Friday, 20 July 2018

BSBI Summer Meeting 2018: Day Four

Moss-covered rocks on IoM
Image: K. Imms
Here's Jon Shanklin's latest report from this year's BSBI Summer Meeting on the Isle of Man: 

"Our fourth day without any rain, but it won't last. Today was another coach tour, with first stop some mining deads (local name for spoil heaps associated with former zinc or lead mines). 

"We nearly didn't go, as they were predicted to be scorched by the sun, however almost as soon as we were out of the coach, first Ophioglossum vulgatum was spotted then Botrychium lunaria

"Entering the mining area the recorder decided to avoid crossing any tetrad boundaries, which put some of the area out of bounds although some participants just wandered around looking at plants.

"A small stream was still flowing with water and produced a verdant green channel, with some flushes, one of which had Drosera rotundifolia

Botrychium lunaria
Image: K Imms
"Walking back along the track we encountered a large green caterpillar of an emperor hawkmoth.

"Our second stop was Glen Maye, and despite a firm instruction of no lunch until 12:30, some convenient, although very dilapidated, picnic benches proved too enticing. 

"As lunch was concluding we discovered that one of the party had gone missing so search parties ran down the Glen in case he had already set off. 

"After running for several minutes there was no sign, so they had to run back up to the picnic spot. Fell running wasn't an expected sport during the ASM! 

"The missing participant did eventually turn up, but by then the group had split into the easy party who had a nice stroll down to the beach and the rough party who strolled along the coastal path to Traie ny Volain. A subset decided that descent of the cliff by an old smuggler path was a bit too rough so explored along the top. 

Chris Preston & fellow bryologists
brave the weir in Silverdale
Glen in search of bryophytes
Image: A. Haden
"The old smuggler path was blocked by brambles, so we took a more or less bramble free alternative route that wasn't a path at all. 

"Safely at the bottom we checked several maritime species such as Cochlearia officinalis, Tripleurospermum maritimum and Fumuria muralis. The last of course is not a maritime species, but was growing with them at the base of a slip. 

"The main point of the descent was however to see a cave where there wonderful outgrowths of  Adiantum capilllus-veneris.  

"We then had to ascend the cliff, which was rather more effort than the coming down, but was safely accomplished, with an uneventful return to the coach.

"The evening talk was from Laura McCoy who is curator of Natural History at the Manx Museum. She told us all about the recent discovery of a skeleton of a Giant Deer on the northern coast of the Isle of Man in a Characeous Marl. 

Eupatorium cannabinum
Image: J. Shanklin
"Most likely it had been exhausted after the rut, had wandered into a Chara-filled pond to stock up on calcium and had become mired. 

"After the talk it was time to return to our homework in the maths lab, where we checked up on some of the difficult specimens found during the day. 

"The prettiest was a pavement weed found by Ron, which nobody really recognised, though after a suggestion and a bit of internet searching came out approximately as Nemesia denticulata.

"With rain forecast for tomorrow and no indication of where might be driest we decided to stick with plan A and go to The Curragh, split into four teams and see who could record the most (and see the largest number of wallabies!)".

Thursday, 19 July 2018

BSBI Summer Meeting 2018: Day Three

Isle of Man Cabbage - a
local speciality!
Image: K. Imms
Here's the latest report from Field Meetings Secretary Jonathan Shanklin on the Isle of Man, where this year's BSBI Summer Meeting - a joint meeting with our friends at the British Bryological Society - has reached the halfway mark.

Over to Jonathan:

"Today we had car trips out to sites of interest. The first task was to divide participants into "easy" and "rough" groups, brief them on where they were to go (in each case a separate monad in two tetrads) and then get them into cars. Easier said than done, but ultimately successfull. Next step was to get to the designated parking place (which involved a slight navigational detour), and then confirming that we were in our correct monad and weren't going with another group.

"As is often the case our group took a long time getting out of the parking point, finding a much larger number of species than expected. 

