Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)
Sat 10 Jul 2004
A Scottish Wildlife Trust (Skye branch) walk led by Mike Taylor, of Skye Ferns fame, and Tim Godfrey, to look at the ferns growing in the Ord area of Sleat. I went down early because I wanted to get a picture of the Marsh Clubmoss that grows by Loch Meodal on the way to Ord.
That's the Marsh Clubmoss on the left, the fourth Clubmoss species we've had in this diary, and we should be able to add Alpine Clubmoss before the season's out. Marsh is not the most spectacular of Clubmosses, but is distinctive in the way its horizontal stems put up vertical shoots which look very similar to the horizontal ones at first but later bear the spores.
With the Marsh Clubmoss grows Intermediate Bladderwort, above right. Unlike Lesser Bladderwort, which we had on 29 June, this species never flowers in Skye. Its visible stems bear only leaves, the bladders are on stems which are below the surface of the wet peat.
The White Beak Sedge grows with these two in the boggy ground around the loch edge. On the right, the flower-spikes of the Alternate Water-milfoil are now emerging above the water. We showed the underwater stems of this species on 25 May.
Awlwort, above left, also grows in the loch. It is a plant of the Cabbage family, or Crucifers, and its flowers are similar to others of that family such as Shepherd's Purse, but they are always under water. The leaves are quite different from any other Crucifer, and are more like those of other water plants such as Quillwort and Pipewort, being long, narrow, pointed and all from the base. The chrysalis on the right was among Heath Bedstraw (flower on left of pic), Bilberry and Sphagnum and Polytrichum mosses, it seemed a very exposed position.
I lived near this loch in the 1980s and Teal bred on it regularly. Often in summer you could see the mother bird with 9 or 10 ducklings trailing behind her. I did not see that on this occasion, but there was a lone drake Teal on the loch so hopefully the mother and young ones were out of sight somewhere.
Finally arrived at Ord, where we were handed a list of 21 ferns that we might see on the walk. We ended up seeing 20 of them. Ord has some wonderful acid woodland with an Oceanic flora and also has some limestone pavement. Before visiting either of these, we looked at Black Spleenwort, Wall-rue, Hartstongue and Maidenhair Spleenwort which all grew on a rock close to the meeting-place. Then we headed for the woods.
Both the Filmy Ferns, Wilson's and Tunbridge, grow in the Ord woods. The one in the picture is the Tunbridge, showing the toothed indusia. Wilson's has them untoothed. On the right is another characteristic fern of Oceanic woodland, the Hay-scented Buckler Fern. The segments are somewhat upturned at the edges giving it a crimped appearance.
Other ferns seen in the woods, or on the way there, were Broad Buckler Fern, Scaly Male Fern, Hard Fern, Beech Fern, Polypody, Mountain Fern and Bracken. We then moved onto the limestone area, where we saw Green Spleenwort, Hard Shield Fern and Brittle Bladder Fern. I showed all these on 23 May from the Suardal limestone. It was interesting to see that Wild Garlic and Primrose were still in flower this late in the year on the Ord limestone, despite its low elevation.
The object on the left is a Hedgehog dropping, spotted and identified by Roger Cottis. The shiny wing-cases of beetles that it's eaten can be seen. Finally we went along the coast to a recess in the cliffs where this splendid specimen of Sea Spleenwort was admired, tucked in under a rock overhang. On the walk back through some planted woods the Male Fern and Lady Fern were seen, bringing the total fern species to 20.
As a final treat, a pair of Gannets put on a plunge-diving display for us to the backdrop of the Cuillins. Eiders and seals were also seen on the offshore islands. Quite apart from the ferns, the walk had been worthwhile for the superb scenery, despite the dull weather. A big thankyou to Mike and Tim.
Blaven from Ord