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!)".