 Bryologists Chris Preston
and Liz Kungu
Image: A. Haden
"One particular "notable" in a disused cattle trough was the flat form of Lemna gibba, which has large central cells. We did eventually leave the area, then headed down a country lane lined with a diverse variety of mostly native species. We then came across a giant plant, with similarities to a Valerian. The Vegetative Key didn't quite take us to the right place (was the stem round or square?) but we eventually agreed on Valeriana pyrenaicum.

"Passing some houses a parking area added several species, including some uncommon on the IoM such as Urtica urens and Vulpia bromoides and a Lolium. This generated some debate - the young leaves were rolled and it had awns, however counting the florets showed the number less than 11, so the hybrid Lolium x boucheanum. Pushing onwards I decided that it was time to stop recording and head for a lunch spot, so with a bit of persuasion the others did just that.  

"After lunch we meandered through our target meadows. Several were not very exciting, but I thought one looked a bit more interesting though protected by a barbed wire fence on one side. Micheline gave it a go and this proved worthwhile as she found Carex pallescens so the hunch was correct. From here we dropped down to the river, where we finally earned our "rough" badge by dropping down to the river, in the process spotting an pretty looking moss, which proved to be the liverwort Trichocolea tomentella. A search for Hymenophyllum proved fruitless, despite Debbie wading half way into a pool and already up to her knees. In some wooded marshy areas just above the river Eric found Carex laevigata and Dryopteris cambrensis

BSBI Finance Officer Julie Etherington
 recovering from a long day's plant-hunting!
Image: I. Denholm
"By now the clock was ticking and we had no chance of getting to our monad in the second tetrad, so we just headed back towards the cars, adding several species along the way. We addded a couple more in passing from the car window (Erica cinerea can be done at a low speed). Back at the College there was a bit of time to help others with their homework (we managed all IDs in the field), then dinner, some more id, then a talk from Aline Thomas about the designation of ASSIs on the Island.  Most of the botanists had finished their IDs by 10pm, but bryologists Liz and Matthew are still going as I type this at 22:45.


"Tomorrow is back to a coach, so everyone bar the bryologists will be on board.  The weather should remain good, so watch out for another round of exciting finds".

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

BSBI Summer Meeting 2018: Day Two

Arriving  by coach...
Image: M. Sheehy-Skeffington
Another report by organiser Jon Shanklin from the Isle of Man where the 2018 BSBI Summer Meeting is in full swing. 

Over to Jon:

"Day 2 of the ASM dawned with the threat of rain on the weather radar, however none of it fell where we went. The party mostly travelled by coach to Ayres NNR in the far north of the island, with our coach driver pointing out sites of tourist interest as we went. 

Botanists head off
 into the undergrowth...

Image: M. Sheehy-Skeffington
"Ayres is a coastal dune site, and it was mostly dry and brown, however there were things to record, though some needed a certain amount of homework when we got back to the College. 

"The area with most identifiable species was a dune slack where there was a drying pond.  This had an exciting species for the bryologists on its margins - Riccia cavernosa. Other plants around the pond included Veronica scutellata and Gnaphalium uliginosum, new to some of the party. 

"A sedge was identified as Carex elata, but was it? Close inspection showed stomata on both leaf surfaces raising the possibility of the hybrid with C. nigra. Homework suggested that this conclusion was probably correct.  

"A couple of other odd plants that we found nearby also proved to be hybrids, with clumps of the hybrid Viola canina x riviniana and creeping trails of Potentilla anglica x erecta. An Eyebright was taken back for further inspection and appeared to key to E. ostenfeldii, however that didn't appear to grow on the Island. 

Exploring the meadows...
Image: M. Sheehy-Skeffington
"A re-reading of the BSBI Euphrasia Handbook (always a good idea before reading the key) showed that long hairs meant really long hairs, and that then eventually lead to the more likely E. arctica

"We could have spent all day in the dunes, however there was a good series of hay meadows to visit so we had to march back to the coach and onwards.

"The coach driver did a precision bit of reversing into one of the meadows, where the hay had already been cut and baled, and we saw that several other of the meadows had also been cut. However our guide for the afternoon, Aline Thomas, assured us that some had been held back for us by the farmer. We decided to head for the furthest one, then work back.  

Carum verticillatum
Image: M. Sheehy-Skeffington
"One of the first plants to look at was another Eyebright, which Eric Greenwood and I agreed was E. nemorosa. Next was a first for many - Carum verticillatum. Overall we recorded nearly 50 species in the meadow, but ran out of time to complete others that we had walked through.

"We got back in time for a bit of the homework after dinner - several specimens were checked through, both by botanists and bryologists, mostly coming to firm conclusions on the likely ID of the species in question.

"Tomorrow is a change of format where groups are going to travel by car to a couple of tetrads and then split up into "easy" and "rough" groups to record the individual monads.  The first site is Glen Roy, where the rough group will do the Glen and some meadows, whilst the easy group will do a plantation with forest roads and many aliens. 

"If there is time it is then on to a second tetrad, but at the pace we usually travel there may not be time for that".

Monday, 16 July 2018

BSBI Summer Meeting 2018: Day One

Jonathan Shanklin in the field
Image: K. Edkins
This year's Summer Meeting kicked off today on the Isle of Man. Organiser Jonathan Shanklin, BSBI's Field Meetings Secretary, will be sending us daily updates. 

Today's report  is quite short as the team only had a chance to spend a couple of hours in the field, but there has already been some tweeting about the meeting and a note appeared on the local radio station's website.

Over to Jonathan: 

One of the IoM habitats waiting to be explored
Image: P. Tomlinson 
"Botanists from across the country converged on the Isle of Man using many different routes. Remarkably, five managed to meet up on the ferry from Liverpool, which also had a sixth on board. Although the ferry passed through some heavy rain showers, the Island was still dry and looked very parched. 

"By the time we got to King William's College where we are based, the scheduled walk to Langness was about to depart, however to make life easier we drove there rather than walking the three kilometres from the College. We were lead around the peninsula by Richard Selman, who introduced us to the Lesser Mottled Grasshopper, which is found on the Isle of Man and not in the UK. 

Andree's opening slide
Image: K. Imms
"Botanically, whilst the short turf was well browned, many species were identifiable, for example Scilla verna. Elsewhere we debated whether a Stonecrop had a papillose stem (it did), examined the scales on the outer ring of achenes of a Leontodon and noted the glandular hairs on a perennial Spergularia. By the time we got back to the car park we had about 100 species on the list, not too bad for a monad in a few hours.

"Returning to the College, we found our rooms and then dinner in the school hall ("like Hogwarts" was one comment). After dinner, Andree Dubbledam entertained us to an account of the varied habitats of the island and some of the flora that we might find. We promised to leave most questions until we met up with him in the field later in the week!

"Tomorrow we head to the north of the Island to see some dune flora and on the way back some ancient meadows. Watch this space!"

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Five go to Colonsay

Lochan on Colonsay: spot the botanist!
Image: K. Walker
The two members of BSBI's Science Team (Head of Science Kevin Walker and Scientific Officer Pete Stroh) have been working incredibly hard writing scientific papers, preparing Species Accounts and of course seeing their book Threatened Plants in Britain and Ireland through to publication. 

They certainly deserved a break, but of course for botanists a break means... going out looking at plants! Read on to hear Kevin's account of his and Pete's latest botanical adventure: 

"Botanising on Colonsay is always an adventure and this June was no exception for the “famous five” botanists who assembled in Oban on the 16th June: myself, Pete Stroh, David Pearman, Simon Leach and Stephen Bungard standing in for Owen Mountford who has been a regular team member but went earlier this year to take part in the Colonsay Spring Festival. This was our fifth successive trip to record the flora of the island for a new Flora to update the checklists produced by McNeill (1910) and Clarke & Clarke (1991).

David Pearman on Colonsay
Image: K. Walker
"Colonsay is small by Hebridean standards; nine miles long and four miles at its widest. It actually comprises two islands: Oransay, the smaller of the two and reputedly the landing place for St Columb before he settled in Iona, is connected to the “mainland” by a wide sandy bay (The Strand) which is walkable at low tide. The geology is uniformly acid with a few bands of limestone that outcrop in a few places (e.g. Kiloran Bay). 

