Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)
Tue 27 Jun 2006 Neist Point
First we walked down past the lighthouse to look for Bog Pimpernel, recorded from there in the past, but did not find it. On the way this female Common Hawker dragonfly was found but did not allow a close approach. The ones previously shown on the site have been males, which are more often seen. We had lunch on a small beach of shell sand, which is made up of some intriguing shapes as the close-up picture shows.
We then made our way eastward along the cliff-tops towards Waterstein Head. There is a lot of Moss Campion, normally a mountain plant, on the cliff edge here, but it was not in flower. The flower in the LH pic had me stumped for a moment; it is actually Fairy Flax, a common enough species but usually very leggy and with all the parts well spaced out. On the exposed cliff-top turf it formed a very compact plant and was hard to recognise.
The boulder fields below Waterstein Head have a very interesting flora, notable especially for Downy Currant, above right, which is more numerous here than anywhere else on Skye. It only seems to grow where there are large boulders, and the bits that stick out from among the boulders are invariably bitten off by sheep. The fruits turn red when ripe.
Further up the slope there were a few plants of Twisted Whitlow-grass among the rocks, shown on the left with Wood Sage behind it. Mossy Saxifrage was everywhere, but not until I reached the top of the boulder slope and the foot of the great Waterstein Head cliff did I find any in flower, shown on the right. The foot of the cliff is about 100 metres above sea level (the top being 300 metres) and has plenty of the coastal plant Buckshorn Plantain as well as these upland species and a wide variety of other herbs that are happy to endure the rugged conditions in return for the freedom from grazing. It's just a pity that the range a human can reach is not much further than a sheep can reach, and I can only wonder at what botanical treasures there might be in the 195 metres or so of cliff that is out of reach of both. Abseiling, anyone?
Waterstein Head. Birds seen during the walk included Golden Eagle, Dipper, Twite, Rock Doves, Great Skua and Black Guillemot. Also good views of a Basking Shark.
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer