Tag Archives: BSBI

New Year Plant Hunt 2017

From the first to the fourth of January I have been taking part in the New Year Plant Hunt (NYPH), an initiative by the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) to get people out recording during the first four days of the New Year to see what’s in flower between Ireland and Britain.

donegal-2017
Glenveagh National Park, Co. Donegal – Oisín Duffy

As is normal for all my adventures in biological recording (and everything really) I was joined by the wonderful Mairéad Crawford (the other Vice-County Recorder for East Donegal). This was my third year participating in the NYPH, having recorded in Donegal, Tyrone, Derry and Armagh in previous years.


The first plant I recorded in 2017 and the first of the New Year Plant Hunt, White Clover (Trifolium repens) taken just after midnight – Oisín Duffy

My first botanical interaction of 2017 came just after midnight when I recorded a rather beautiful White Clover (Trifolium repens) which was growing relatively near my house. I was informed that for the third year in a row I had logged the first record of the NYPH event. Darkness and extremely wet ground dissuaded me from pushing my luck any further. The next morning was rather bright and chilly (a common occurrence in Donegal) and we decided to record along both of our local areas (particular around Argery and Raphoe). With one plant down on the list, it wasn’t long before we started seeing an abundance of Dandelions (Taraxacum), Daisy (Bellis perennis) and the lovely grass Poa annua. These species repeated on the list for quite a while and quite a while of time was spent looking for Ivy in flower, the majority of which had gone to berry. Eventually after walking a stretch of road, we came across a few extremely tatty Ivy (Hedera helix) flowers.


Gorse (Ulex europaeus) was one of the great constants throughout the plant hunt – Oisín Duffy

Gorse (Ulex europaeus) was another reliable plant and was in flower throughout the local area. Disturbed ground near the entrance of fields, gates and houses had great numbers of daisies and also one new species for the list Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris). While recording around Raphoe Town and the nearby environs of Mongorry we came across, a rather tattered Meadow Buttercup (Ranunculus acris), Lolium perenne and the much maligned Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea).


Views from Mongorry – Oisín Duffy

The last stop on our first day of the plant hunt was to check out a site for White Butterbur (Petasites albus), which doesn’t appear to be all that common and seems to be confined to Ulster within Ireland. We found numerous plants, but only a few were actually in flower, but I’d imagine it will be an impressive display in a short time.


Ivy-Leaved Toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis) still in flower in Convoy, Co. Donegal – Oisín Duffy.

On the way back to the car we noticed Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna) in flower and many others not far off it and while checking nearby stonewalls, we spotted Ivy-Leaved Toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis) which had numerous flowers (not all of which were in good shape, but it was certainly nice to have a little bit of colour for the end of the day).


Our starting point on Day two of the New Year Plant Hunt – Oisín Duffy

Day two seen us travelling further North, we again set off after 12:00 as the mornings were quite frosty and road conditions less than favourable. Our first stop for the day was Inch Wildfowl Reserve, a beautiful part of the county and a favoured spot for birdwatchers. While the bird life, views and weather was gorgeous, there was very little in flower and the usual suspects were recorded (Daisy, Dandelion, Poa annua and Ivy). One thing which was found in numerous parts of the county (but we didn’t get recording at every location) was Winter Heliotrope (Petasites fragrans). This non-native plant has a tendency to carpet the ground with its large horseshoe-shaped leaves and sweet smelling flowers (the scent is something similar to vanilla or aniseed). This was taking up patches of roadsides through from Raphoe all the way to Buncrana and can outcompete or block other native plants from growing in that area.


Just before setting off around Swan Park – Oisín Duffy

Even though the temperatures were barely above 6 degrees, it felt like great weather, refreshing breezes and plenty of sunshine, the only thing that was missing was flowering plants. With this in mind we decided to take a trip to Swan Park in Buncrana. The park which has a nice range of mini habitats also has the beautiful Crana River running through it, which on this occasion looked more like glass or silk than water.


More glorious weather at Swan Park, but unfortunately not much in flower – Oisín Duffy

Before finishing for the evening we paid a visit to the amazing hillfort of Grianan of Aileach. While there was virtually nothing in flower here the views over the surrounding countryside were spectacular and well worth the visit if you happen to find yourself in the area.


Grianan of Aileach, Co. Donegal – Oisín Duffy

Even though the walks and weather was glorious, we hadn’t much luck in finding any new species. So we enjoyed the rest of the January sunshine and made our way back home with the hope that tomorrow would once again be more fruitful.


Amazing views from Grianan of Aileach – Oisín Duffy

Day three seen us going West and into the neighbouring Vice-County of West Donegal (H35), where Glenveagh National Park was the main target for the day. We arrived just in time for light showers of rain but a rather peaceful park. The remnants of many gone over plants dotted the sides of paths and long grass, but once again we were spotting very little in flower.


Glenveagh National Park, Co. Donegal – Oisín Duffy

Beautiful purple buds of Alder added colour to a somewhat grey day, but before long the sun was battling against the grey clouds and putting up a valiant fight against the rain. More of the usual suspects again, with only one new species to the list being Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens). Even though the views were stunning the lack of plants and incoming heavy rain persuaded us to try elsewhere for additional flowering plants.