"It is low-lying (the highest point is 143 m) with a rugged terrain covered in deep heather and bogs contrasting with large expanses of tightly grazed machair on the dunes and where sand has been blown inland. The coastline is mainly rocky, with some impressive cliffs with large seabird colonies, and fragments of saltmarsh in less exposed locations. 

Ajuga pyramidalis
Image: K. Walker
"There are about a dozen lochans, the largest of which (East, West and Middle Loch Fada) support an internationally important aquatic flora due to its populations of Slender Naiad (Najas flexilis). It is largely unwooded although two ancient woods survive on its east coast, the largest (Coille Mhor) supporting a remarkable diversity of hyperoceanic vascular plants, lichens, bryophytes and ferns.

"Despite its small size Colonsay is a haven for wildlife. Although most famous for its breeding bird populations which include Chough, Hen Harrier, Golden Eagle, and Corncrake (Jardine et al., 2017) its flora is equally impressive. Since 2014 we have recorded nearly 700 species with an average of around 171 species per monad, despite the fact that many coastal monads only have a small area of land. 

"Although Colonsay has a number of rarities such as Irish Lady’s-tresses (Spiranthes romanzoffiana), Slender Naiad (Najas flexilis), Pyramidal Bugle (Ajuga pyramidalis) and Dune Gentian (Gentianella uliginosa), it is the abundance of the supporting cast that really grabs the attention. 

Utricularia stygia
Image: K. Walker
"For us “southerners” these include Hay Scented Buckler Fern (Dryopteris aemula) which is ubiquitous in shaded habitats, often growing with Lesser Twayblade (Neottia cordata) and Wilson’s Filmy-fern (Hymenophyllum wilsonii) whereas numerous bog-pools support a distinctive assemblage including Slender Sedge (Carex lasiocarpa), Bog Sedge (C. limosa), Great Sundew (Drosera anglica), White-beaked Sedge (Rynchospora alba) and Nordic Bladderwort (Utricularia stygia) and more locally Oblong-leaved Sundew (Drosera intermedia) and Bog Orchid (Hammarbya paludosa) (a third site in 2018). 

"Flushes abound with Dioecious Sedge (Carex dioica) and Pale Butterwort (Pinguicula lusitanica) and in 2015 we found Broad-leaved Cottongrass (Eriophorum latifolium) new to the island in a small valley mire on the east coast. 

"Around the coast Saltmarsh Flat-sedge (Blysmus rufus) is almost guaranteed in reasonably sized saltmarshes whereas Scots Lovage (Ligusticum scoticum) and Roseroot (Sedum rosea) are locally abundant on seacliffs and rocky shores. 

Euphrasia sp. - you'll need the
Eyebright Handbook to
work out which one!
Image: K. Walker
"The edges of rough tracks are “festooned” (that maybe overstating it!) with Chaffweed (Centunculus minimus) and All-seed (Radiola linoides) and less occasionally Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). 

"Hay meadows abound with Hay-rattle (Rhinanthus minor) and Euphrasia arctica whereas E. nemorosa is widespread and E. confusa, E. tetraquetra and E. micrantha more localised in coastal habitats and heaths. “Northerners” may be surprised by the abundance of Bugloss (Anchusa arvensis), Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis), and Blunt-flowered Rush (Juncus subnodulosus) and the occurrence of Marsh Helleborine (Epipactis palustris) which still occurs in the coastal marsh where it was discovered in 1906 (Somerville, 1907).

"Colonsay also has a large non-native element, largely due to plantings in the policy wood at Colonsay House and Gardens, the centre of the main estate on the island. Notable escapes include Rhododendron (Rhododendron ponticum), which is well naturalised on moorland and bogs across the island, American skunk-cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) and Pink Purslane (Claytonia sibirica). Species regenerating prolifically in the policy woods themselves include New Zealand Privet (Griselinia littoralis) and Chilean Myrtle (Luma apiculata).

