The Puffballs of Bay MacNeil
A couple of weeks ago we set off to the most westerly point on the British mainland in search of the Belted beauty moth (Lycia zonaria).
The females of this species are wingless and rather striking in appearance being black and yellow. They have a restricted distribution being found on machair in the Western Isles and in scattered locations in North Wales and Ireland. They have also been recorded on the dunes behind Sanna Bay and we had seen them at Bay MacNeil a couple of years ago.
Bay MacNeil is worthy of a visit in it's own right at any time of the year and is easily reached via footpath from a small parking area on the road to Ardnamurchan Point and Lighthouse (walk details), but it was the quest for the belted beauty which drove us there at the end of March 2014.
Alas, despite searching the dunes behind the beach and looking at several patches of creeping willows (Salix repens) we had no luck. No beauties to be seen on the 29th March. The ringed plovers, wheatear, rock pipits and coltsfoot might well disagree and we can see their point of view. Lots of beautiful wildlife, just no little female wingless moths to be seen.
Whilst exploring the dunes we chanced upon some strange brown saucer shaped fungi. Weird and wonderful and slightly baffling we wondered what they were. Given the beauty and remoteness of Bay MacNeil these must surely be some amazingly rare species of fungi...
After a bit of research back home at headquarters, we decided they were puffballs, old and ragged and surprisingly tough to have survived the winter storms; Handkea utriformis or Handkea excipuliformis or Lycoperdon sp in old money.
You might not always see what you set out to find in The West Highlands but there's always something to fire your passion for wildlife. That's why we're just Wild About Lochaber.