Nature Notes from Argyll
(and occasionally other places)
Thu 9 Jul 2009 Beinn Donnachain, NW of Dalmally
Lochan Uaine, 610 m high, a place of peace. The far end
tips out into a burn that feeds the River Strae and ends up in Loch Awe,
eventually joining the sea right outside my window back home.
Northern Bedstraw, the mountain form with downy stems, on the
crags overlooking the lochan. The plants in front
of it in the photo appear to be Bilberry and Alpine Lady's Mantle.
Intermediate Water-starwort and the Wandering Snail were found
in the lochan. Also Shoreweed, Nordic Bladderwort, Alternate
Water-Milfoil, Awlwort, Long-stalked Pondweed and a frog.
The mountains may look bleak but there is much colourful life up
there. Mountain Ringlets enjoyed the sunny moments while the Golden Plover
sang of eternity. Palmate Newts are well disguised when right way up in
the peaty pools, but the one I watched one for several minutes, writhing about
with a big cranefly in its mouth, flashed its orange belly with each convulsion.
Not sure what the problem was, the cranefly must have been long dead, and I
don't see how thrashing about like that would help you swallow it. But
then I'm not a newt.
Dragonflies too bring sparkle to the sombre bog pools. Incidentally this
is why I prefer to go into the mountains on my own. With other people you
have to organise the date in advance, and it invariably rains all day long when
the day comes. Not that I'm wimpish about getting wet, but you only see a
fraction of what you'd see on a sunny day. The sun brings a whole new
dimension to a day on the tops; all the jewels are on display instead of hidden
under the heather. On your own you can look at the forecast
each morning and pick your day. This was a previously unknown location for
the Mountain Ringlet, and I'd never have discovered its presence if the day had
been dull. It was also an unknown location for the Brilliant
Emerald dragonfly and the highest altitude ever recorded for it. Thanks to
Pat Batty for the ID and information. The photo shows a pair in cop.
Four-spotted Chasers were also whizzing to and fro across the sludgey peat
basins. Up here somehow you remember that brightness and beauty mean life, not packaging.
Though only 650 m high, Beinn Donnachain rewards the seeker of alpine plants.
Here are Trailing Azalea (in fruit; the flowers are over already), Scottish
Asphodel and Three-flowered Rush.
Mountain Willow and the high-altitude form of Alpine Bistort
with all the flowers replaced by bulbils. Other alpines noted were False
Sedge, Stiff Sedge, Dwarf Willow, Alpine Meadow-rue and Starry Saxifrage.
The best concentration of alpines was in a north-facing flush at 592 m, which
with Globe Flower, Meadowsweet, Water Avens, Dog Violet, Dandelion, Flea Sedge
and Tawny Sedge.
If only there were time to go on and do the next one...
but each mountain deserves a day of undivided devotion.
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer