Tuesday 1 September 2015

Recording aquatics at Loch Glow

Potamogeton crispus
Image: J. MacKinnon
Another report in from Jay MacKinnon who is managing to attend many BSBI field meetings in Scotland this year and is kind enough to share her thoughts with us. 

A plea to all News & Views readers: if you attend a BSBI field meeting, please let us know what you saw and if you enjoyed it!

Meanwhile, here is Jay's report on the meeting held on 15th August around Cleish Lochs, in a part of West Fife which needed to be re-surveyed for Atlas 2020:

Botanists at Loch Glow
Image: J. MacKinnon
"As promised, some notes on the Loch Glow meeting: it was fantastic! 

Thanks to those present - we were only six so we had every opportunity to pass around, share, explain and learn about the specimens we found. 

Callitriche hermaphroditica
Image: J. MacKinnon
Particular thanks to joint County Recorder Sandy Edwards for organising and to Claudia Ferguson-Smyth for really high-quality teaching and quizzing about aquatic plant ID, including potential ID errors and how to avoid them. 

We had intended to walk all the way round Loch Glow and then perhaps explore some of the other nearby lochs and bogs but we found so much that we only got halfway round Loch Glow. 
Isoetes lacustris: the whole plant...

It was rather windy, and waves were washing up bits of broken plant along the shore. 

Scooping them out, we found pre-picked specimens in amazingly good condition, including Isoetes lacustris, Potamotgeton alpinus, P. praelongus, P. perfoliatus, P. crispus,  P. gramineus, Myriophyllum alterniflorum, Elodea canadensis, Callitriche hermaphroditica  and, of course, masses and masses of stringy Juncus bulbosus. 

I. lacustris: the quadrifid hairs...
Callitriche was particularly exciting because it was in fruit, and had several large healthy fruits clearly showing the character which distinguishes it from other translucent-leaved water-starworts: a wide wing all around the margin of all four seeds. 

Rooted and growing in and around the loch margin were Sparganium spp., Carex rostrata, C. demissa, Montia fontana, Littorella uniflora, Eleocharis palustris, Juncus tenuis and Sagina subulata

Littorella uniflora (left) vs I. lacustris (right):
leaves with indistinct hollows vs 4 large hollows
All images: J. MacKinnon 
An absolutely fantastic haul on a sunny day and to top it off, ospreys soared overhead (we are near the famous bird reserve at Loch Leven) and I managed to refrain from wading in over the top of my wellies. Perfect!"

Thanks Jay, it sounds as though this field meeting really helped you hone your ID skills for plants of wet and windy places. I'm glad to hear that your feet stayed dry!

Juncus bulbosus
Image: J. MacKinnon
Jay's images (on left) show some of the characters which help botanists identify aquatics; these plants can look annoyingly similar to each other until you know what to look for (like the 4 hollows in Isoetes spp.).

One of the best ways to build up your ID skills for a challenging group of plants like this is by attending a BSBI field meeting and learning the tricks of the trade from more experienced botanists.

Having been fortunate enough to spend time in the field with Claudia Ferguson-Smyth, who is incredibly knowledgeable about aquatics, a patient and supportive teacher and a delightful human being to boot, I can quite understand why Jay rated this BSBI field meeting as "fantastic!"

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