Elatine hexandra
Image: K. Walker
"Although we’ve visited 79 of the 81 monads that make up the island, we continue to make new discoveries. This year’s star finds were Six-stamened Waterwort (Elatine hexandra) in East Loch Fada where it has been known since the 1980s, Drosera x obovata growing amongst its parents near to Loch Cholla, Wood Avens (Geum urbanum) in the woods near Colonsay house and Gardens and Greater Chickweed (Stellaria neglecta) in a 100 year-old plantation near to Scalasaig. 

"But possibly the most remarkable find was Meadow Thistle (Cirsium dissectum). This was originally noticed by David Jardine in 2017 and confirmed by us after a chance encounter between the botany and bird teams. This appears to be the most northerly location in Britain, and just to the north of populations in similar habitats on Islay and in Knapdale.

Kevin and David on Colonsay,
testing the new Eyebright Handbook
Image: P. Stroh
"But many species have yet to be re-discovered; most notably Potamogeton x prussicus (P. alpinus x P. perfoliatus) recorded by Heslop-Harrison (1948) in 1940 and only ever recorded from one other site in Britain and Rock Samphire (Crithmum maritimum) first recorded by Alex Somerville along with Marsh Helleborine (Epipactis palustris) in 1906 (Somerville, 1907).

"As well as recording for the Flora we also tested out the new BSBI Euphrasia handbook, which helped us to more tentatively differentiate between Euphrasia confusa, E. nemorosa and E. arctica, although boundaries between these three species appear to merge on Colonsay! 

Kevin's NPMS plot on Colonsay
Image: K. Walker
"I also spent half a day recording my National Plant Monitoring Scheme (NPMS) square in the SW of the island which was set up in 2015 with single plots in five habitats – loch margin, acid mire, dry heath, saltmarsh and rocky shore. No significant changes as yet but fascinating to see the subtle shifts in composition and structure from year to year. 

"One of our group has developed a particular interest in plant galls.  Prior to our visits the only gall recorded for the island was of a rust, Puccinia magnusiana, on Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens). This year we added eleven galls to the 53 recorded in the previous three years. Highlights included galls of sawflies Euura auritae on Eared Willow (Salix aurita) and E. weiffenbachii on Creeping Willow (Salix repens). As you’d expect, midge galls also feature prominently, although some species common on the mainland seem to be rare here, e.g. Dasineura urticae on Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica), which we have so far found in only two places, despite the host plant being pretty widely distributed around the island. Another striking midge gall we were particularly pleased to find was that of Contarinia tiliarum on Lime (Tilia sp.) trees in the estate woodlands around Colonsay House. 

Drosera intermedia on Colonsay
Image: K. Walker
"Last but not least, Pittosporum species/cultivars planted in the gardens around Colonsay House have galls of Trioza vitrioradiata; this psyllid gall was first recorded in Britain in 1993, in Cornwall, and has since been spreading north and east. We were surprised to find it on Colonsay, at what must be the very northern limit of its current distribution in the UK.

"We also saw a few new birds (for us) on the island, including a pair of Whinchat and an Iceland Gull which was feeding on the carcass of a 70 ft Sei Whale that had been washed up on Kiloran beach in December.

"All in all we had another fantastic week on this Hebridean gem of an island – it is always sad to leave but this year our spirits were raised by a pod of Minke Whales breaching not far from the ferry; our first in five trips and well worth the wait! Next year we plan to see basking sharks…maybe…

References
Clarke & Clarke 1991. The Flowering Plants of Colonsay and Oransay. Privately published.
Heslop-Harrison, J.W. 1948. Potamogetons in the Scottish Western Isles, with some remarks on the general natural history of the species. Transactions of the Botanical Society of Edinburgh 35, 1-25.
Jardine, D.C., Peacock, M.A. & Fisher, I.A. 2017. The Birds of Colonsay and Oransay. The Argyll Bird Club, Lochgilphead.
McNeill, M. 1910. Colonsay. One of the Hebrides. David Douglas, Edinburgh.
Somerville, A. 1907. On the occurrence of the Rock Samphire (Crithmum maritimum L.) and the Marsh Helleborine (Epipactis palustris Crantz) on the west coast of Scotland.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

How does a botanist get to work: part five

In this occasional series, we have heard about the many and various ways a botanist will resort to, in order to get up close and personal with plants in their habitats. 

