Monday 20 August 2018

BSBI Mayo Recording Event 2018: Day 4

Eoin admiring the Irish lady's-tresses
Image: L. Marsh
On the final day of this year's BSBI Mayo Recording Event I was fortunate to be in Robert Northridge's team. Robert is a bit of a legend - a superb botanist, Chair of BSBI's Committee for Ireland, County Recorder for Fermanagh and Co Cavan; Robert also picked up an MBE last year for his years of voluntary work, including  bringing communities together in the aftermath of the Eniskillen tragedy.

The previous day, Robert's team had refound the rare and beautiful Irish lady's-tresses Spiranthes romanzoffiana in the same site where they had discovered it several decades earlier, and they were telling us all about it over dinner. 

They soon realised by our 'oohs and 'aahs' that this was a plant which I and Russell Parry, one of the County Recorders from VC55 who had travelled over with me, had never seen. But the next morning, Robert and his wife Hannah picked me and Russell up ready for our day's recording and told us "First, we have a little treat planned for you..."

Parnassia palustris
Image: L. Marsh
You guessed it - they took a detour and drove us up to see the Irish lady's-tresses! The lake shore where the orchids grew also had more Parnassia palustris than I've ever seen in my life, along with just about every other wet meadow species you can think of! 

Little treat? It was one of the nicest places I've ever visited! Apologies that my pathetic phone photos don't do it justice. 

It was hard to tear ourselves away but there was recording to be done and we were keen to help where we could and learn from the master. Over the course of the day we visited a range of habitats in the hectad M29 to try and notch up as may species as possible. 

Helena, Fred, Hannah, "Big Boss" Robert & Eoin
Image: L. Marsh
We tramped over bits of bog, squinted from bridges into the water below, and peered into hedges, road verges and even a cemetery in pursuit of  more species that we could tick off  on our recording card

Towards the end of the day and all (apart from the indefatigable Robert) starting to droop a bit, an unusual pondweed was spotted in the River Moy. 

Robert thinks it might be Potamogeton x lanceolatus, a hybrid known only from the west of Ireland. He has pressed the specimen and sent it off to the BSBI's expert referee for pondweeds - exciting!

Russell and Robert peering at their pondweed
Image: L. Marsh
We recorded more than 220 taxa in M29 over the course of the day, bringing the all-time total to over 300. A fitting end to a wonderful recording event organised by the excellent Maria Long

Perhaps the best thing about the event was the mixture of attendees: young and old, male and female, from experts like Robert to beginner botanists who had never attended a BSBI event before. Check out this blogpost by "amateur botanist" Karina, who was out plant-hunting on Day 4 along the shores of Lough Carra with Rory, Mark and Maria; she says she had a "great day out" and "learnt so much". Karina took some great photos for her blogpost too! 

We all had a wonderful time and collected lots of records which will feed into Atlas 2020And at the risk of sounding unbearably smug: some of us were also lucky enough to see Irish lady's-tresses!  

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