Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Botanising In Scotland Part 1: North Coast

Back in late July we spent a week botanising in Scotland. We covered a lot of ground and saw many species of wild flowers, far too much to get on one bog post so I'm going to put up several installments. There will also be a few insects, fungi and even a bird or two.


This is the most northerly Farm in mainland Britain and that's Orkney off in the distance and what better place to find this.



Northern Dead Nettle - Lamium confertum

This was just a bonus, because what we were here for was hopefully on the beach nearby, namely Oyster Plant. This is a plant I've been wanting to see for many years and I wasn't disappointed either it's really beautiful. I took loads of photos of it and it was one of those plants that once found, I found it hard to tear myself away from! I just kept looking at it in awe. It's really rare these days having disappeared from Wales and some of its Scottish sites too. We had already failed to find it at a site further south.






Oyster Plant - Mertensia maritima


From the beach there's a great view over to Dunnet Head the most Northerly point of the mainland. 
It's a great place to watch seabirds and I was hoping to get some nice photos there.


It was a beautiful warm July day as you can see!
It was also blowing a hoolie and there was no chance of getting any photos of Puffins as they were traveling at about a zillion miles an hour! It was a bit gloomy too but I got a couple of okay shots of...



A Great Skua.

 

And a Fulmar.

We visited Strathy Point looking for Scottish Primrose. Unfortunately grazing pressure at the site was intense and all we found was a single plant which hadn't entirely escaped the attention of the sheep either. Still it was thrilling to see this tiny, charming and rare endemic species. 



Scottish Primrose - Primula scotica


A Blonde Rabbit! 
First time I've ever seen this colour form of wild rabbit. I've seen a few black ones before but never a blonde one.

Further along the coast is the absolutely superb site of Invernaver NNR. It has an amazing collection of montane vegetation almost at sea level, due to the high latitude and exposure to the north coast, including the rare Purple Oxytropis. We were much too late in the year to expect to see either Purple Oxytropis or Mountain Avens in flower but were extremely lucky to find late flowering plants of both! We found a few more mountain flowers and some interesting fungi too.




Invernaver Nature Reserve. 



Dune Waxcap - Hygrocybe conicoides  


Lurid Bolete - Suillellus luridus





Mountain Avens - Dryas octopetala



Mountain Avens seedhead.


 Yellow Mountain Saxifrage - Saxifraga aizoides


Dwarf Juniper - Juniperus communis ssp. nana



Hoary Whitlowgrass - Draba incana.



Dark Red Helleborine - Epipactis atrorubens




Purple Oxytropis - Oxytropis halleri 


The rocks have eyes!! 
I think this is known as mantled porphyroclasts. They look like they could be garnets.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Second Helpings

Today I took the opportunity to have another look at the Waxwings at Heathfield. Andy wanted to go and see them as he hadn't seen any for twenty years (sure beats my four years of being waxwingless). We didn't have to wait for ages like I did on Friday either, which was a good job because it was freezing! The sun shone briefly allowing me to get a few more nicely lit photos of them. The Bullfinches have been showing superbly outside my window again today, shame it's been foggy. I'll get them in good light one of these days!



The Bullfinch was feeding on Buddleia seeds. 



And also on buds of Field Maple.


Saturday, 21 January 2017

Brambling

Lovely surprise while sat at the computer earlier this afternoon when I spotted a lovely Brambling in the bushes just below the window. Also nice views of the resident Bullfinches, they always show well when the light's non existent though!




Friday, 20 January 2017

Waxwings!

I saw my last Waxwings on 1st January 2013. Way too long ago! That's why I've been trying hard to see some this year. Today was my fourth attempt and fortunately a successful one, even though I had quite a long wait for them to show, and for a while I thought it was going to be another dip. There were ten in total and they were feeding on rose hips in the central reservation of the A38. Not the easiest place to get photos and definitely not very kind on the ears or the lungs. Waxwings are worth it though! Here's a few of my better efforts at photos, most were just of twigs or the sides of speeding juggernauts!