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 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
On the 13/07/2014 we set off to Murvagh in Co. Donegal (VC H34), after being informed that one of my all time favourite plants was growing there. Grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia palustris) is a truly amazing spectacle, aesthetically the plant is a absolute triumph, but is relatively understated until you get up close and personal. If (more likely when) you look at the plant closely you’ll notice that there is a lot going on, however it’s not “loud” or “busy”, it’s very much a subtle beauty, gentle and delicate.
But that’s enough of the poetic talking, P. palustris is also part of the Irish Species Project run by the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI). The general purpose of the project is to examine the distribution of some of the scarcer wild plants in Ireland and P. palustris happens to be one of them. While searching/recording wildflowers might sound slightly odd to some people, it has a very rich history in both Britain and Ireland. Not only is it a very fun learning experience, but it’s also important as it allows for a greater understanding of the species you’re recording.
We arrived to an already quite packed carpark (Murvagh is a bit of a hot-spot for beach goers and the like), but we were not there to soak up sun or walk barefoot down the sand. We were there for one reason, to record plants (and anything else that catches my eye, usually bumblebees, butterflies and moths, on this front Murvagh was perfect), so we started walking along the well worn paths and in between the rough Marram grass. Some nice usual suspects started appearing from very early on Lady’s Bedstraw (Galium verum), Wild Thyme (Thymus polytrichus) and the beautiful Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia).
Then on a cleared area of woodland, with old cut trees which were beginning to rot we found the wonderful Common Twayblade (Neottia ovata). This plant was absolutely everywhere, to the point that one really had to be careful where you placed your foot. One of the things I enjoy so much about botany (and recording in general) is that there is so much to learn and observe. For instance, this was my first time seeing Common Twayblade (in person, I’ve seen it in books/online etc tonnes of the times and that made identification much handier) and that’s a rather special thing, because seeing something in the flesh for the first time, you get a sense of how early botanists and naturalists much have felt when discovering a new species. It’s moments like this when you’re starting that really give you the encouragement and inspiration to learn more and actively search for species.
Nestled nicely beside an abundant clump of N. ovata was the plant which we had been searching for, P. palustris. Once we found it, we started to see more, small clumps of the flower were dotted around area, some of which were fully out and some which were only emerging.
After recording the surrounding plants and making any other notes that we had to (along with more than a few photographs), we set back to the car park and decided to scan further south of the area. Orchids again started to appear, along with 6-spot Burnets Moths and Dark Green Fritillaries. Then only about a few hundred metres from where a large group had set up camp for the weekend there was another glorious display by P. palustris. This site was in a different grid square, so again we started recording the surrounding area and I got another opportunity to have a photography session with the plant.
The day was a complete success, not only did I find my favourite plant, but we also found it in two separate grid square and I had the privilege of photographing and learning a few new species.