Sunday, 9 October 2016

Cork Recording Event: Report by Clare Heardman

Claragh Mountain: Mary & Oonagh's lunch spot!
Image: C. Heardman
I'm delighted to present this guest blogpost by Clare Heardman, County Recorder for West Cork, about the recent Cork Recording Event

Clare organised the event but instead of simply telling us how successful it was (as organisers often do!), she asked the participants to give their comments - so now you have it straight from the horse's mouth: BSBI recording events really are great fun! 

Over to Clare & co.:

Fleabane
Image: Edwina Cole
"A very successful County Cork BSBI recording event took place 1st-4th September 2016. Nearly 4000 records were gathered during three days in West Cork (H3) and one day in East Cork (H5). 

Over the four days, 37 people of all levels of botanical skill, from experienced Vice County Recorders (VCRs) to almost complete beginners, took part. We asked some of them to share their experiences and their highlights. 

Salicornia in flower
Image: Fiona O'Neill 
The first day involved a trip to the coast at Pillmore, led by Mark McCrory (VCR for Co Laois) with help from Lynda Weekes and Una Fitzpatrick (National Biodiversity Data Centre). 

Edwina Cole says, ‘I learned the most on the first day on the saltmarsh habitat which I am very unfamiliar with and was delighted to see Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica) nearby which I hadn't seen before’. 

Others were impressed by the extensive display of glassworts on the saltmarsh, which Jan Wolstenholme said had ‘the biggest Salicornias I've ever seen, and in flower too’. 

Cockspur
Image: Paula O'Meara
Paul Green, although unable to make the event, later identified the main species we saw as Salicornia dolichostachya (pictured).

For some of the more experienced botanists, the excitement was in seeing plants not normally encountered in their own counties e.g. Paula O’Meara (joint VCR for Wexford) said, ‘I must say I really enjoyed the few days in Cork - even passing through and stopping along the way I came across great stuff. 
Irish Spurge
Image: Paula O'Meara

I was only in Co Cork 20 Minutes when I came across Cockspur Grass (Echinocloa crus-galli) at an industrial estate in Youghal - new for me and H5 too. 

Plenty of Annual Wall-rocket (Diplotaxis muralis) and Prickly Lettuce (Lactuca serriola) were nearby too. 
Beech Fern
Image: Rory Hodd

A quarry at Garryhesty in Mid Cork (H4) had Mexican Fleabane (Erigeron karvinskianus) and patches of Annual Beard-grass (Polypogon monspeliensis), both still flowering’.

‘West Cork had oodles of the lovely Bog Myrtle (Myrica gale) and a proper south western species, Irish Spurge (Euphorbia hyberna). 


Cork folk might not put any pass on those two, but they were worth the visit for me’, continued Paula.

Dutch Rush
Image: Hammy O'Hamilton
Another south west Ireland speciality provided a highlight for the members of the group that were lucky enough to be with Rory Hodd (joint VCR for Co Kerry) when he discovered a new site for the rare Killarney Fern (Trichomanes speciosum). 

Ferns were also a highlight for Rory’s ‘Rough Crew’ on Day 2 as they recorded 17 ferns & allies near Lough Murtagh in the Derrynasaggart Mountains, including Lemon-scented Fern (Oreopteris limbosperma), Brittle Bladder-fern (Cystopteris fragilis) and Beech Fern (Phegopteris connectilis).

The unique alluvial woodland that is the Gearagh was a highlight for many. 
Donna & Finbarr at Lisboy More
Image: Paula O'Meara

Local man Kevin Corcoran, who is passionate about protecting this area, very kindly led a group there on Day Two. 

‘My first chance to see the stately Dutch Rush (Equisetum hyemale) was amongst the astonishing wooded islands of the Gearagh. 

I can't thank Kevin Corcoran enough for taking us to see it and I nominate that as my best plant seen’, said Finbarr Wallace. 