They descend from helicopters, they abseil and dangle on the end of ropes, they row themselves and their fellow botanists across water, all in pursuit of their target plants.

BSBI's intrepid orchid experts Ian and Richard are no exception. Richard emailed me that they recently "returned from being fried alive along the coast of western Ireland. The trip included a day on Inis Mhor, an island where private vehicles are effectively banned, so botanising must be done either by foot or hired bicycle. We bravely opted for the latter".


As the first image shows, they didn't just opt for a ordinary bike - they hired a tandem!  

Fortunately Richard's wife, Dr Paula Rudall, had joined the orchid-hunters on this trip. She was keen to capture the event for posterity and share the images with News & Views readers. Cue Richard's mutterings ("Hmm, I'm still not quite sure whether my crash helmet was on the right way round!") and references to a notorious TV advert from the 1970s

But Paula won the day and we present here the evidence that BSBI's celebrated orchidoholics will not allow any obstacles to keep them from their beloved Dactylorhizas! 

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

The Rough Crew comes to Dursey Island

Botanist Jessica Hamilton, the driving force behind the BSBI Kerry group, recently spent some time in the field with Ireland's celebrated Rough Crew, the intrepid plant-hunters who scale mountains and tramp through bogs in pursuit of the wild flowers that nobody else can reach! 

Over to Jessica to find out what happened in this account illustrated by Jessica's photos :

"A recent weekend was spent botanising on the magnificent Dursey Island with the BSBI Rough Crew. Over the course of the weekend in total there were eleven botanists, including myself, traversing the terrain of the island recording the botanical delights and soaking up the fabulous scenery.

"All in all we recorded around 258 species including many of the little rarities and gems mentioned throughout this report. Overall a weekend of fantastic plants, great people, scenery, bugs, and the weather really played its part.

"However it wouldn’t be the Rough Crew if it didn’t include shoes falling apart, blisters and sheep poo, now would it? Intrigued? Read on to see what we got up to!

"The location, Dursey Island, is accessible by Ireland’s only cable car. Myself, Rory and co arrived on the Saturday morning where we met up with the others who had arrived the night before. After dropping our bags at the house we quickly went to find the other members who had already started their plant hunt for the day. They had already knocked off a nice few species off the list including the carnivorous Pinguicula vulgaris (common butterwort).

"Not long after eagle eyed Rory spotted Ophioglossum azoricum on a rather unsuspecting pathway. A species I hadn’t seen before yet (not surprised, it’s called the Small Adder’s tongue for a reason!)

"What’s better was that the finding of this plant was a brand new record for all of County Cork, so was a great species to have found. We moseyed on and walked the road alongside the cliffs which gave breath-taking views of the surrounding cliffs and headlands which were at times somewhat encompassed by the fog. 

"As we traversed the road we kept finding lots of lovely species including Cerastium arvense (field mouse-ear). Wexford County Recorder Paul then pointed out another tiny little plant, Centuculus minimus (chaffweed) nestled below a mix of sedges/grasses on a damp part of the track.

"It was at this point that Cliona and I went on a not so brief tangent from the rest of the group, as a particularly nice gulley drew our attention. It was a very worthwhile detour as we reached a somewhat sheltered area and spotted lots of Green Hairstreak butterflies, (another new species for me!), as well as common blues flittering about the place.

"Primroses, still in flower, were also aplenty and Saxifraga spathularis (St Patrick’s Cabbage, above left) was also growing happily in clumps as well as swathes of cotton grass growing alongside a backdrop of particularly striking cliff top views. Cliona had a rather impressive? blister on her foot and a ‘bottom’ of sea thrift provided a cushion on which to rest her weary foot for a moment. 

