It is sure to have been seriously overlooked.  Steven Falk's excellent Flickr page has more images and information.
Update, 10 August.  A worker was found near Evanton, NH66, at the most northerly location so far.]

We are in a good position to monitor its further spread.  To help this, you could collect any dead wasps from your house or garden, and submit them to HBRG at the end of the summer, with location and grid reference.  Just make sure they are air-dried to avoid mould, and wrap them loosely in tissue.  All specimens from one location can be combined.  Records from anywhere, but especially from N and W of the green line on the current map opposite, are welcome.

Social wasps are not easy to separate, and the Saxon Wasp can easily be confused with the common Norwegian Wasp, but all wasp records will be useful.  There is more information on all our species on the Focus on Highland Wildlife pageBack to the top.

Saxon Wasp

Photo © Discilla.

D. saxonica map

Platybunus pinetorum

Photos © Mike Taylor.

... and a new harvestman.

On the same trip, Mike also found the most northerly 
Platybunus pinetorum, a harvestman, at Culbin.  This has only been known in Britain since 2010, and in Scotland, until now, only from S of the Forth.  It appears to favour pine forest, and may be moved on timber trucks, and if so could be found anywhere.

Identification is not easy, but if you find a dark-coloured harvestman in pines, take a picture for confirmation.  The long pale spines on the pedipalps make a good pointer.  More information is on the Spider Recording Scheme site, and if you want to become more familiar with our species, the field Studies Council has a splendid online key.

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Bumblebee course.

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust are visiting the Cairngorms this year.  Join them on 16 June in Boat of Garten for a beginner’s course covering the identification, ecology, lifecycle and conservation of our most common bumblebees.

Details are on the BBCT website.  Direct any enquiries to BBCT, please, not to HBRG.  Back to the top.

Bombus monticola

Photo © S. Rae.

Porcellio spinicornis

Photo © Stephen Moran.

TRY! - The Recorder's Year.

Our TRY! feature, which we have run for several years, has been revised and reintroduced after a few months of absence.

We have selected a range of species which are:
 - confidently identifiable;
 - easily found, in at least parts of Highland;
 - under-recorded, so that new information is obtained.

Get full details on the TRY! page.

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Be alert for the Tree Bumblebee.

A number of bumblebee species are already on the wing, but there is one of special importance, the Tree Bumblebee
Bombus hypnorum.  This arrived in S England in 2001, and has rapidly spread north to be well established in much of S and Central Scotland.  It seems to be moving slowly closer to our area, with a report of breeding in Aberlour, just to the east, in 2017.  It our only bumblebee with a clear 3-colour pattern of rich brown / black / snow-white, and if seen well is unmistakeable.  Confusion is possible with the common hoverfly Eristalis intricaria, but that is usually smaller and has very short antennae, while all bees have long angled antennae.  If in doubt, take a picture.  Information is on the BWARS website, where there are also images.  Please report any sightings to them and to HBRG.

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Bombus hypnorum map

Map from BWARS.

Compass Jellyfish

Photo © Jane Bowman.

Jellyfish survey.

David McAllister would like to improve our knowledge of jellyfish around our coasts, and asks people who habitually visit stretches of beach to record any beached jellyfish they find.  A recording form is here (.docx file, save to your hard disc).

Information on our Highland species is on our Focus on Highland Wildlife feature.

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A Common Frog showing the symptoms of Ranavirus has been found at Blackmuir, near Strathpeffer.  Ranavirus leads to extremely high mortality rates in frogs.

The signs of Ranavirus include:
- lethargy;
- lesions or redness on belly and legs;
- bleeding from mouth or vent;
- skin ulcers;
- emaciation (can be normal in spring);
- eye problems;
- loss of limb function;
- possibly loss of digits.

In Britain the main means of spread appears to be humans, through releasing fish, particularly goldfish, or through contaminated boots or nets.

Implement biosecurity to avoid spreading the disease:

- discourage people from releasing fish into the countryside
- clean your kit and boots between visiting different sites using a solution of household bleach or Virkon.

More details can be found here.

If you find a frog, live or dead, with symptoms
- avoid handling the animal;
- take a photograph;
- report it to for further advice.

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Photos © Jeanette Hall.

Adder slough

Photo © Roger Cottis.

Request for sloughed skins of Adders.

The Adder has the widest range of any snake, from Sakhalin in the east to Skye in the west.

As the global western limit, the Highlands are of great interest genetically.

The University of Dresden are looking for Adder sloughs from across the region for a study.

They have samples from Garve area thanks to Sue Tarr, but any others would be welcome.

If you find any sloughs, please keep them intact and dry, and email to arrange delivery.

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Cuttlebone wreck.

Stan Holroyd recently found a large number of cuttlebones (the internal shells of cuttlefish, probably
Sepia officinalis) wrecked on the beach at Brora.  If you have seen this elsewhere in Highland during March, please contact to arrange delivery.

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Sepia wreck Sepia wreck

Photos © Stan Holroyd.

Brachyptera putata

Photo © Gus Jones.
The Northern February Red Stonefly.

Take part in the Buglife survey for
Brachyptera putata, a Scottish speciality.  Details are here.

Some of our members looked for it last year with considerable success. The technique involves looking for the insects on fenceposts by a river, and taking a picture for confirmation.  Stewart Taylor found it on the Spey in January, and Nigel Richards had one near Croick in a new hectad in March.

Please remember to report any finds to HBRG as well as to Buglife.

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Ross-shire Fungus Survey

Bruce Ing is coming to the end of a marathon study, documenting the fungi and slime-moulds that occur in Vice-counties 105 and 106 (West Ross and East Ross).  Fieldwork will end in 2018, so we have several months to find some more species for the lists.  Bruce's progress report is here (.pdf file), and you will see that the hardest challenge will be to get into the small part of NH12 that lies in Ross.  Elsewhere, there is plenty opportunity to make new finds - potentially even in your garden.  These little black spots on leaves, or the hoary mist of mildew, might be far more interesting than you imagine.  In the last year, over 100 species were added to each VC list.  Let's see if we can add another 100 to each in 2018!

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Amanita muscaria

Photo © Michael Maggs, 

Marine springtails   Two more harvestmen   A rare weevil   House-fly   Saxon Wasp   Pine Harvestman   Bumblebee course
TRY!  Tree Bumblebee  Jellyfish   Ranavirus   Adder slough   Cuttlebones   Feb. Red Stonefly   VC105-106 fungi
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