Sunday 14 November 2010

Eelgrass, Zostera marina

Zostera marina on the Bridgend flats
Zostera marina washed up on the beach
This is the preferred food of the Brent Geese wintering around the shores of Loch Indaal. During the summer, it can be found in growing in considerable beds on the sandflats at the head of the loch. It doesn't like too much exposure, so it may only be uncovered on the really low tides. It is deciduous, so that, at this time of year, the green leaves and stems, which can extend to a metre long, get washed into the shallows and  up onto the beaches, which is where the Brent Geese can be seen feeding on it. There's a smaller version, Dwarf Eelgrass, Zostera noltii, which also grows on the flats, though it is much less common; its leaves are much thinner and rarely longer than about 20 cm. It was only recorded for the first time on Islay when I was doing a survey of the flats about 20 years ago. It has since been found in a couple of places off the south coast of Islay, as has the larger species, which also occurs in small quantities in Loch Gruinart.


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