Summer meeting 1987: Achill Island

HomeEventsSummer meeting 1987: Achill Island

5 August 1987 - 11 August 1987

Meeting report

Headquarters for the Achill Week was the Slievemore Hotel at Dugort, which is situated just a few hundred yards from the Atlantic at the base of the 2,200 ft. mountain which gives it its name. The hotel was founded by John Sheridan, the entrepreneur and dilettante naturalist and artist who encouraged much of the biological exploration of the island which took place at the beginning of this century. Sheridan is remembered as the first finder of the Mediterranean heath on Achill. Several large and impressive, if somewhat gloomy, landscapes of his are to be seen in the nearby Gray’s Guesthouse.

The village of Dugort came to bryological fame in 1904 when Lett and Douin published the name Adelanthus dugortiensis, which continues to have a precarious currency for the users of Macvicar’s Handbook.

There was an international flavour to the large group which assembled in the friendly but noisy bar of the Slievemore Hotel on the evening of 5 August. Lillian Franck from Germany, Huub van Melick and Constance from The Netherlands, Barbara M. Murray from Alaska and Ted Rosen from Canada joined the contingent from the home countries, D. Allen, T. Blockeel, A. Burton, M. Fletcher, K. Lewis, D. Long, D. Newman, J. A. Paton, A. R. and Hilary Perry, A. J. E. Smith, P. Stanley, H. L. K. and Mrs Whitehouse, and D. Synnott. Peter Martin came later in the week.

A suggestion, made during the previous Irish meeting in Kerry, to attempt a Bryophyte Flora of Achill, had been favourably received. The aim of the fieldwork during this week was to do as much to this end as was consistent with enjoying the fieldwork.

For the first two days the group explored together, though there was the usual later afternoon scatter to visit nooks and crannies seen en route or selected by optimistic reading of the map. From the third day the party was split up so that less spectacular or apparently less interesting areas could be sampled.

The following day-by-day account attempts to list the major efforts of the week though several brief stops and individual efforts are necessarily excluded.

6 August. The morning was cool and the mist threatening on the higher ground as we walked along the lane from the H. Q. to the foot of Slievemore. First records for West Mayo here were *Riccia beyrichiana, *Gyroweisia tenuis, *Pohlia camptotrachela, *Bryum sauteri and *B. radiculosum, and J. A. P. and D. G. L, found *Riccia crozalsii new to Ireland.

The dull morning had little effect on the enthusiasm of the group which hurried towards the mist and the east-facing corrie of Slievemore. This mountain has been searched by many bryologists since Lett first found the Adelanthus and the flora is relatively well known. Even so *Scapania scandica was added by J. A. P. *Pohlia muyldermansii by T. B., *Lophozia ventricosa var. ventricosa and *var. silvicola and *Plagiothecium cavifolium by D.G.L., Andreaea rothii ssp. falcata by B. M., and Cyclodictyon laetevirens by G.R. and H.v.M. First found on the island by E.F. Warburg, Cyclodictyon is now known from four localities in Achill.

Most of the rarities of the corrie were rediscovered including Adelanthus lindenbergianus, Mastigophora woodsii, Bazzania pearsonii, Scapania ornithopodioides, Dicranodontium denudatum, D. uncinatum, Campylopus schimperi and C. setifolius. Drepanocladus exannulatus var. rotae was found (D. G. L.) near Dugort Quay.

A late afternoon visit to the damp sandy flats and dunes about Lough Nambrack to the east of Dugort produced *Brachythecium mildeanum, Amblyodon dealbatus, Moerckia hibernica and Petalophyllum ralfsii. The interest of this sandy north-east corner of Achill was demonstrated in 1962 by E. F. Warburg and was the subject of several forays during the week.

