South West Scotland Group: Upper Carron Water, Dalveen Pass

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28 August 2022 (10:00 - 17:00)

After lunch, left to right Valerie Heppel, Ranald Lamb and Liz Kungu are examining the flora of a vegetated shingle bank, with Gordon Rothero and Chris Miles heading up towards the Blue Scar in the distance.

Meeting report

On a beautiful late summer morning 6 of us gathered in a layby on the A702, to record the upper Carron Water. Our target for the day was the Blue Scar in monad NS8908, which entailed a short walk in along the Carron Water to the start of the monad. This stretch of the Carron Water extends from 300 to 400 m a.s.l. and is deeply incised into the rounded hills which rise to 628 m. The rock, Shinnel formation wackie, is much fractured and a dark slate blue colour, hence the name Blue Scar. There were extensive rock outcrops and scree slopes to examine, and as the water was very low it was easy to cross back and forth over the Carron Water as necessary.

Many small flushes drained down into the steam and we soon found Campylium stellatum, and extensive populations of Palustriella commutata both on the stream banks and in the hillside flushes, an indication of the base rich status of the rock in places. Breutelia chrysocoma was much admired forming extensive deep cover on the drier slopes, in some places almost 100% cover. Some rocks in wetter areas had large patches of Blindia acuta, and on the streamside there were many clumps of Dichodontium flavescens, some with very young capsules. Other mosses in the burn included Hygrohypnum luridum, Rhynchostegium riparioides, Scurio-hypnum plumosum and Brachythecium rivulare. Rocks on the stream bank had four species of Racomitrium and Ptychomitrium polyphyllum was seen regularly.

Even before we reached the Blue Scar Gordon Rothero found a higher flushed area on the valley side with Dicranum bonjeanii and nearby Philonotis calcarea, both of which we had found in June lower down the Carron Water, so it was good to confirm that these species exist in other areas in the valley.

Bartramia ithyphylla, which is the less common of the two common Bartramia species in Dumfries & Galloway was also found in a couple of places, and there was a small population of Bryum zerii on an outcrop just above some scree.

Lunch was a very pleasant spot in the sunshine, on a bank just above the stream junction with McBrides Cleuch and with enough of a breeze to keep the midges away. After lunch we continued up to Blue Scar and the first of the main waterfalls beyond. Gordon found Mesoptychia bantriensis on rocks immediately above the stream and whilst showing it to the group on the way back down also found Blepharostoma trichophyllum growing through a nearby clump of Didymodon rigidulus.

Three of us made it all the way up to the foot of the first main waterfall, where there was a small patch of Neckera crispa on the east bank, the only place where it was found all day in spite of the obviously base rich nature of some of the rock. By the waterfall there was a small population of what was identified in the field as Chionoloma hibernicum which was growing in a shaded crevice, this being the second location in the valley for this species. However, subsequent examination by Sharon Pilkington indicated that these may be something more interesting, and we await the final verdict. The other star find of the day was a population of Platyhypnum duriusculum on a sloping slab of rock on the east bank just below the falls. This species had not been recorded in Dumfriesshire for 159 years when David Long had found a population at Dob’s Linn in the Moffat hills last month, and now Gordon has found another population in the Lowther Hills, only the second locality for SW Scotland.

As well as the bryophytes, the Calluna was in full flower, in some places growing amongst flowering Thyme grassland. Wetter areas had beautiful Parnassus palustris in flower, and Chris Miles found Hymenophyllum on one of the craigs. Selaginella was seen several times.  The only disappointment was the low number of birds seen in the valley, and the few trees, Rowans were restricted to the inaccessible craigs, mostly by the waterfall. In total we recorded 115 species of bryophytes in the monad.

Liz Kungu, December 2022