Friday, 27 September 2019

Push the Button

Yesterday was a Skye Botany Group outing into the hills west of Kirkibost. We were searching for a number of plants not recorded this century, though known in the vicinity from earlier. One of those plants was Holly Fern, one I'd not seen before, one I was keen to clap eyes on. 

We set off into what can only be described as muggy conditions, I heard several folk mention thunderstorms and the oppressive atmosphere. I was glad to note that I was not the only person sweating freely, especially seeing as I was blabbing about running next year's half marathon. Ha, breaking out in a sweat walking up a small hill indeed...

Spiderman enjoying the view, roughly halfway towards our target area
It was a good wander across and through hilltops with a lovely series of pools and burns to cross. Me, being my usual self, found stones to turn, even midstream stones

Possibly the nymph of Perlodes mortoni, a HUGE endemic stonefly
We finally reached the correct tetrad, kinda guessed the height we were supposed to be targeting and set to finding stuff. To be fair, Stephen Bungard had already amassed a fair plant list even before we hit the main area. I don't yet know how many of the target plants we managed to cross off, and how many entirely new records we made, but Stephen seemed satisfied that we'd pulled our weight. 

It was whilst mostways up a steep hill that I discovered a new feature on my camera - the Vivid Mode!!!! Take a look, this was the view across the valley and bothy way below us

Nice enough, I guess. Bit boring though
One push of a button and...

Holy crap! I could sell that for a bloody fortune!!! 
 Not content with a Vivid pic if the valley, I swung my new-found button upwards

Does my bum look big in this valley?
I was really quite taken by this new button, what could I take pics of next, I wondered? Well, no more pics of Caroline's bum for starters, I'd hate to get myself a bad name! Luckily Nick 'Mossman Chronicles' Hodgetts came to the rescue...

The rather lovely Myurium hochstetteri - a proper oceanic moss
Nick comes out on maybe half of all Skye Botany Group outings, where he can normally be found skirting the edges of wherever we happen to be visiting, relentlessly hounding his long-legged way through undergrowth, willow carr, moorland flushes or across craggy outcroppings. Boundless energy and boundless enthusiasm, but seemingly happy to be the loner on the fringe of it all. I really like Nick, undoubtedly he uses the SBG outings as an excuse to get into remote habbo and to survey the bryological fauna that occurs there, and he does mostly come across as the softly-spoken Lone Wolf with an important mission in mind. I still think he's great, and I try to show enthusiasm for his chosen subject matter, even though it's something I know far too little about. I mean, surely a Sphagnum is a Sphagnum, yeah? Even if it does look very much (to me) to be the ubiquitous Sphagnum squarrosum (though in this instance it was the far less common Sphagnum strictum, more uniformly pale green and with far smaller stem leaves - and a lifer to boot). I aspire to be somebody like Nick, somebody who throws themselves whole-heartedly into a niche slice of biodiversity and who then utterly masters it. To my eternal shame, when he called us upslope to check out a 'beautiful' moss, I was expecting just a bit of green scuzz amongst yet more green scuzz. But what I was shown was, in truth, a pretty darned cool moss! I mean, just look at the overall structure, the neatly overlapping planes, those hair tips, the whole 3D effect. And Nick was proper stoked at finding it, I shared a degree of that, it was properly exciting!

I may not know what I'm looking at half the time, but I can appreciate and share in that sort of a genuine reaction from anybody, especially when that anybody happens to be a national expert! Happily, I think most of us came to check out Nick's 'rare moss' and went away happy that we'd seen it, at least. But I was there at the start, I saw Nick's eyes shining, I heard the excitement in his usually calm voice. Have I been just a little bit bitten by the bryological bug..? I've certainly found good (non-bryological) stuff in the past and it feels good to be able to share those findings with others. 

This is the NBN map for Myurium hochstetteri. As you can see it's an incredibly oceanic species, known worldwide fom western Scotland, western Ireland, Madeira and the Azores, that's it!  

Another view up the valley above Loch na Creitheach

As Caroline mentioned just once or twice - it's very steep, how will we get down again?

Nick, Stephen and most of Deirdre on a typically steep slope. We were up in the clouds! 
One last pic, this too grabbed Nick's attention - a pair of small cushion mosses on a mid-river slab of rock. We just had to go investigate!

A tightly packed cushion of Grimmia funalis, Nick's second highlight moss of the day!
Now my books say you need to study these things under a microscope, yet Nick calls them at two metre range! He explained that I needed to see the rope-like stems hidden amongst the broader stems in this cushion, and I saw actually saw them too! I have no idea how he does it, legend.

No Holly Fern (yet again) - but I'll find it one day. Along with Oysterplant. 

In other news...this rates as one of my ALL TIME fave tracks. You know what I'm talking about, Armadale Lass.


  1. Scenery looks amazing. Was expecting it to all end here though :)

    1. Pahahahahahahahaaaa! NEVER! Well, maybe. OK, so it's quite catchy, I think I liked it when it came out :)

  2. Wait .. I must have a vivid mode somewhere ... and mosses are awesome, though for better or worse I lack the focus to stick to one thing. Skye botany outings make me jealous I have to say, though I can enjoy them vicariously - can you tick livestreamed species?

    1. Nope, absolutely not! I once played a singing Great Reed Warbler down the phone to my mate's voicemail. He hated me for ages (it was a lifer for him back then) :) You'll just have to get out here and tag along sometime, nothing else for it!

    2. Love to get back up - don't wanna be a gooseberry tho ;) PSL meet on Skye? (Sleat?)However, as I recall I DID at least see that GRW :D