BSBI Summer Meeting Day II – Binevenagh

Recently the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) held it’s Annual Summer Meeting (ASM) in Northern Ireland.
This final post will be looking at our trip to Binevenagh, Co. Derry.

Binevenagh is a Northern Ireland Environment Agency owned National Nature Reserve and is stunning area and was the perfect place to finish our botanising trip.

Before we actually got up to the mountain we had to go through some rather nice woodland. The shade from the trees was very welcomed as the temperature increased throughout the day, it was also really nice to come across some Bird’s-Nest Orchid (Neottia nidus-avis), with about 5-6 spikes dotted on either side of the well worn path.

Bird's-Nest Orchid (Neottia nidus-avis) - Oisín Duffy
Bird’s-Nest Orchid (Neottia nidus-avis) – Oisín Duffy

It was also nice to come across one of my old favourites – Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella).

Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) - Oisín Duffy
Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) – Oisín Duffy
“The Flower among them all”. Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) – Oisín Duffy

Not long after that we were given some background about the site, we were also told how the management of the area will be adversely influenced in the coming years due to budget cuts.

Getting out site briefing from NIEA workers - Oisín Duffy
Getting out site briefing from NIEA workers – Oisín Duffy

Binevenagh has a truly imposing stature –

Binevenagh
Binevenagh

After our briefing, we started up the mountain in search of plants –

Slow and Steady wins the race!
Slow and Steady wins the race!

It wasn’t too long before we came across some delightful “Burren” species.

Mountain Avens (Dryas octopetala) - Oisín Duffy
Mountain Avens (Dryas octopetala) – Oisín Duffy
Mountain Avens (Dryas octopetala) - Oisín Duffy
Mountain Avens (Dryas octopetala) – Oisín Duffy

It was really nice to see a species which has a relatively limited distribution in Ireland (especially nice to see it outside of the Burren) but this wasn’t the only case and as the day rolled on we started getting more and more rarities!

Next up was the very beautiful Mossy Saxifrage (Saxifraga hypnoides) – another first for my species list.

Mossy Saxifrage (Saxifraga hypnoides) - Oisín Duffy
Mossy Saxifrage (Saxifraga hypnoides) – Oisín Duffy
Mossy Saxifrage (Saxifraga hypnoides) - Oisín Duffy
Mossy Saxifrage (Saxifraga hypnoides) – Oisín Duffy

I noticed quite a bit of excitement around a small green cushion like mound growing on the side of one of the slopes and then when I noticed a few purple flowers I thought I was going to see Purple Saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia), but it actually turned out to be Moss Campion (Silene acaulis), which also has a very restricted distribution in Ireland.

Moss Campion (Silene acaulis) - Oisín Duffy
Moss Campion (Silene acaulis) – Oisín Duffy
Moss Campion (Silene acaulis) - Oisín Duffy
Moss Campion (Silene acaulis) – Oisín Duffy

An altogether very different looking plant and also very attractive and almost “comfy” looking, no wonder it’s also known as Cushion pink.

On the slope directly across from the Moss Campion another group was gathering with cameras and hand lenses, so I promptly made my way over (well as promptly as you can over sloped and uneven ground) and again it was a species new to my list. This time it was Spring Sandwort (Minuartia verna)

Spring Sandwort (Minuartia verna) - Oisín Duffy
Spring Sandwort (Minuartia verna) – Oisín Duffy
Spring Sandwort (Minuartia verna) - Oisín Duffy
Spring Sandwort (Minuartia verna) – Oisín Duffy
Spring Sandwort (Minuartia verna) - Oisín Duffy
Spring Sandwort (Minuartia verna) – Oisín Duffy

At this point I was feeling rather chuffed with myself having recorded and photographed a few new species (quite rare ones at that) and to be in the company of some of the best botanists within Ireland and the UK.

