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Summer Field Meeting 2004

Isle of Rum, 26th June - 3rd July

 

Gordon Rothero

Introduction

This was an unusual meeting for the BBS, arising out of a suggestion from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) staff based on Rum that more information on the distribution of bryophytes on the island National Nature Reserve would be useful (and that they would pay for accommodation!). This is in line with a general notion that the BBS should be more involved in providing information on protected sites that have bryophytes as one of their ‘features of interest’. I had taken part in a similar meeting in 2003 looking at vascular plants, organised by the Botanical Society of the British Isles (BSBI), and planned as part of a project to produce a vascular plant Flora for the island. The organisers of this meeting (David Pearman, Chris Preston and Kevin Walker) suggested to me that, with all the new information a field meeting would bring, a bryophyte section of the Flora would be a welcome addition. So the real ‘meeting account’ will be in the form of a Flora.

In many ways, this was an easy meeting to organise as we were all staying together in the same place, travelling there by the same mode of transport, and eating in the one restaurant. The hostel in Kinloch Castle is excellent, with basic but clean dormitories, just about enough bathrooms (!), a good, friendly restaurant, and, hidden away in the basement, a large workroom with good lighting, benches and even a couple of microscopes. This facility considerably increased the effectiveness of our visit and was a useful social asset as well. What was not quite so easy was to organise, in advance, how to divide the team into smaller groups and to despatch them to the various parts of the island. In the end I worried far too much about this – things mostly just fell into place and we managed to get some sort of a list from all but five of the 41 tetrads, and two of these are the merest slivers of land! The logistics of the survey were made much easier by having Sandy Payne in the party; along with his many other sterling qualities, Sandy is employed by SNH and so can drive SNH vehicles which meant that we had Land-rover transport whenever we needed it.

Participants in the meeting were Tom Blockeel, Sam Bosanquet, David Chamberlain, Sally Gadsdon, Jonathan Graham, Mark Hill, Nick Hodgetts, Liz Kungu, Mark Lawley, David Long, Sandy Payne, Mark Pool, Ron Porley, Gordon Rothero and Jo Wilbraham.

 

In the lab at night

Saturday 26 June

I arrived on Rum on the early boat in hazy sunshine after a breezy but scenic crossing. The wind increased during the day and the rain duly arrived but this at least meant that the ferry was early, as the scheduled landing on Muck was not possible, and so we had plenty of time to get organised and sort out the snorers from the non(or closet)-snorers.

Sunday 27 June

The first day was spent on the lava hills of Fionchra and Orval. Fionchra has a very rich bryophyte flora and is one of the most well-worked sites on the island but even so Tom Blockeel found a small population of Acrobolbus wilsonii on a boulder below the main crag; a subsequent visit found it on a total of five rocks. It did not take Mark Hill long to conclude that a large and distinctive Sphagnum in the wet heath was probably S. skyense (subsequently confirmed), and this hitherto enigmatic species proved to be widespread over the island in this habitat. Fionchra is one of the two sites on Rum for the Scottish endemic Bryoerythrophyllum caledonicum, and homage was duly paid. Other species of interest here were Leiocolea fitzgeraldiae, Arctoa fulvella and good populations of the small oceanic liverworts Colura calyptrifolia , Harpalejeunea molleri and Radula aquilegia .

Orval was less productive than the best ground on Fionchra but the oceanic heath species Herbertus aduncus subsp. hutchinsiae and Campylopus setifolius were quite frequent, as was Sphagnum skyense . Other interesting species recorded here included Plagiochila carringtonii , Scapania lingulata, Sphenolobopsis pearsonii, Arctoa fulvella, Paraleptodontium recurvifolium and the first of several new Rum records for Grimmia lisae*.