Donegal Roads, plenty of miles where put in travelling from site to site, not that it did much for our species list – Oisín Duffy

Ards Friary was the next location on our journey and while once again the views and scenery were amazing we actually managed to find a few extra species to add to our list.


Ards Friary, Co. Donegal – Oisín Duffy

We managed to come across Cock’s Foot (Dactylis glomerata) in amazingly good condition, reminiscent of plants we seen during the Summer while surveying. The dainty Petty Spurge (Euphorbia peplus) was also recorded as well as Nipplewort (Lapsana communis). Unfortunately with another setting sun, we made tracks back home to plan for the final day of recording of the New Year Plant Hunt.


Setting Sun at Ards Friary – Oisín Duffy

If you’ve made it this far you’ll have noticed that we had a day’s recording in the East, West and North Donegal, so there’s no prize for guessing where we decided to spend day four of the plant hunt and that was in South Donegal. One of favourite spots (and location of our BSBI field-outing this year) is Murvagh, a beautiful and diverse coastal habitat with quite a few rarities.


Nice weather and plants, just not that many in flower – Oisín Duffy

Murvagh is generally a treat to anyone interested in nature, but unfortunately for us, very little was in flower. We did however see a few “gone over good finds” which captured our attention for quite a while.


Round-Leaved Wintergreen (Pyrola rotundifolia ssp. maritima) – Oisín Duffy

This was really the common trend of the four days, only the hardiest of plants where still about and flowering, a series of hard frosts in mid/late December finished off a number of plants which I had recorded in late November.


Skies above Murvagh just before – Oisín Duffy

However we still managed to record 18 species over the 4 days (not the best total in world) but for being at the North-Western limit of the New Year Plant Hunt and to have bad frosts and rather cold conditions, it wasn’t that bad and of course the main thing was that we had immense fun, travelling our home county, seeing amazing scenery, shaking off any botanical recording rust that set in over the Winter period and I can’t think of too many better ways to spend the first four days of the New Year than being in and recording nature with Mairéad.

Below is the full list of plants which we recorded over the four days:

White Clover (Trifolium repens) – 1st of the New Year Plant Hunt
Ivy (Hedera helix)
Daisy (Bellis perennis)
Dandelion (Taraxacum agg.)
Gorse (Ulex europaeus)
Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)
Annual Meadow Grass (Poa annua)
Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea)
Meadow Buttercup (Ranunculus acris)
Perennial Rye Grass (Lolium perenne)
Winter Heliotrope (Petasites fragrans)
White Butterbur (Petasites albus)
Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna)
Ivy-Leaved Toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis)
Hazel (Corylus avellana)
Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens)
Cock’s Foot (Dactylis glomerata)
Petty Spurge (Euphorbia peplus)
Nipplewort (Lapsana communis)

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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!

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!

New Year Plant Hunt: Co. Donegal

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.

Daisy (Bellis perennis) the first plant I recorded this year at 00:53 on the 1st of January 2015.
Daisy (Bellis perennis) the first plant I recorded this year at 00:53 on the 1st of January 2015.

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.

Lough Mourne looking towards the Gap.
Lough Mourne looking towards the Gap.

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.

Murvagh looking spectacular as ever, but the fog really just adds something almost mystical to this picture.
Murvagh looking spectacular as ever, but the fog really just adds something almost mystical to this picture.

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.

Ivy (Hedera helix) in flower at Convoy, Co. Donegal.
Ivy (Hedera helix) in flower at Convoy, Co. Donegal.

 

White Butterbur (Petasites albus) also found growing in Convoy. This one was also completely new to my species list.
White Butterbur (Petasites albus) also found growing in Convoy. This one was also completely new to my species list.

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). 

Rumex looking rather fantastic.
Rumex looking rather fantastic.

 

Bramble flower looking likes it has had a rather tough time of it.
Bramble flower looking likes it has had a rather tough time of it.

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.

Herb-Robert looking slightly weathered, but then again, the past few days had been rough, with wind, rain and even frost.
Herb-Robert looking slightly weathered, but then again, the past few days had been rough, with wind, rain and even frost.

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!

Fog lifting off the fields surrounding Lough Mourne.
Fog lifting off the fields surrounding Lough Mourne.

• Daisy (Bellis perennis)
• Dandelion (Taraxacum .agg)
• Ivy (Hedera helix)
• Ivy leaved toad flax (Cymbalaria muralis)
• Winter Heliotrope (Petasites fragrans)
• White Butterbur (Petasites albus)
• Poa annua
• Gorse (Ulex europaeus)
• Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)
• Water Ragwort (Senecio aquaticus)
• Red Campion (Silene diocia)
• Hazel (Corylus avellana)
• Herb-Robert (Geranium robertianum)
• Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus)
• Broad-leaved Dock (Rumex obtusifolius)
• Smooth Sow-Thistle (Sonchus oleraceus)
• Oxeye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare)
• Common Chickweed (Stellaria media)
• Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium)
• Bramble (Rubus fruitcosus agg.)

 

 

Inch and beyond – Botanising in East Donegal (VC H34)

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)
Sea Milkwort (Glaux maritima)

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.

Looking out to Lough Swilly from Inch Pier
Looking out to Lough Swilly from Inch Pier

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)
The possible – Sand Leek 
(Allium scorodoprasum)

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.

Lough Fad
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.
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