Friday, 6 June 2008

On the cliff tops

Thursday 5th June 2008
To continue the saga of the clouds and the weather this morning - the rain only lasted half an hour and gradually the sun broke back through so that by 9.30 a.m. we had yet another warm, still and sunny day.

I went for an amble along the cliff tops to the South for an hour. According to the Stornoway Gazette the May weather was the sunniest and driest since Stornoway records began (but it doesn't say when that was). The Sphagnum moss is as good an indicator as any of how dry it has been. Not only has most of it turned white but you could squeeze it as hard as you like and not a spot of water would come out.

Part of the bottom of the croft is absolutely covered in Tormentil (Potentilla erecta).

A bit further along the cliffs the ground was covered in Common Cotton Grass or Bog Cotton (Eriophorum angustifolium), a sedge that loves boggy places. Normally this would be ground to be tackled in wellies but this morning it was as dry as a bone.

There were a small number of Heath Spotted Orchids (Dactylorhiza maculata) in the grass. Similar to the Common Spotted Orchid they usually have spotted leaves and are very variable with white, purple or pink flowers, spotted and lined with crimson or pink. Whereas the Common Spotted Orchid grows on lime the Heath Spotted Orchid is a plant of acid soils, including bogs. It can also be distinguished by the fact that the Common one has three distinct lobes with regular edges whilst the Heath has two lobes with a central tooth and wavy edges to the lobes.

It had just passed high tide in Bayble Bay and the tides have had quite a range this week.

Heath Milkwort (Polygalla serpyllifolia) is another plant whose flower varies enormously in colour from pink to purple or violet or blue.

In one patch of what would normally be bog there were lots of Common Butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris). The butterworts and sundews are our only native insectivorous plants.

There was a distincive lichen on one of the large rocks above the cliffs. Like the other lichen photos I have taken this holiday it will have to wait until I get home to be identified.

The same applied to a moss that I discovered in a dark and boggy hole that is normally a stream bed. Unlike the Sphagnum this moss was full of water.

My mind has gone blank - I cannot think what fern this. Is it Hard Fern (Blechnum spicant)?

I can usually only identify liverworts by their reproductive cups and this one has none so I'll have to leave it anonymous for the moment.

In the afternoon a Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) paid GB's pond a visit.

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