The Scottish Open Golf Championship might have been washed out for the day but 15 optimists gathered at Dundreggan. Jane Bowman was our local hero and, after being introduced to her pet larvae and even a rare golden horsefly, we set off to try and find some of the dramatic insects that Jane has tracked down in this area of natural woodland.
One of the first stops was at a “Goat Moth tree” – an old birch riddled with holes and cracks oozing with fermenting sap. The larger more ragged holes were where fully grown Goat Moth larvae had emerged before pupating underground. The smaller round ones were made by Welsh Clearwing larvae which pupate before emerging from the pre-prepared hole. Ants (Formica lugubris) were active on the sap together with chafer beetles (Cetonia cuprea) and a wood boring beetle (Rhagium mordax).
Another highlight was hunting for the strawberry spider webs in some of the damper open areas. A curled up dead leaf suspended from the grass was the indication that a strawberry spider (Araneus alsine) might be in residence with a very fine web spread out below it. With strict instructions about watching where you put your feet we soon got our eye in and although not all leaves were still occupied there was clearly a thriving population.
A number of attempts to attract a Welsh Clearwing to a pheromone lure failed to produce the much sought after Welsh Clearwing but with only occasional glimpses of the sun this was perhaps not surprising. Murdo Macdonald and Jimmy McKellar were constantly busy finding hoverflies, beetles, ants and other insects. One of the most attractive of these was the bee beetle (Trichius fasciatus) – two or three of which were feeding on a carpet of thyme.
Lunchtime started with a glimpse of the sun and the odd Common Blue, Small Heath and Meadow Brown flitting about but continued with the only brief light shower of the visit.
We went to some aspen on the edge of a small gorge including one with the recently recorded aspen bracket fungus (Phellinus tremulae) on it.
A walk up the hill above the tree line was aimed at seeing, among other things, the Scottish asphodel. The sun came out and a Large Heath was seen as well as Rannoch Looper, Treble Bar, Clouded Buff, Yellow Shell, Smoky Wave and Silver-ground Carpet.
The asphodel site was still a fair way off and while two intrepid plant enthusiasts headed on the rest of us turned back in the hope a some more attempts at luring a Welsh Clearwing in the now more suitable conditions. A couple of attempts were again unsuccessful but a return to the original “goat tree” provided a fitting climax to the day with three individuals appearing to much acclaim!
Hard at work at Dundreggan
Jane Bowman, group leader, centre
Bee Beetle (Helen Mainwood)
Welsh Clearwing (Tony Mainwood)
Beetle and ants on 'goat moth tree'