Monday 28 June

We split into three groups to cover the tetrads in the north-east of the island and the eastern slopes of Askival and Hallival. The north-east part of Rum, dubbed ‘Hell Corner’ by the BSBI team, has the best sites for many oceanic woodland species, and proved much easier of access than was anticipated. Wooded areas below the raised-beach cliff and associated ravines, all on Torridonian sandstone, were especially productive. Jubula hutchinsiae and Lepidozia cupressina are known from nowhere else on the island and were duly refound. Other oceanic liverworts, including Colura calyptrifolia , Drepanolejeunea hamatifolia , Harpalejeunea molleri , Marchesinia mackaii and Radula aquilegia , were quite frequent, and additions to the Rum flora were Cephalozia catenulata, C. pleniceps, Lophocolea fragrans and the rather more mundane Hygrohypnum eugyrium .

The other two teams covered the catchment of the Allt nan Uamh, putting together a good list from the ravines on the burn and the loch and screes above. Notable records included Diplophyllum obtusifolium *, Mastigophora woodsii , Plagiochila carringtonii and Ditrichum lineare. Records of Pogonatum nanum in this area and on subsequent days showed that it is just as frequent on the tertiary volcanic rocks on Rum as it is on Skye.

Tuesday 29 June

This was the day for the long Land-rover trip to Harris on the south-west side of the island, following a track that in some places resembles the dry(-ish) bed of a burn – a front seat in the Land-rover is a prize to be valued. The weather dawned grim and it was with some trepidation that I watched the team destined for Atlantic Coire, and the long walk home, dissolve into the rain. The rest of us were bound for Fiachanis and the lower ground around Harris itself, and the dubious pleasure of a return bout with the Land-rover. In the event, the weather improved somewhat although those in Atlantic Coire still got a bit of a drubbing. Despite this, they put together a long list of plants. Bryoerythrophyllum caledonicum was duly refound in its second Rum site near Bealach nan Oir, and crags, flushes and mires on Trallval produced Calypogeia sphagnicola and Jungermannia borealis (both new to the island), Nardia geoscyphus, Sphenolobopsis pearsonii, Paraleptodontium recurvifolium and Trichostomum hibernicum.

The shore of Loch Fiachanis provided one of the most unexpected finds of the week for Tom Blockeel in Fossombronia fimbriata* growing with Haplomitrium hookeri. Further up in the coire above the loch, David Long found Bazzania pearsonii, new to Rum. Other notable species here were Riccardia incurvata and Orthothecium rufescens , the former also new to the island. The bryophyte flora on the lower ground around Harris was good without producing many rarities apart from Myurium hochstetteri near the outflows of both the Abhainn Fiachanis and the Abhainn Rangail. The ultra-mafic rocks had a good representation of Grimmias with frequent G. longirostris and several records of G. decipiens and G. lisae. Marchesinia mackaii and Porella obtusata also occurred here and large boulders near the shore had all the British species of Frullania. The Bullough family mausoleum on the shore at Harris is an imposing and incongruous feature but does give me an excuse to use a new word for me as Didymodon rigidulus occurred on the catafalque.

Wednesday 30 June

The tetrad imperative meant that this was a day of diverse sites. Kinloch Glen and its associated slopes provided necessary but not very exciting square-bashing for one team. The trees near Kinloch had a couple of oddities for the north-west of Scotland in Cololejeunea minutissima and Metzgeria fruticulosa, and other nice things in this area included Campylopus atrovirens var. falcatus (a worryingly variable variety), Grimmia longirostris, Sphagnumstrictum and Trichostomum hibernicum. South of Kinloch, on the south side of Loch Scresort, David Chamberlain found more Calypogeia sphagnicola , and further south, the An Uamh coast added Marchesinia mackaii and Plagiochila killarniensis .

