Nature Notes from Argyll
(and occasionally other places)

Sat 28 Jun 2008 Ben Lawers area, Perthshire

A field trip with the Botanical Society of Scotland, walking from the Ben Lawers Visitor Centre to Creag na Caillich.  It rained non-stop on my drive to the starting-point but we had dry weather for most of the walk, though unfortunately it did rain while we were at the best bit, the limestone rocks of Creag na Caillich.

Briza media   Botrychium lunaria

We set off along the track round the south side of the Meall nan Tarmachan ridge.  Common Quaking-grass and Moonwort were beside the track.  The early part of our walk was also enlivened by good views of Short-eared Owls, and several Common Lizards were seen.  Yellow Saxifrage was prominent along the trackside for much of the way, and the trailing form of Purple Saxifrage was occasionally seen in the grassy centre of the track, long past flowering of course.  Three-flowered Rush and Lesser Twayblade were here and there on the verges.

Tofieldia pusilla   Carex capillaris

A bit further along the track we began to find Scottish Asphodel.  In places the edge of the verge was lined with Hair Sedge.  This very hurried photo leaves out the male spike at the top, but it looks just like any other Carex male spike.  The female spikes are distinctive with their long drooping stalks and handful of spindle-shaped fruits per spike.

Around here we saw a Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary resting with its wings open and a large Northern Eggar caterpillar.

It was a long hike but with splendid views of the hills, most of them under considerably worse weather than we ourselves were.  How long could our luck last?  Viviparous Bistort began to appear alongside the track, and Cloudberry was among the heather to either side.  At this altitude Meadow Pipits were still doing their Spring parachute display, and a Kestrel and a pair of Twite were seen.  Small Heath butterflies were numerous.  A Field Vole ran along its grassy tunnel.  This is what the Short-eared Owls were after. 

At last our destination was in view and we turned off the track and climbed through Bilberry and Deergrass, dotted with Cow-wheat flowers and Wood Anemone leaves, to Creag na Caillich.  We stopped for lunch on the way up, on ground with Blue Moor-grass, Hair Sedge and Mountain Willow, among boulders with Mossy Saxifrage, Moss Campion and Holly Fern, listening to the Ring Ouzel's calls.  It started to rain.

Potentilla crantzii   Potentilla crantzii

Shortly after lunch we were at the crags and seeing new plants faster than you could jot down their names.  For much of the time rain made photography impossible, but there was the odd moment when it eased off, so I was able to get these shots of the dazzling Alpine Cinquefoil.

Viola lutea   Carex atrata

Also managed photos of Mountain Pansy and Black Alpine Sedge.  Other alpines noted included Sheathed Sedge, Mountain Sorrel, Twisted Whitlow-grass, Alpine Mouse-ear, Spiked Woodrush, and Alpine Meadow-rue.

Globe Flower, Wood Cranesbill, Stone Bramble, Northern and Limestone Bedstraws, and Harebell (the latter not yet flowering) were among the plants that are not confined to mountains but are well represented in this habitat, and the alpine versions of Thrift and Scurvy-grass were on display.  Shady Horsetail was another good find.  If the weather had been better we would have gone higher up the mountain, but it was too misty and murky.

Poa alpina   Erebia epiphron

The viviparous Alpine Meadow-grass growing on a rock ledge.  On the way back down we saw this Mountain Ringlet, a first for me.  This was the closest I could get for a photo, which in the dull conditions doesn't show the butterfly to best advantage.

Fri 4 Jul 2008 Kentallen

Chaenorhinum minus   Coronopus didymus

I was looking for Annual Knawel as part of the BSBI's Threatened Plants Project.  Didn't find it but here are a couple of bare-ground annuals that I did find, Small Toadflax and Lesser Swinecress.  Both rather scarce this far north-west.


All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer