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.
We weren’t at the site for more than five minutes before I came across a plant new to my species list.
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).
It was nice to come across some familiar plants also.
As we entered new areas and habitats Dave would give us a run-down on the species we were likley to encounter.
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.
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.
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.
Shortly after that I noticed something else fluttering by and it turned out to be the very flighty Small Heath.
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!
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.
But first, here’s a quick shot of how everything looked before recording!
Along the way to the dune system we noticed another group –
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.
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 –
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.
Luckily the species was abundant in the area so there was plenty to be found and photographed. Other interesting species we came across –
An excellent end to the first day of the BSBI ASM in Northern Ireland.
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.
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.
Every bog pool had a number of very interesting plant and it was a delight to come across some of the following.
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.
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) 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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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!
Ireland has 20 native species of bumblebee, but like most things some are rare or have restricted ranges and are not commonly seen. The most commonly encountered species are Bombus lucorum, Bombus terrestris, Bombus Pascuorum, Bombus Hortorum and Bombus Jonellus. Depending on your location you may also see Bombus Muscorum. Bombus lapidarius is more common in the south of the country (I only generally seem to record it on speices rich grassland near the coast in the North) and is listed as vulnerable in the Irish bee Red List.
Bumblebee identification can seem daunting to begin with, but like most things it gets easier with time. Thankfully you can take a systematic approach to their identification. This will generally start with tail colour, moving on to the number of bands on the thorax or abdomen.
This week we will be looking at the Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris). In Ireland buff-tailed queens are quite noticeable creatures. They are large species and often one of the first to emerge in the spring, in fact they are one of the few species to actually forage during the winter. It is well worth keeping an eye out for these beautiful bumblebees on mild winter days (especially in urban areas). A few days into January of this year I was amazed to see a lovely new buff-tailed queen feeding on Ivy (Hedera helix). A few days later, I started to notice a few more searching for suitable feeding areas.
As I mentioned, the first thing to look for is tail colour, buff-tailed queens have a “buff” coloured tail. This can range from a dirty white to an almost brown/orange colour and stands out quite a bit compared to the white-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lucorum) (which has a very clean white tail, but there’ll be more about that in the coming week). The species has two dark yellow/orange bands, one on the thorax and one on the abdomen (this also differs from the white tailed which has very bright lemon yellow bands on the thorax and abdomen).
The queens are rather easy to tell apart once they have been observed a few times (it helps if you have a white-tailed bumblebee for comparison near the beginning though). Unfortunately the workers are not as easy to tell apart as the queens, in fact it’s a great deal more complicated as it involves DNA analysis of the species.
It’s now a full week since the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) held it’s New Year Plant Hunt, which encouraged botanists and all manner of enthused individuals to go out and find whatever was in flower from the 1st-4th of January. I was extremely interested when I heard about the project and in fact my enthusiasm led me out in the cold and rain just before 1:00AM to record my first species for the year (which also appears to be the earliest recorded species for the plant hunt) which was the beautiful and very common Daisy (Bellis perennis). Unfortunately the mixture of slippery ground, rain and wind didn’t allow me to get any decent photographs.
The 1st and 2nd of January did not bring great weather to Co. Donegal, so it was the 3rd before I finally got out into the field. But I was able to keep track of all the happenings of the hunt from the comfort of my home thanks to Twitter and FaceBook and Blog posts. From these sources I could find out how many records and species were coming in from various locations throughout Ireland and the UK. (My Twitter – https://twitter.com/OshDuffy) (BSBI Twitter – https://twitter.com/BSBIbotany)
On the 3rd I met up with Ralph Sheppard (BSBI Vice-County Recorder for West Donegal – H35) and we visited various areas around the county (mainly in East Donegal -H34, also a few in West Donegal too). Our first stop was fruitless, with only one species in flower, Gorse (Ulex europaeus) but the scenery more than made up for the lack of plants.
Our next stop was along the border of both vice counties in Donegal Town. Along the dividing line of the bridge we found Ivy (Hedera helix), Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus), Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum), Hazel (Corylus avellana) Ivy-leaved Toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis) and Water Ragwort (Senecio aquaticus). It was amazing to see some flowers in perfect shape as if it was their peak flowering time and others that seemed to be regretting the decision to flower (late/early).
Next on our list was Murvagh, a beautiful area in East Donegal which is fantastic during the Summer for plants and pollinators having a mix of sand dunes, grassland and a small bit of woodland too. I was there earlier in the year carrying out a BSBI Irish species project on Grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia palustris) and ended up spending most of the day in the location. But on this occasion there was again very little in flower, Daisy (Bellis perennis), Dandelion (Taraxacum agg.) and Gorse (Ulex europaeus). Once again the lack of plants was not an issue as the scenery was phenomenal.
On our way back we stopped along a section of roadside in Convoy, where I was reliably informed that there was White Butterbur (Petasites albus) growing in previous year. Without too much effort we found both White Butterbur and Winter Heliotrope (Petasites fragrans) along with a collection of plants we’d encountered at the other sites and we also got our first and only grass of the day Poa annua. This turned out to be the most profitable site for flowering plants.