Botanists on a Break L-R - Louise Marsh (BSBI Publicity & Outreach Officer), Ian Denholm (BSBI President and Orchid Referee), Con Breen (BSBI Stalwart who took me under his wing for the weekend) and Maria Long (BSBI Irish Officer).
Botanists on a Break L-R – Louise Marsh (BSBI Publicity & Outreach Officer), Ian Denholm (BSBI President and Orchid Referee), Con Breen (BSBI Stalwart who took me under his wing for the weekend) and Maria Long (BSBI Irish Officer). – Oisín Duffy
Botanists making the final push up the mountain - Oisín Duffy
Botanists making the final push up the mountain – Oisín Duffy

The final push up the hill was certainly worth it as we encountered Purple Saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia) which has only one site within Northern Ireland. Unfortunately though it appeared to have just finished flowering, still amazing to come across and of course new to my species list (although it is a species I’m hoping to come across on Bulbin in H34).

Purple Saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia) - Oisín Duffy
Purple Saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia) – Oisín Duffy
Purple Saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia) - Oisín Duffy
Purple Saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia) – Oisín Duffy

The view was also spectacular from near the top, especially considering we were looking directly into East Donegal (H34) my homeland and the area myself and Mairéad have been botanising in since last July.

Looking out to Donegal. - Oisín Duffy
Looking out to Donegal. – Oisín Duffy
Looking from Binevenagh over to Donegal. - Oisín Duffy
Looking from Binevenagh over to Donegal. – Oisín Duffy
Looking from Binevenagh over to Donegal. - Oisín Duffy
Looking from Binevenagh over to Donegal. – Oisín Duffy

The best was certainly kept till last as Binevenagh was the highlight of the entire trip. The rare alpine species, so many of them being new to my list and the scenery and atmosphere was just superb.

Botanists searching for more rare species - Oisín Duffy
Botanists searching for more rare species – Oisín Duffy
The descent from the mountain - Oisín Duffy
The descent from the mountain – Oisín Duffy
"The Castle" - Binevenagh - Oisín Duffy
“The Castle” – Binevenagh – Oisín Duffy
Binevenagh - Oisín Duffy
Binevenagh – Oisín Duffy
Me getting a picture of Louise getting a picture of the BSBI Sumemr Meeting Gang - Oisín Duffy
Me getting a picture of Louise getting a picture of the BSBI Sumemr Meeting Gang – Oisín Duffy
One last shot of Binevenagh before the post is over! - Oisín Duffy
One last shot of Binevenagh before the post is over! – Oisín Duffy

Overall a fantastic weekend of learning and lovely people, exactly the sort of thing that I’ve come to expect from the BSBI!

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BSBI Summer Meeting Day II – Umbra Nature Reserve

Recently the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) held it’s Annual Summer Meeting (ASM) in Northern Ireland.
In this post I’ll be looking at our trip to the Umbra Nature Reserve in Co. Derry.

Umbra Nature Reserve
The Umbra Nature Reserve is a duneland site which is managed by Ulster Wildlife. Leading the walk was Dave Riley (V.C H40) who also gave an informed talk about the site before we entered.

The group listening to Dave give a history of the site. - Oisín Duffy
The group listening to Dave give a history of the site. – Oisín Duffy

We weren’t at the site for more than five minutes before I came across a plant new to my species list.

Spring Snowflake (Leucojum vernum) - Oisín Duffy
Spring Snowflake (Leucojum vernum) – Oisín Duffy

It’s always nice when you come across species which are completely new to you and this wasn’t the only occasion during the Umbra (and in fact Day II was full of firsts).

Marsh Arrowgrass (Triglochin palustris) - Oisín Duffy
Marsh Arrowgrass (Triglochin palustris) w/ a good helping of Cuckoo Spit. – Oisín Duffy
Variegated Horsetail (Equisetum variegatum) - Oisín Duffy
Variegated Horsetail (Equisetum variegatum) – Oisín Duffy
Fern Grass (Catapodium rigidum) - Oisín Duffy
Fern Grass (Catapodium rigidum) – Oisín Duffy
Dave Riley leading the groups through the different habitats in the Umbra. - Oisín Duffy
Dave Riley leading the groups through the different habitats in the Umbra. – Oisín Duffy

It was nice to come across some familiar plants also.

