Wednesday’s Ranger Walk to Scallastle provided a really enjoyable afternoon… if a little damp.
Though we all had high hopes of spotting the local white-tailed eagle pair, it was flying beasties on an all together smaller scale that stole the show.
Golden ringed dragonflies are one of Britain’s largest and most spectacular invertebrates. Fortunately for us, they are a common sight along Mull’s paths and rides. As we approached the Scallastle River with its attractive bridge and viewpoint over the tumbling water, we discovered one of these marvelous animals perched in vegetation at the side of the track.
The golden ringed dragonfly has eyes of apple green, which join like a ski-mask across the front of its face. Though their bold yellow and black marking are suggestive of danger, these animals do not sting. They are capable of biting, having very powerful jaws for tackling their insect prey; but they are in no way aggressive or threatening towards people.
This dragonfly patiently allowed itself to be lifted from the vegetation and shown to the group, offering a superb chance to inspect the delicate veins in its wings, the slight purple sheen over its eye structures and the rather alien breathing apparatus [spiracles] along the sides of its abdomen.
Other delights included an army of tiny froglets – caught using the damp weather to its fullest advantage as they crossed the path. Each one could sit comfortably on a finger-tip, being a perfect predatory miniature of the adults.
Spotted flycatchers and groups of foraging warblers tinkled and squeaked along in the birch trees beside us, with a stunning display of yellow St. John’s wort peaking out through the rough grass.
A personal highlight was the sight of round-leaved sundew plants in full flower – something that I’ve never seen before! These little carnivorous plants thrive in nutrient poor areas, making up for any deficiencies by capturing and digesting insects. It’s all a bit “Day of the Triffids” – but their waxy white five-petaled flowers are lovely.
If you know a young person who is interested in plants and trees, why not take them along to join Emily for her Pioneering Planthunters session at Tiroran Community Forest on July 29th?
Contact: 07717581405 for further information and booking.