"On our path back to re-joining the group we were actually rather taken aback by the sheer carpets of Thrift (on right). 

"We eventually met back up with the group and after a quick refuel we continued to ramble on and tick off lots of fantastic species including Viola canina (heath dog-violet), Radiola linoides (allseed), both species not all that often seen and it was great personally to see Anthyllis vulneraria (Kidney vetch) in one of its other colour forms (on left), compared to the usual yellow that is more typically seen.

"It was around this time as well that a rather large raptor was spotted by a few members of the group and what was originally presumed to be a common buzzard was later confirmed by West Cork County Recorder Clare to be a Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus).

"We continued on and after elevenses at the signal tower, we spotted a nice patch of  Ophioglossum azoricum, this time much happier than the earlier patch growing in the trackway. As small as the species is, once you recognise it and get your eye in quite a few individuals were seen.

"We all made it back to the house in one piece for some well-earned food and drinks., although at this point my shoes were on their last legs (this was to be their penultimate outing!). 

"The next morning we headed off early to use the day to its full potential and were on a mission to increase our number of coastal species and find in particular, one species - Betonica officinalis (betony, on right), which had been historically recorded there and we had a nice description of where to find it. 

"Sure enough within moments of reaching the area where it had been once found before, it was spotted. In Ireland, Betony is a very scarce species with a mostly SW distribution and it is protected under the Flora Protection Order, so another great species to both see and record for the island. Although not in flower, as it’s a somewhat later flowering species, in the damp gulley where we found it the leaves were to be seen growing in quite a luxuriant state. 

"On a nearby ledge Paul spotted Rosa spinosissima (burnet rose, above left) which was putting on a great show and always a nice species to see. 

"We moseyed on and kept ticking off species both uncommon and more common including the less often see Sagina subulata (heath pearlwort, on right). 

"Not long after, I lost the first sole of my shoes (but they was still functional - somewhat…one sole down- one to go!).

"While we were sitting on short coastal turf it was noticed that we were surrounded by more of the Ophioglossum azoricum, this time in quite a plentiful supply. 

"After a quick focused hunt Paul also spotted the leaves of Spiranthes spiralis (Autumn Lady's-tresses). The photo (on left) includes sheep droppings for scale, showing just how small this plant is! 

"Helpful Hint: If you haven’t got a ruler in the field and you have a small plant, sheep droppings are a great ‘scale’ to compare tiny plants against against.

"A few of us made an escape to another island nearby which is accessible when the tide is low and was well wort the brief scramble to get up there. While traversing the scenic spot we added a few more species to the list including more of the Cerastium arvense (field mouse-ear), Hedera  helix (ivy), and it was quite amazing to see some pure white versions of Armeria maritima (thrift). Another highlight for me were these fantastic Rose chafer beetles (Cetonia aurata) which were clumsily flying about the place.

"We eventually left the smaller island and returned back to the main island to regroup with the rest of the gang. We realigned at the top and had a brief break while taking in the views, absolutely breath-taking! (Even though the views the day before were amazing, this day was much sunnier with clear skies, making for even more sensational scenery).

"We clambered on and a few of us descended slightly to see if we could spot any new species hiding from us. Moments into our search the sole of the second shoe fell off, leaving behind two sole-less shoes with laces that were still in great nit, I have to admit they were still very comfortable!

"Rory soon found a little cavern and nodded triumphantly to say he had found the gametophyte of the Killarney Fern (Trichomanes speciosum) - not the first time he's performed that particular trick! We moseyed on and aimed for a gully which had taken our eye earlier on in the day and would bring us back down near to ‘basecamp’. 

"It was a lovely little spot and although the species list didn’t increase dramatically we were rewarded with more Green Hairstreaks (on left) and Green Tiger beetles!

"To reiterate the opening line of this report, a fantastic weekend was had by all, spent with a great bunch of people. Many thanks to Clare and Rory for organising such a great weekend. Until we meet again on the next island!"