Whilst Mary Mahoney said, ‘I always wanted to visit the Gearagh’s wooded islands, but I wanted to ensure that I visited it in a way that was sensitive to the precious eco-system there. 
The Gearagh
Image: Hammy Hamilton

I was reassured when a small group was delicately led by Kevin into part of this system. It was special when Kevin mentioned that the area was visited by Praeger and Braun-Blanquet’.

With difficulty, as he enjoyed all the places he visited, Finbarr Wallace chose the Irish Wildlife Trust’s (IWT) Port Ban Nature Reserve as his favourite site because ‘it was my only full-on wading through fens, fording rivers site, on the far side of which river (The Toon) we found the most picturesque long-abandoned, old stone-walled farm track, now surrounded by woodland’.

Finbarr & Paula at Port Ban NR
Image: Donna Weiner
However, for many people it was hard to pick a favourite site or plant. 

Each place had something unique to offer, so it was more about appreciating the overall experience: “I saw places in my local area in a new beautiful light’, said Mary Mahony. 

‘Magic moments included a feast of freshly-picked blueberries on Claragh Mountain (thanks Catherine!), the special light in the circle of trees near Millstreet and last but not least the rocky outcrop where a beginner like me might easily overlook the stunning stands of Huperzia selago!’ 


Huperzia selago
Image: Clare Heardman
For Donna Weiner, the chance to explore places rarely seen was special and her favourite plant was Devil’s- bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis) as seen through a lens.

Although it was a botanical recording events, attendees also took time to appreciate some of the wildlife encountered with the south west Ireland speciality, Kerry Slug, getting a special mention. 


Rough Crew on the hill
Image: Donne Weiner
Also enjoyed, were the bats seen and heard on an evening bat walk led by Mary Mahony.

Of course, a particular highlight was the other people at the event! Here are some of the comments:

‘What a lovely group, and what a great atmosphere! Everyone, from complete beginner/new-comer up to seasoned BSBI member, played their part. 

They brought enthusiasm, laughter, friendly faces, and in some cases, vital local knowledge. I thought this was one of the nicest things... a lovely open atmosphere that I think everyone enjoyed’ – Maria Long (BSBI Officer for Ireland).

Botanists at The Gearagh
Image: Phoebe O'Brien
‘A lasting impression I got from the recording event as a complete newcomer is what an interesting, calm, welcoming, un-snobby and fun bunch of people it was. 

I was a bit daunted beforehand but it was wonderful to see how daft and silly people with lots of academic letters after their names can be, and get valuable work done at the same time! 

As a newcomer it was quite something to realise what a steep learning curve the botany world is but the event was a great example of why it's worth getting to grips with’ – Jan Wolstenholme (Heir Island).

Botanists at Pillmore Saltmarsh
Image: Clare Heardman
‘It was a very friendly group and everyone felt welcome; the experts were very helpful to the novices and I am sure we all learnt a lot. 

Going out with experts like Paula O’Meara, Fiona Devery and Maria Long taught me a lot’ – Margaret Marshall (Belfast).

‘One of the many highlights for me was my good fortune on Day 2 to head off to record with three great botanists. 


Impromptu fern workshop
(l to r): Fiona, Maria & Una
Image: Lynda Weekes
They were incredibly patient with this beginner, and we learned lots from Maria's roadside fern workshop, as well as having a laugh’ – Fiona O’Neill (Bandon).

‘It was all really interesting and enlightening, friendly, fun [and] so inclusive’ - Betty Cummins (UK).

‘This was my first field trip with the BSBI and I found a welcoming and encouraging atmosphere. 

Everyone I met was so helpful and shared many tips and I certainly improved my skills’ – Mary Mahony (Macroom).

Saxifraga spathularis
Image: Maria Long
All that’s left for me to say is a big thank you to everyone for coming along and helping make the event such a success!"

Many thanks to Clare for putting this report together - it's great to see that people really enjoyed the Cork Recording Event. 

If you've never been to a BSBI field meeting or recording event, I hope that Clare's report encourages you to give one a try next year. 

Our annual field meetings programme is posted here, regularly updated and the full programme for 2017 will be published next month.