Close up of an emerging Common Twayblade (Neottia ovata) - Oisín Duffy
Close up of an emerging Common Twayblade (Neottia ovata) – Oisín Duffy
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Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) – Oisín Duffy
Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis) - Oisín Duffy
Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis) – Oisín Duffy
Kidney Vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria) - Oisín Duffy
Kidney Vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria) – Oisín Duffy

As we entered new areas and habitats Dave would give us a run-down on the species we were likley to encounter.

Dave giving a quick talk on some of the plant species found in this particular area. - Oisín Duffy
Dave giving a quick talk on some of the plant species found in this particular area. – Oisín Duffy

Another species of significance was a rare moss (Rhytidium rugosum) which has only one sight in Ireland, which of course was the Umbra. What an attractive moss it turned out to be.

Rhytidium rugosum - Oisín Duffy
Rhytidium rugosum – Oisín Duffy

The atmosphere at the Umbra was very relaxed and it was nice to dander about and look for species, unfortunately plants are slightly late this so many of the orchids that we came across were just about emerging or hadn’t even emerged.

The scenery was fantastic and it brought back some great childhood memories of being on Downhill Beach, plus it was also pretty neat to be near a Game of Thrones filming location.

The Umbra look towards Downhill Beach.
The Umbra looking towards Downhill Beach.

However a few things of a winged variety broke my botanical concentration (well everyone has their vices).

First up was this beautiful Wood White butterfly, myself and Mairead along with Julia Nunn and Graham Day (BSBI recorder for Co. Down) had noticed ones flying earlier in the day, so it was nice to find one at rest and be able to get a picture of it.

Cryptic Wood White - Oisín Duffy
Cryptic Wood White – Oisín Duffy

Shortly after that I noticed something else fluttering by and it turned out to be the very flighty Small Heath.

Small Heath - Oisín Duffy
Small Heath – Oisín Duffy

To be honest it was nice that the Umbra had a relaxed pace as later in the day we would be going up Binevenagh and well as you’ll see tomorrow, the pace was steep going!

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Final group of botanists coming over the dunes on the way back to the bus – Oisín Duffy

BSBI Summer Meeting Day I – White Park Bay

Recently the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) held it’s Annual Summer Meeting (ASM) in Northern Ireland. Yesterday I covered the first part of Day I, now it’s on to part two! White Park Bay, Co. Antrim  White Park Bay is a spectacular area and is owned by the National Trust. We had seen many pictures of the area earlier in the morning during the talks and presentations and while they were amazing shots, nothing can prepare you for the amazing scenery that it has to offer. We were given some further background to the site and then split up into three recording groups so botanise in different habitats and locations.

Getting briefed about White Park Bay - Oisín Duffy
Getting briefed about White Park Bay – Oisín Duffy

But first, here’s a quick shot of how everything looked before recording!

White Park Bay - Oisín Duffy
White Park Bay – Oisín Duffy

Along the way to the dune system we noticed another group –

Cows on the beach
Cows on the beach – Oisín Duffy

It didn’t take long for the recording to start and all of a sudden scientific names were flying in from every member of the group. On my first BSBI outing in 2013 I knew very few scientific names and it was great to know that my Latin and Greek has obviously improved quite a bit as I understood most of what was being recorded. A great thing about being in a smaller group is that you get to see the various ways people have of identifying species or distinguishing confusion species. It’s also great for getting tips and being shown species from some of the trickier groups (grasses, sedges etc). I think sometimes these groups are slightly more difficult to remember, but thanks to Con Breen I came away knowing a few more grasses and sedges. One species that stuck with me in particular (probably as it was everywhere) was Avenula pubescens.

