Tuesday, 9 June 2015


Adding up the number of mammals that we have seen prompted me to look at how many birds, plants and so on we have seen over the years.   As my wife will confirm (or probably not) I do not make lists. Uncharacteristically therefore, I downloaded the British list of UK birds from the BTO website, and found we have reliably seen 78 species in and around the croft and of course on the water. I am sure that a keen and more knowledgeable bird watcher would add significantly to this list by careful observation of gulls and birds of passage in autumn and spring.  
Willow Warbler



Great Black-backed Gulls

The moth total in 2014 and 2015 to date stands at 147 species, while there are another 18 from 2013 not on that list but need checking for identification accuracy with the benefit of experience gained over the last couple of years.  Working through the number of butterflies, dragonflies and other insects will take a bit of time because I will have to look back through the daily journal that we keep and 12 years of photographs.   Fungi will also take a bit of work based on photographs because some of the identifications will need to be checked especially the waxcaps.   I have only ever made half hearted attempts to look at moss species on the croft whilst lichens are just a step too far, with a whole new language to learn, and a significant number of UK species, as indeed is most stuff found on the shore.

Which leaves me with plants and despite a strong interest in botany the list of vascular plants (plants that have lignified tissue to allow transport of water and minerals) is incomplete.  I cannot be a true botanist, otherwise I would have an unfathomable passion for grasses sedges and ferns (noted from personal experience on a few BSBI field trips where a magnificient show of orchids would be ignored in favour of some insignificant, but uncommon sedge) and so the records are thin on these families.   I have started to try to fill in the gaps, aided by two heavyweight and authoritative BSBI handbooks on Grasses and Sedges respectively, but less overwhelming for the novice are the keys in Collins Flower Guide by Streeter et al.  
Common Sedge

Velvet Bent

Smooth Meadow Grass

Enough of lists.   The first orchids are in flower; on Sunday there were 4 Early Marsh Orchids in the bog.   Usually we have between 70 and 90 flowering spikes in all but the first and average flowering dates are quite variable.   Temperatures in May seem to be very important.   The first flowering dates over the last 7 years have been:

2009 8 June
2010 1 June
2011 28 May
2012 4 June
2013 10 June
2014 22 May
2015 7 June

Once the complete cohort has come into flower I will compare the average flowering date with past years and look for any climate correlations.

Early Marsh Orchid

As a post script I am down south this week, working in London.   On the journey we stopped off in Cumbria at Gait Barrows NNR which is one of the reintroduction sites for Lady's Slipper Orchid, just pipped by the Ghost Orchid as Britain's rarest orchid.   There are probably 30 to 40 plants there, raised at Kew by micropropagation from seeds of the only existing plant in the wild near Grassington in Yorkshire.  (See Lady's Slipper Project at Kew).

A warm, sunny day, we got a top up of Vitamin D.

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