On the 4th of January I decided to go out into the field for the last time (as the New Year Plant Hunt was finishing that day). It soon became a bit of a family affair with my parents joining me and helping me search for anything in flower. We got some of the usual suspects early on, Daisy, Dandelion, but were finding it hard to find any Ivy in flower. I was starting to wonder if I would even make it past 3 species, when we came across Bramble (Rubus fruitcosus agg.) in flower! Finding that gave us all new enthusiasm and we started picking up other plants, Fuchsia (which seems to pop itself into areas without too much difficulty) Common Chickweed (Stellaria media), Broad-leaved Dock (Rumex obtusifolius) and Oxeye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare).
As we ventured out a little further we started to notice a few other plants, Herb-Robert once again peaked it’s rather (on this occasion) weathered head, along with gorse (which was turning out to be a constant) and Red Campion (Silene dioica). Straight after finding the Red Campion I also noticed Groundsel and Smooth Sow-Thistle (Sonchus oleraceus). The species list was certainly on the up and up at this stage and I had also added some species which I hadn’t got the previous day. The last two species I recorded on the 4th were also new for my list, Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) and Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna). It was a nice surprise to come across these two and I hadn’t properly seen Hogweed since I was turning over the leaves to look for 22-spot Ladybirds.
Overall, between both days 20 species of plant were recorded in Donegal and I was relatively happy with this, considering how Donegal isn’t exactly the mildest of places in Ireland. It also gave me a jump start for the year to get back into the field and get recording (which I have been doing since and I’m actually keeping a species for this year, so I’ll be giving updates on that here too). If you missed out on the New Year Plant Hunt on this occasion, then fear not, you can catch up with all the botanical recording here -(http://bsbipublicity.blogspot.ie/2015/01/new-year-plant-hunt-over-for-another.html ) and also prepare yourself for New Year Plant Hunt 2016. You could also go out into the field any time and record plants, be they flowering or not and send the details on to a Biological Recording Centre (such as the National Biodiversity Data Centre in Ireland) or even your BSBI Vice-county recorder. I’ll sign off with a list of all the plant that were recorded over the two days!
Donegal is a beautiful and interesting county, filled with wonderful scenery, areas of historical/cultural significance and a great place to get in touch with nature!
On the 12/07/2014 we set off on a rather drizzly morning from base-camps to Inch Island (which has a fantastic reputation for birdwatching). The first site we arrived at was Millbay near Ballynakilly (which once had a Corn and Flax Mill). The surround habitat was sand and shingle with agricultural fields further in the background. It didn’t appear as if the weather was going to get any better so we decided to start recording. A few of the plants which were recorded at this site, where new to my species listing, which always gives you encouragement to search for more.
Sea Milkwort (Glaux maritima) was probably my favourite new plant species for this site. The plant is hardy (in relation it’s salt rich habitat) but still delicate and rather beautiful.
The second site for the day was down at the pier at Inch, which appears to be close to Down Fort (Inch Fort). More sand, hedgerows and treelines in this location. The majority of the plants found here were quite common, but there was a few that were nice to see and one in particular that was rather odd.
Sand Leek (Allium scorodoprasum) is not at all widely recorded for Ireland and appears to have only one record for Donegal between the years 1930-1969. I had never come across this species before and because of that we weren’t quite sure whether it was Sand Leek or Babington’s Leek (Allium ampeloprasum var. babingtonii). There was at least 5 individuals which were growing along with nettles, sow thistles and grasses. The plant is rather striking for no other reason than it looks like nothing else we’ve ever seen! The flowering head is rather unusual but rather pretty (although the smell is not something I could grow accustomed to). It has an extremely long stem (waist height for some) and a papery sheath just below the flowering head which can be seen in the above picture. Unfortunately by the time we had a second opinion on the species the plant had gone over, while it may seem like a shame not to know right now, it gives us something to look forward to for next year (yes, we’re already planning a trip to the same site for 2015 to get full confirmation). Regardless of the species, it will be quite an interesting record as the majority of Allium species have quite low record counts for East Donegal (VC H34). (In case you were wondering, I’m hoping it turns out to be Sand Leek).
Third site on our list was Lackan (Woodland), the area was mainly conifer plantations and there didn’t appear to be a great variety except for a scattering of plants on the banks and above the ditches.
Our final site for the day, took us out of Inch and on our way further into North Donegal. Situated between Buncrana and Carndonagh is the wonderful Lough Fad.
The surrounding area included bog and some unimproved grassland and a number of orchids turned up also. Bog species, such as Round leaved Sundew (Drossera rotundifolia) Bog Asphodel (Narthecium ossifragum ) and Bog Pimpernel (Anagallis tenella). Common, Heath Spotted Orchids, as well as Northern Marsh Orchid were also found! Devils Bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis) the larval foodplant of the only protected insect species in Ireland the Marsh Fritillary was also on site. Follow me on Twitter if you’re interested in the Flora of Ireland (in particular East Donegal) or Irish Biodiversity. Twitter – https://twitter.com/OshDuffy Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/fearglas