In contrast to our visit to this area on 26/03/22 when the weather was dry and warm, today had started cold and damp with an easterly breeze. Thankfully the rain had stopped by the time we set off, and we didn’t really notice the cold breeze until we left the shelter of the Dean Burn gorge. Although there were only three of us on this outing, this was still an improvement on last year’s turnout. Vladimir is an experienced bryologist and Zuzana is a Pentland Hills ranger wishing to refresh her knowledge of upland bryophytes. Our main aim was to learn to recognise some of the species present rather than to record them.
The area explored is within Bonaly Country Park and the notice at the car park describes the Dean Burn gorge as having the Park’s greatest number of flowering plant species. From what we found on our visit this description probably applies equally to the bryophytes, although the south shore of Bonaly Reservoir also had several species which we rarely encounter on our meetings. My highlights from the gorge were Pohlia cruda, a beautiful moss and a new species for Vlad and myself, as well as plenty of Bartramia pomiformis with an abundance of capsules. Zuzana took the opportunity to check the extent of deer damage to trees planted by the Pentland Hills Ranger Service. Grazing was probably responsible for the formidable spines on the small, rounded hawthorns, while the tips of other trees appeared to be nibbled as soon as they rose above their protective tubes.
Although Bonaly Reservoir seemed a sheltered spot for lunch, we quickly felt colder and probably missed quite a few mosses by moving too quickly after lunch when trying to warm up. If the BBS visits the site this September, I expect it will produce a much more comprehensive list than our hurried one. Zuzana collected a few common bryophytes in her notebook, sellotaping them to the pages and letting me misspell their names.
Our third and last habitat was the moorland above the reservoir known as Phantom’s Cleuch. Firstly we looked at a small patch of probable Hypnum impoens, found three weeks previously on a visit with our President and Dr Neil Bell of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh. Then we spent a short time traversing the boggy moorland, trying to identify a small number of Sphagnum species as well as other common upland mosses. Finally we took the main path downhill to the car park, using sticks to pick up a few bags of dog excrement left by thoughtless dog walkers. For Vlad our final bryophyte of the day was a light green patch of Radula complanata growing on a sycamore just above the entrance to the country park.
David Adamson, March 2023