Avenula pubescens - Oisín Duffy
Avenula pubescens – Oisín Duffy

With the more common species already recorded on the card, the time came to do some hardcore botanising. I always find that there is a great amount of camaraderie between botanists and it’s great when everyone is chipping in to achieve a common goal, in this case an identification. Some shots of this interaction are below –

BSBI Botanists at White Park Bay - Oisín Duffy
BSBI Botanists at White Park Bay – Oisín Duffy
More group Identification by BSBI Botanists - Oisín Duffy
More group Identification by BSBI Botanists – Oisín Duffy
BSBI botanist discussing ID features - Oisín Duffy
BSBI botanist discussing ID features – Oisín Duffy
Everyone gathering to admire Spring Squill (Scilla verna) - Oisín Duffy
Everyone gathering to admire Spring Squill (Scilla verna) – Oisín Duffy
BSBI President and Orchid Referee Ian Denholm, investigating with a hand lens - Oisín Duffy
BSBI President and Orchid Referee Ian Denholm, investigating with a hand lens – Oisín Duffy

My highlight for this trip and in fact the whole day was recording Spring Squill (Scilla verna) a plant which I had not come across before.

Spring Squill (Scilla verna) - Oisín Duffy
Spring Squill (Scilla verna) – Oisín Duffy

Luckily the species was abundant in the area so there was plenty to be found and photographed. Other interesting species we came across –

Heath Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza maculata)
Heath Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza maculata)
Frog Orchid (Coeloglossum viride) - Oisín Duffy
Frog Orchid (Coeloglossum viride) – Oisín Duffy
Common Twayblade (Neottia ovata)
Common Twayblade (Neottia ovata)

An excellent end to the first day of the BSBI ASM in Northern Ireland.

Everyone heading back to the bus after a nice day botanising! - Oisín Duffy
Everyone heading back to the bus after a nice day botanising! – Oisín Duffy

BSBI Summer Meeting Day I – Garry Bog

The Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) recently held its Annual Summer Meeting (ASM) in Northern Ireland which involved botanists from Ireland, Northern Ireland and the UK coming together to enjoy the splendour of Ulster’s scenery and of course to record plants across a number of habitats and locations.

The ASM for me started on the Saturday (13/06/15) where in the morning we attended a number of talks about the natural history of Ulster, including habitats, geology and pressures/threats which are putting species at risk.
Dr. Micheline Sheehy Skeffington chaired the morning of presentations which seen talks from stalwart BSBI botanist John Faulkner, who gave an introduction to botany in Ulster,  Patrick Casement was next and gave us some of his personal background and reflections of North Coast. After a short break we got a detailed presentation regarding the habitats, species and geology from Paul Corbett and Ian Enlander.
During the talks/presentations we viewed a number of images from the sites which we would be visiting over the weekend and this conjured some great excitement for the audience of botanists (many of whom were having their first visit to the North Coast).

Garry Bog –
The first site we visited was Garry Bog, Co. Antrim a raised bog and National Nature Reserve managed by the Northern Ireland Environmental Agency (NIEA). David McNeil (V.C Recorder H39) led the outing.

On route to Garry Bog - Oisín Duffy
On route to Garry Bog – Oisín Duffy

After we were given a short talk on site history we made our way into the bog and started to record any species we could find. Sundew species (Drosera sp) were the first things to capture our attention.

Micheline pointing out sundew species. - Oisín Duffy
Micheline pointing out sundew species (Drosera sp). – Oisín Duffy

Every bog pool had a number of very interesting plant and it was a delight to come across some of the following.

Drosera Anglica - Oisín Duffy
Drosera Anglica – Oisín Duffy
Drosera rotundifolia - Oisín Duffy
Drosera rotundifolia – Oisín Duffy
Bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata) - Oisín Duffy
Bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata) – Oisín Duffy

On route from one bog pool to another we also came across Carex panicea and Carex pilulifera along with large amounts of Sphagnum sp. Due to my interest in these pools and being shown some species which I hadn’t come across before, I didn’t actually make it too far into the vast expanse of bog, but of course others did.

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As we were preparing to head back to the bus Bog Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos) was spotted flowering in great abundance. I had come across the species before, but never in flower, this was my highlight from Garry Bog.

Bog Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos) - Garry Bog - Oisín Duffy
Bog Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos) – Garry Bog – Oisín Duffy
Bog Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos) - Garry Bog - Oisín Duffy
Bog Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos) – Garry Bog – Oisín Duffy

Bog Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos) is also part of the BSBI Irish Species Project, which aims to record eight species of plant which are in need with more up-to-date information. If you find Bog Cranberry or are just interested in the project follow the link below to find out more information.
http://www.bsbi.org.uk/ISP_guidance_doc_7.4.14.pdf

Next post will involve our trip to the beautiful White Park Bay.

Botanising in H34 (Raphoe) – May 2015

It’s been quite a while (five months in fact) since my last post about botanising in Donegal, which was part of the New Year Plant Hunt run by the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI). Since then I’ve been trying to keep my botanical skills somewhat sharp (don’t want to get too rusty), but there are also plenty other things to get your brain ticking over, some light bird-watching and of course pollinators. In April of this year (2015) myself and Mairéad Crawford got a county first for Waterford in the form of the Mountain Bumblebee (Bombus monticola), which we were extremely happy about. I’ve been hoping to record the species for about two year and it was amazing to get a county first.

But back to Botany –
21st of May – Myself and Mairéad decided to do some local recording around Raphoe and the surrounding area. Raphoe is a small rural town in East Donegal with quite a bit of history attached, it also has old stone walls, which were our first port of call.

Rustyback Fern (Asplenium ceterach) - Raphoe, East Donegal (H34). - Oisín Duffy
Rustyback Fern (Asplenium ceterach) – Raphoe, East Donegal (H34). – Oisín Duffy
Wall-Rue (Asplenium ruta-muraria) - Raphoe, East Donegal (H34).
Wall-Rue (Asplenium ruta-muraria) – Raphoe, East Donegal (H34) – Oisín Duffy.

Road verges and hedgerows were next on the agenda and it was quite nice to see that not everything was cut back to bare earth and in fact most had quite a bit of colour.

Germander Speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys) and Bush Vetch (Vicia sepium) - Raphoe, East Donegal (H34). - Oisín Duffy.
Germander Speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys) and Bush Vetch (Vicia sepium) – Raphoe, East Donegal (H34). – Oisín Duffy.

On the other side of the road was a slightly uncommon visitor to Donegal – Shining Cranesbill (Geranium lucidum), which was carpeting an old parking area.

Shining Cranesbill (Geranium lucidum) - Raphoe, East Donegal (H34) - Oisín Duffy
Shining Cranesbill (Geranium lucidum) – Raphoe, East Donegal (H34) – Oisín Duffy 

The hedgerows in Donegal were slightly behind the rest of the country and the Hawthorn was only in half bloom at best (with quite a lot still in bud). Some of the early Spring species were still thriving also, like this very healthy looking Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna)

Lesser Celadine (Ficaria verna) - Raphoe, East Donegal (H34).
Lesser Celadine (Ficaria verna) – Raphoe, East Donegal (H34) – Oisín Duffy.

It’s always nice when you have either some beautiful scenery or some historical/cultural/social landmark near when you’re recording and you don’t have far to go for that in Raphoe.

Raphoe Castle - Oisín Duffy
Raphoe Castle – Oisín Duffy

More searching of the walls and we found Maidenhair Spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes) and English Stonecrop (Sedum anglicum). Hart’s Tongue (Asplenium scolopendrium) was just unfurling at this point and its youthful colour added to the hedgerows and old stone walls.

Hart's Tongue (Asplenium scolopendrium) - Raphoe, East Donegal (H34) - Oisín Duffy
Hart’s Tongue (Asplenium scolopendrium) – Raphoe, East Donegal (H34) – Oisín Duffy

By no means is the above a complete list of the species recorded, close to 80 were recorded in this small town.
More to come about Botanising in East Donegal in the next few weeks!