Monday 23 July 2018

BSBI Summer Meeting 2018: Day Seven

Botanists avoiding the rain
Image: L. Gravestock
This year's BSBI Summer Meeting on the Isle of Man is nearing its end so here is the penultimate report from organiser Jon Shanklin:

"The final full day of the ASM and another day of tetrad recording.  Only one minor reshuffle required after breakfast this time. The forecast was for dry weather, but there was cloud sitting on the mountain tops. For my team this was critical as we were going to do some moorland recording - would it be wet cloud or dry cloud. The drive up didn't produce any spots on the windscreen, but once we'd parked it was clear that there was a heavy deposit of water droplets on all the vegetation. We were going to get wet boots and damp trousers!"

"We set off, and with nothing notable seen in a fairly 'samey' moorland in the first monad, decided we might as well record the next monad in full, rather than simply adding to the tetrad list. Our route now took us to the edge of a plantation (Pinus contorta and Picea sitkensis) and we followed the edge down to a river, where we did get a bit more variety.  Lunchtime beckoned so we found a relatively dry bank to sit on, though as the sun broke through the clouds, a few midges did arrive. After lunch we continued along the stream, spotting a spider web which had just caught a fly, and the spider started wrapping it up for its lunch. Unfortunately for the spider we also spotted a yellow sedge and in the process of getting a sample to check if it was Carex demissa (it was) tore the web off its supports. We found a couple of other spiders, one orange and one olive green, which were probably the same species.

An interesting spider: Araneus
on Juncus conglomeratus
Image: K. Tucker
"We now headed back up to the track which was frequently used by bikers and the erosion that they had caused gave us a good view of the stratigraphy of the first metre or so of surface drift. We decided we might as well continue on into the next tetrad and record its first monad, and this gave us several plants not seen yet, such as Bellis perennis and Urtica dioica. A sign proclaimed a protected road verge that was being managed for its wildlife. Unfortunately the management was of the do nothing kind, so all the nice wildflowers were now covered in thick gorse and bramble.  An odd looking Sorbus on one side of the lane was probably the hybrid of S. aucuparia and S. intermedia agg, as both parents were present in the area. Reaching the end of the monad we retraced our steps.

"An open gate tempted us into a hay field and this showed us what the protected road verge might have been like, with Campanula rotundifolia and Hypericum pulchrum along the margin. Crossing into the next field we first inspected some ground disturbed around a cattle feeding station, which gave some typical arable species such as Chenopodium album and Stellaria media, then some tractor ruts which added Galeopsis tetrahit and Spergula arvensis. After that we marched back to the car but didn't add anything else significant to the list.

Western gorse
Image: L Gravestock
"We had one final section of the tetrad to look at if we could, but that depended on whether we could park on the side of the TT track (the main A18 from Douglas to Ramsey) at the appropriate spot. We passed one shelter which didn't look very promising, but managed to stop at the next. This was some 500m too far, so we turned round and tried the first after all, which was only 30m outside. Walking along the TT track wasn't quite as pleasant as the open countryside, but traffic was fairly light and only an occasional bike roared past. We found a good number of rather mundane additions to our tetrad list, perhaps the most unlikely a few tussocks of Festuca brevipila. We found the source a little further on, where clearly amenity grass had been sown into the road bank for some reason. It was now getting on for 6pm, and dinner was at 6:30 - just time to get back to the College.

"After dinner there was time for some final ID work, amazingly rather less than the day before, and then to pack up ready for departure tomorrow. Our final day will vary for everyone, but some of those catching the afternoon ferry plan to record a tetrad on the way, and those flying home will visit an old limestone quarry and record around Castletown."

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