Nature Notes from Argyll
(and occasionally other places)
Mon 22 Sep 2008 Beinn Narnain (927 m)
My first venture into the Arrochar Alps. Being of acid rock they are not as botanically rich as Ben Lui, so you have to hunt harder for nuggets, but that's ok, I was born to hunt. The slopes don't have much in the way of alpines until you're above 800 m (first alpine was Stiff Sedge at 736 m, next was Alpine Lady's Mantle at 798), but the exposed summit plateau is a different world. Dwarf Willow (above left) carpets the ground along with Mountain Crowberry, stunted Bilberry and Cowberry, and the moss Racomitrium lanuginosum. Surprises are few, but this little clump of Dwarf Cudweed, above right, was one. Like most things at this height it was long past flowering. It was on the final rocky climb to the summit.
Ptarmigan droppings were plentiful, but I didn't see or hear the birds themselves. These are on a mat of Racomitrium lanuginosum, with the paler R heterostichum in the bottom right.
Fir Clubmoss is at home on these dwarf heaths and was producing abundant gemmae. These are small clusters of leaves angled away from the shoot tips which will fall off and become new plants. Spore-cases are visible in the axils of upper leaves but below the level of the gemmae. Apparently the spores never germinate, and the gemmae are the only viable means of reproduction.
Parsley Fern is frequent among boulders near the summit. On the way down I found this specimen of Tormentil belonging to the larger and less common subspecies "strictissima", with deeply divided stipules and leaves toothed to the base. It had finished flowering but you could tell how large the flowers had been.
Autumn in the mountains doesn't always mean lack of colour. This is Northern Bilberry (with a shoot of ordinary Bilberry on the far right).
Thu 25 Sep 2008 Binnean an Fhidleir (811 m)
This mountain is wedged between Glen Kinglass and Glen Fyne. I'm not sure if it counts as an Arrochar Alp, but it's similar to Beinn Narnain in terms of what you can expect from the vegetation. It's an easy climb and I wished I'd worn wellies rather than walking boots so as to get into the squelchier bits.
The first alpine seen was Alpine Meadow-rue at 440 m, then Starry Saxifrage at 509 m followed quickly by Alpine Lady's Mantle at 510. These were probably due to being beside a burn; after leaving it I saw neither these nor any other alpines bar Stiff Sedge, until I was above 700 m. From 750 m onwards Dwarf Willow was frequent. There was a lot of Fir Clubmoss with gemmae, just as on Beinn Narnain. I saw no heather of any kind until I was well on the way back down.
This was a nice find, the hybrid between Wood Horsetail and Shade Horsetail. There was plenty of it in a flush at 426 m, and I found another lot on the way down at 337 m. It has the habit of Shade Horsetail but a few secondary branches give it away. Thanks to Heather McHaffie for confirming the id.
The moth is Haworth's Minor. Thanks to Tom Prescott and Roy Leverton for this difficult id, as the usual white streaks have worn away. It was at 750 m. It was flying about when I first saw it, but it came to rest on this spot and remained there, allowing itself to be touched.
Some bryophytes at 744 m. Two liverworts together, the red Scapania undulata and the grey-green Anthelia julacea. The moss with abundant purple capsules is Polytrichastrum alpinum, with bits of golden-green Sphagnum denticulatum low down among it, and some more Anthelia julacea at the front.
In one place the Dwarf Willow had what looked like big dollops of tar on its leaves. These are the fruitbodies of the Willow Tar Spot fungus, Rhytisma salicinum.
The mushrooms on the right are a Cortinarius species, growing very near the summit among Racomitrium lanuginosum, Cowberry, Stiff Sedge and Viviparous Fescue.
Other interesting sightings were the galls Puccinia galii-verni
and Aculus anthobius on Heath Bedstraw, the gall Eupontania herbaceae on
Dwarf Willow, the viviparous form of Tufted Hair-grass, the waxcap Hygrocybe
3 Red Deer stags and 3 hinds.
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer