Summer meeting 1962: Donegal

HomeEventsSummer meeting 1962: Donegal

1 September 1962 - 13 September 1962

Meeting report

It was time to visit Ireland again as five years had passed since the field meeting held in Co. Galway in 1957 described by Mr R. E. Parker (Trans. Brit. bryol. Soc. 3, 493-8, 1958). The Society has been twice before to Co. Donegal, but using Bundoran in the extreme south of the county as a base, and naturally exploring also much country in Sligo and Leitrim where the limestone is so spectacular in scenery and rich in vegetation. The whole fortnight was spent at Dunfanaghy, somewhat far from the south-western parts of the county, but suitably placed for the hills of north Donegal about which little was known bryologically. It was expected that the low ground would prove interesting and much was hoped from coastal dunes and slacks. Apart from the middle weekend the weather was kinder than we expected in the first half of September. Several days spent about the coast, on dune and sea-cliff, were enjoyable for the sunshine and absence of wind that was not a trial to be borne as at Perranporth during the Helston meeting. Those few who persevered and attained the summit of the rather grim Slieve Snaght on 4 September will remember the rewarding view, slithery descent, and monotonous bog to traverse on the way back to Dunlewy. Other hills of the Derryveagh range appeared to be of similar bleak, slabby rock, which when wet gleamed in the sun, as was noticed when we returned that way to climb Errigal, the highest hill in Donegal, and though built of quartzite, quite a good hill.

The members present were Dr E. F. Warburg and family, Mr and Mrs J. H. G. Peterken, Dr and Mrs W. Schultze-Motel from Berlin, Mrs J. Appleyard, Miss M. P. H. Kertland, Miss E. M. Lobley, Mr A. C. Crundwell, Mr R. E. Longton, Mr A. J. Pettifer, Mr D. J. Read and Mr E. C. Wallace.

Four members brought their cars, and they were sufficient for the daily transport. Work at recording bryophytes began for some on the way from Belfast to Dunfanaghy on 1 September. As members know, Bryum erythrocarpum and its close allies are proving of interest so search was made for them in likely spots, or compulsory halts as at level-crossings, and usually Mr Crundwell was able to demonstrate this or that species and its distinguishing gemmae. Research on this group of dull looking plants is still in progress so no records can be given here. All bryophytes observed on the daily excursions were listed on mapping cards, a different member each day accepting the chore.

Looking south from Dunfanaghy Muckish Mountain appears nearer than it really is, and here we spent the first day, exploring the northern corrie, summit area (2197 ft.) and north-east slopes. All the ground was interesting and the higher slopes rich in hepatic communities consisting of Herberta hutchinsiae, Bazzania tricrenata, B. pearsonii, Lepidozia pinnata, Scapania gracilis, S. ornithopodioides sparingly, and Mylia taylori. Amongst boulders high on the north-east shoulder of the hill Dr Warburg detected Adelanthus unciformis* in small quantity, which several members saw for the first time. This important find raised hopes that it might be detected on other Donegal hills, which we could see had the requisite habitat conditions. On 12 September the Adelanthus was found to be locally frequent in the hepatic carpet amongst small boulders and heather on Errigal Mountain, and sparingly (at a lower elevation) on adjoining ‘Little Errigal’. The scarcity of Anastrepta orcadensis was remarked by several members; the writer saw it very sparingly, once on Muckish and once on Errigal where it was scanty and gemmiferous. New county records from Muckish (H. 35) were: Polytrichum alpestre*, Gyroweisia tenuis*, Pohlia annotina*, Acrocladium sarmentosum*, Lepidozia pearsonii Calypogeia muelleriana*, C. fissa* (also seen at Innisfree Bay on 6 September), Sphenolobus minutus*, Solenostoma pumilum*, Mylia anomala*, and Scapania irrigua*.

[* = New v.c. record]

On 3 September the dunes, sea-cliffs and ground adjacent to Dooros Point near Dunfanaghy were worked, yielding a number of interesting plants and new records. Distichium inclinatum was very abundant, being noticed on other days as frequent in suitable habitats along the rocky indented coast. New county records (H. 35) included: Archidium alternifolium*, Dichodontium pellucidum var. fagimontanum*, Pottia truncata*, Barbula hornschuchiana*, Weissia microstoma*, Grimmia decipiens var. robusta*, Zygodon viridissimus var. stirtonii*, Thuidium philibertii*, Drepanocladus lycopodioides*, Eurhynchium speciosum*, Hypnum lindbergii*, Leiocolea badensis* and Scapania aequiloba*.

Some ground close to Dunfanaghy yielded several records to Mr Crundwell on before-breakfast forays such as Bryum marratii*, B. pendulum*, Brachythecium glareosum* and, in the village street, Lunularia cruciata*

After some discussion about what hill to climb on 4 September, Slieve Snaght to the south of Dunlewy was chosen. The way led round the base of Errigal and gave us good views of that hill and the Poisoned Glen. A climb over wet moorland brought us to Slieve Snaght which grudgingly yielded a few new county records (H. 35): Rhabdoweisia crenulata*, Dicranum blyttii*, Dicranodontium denudatum var. alpinum*, Gymnomitrion obtusum*, and Odontoschisma denudatum*. There was much Campylopus schwarzii on the hill, and locally several members found Campylopus setifolius. The highest rocks had Gymnomitrion concinnatum, G. crenulatum and some high flushes Anthelia julacea. A stream named the Devlin River runs down to Dunlewy in a straight deep-cut gorge and here Miss Lobley and Miss Kertland found Dicranum scottianum, Aphanolejeunea microscopica*, Drepanolejeunea hamatifolia and Radula aquilegia. Mr Longton recorded Calypogeia trichomanis*.

South of Muckish and east of Errigal, in the Derryveagh Mountains, Glenveagh Castle and gardens are situated by Lough Beagh in a sheltered position. The owner of the estate had given us permission to visit the area which had promise of interesting ground for bryophytes. We went on 5 September, taking a short cut by what proved to be a very bad road over the Owencarrow River to Glenveagh, where we were received by Mr H. P. McIlhenny, who expressed great interest in our plans and hopes for the day. Many choice specimens of exotic trees and shrubs were pointed out to us in the gardens which seemed to merge imperceptibly into the wild rocky hillside above the Castle. Bryophytes were very luxurious in the boulder-strewn woodland, but few new records were made although over 100 species were listed on our mapping cards. Barbula convoluta var. commutata*, Isothecium holtii*, Plagiothecium sylvaticum* and Aphanolejeunea microscopica* were new vice-county records (H. 35), but many interesting species were noted; Dicranoweisia cirrata (scarce in the extreme west), Zygodon conoideus, Tetraphis browniana and Hylocomium umbratum. Hepatics included Riccardia palmata, Mylia cuneifolia, Harpanthus scutatus, and on boulders by the lough, Radula aquilegia, Drepanolejeunea hamatifolia, Colura calyptrifolia, with Jubula hutchinsiae by a stream in a ravine and a little Metzgeria hamata.

On 6 September and again on 13 September we worked various localities in the district of the Rosses, between Gweedore and Dunglow. Our time was split between interesting places on the coast dunes and slacks, rocky margins of freshwater loughs such as at Mullaghderg, and sea cliffs at Crohy Head. The dune flats, especially about Cruit Island, were somewhat basic, with some interesting forms of Tortella species still being studied. New records from this attractive region include Tortella flavovirens var. glareicola*, Mnium rugicum*, Drepanocladus vernicosus*, Petalophyllum ralfsii*, Blepharostoma trichophyllum*, Cephaloziella hampeana*, Lejeunea lamacerina vars. lamacerina* and azorica*, Marchesinia mackaii*, Frullania dilatata*, also Riccia warnstorfii* and Fossombronia angulosa* on Crohy Head, and Sphagnum imbricatum* near Dunglow.

On previous visits (1928, 1937) to Bundoran in the extreme south of Co. Donegal, the Society had visited, amongst other places on the limestone, Gleniff, behind the steep imposing bluff of Ben Bulben. This is a rich area of limestone cliff and talus slopes where several plants of importance in the Irish Flora are found, one being Barbula reflexa var. robusta which several members wished to see in situ. Despite being about 90 miles from Dunfanaghy Gleniff was visited by most of the party who made an early start on 7 September. Almost all the previously-known plants were confirmed and several new records made for Co. Sligo (H. 28) such as Sphagnum robustum*, Grimmia stricta*, Pohlia delicatula* and Cephaloziella hampeana*. On a series of wet limestone crags below the main cliffs a fruiting Seligeria was found in moderate abundance that was subsequently identified as S. oelandica, a surprising addition to the Irish flora which more than justified the long trip, especially as the Barbula was seen in fine condition, along with Seligeria pusilla, S. trifaria, Gymnostomum recurvirostrum var. insigne, Mnium orthorhynchum, Amblyodon dealbatus, Timmia norvegica, Pedinophyllum interruptum and Scapania aequiloba. The surrounding country in both Co. Sligo and Co. Leitrim would doubtless repay more investigation.

On several days when the weather did not look propitious for the hills we paid attention to fallow fields and other promising habitats noticed whilst travelling. The beautiful Ards Peninsula (H. 35) yielded Pseudephemerum nitidum*, Tortula laevipila var. laevipiliformis*, Phascum cuspidatum*, Ephemerum serratum, Rhynchostegiella pumila*, and Anthoceros laevis*, and on the Rossguill peninsula Dr Warburg detected Ephemerum sessile* new to Ireland. Tortula ruralis*, Trichostomum sinuosum* and Riccia sorocarpa* were other additions to the list for v.c. H. 35. In a small wood near Mid Town we recorded Plagiochila asplenioides var. major*. Mr Peterken recorded Fossombronia wondraczekii* from a fallow between Dunfanaghy and Falcarragh. In East Donegal (H. 34) some stubble near Castleforward yielded Pseudephemerum nitidum*, Dicranella rufescens*, Ephemerum serratum vars. serratum* and minutissimum*, Anthoceros husnotii* and A. laevis*. The cultivated ground examined was, on the whole, disappointing, the species seen occurring sparingly, the soil being loose and friable, as remarked by Dr E. W. Jones for Co. Antrim in a paper on ‘Bryophytes seen in North-eastern Ireland’ (Irish Nat. J. 11, 1954).

When traversing the road from Ballybofey to Donegal on the way to Gleniff we remarked the imposing north face of Croaghconnellagh close to the road at Barnesmore Gap. This hill is quite within the East Donegal vice-county boundary and could be expected to yield some desired records for v.c. H. 34. Those who went all had an interesting day, either up the hill or around Lough Eske. Mrs Appleyard and the writer recorded Lepidozia pearsonii*, Lophozia ventricosa*, L. incisa*, Solenostoma crenulatum*, Nardia compressa*, Gymnomitrion crenulatum*, and were much impressed by the quantity of fruiting Campylopus introflexus* on wet peaty slopes rather high up on the east. This was also seen by Dr Warburg who recorded Grimmia patens*, Rhacomitrium aquaticum*, Splachnum sphaericum*, Drepanocladus fluitans var. fluitans*, Riccardia palmata*, Lepidozia setacea*, Sphenolobus minutus*, Cephalozia leucantha*, Plagiochila punctata*, and S. umbrosa*. Miss Lobley found Sphagnum strictum* and Calypogeia fissa. The hills farther west would merit close attention especially as there are indications of basic rock on the Blue Stack Mountains. The names of Irish hills often appear very odd to those unfamiliar with the Irish language and its aptly descriptive wording.

Not everyone of the party wished to climb Errigal, 2466 ft., but the four who did greatly enjoyed reaching the sharp twin top in spite of a shower on an exposed ridge. The view, subsequent sunshine, and hepatics found amply repaid our efforts. Here and there on the very steep north-east slopes, amongst quartzite screes, were boulders and Calluna patches sheltering a rich hepatic association. This mainly consisted of Herberta hutchinsiae, Bazzania tricrenata, Mylia taylori, Plagiochila spinulosa, Scapania gracilis, Pleurozia purpurea, occasional good tufts of Adelanthus unciformis and Bazzania pearsonii. Careful search by Dr Warburg was rewarded by Scapania ornithopodioides and a few stems of S. nimbosa* new to Donegal, but no Mastigophora woodsii or Jamesoniella carringtonii were seen. Now that the Adelanthus is known from Connemara and Achill through to Errigal and Muckish Mountain it should be looked for on the Paps of Jura where, incidentally, the geology is similar to Donegal. On the ridge of Errigal Dr Warburg made yet another first Irish record by detecting Anthelia iuratzkana*. Whilst we were on Errigal Mr Crundwell, looking for some elusive basic areas about Muckish Gap, recorded nothing of interest save Ctenidium molluscum var. condensatum* and Campylopus setifolius.

The last excursion was to Bulbin Mountain north of Buncrana on the east side of Lough Swilly, and was chosen as basic rock is reported thence. The hill is in v.c. H. 34, and was somewhat disappointing, perhaps because of indifferent weather, but the following records were made by the small party that went: Polytrichum alpestre*, Diphyscium foliosum*, Archidium alternifolium*, Rhabdoweisia denticulata*, Barbula ferruginascens*, Grimmia funalis*, Pohlia annotina*, Mnium marginatum*, Philonotis calcarea*, Plagiothecium succulentum*, P. sylvaticum*, Riccardia sinuata*, Hygrobiella laxifolia*, Blepharostoma trichophyllum*, Calypogeia arguta*, Solenostoma pumilum*, Plectocolea hyalina*.

The end of the meeting left us with the impression that much ground remained to be examined but that most of the species likely to be encountered in the north-west of Ireland are already recorded, The need is for gaps in the known distributions of individual species to be filled in, for, when a species, especially a generally common one, has been recorded just once in a vice-county, further interest in it can cease. How can one know how frequent or rare a species is without intensive work in a given district?

Everyone enjoyed the Donegal scene, saw new plants (even if only a Bryum erythrocarpum segregate!) and looks forward to another visit to Ireland before long, perhaps based on Clonmel for some very beautiful country with several vice-counties at hand to scour with mapping cards and census catalogues.

E. C. Wallace