Thursday, 3 June 2010

Big isn’t always Best!

No matter how many times we visit the same area, we always know that each new day will bring with it a whole clutch of fresh experiences and surprises. We are privileged to call the Isle of Mull our home and never take the wonderful wildlife and landscapes of the island for granted. As you will know, at Mull Magic,humble and inconspicuous is just as important as big and 'in your face' when it comes to our appreciation of Mull’s flora and fauna. Having said that, if anything, we tend to come down on the side of the underdog!

A male Common Heath Moth, displaying it’s feathery antennae, was feeding on the flower spike of a Heath Spotted Orchid, next to the sheep path that we were walking along in North Mull today. Some species of orchid readily dupe insects into thinking that their colourful, patterned flowers are a heady source of nectar. However, the flowers of the Heath Spotted Orchid, that are so widespread on the moors of Mull at present, are not deceitful in this way, so the moth would have enjoyed it’s sugary snack on this occasion!

The flowers of the Early Purple Orchid have no nectar, so offer scant reward to any prospective pollinator. A little further along our coastal walk, we came across a small colony of these beautiful plants, in whose ranks appeared several white-flowered variants. Closer inspection revealed that these aberrant-coloured flowers had purple spots at the base of their lips. A freak of pigmentation (or the lack of), we were interested to find that these white-flowered varieties are rather scarce and that the spotted form is even more unusual!

The acidic and waterlogged soil of Mull’s moorland is an inhospitable place in which to live. In order to survive, many of the plants found in this environment have evolved special adaptations. Our walk today allowed us to get up close and personal with a few of these special plants, including the Common Butterwort, whose funnel-shaped, lilac flowers are borne on a slender, delicate stalk. The Butterwort family is carnivorous in nature. It’s sticky rosette of leaves trap unsuspecting small insects and exude enzymes which break down their bodies, providing this attractive bog plant with the nourishment it needs.

Another insectivorous plant that we encountered was the Round-leaved Sundew. These are highly specialised inhabitants of boggy ground on the Isle of Mull. Their round leaves have tentacles which are coated in a gel-like substance, which ensnares passing insects that are subsequently digested in a similar manner to the Butterwort.

Thousands of wildlife enthusiasts visit the Isle of Mull each year to view our ‘celebrity’ birds and animals. Here, at Mull Magic, we derive as much pleasure from the common, everyday species as we do from the rare and unusual. Too many people walk past quite unbelievable wildlife that frequent their doorstep in search of something more elusive… not Mull Magic!

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