Campylopus atrovirens var. falcatus

 

The hill at the west end of Kinloch Glen, Black Hill, has old records for Scapania ornithopodioides and Oedipodium griffithianum , and this was enough attraction for one group. Though unsuccessful in this quest, they did find Plagiothecium cavifolium , Schistidium frigidum var. havaasii* and Sphagnum platyphyllum. A bit further south the ultra-mafic screes on the small hill of Ard Mheall were very interesting and provided a long list, including Lejeunea lamacerina , Plagiochila killarniensis , Plagiobryum zieri and Zygodon rupestris. Up on the summit ridge a large area of stony flushes had several stands of Pseudocalliergon (Calliergon) trifarium, and the summit rocks had both Schistidium frigidum var. frigidum and var. havaasii. Across the track on An Dornabac the Grimmiaceae provided much of the interest with records for Grimmia funalis, G. longirostris, G. pulvinata , G. ramondii (G. curvata), G. torquata , G. trichophylla and Schistidium papillosum, the latter new for Rum, as well as further tiny patches of Pseudocalliergon trifarium in flushes.

Thursday 1 July

 

Despite having been to Rum several times, I had never been on Bloodstone Hill, one of Rum’s best bryophyte sites, and this was my chance. It is a steep place and we had fun dropping down a gully (with Sphagnum skyense and Trichostomum hibernicum) and moving crabwise around the crags until the slopes steepened and a narrow gully beckoned upwards. Mark Hill forged a route up the gully while the rest of us cowered in his wake, pausing to record a variety of plants, including Harpalejeunea molleri , Jungermannia borealis and Tortula subulata. The crags near the top of the hill boasted a very large population of Douinia ovata and a number of species of Grimmia , including G. decipiens ; Ron found Hedwigia integrifolia.

 

In action on Bloodstone Hill

Another team headed for Harris again, to walk across to Papadil in the most remote part of the island. Unfortunately, the coast is not friendly and the walk involves a considerable ascent and descent in both directions. Plants of interest here included Frullania microphylla , Porella obtusata , Pterogonium gracile and one of only two records of Tritomaria exsectiformis from the island. Another target area was Coire Dubh and the north side of Barkeval which proved a good area for oceanic montane hepatics, such as Bazzania pearsonii, Mastigophora woodsii and Plagiochila carringtonii . Associated with these liverworts were Campylopus setifolius and Sphagnum skyense .

Sam and Mark Pool had volunteered to make the long and boggy trek to Beinn nan Stac and were rewarded with a reasonable haul. Pride of place probably goes to Kiaeria blyttii, new to Rum; other species included Sphenolobopsis pearsonii, Campylopus gracilis , C. setifolius and Pseudocalliergon trifarium.

Friday 2 July

The sun shone on our last day, appropriately so as most of us were due to spend a day on the beach at Kilmory and Samhnan Insir. In the dunes the best find was probably Thuidium assimile* (T. philibertii), which was, surprisingly, new to v.-c. 104. Other nice records included Riccia beyrichiana , Didymodon spadiceus, Entodon concinnus and Racomitrium canescens. In the same area but away from the dunes there were records for Lepidozia cupressina , Trichocolea tomentella (new to Rum) and Sphagnumplatyphyllum. On the way back over the hill to Kinloch Glen a stand of Hedwigia integrifolia was found . It was good to get some views of the hills at last, but the brisk wind off the sea ensured that the tops of Hallival and Askival were still shrouded.

Another group headed west from Kilmory out onto the Monadh Dubh to look at the bands of Triassic limestone and anything else that took their fancy. Tortella densa occurred on the limestone with another species that may be T. bambergeri , and Ron found T. nitida*, a northward extension of its range into v.-c. 104. Orthothecium rufescens was also found on the limestone, and the group made a variety of other records, including Calypogeia neesiana (new to Rum),Cephalozia catenulata, Leiocolea alpestris (also new to Rum), Marchesinia mackaii and Myurium hochstetteri. On the undulating terrain the party became rent asunder but both splinters finally made it back to the Land-rover with hardly a grumble.

Saturday 3 July

A sharp shower as the ferry approached seemed a fitting valediction to a week when rain was never far away. Heading away from Loch Scresort down the Sound of Rum towards Muck gave us the best views of the Rum Cuillins since the previous Saturday and a glimpse of the south-east corner of the island around Dibidil – the one area we had failed to get to. I had a great week, with interesting plants, a sense of purpose, and excellent company, so my thanks to all who made it such fun!

 

 
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