Monday 3 July 2017

Sunday's Nature rAmble - Dune Delights

A Great Delight of flowers was had at Killinallan

A less than promising day weather-wise did not dampen enthusiasm for our dune excursion to Killinallan on Sunday, 13 keen adults and children enjoyed seeing the Redshank and Oystercatchers along the shoreline and counting all the Grey Seals bobbing about in the water intent on watching us and what we were doing.

Searching the pools for pond skaters

The brackish pools amongst the saltmarsh had small shoals of stickleback and pond skaters on the surface.  Amongst the saltmarsh vegetation were common spike rush, sedges and the corriander tasting Sea Arrowgrass.

As we crossed the moist threshold into the dryer dune grassland we had Ragged Robin, Marsh Lousewort and Grass of Parnassus, the beautiful simplicity of its flower, with its stem hugged by its single heart shaped leaf always a pleasure.  The dunes were a patchwork of species with Lady's Bedstraw; Hairy Thyme; Bird's Foot Trefoil; Eyebright; Mouse-ear Hawkweed; Daisy; Buttercup; White and Red Clover; Self-Heal.  These standard array of dune species were peppered with the small white flowers of Fairy Flax; the subtle blues of Milkwort; and the first mauve flowers of Devil's Bit Scabious.  

A chance encounter with a Frog

Where the ground was wetter Meadow Sweet, Yellow Flag, Tufted Vetch, Water Mint, Valerian, and Marsh Thistle all came into play. The damp conditions also favoured the occasional frog.

Burnet Rose
In a great marshy depression there is a host of other species, Burnet Rose spreads out in an extended patch alongside Black Bog Rush, upon which were the vacated cocoon cases of the Six Spot Burnet moth, which has now pupated and flying in profusion across the dunes.  Marsh Pennywort peppered the whole dune slack area and an occasional spike of Marsh Arrowgrass.  

Six-spot Burnet Moth on Tufted Vetch

We were all really looking forward to an orchid bonanza and as always Killinallan did not disappoint, our first encounters were Pyramidal Orchid on the dryer dune area alongside Common Spotted Orchid and the deep purple of Northern Marsh Orchid. The bold pinks and purples were easy to spot against the grassland but it was not long before the eyes began to pick out the subtle colours of the Frog Orchid.  Then we began to find Fragrant Orchid, getting on hands and knees to double check the scented nature of the flowers.  When we moved into the marshy dune slack area, those orchids which favour a more damp habitat were soon spotted - Common Twayblade, its two wide leaves enveloping the base of the stem.  This damp spring has meant that the moist nature of the slack has affected the conditions further than in a dry season and we were delighted to spot many specimens of the beautiful Marsh Helleborine, one of my favourite orchids.  So not bad for a few hours, seven orchid species all in great conditions.  41 plant species, named though we didn't delve deep into grasses.  We also had a good number of Shaggy Ink-cap mushrooms protruding for old cowpats.  
Marsh Helleborine
Northern Marsh orchid

Pyramidal Orchid
A cluster of Frog Orchid

We also had a good number of Shaggy Ink-cap mushrooms protruding for old cowpats.  
Shaggy Ink-cap

The conditions were not good for flying insects and the only six legged beasties we found were the Six-spot Burnet moths frequenting the flower heads and a single Common Blue male clinging onto the vegetation for fear of the wind whipping it away!

A wonderful afternoon in great company, thanks to those who joined us and please feel encouraged to join us over the summer, lots to see and lots to learn.  Next Sunday is a Geology special, the rocks on the Oa, meet at the RSPB American monument car park (2pm).

Fiona MacG

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