7 August. The entire party trekked over the lowest point of the saddle between the Croaghaun range and Slievemore to explore the rocky ground about Lough Nakeeroge, or Annagh Lough as Praeger called it in his 1904 account of the vascular flora of Achill. This is the spot of which Lett, in his report on the Clare Island bryophytes, declared, “Round this lough the ground is much shaded by the cliffs from the direct rays of the sun, the air is moist, and there is shelter from stormy winds; these are data which generally determine where mosses and hepatics will establish themselves and flourish, but they avoid this spot”. The lake, which is at sixty feet above sea level, is held by a moraine and separated from the Atlantic by only twenty three paces at one point. Lett’s pessimism about the place was scarcely justified. *Geocalyx graveolens was found at the east end of the lough by D. G. L, and at another place by M. F. Calypogeia neesiana was added by J. A. P. Rhododendron ponticum, which has become a nuisance about Glandarary and Sraheens Lough in the east of the island, has spread even to this remote place though only a few scattered bushes are established on the high ground above Lough Nakeeroge. Telaranea sejuncta is one of the few compensations made by Rhododendron ponticum for destruction of natural habitats. At Lough Nakeeroge, Tom Blocked found Telaranea in a ‘natural’ habitat, on litter of bracken in a peaty hole under rock on the slope at the western end of the lough.

The party fragmented in the afternoon but most people drifted westwards towards the northern flanks of Croaghaun or towards Saddle Head. At the outlet of Lough Nakeeroge West (i.e. the most northerly of the loughs in this corner of the island) we found Pterogonium gracile. The moraine on the north side of this lough is greener than the surroundings, and the sward contained Ctenidium molluscum and Rhizomnium cuspidatum. A mountain stream flowing into Lough Bunafreva East has made a gully in which Metzgeria leptoneura, Leptoscyphus cuneifolius, Porella obtusata, Cyclodictyon laetevirens (T. R.) and Bryum riparium (T. B.) were found. At Gubnahinneora Point, David Long recorded Fossombronia foveolata, Porella obtusata and Campylopus brevipilus. A small, dried out lochan to the north-east of Lough Bunafreva East contained masses of Archidium and Drepanocladus aduncus.

The spectacularly situated Lough Bunafreva West has some dry block scree on the east side where Douinia ovata was found. The lough was deeper at some former time and a fossil shoreline can be seen about 50ft above the present water level. Above the old shoreline there are some dark, wet rocks at the south end of the corrie, where Metzgeria leptoneura and Calliergon sarmentosum were found.

Blanket bog on the north side of Keel harbour was investigated by J.A.P., D.G.L, and T.B. and here *Cephalozia pleniceps and Drepanocladus exannulatus var. rotae were recorded.

8 August. The main group investigated sea cliffs and flat, sandy areas on the east side of Trawmore strand, between Dookinelly and Cathedral rocks. Damp sandy ground produced *Odontoschisma elongatum (H.v.M.), Haplomitrium hookeri, *Fossombronia fimbriata (D.G.L.), *Leiocolea turbinata, *Fossombronia pusilla var. maritima (J.A.P.) , Dichodontium pellucidum and *Ephemerum serratum var. serratum. On the wet sea cliffs Nardia geoscyphus, Fossombronia angulosa, Plagiochila killarniensis, Fissidens curnowii and *Philonotis rigida were seen.

Glendarary House and woods are smothered by Rhododendron ponticum and here Telaranea nematodes was found by E.F. Warburg in 1962. J.A.P. and D.G.L. refound the Telaranea and added Metzgeria fruticulosa, M. temperata, Nowellia curvifolia, Cephalozia catenulata, Dicranum scottianum, *Neckera pumila and *Orthodontium lineare. A.R.P. & B.M.M. found *Cephalozia hibernica at nearby Sraheens Lough.

T.B. found Dicranella staphylina and Bryum microerythrocarpum at Dooega.

A small party, L.F., E.R. and D.S., went to the southern tip of the island and recorded about Cloghmore. Roadside banks produced *Bryum ruderale; wet, rushy fields above Kildavnet Castle had Pseudephemerum nitidum, Blasia pusilla, Anthoceros husnotii, Riccia glauca and Sphagnum contortum, and rock outcrops had Tortella tortuosa and Frullania fragilifolia and F. teneriffae.

A.R.P. & B.M.M. led an assault on the sandy area about Lough Doo in north Achill and refound Catoscopium nigritum and discovered **Leiocolea gillmanii new to Ireland; they then recorded about Ridge Point.

9 August. The whole group was together again for exploration of Ooghnadirka, a wide gully on the west side of Slievemore, which has developed along a series of geological faults and where the rocks are loose and unstable, especially on the north side. Three Achill men were lost here three years: ago while trying to rescue sheep caught on a ledge. Thanks are due to Gordon Rothero who scouted ahead of the main party and found a safe route. The gully was approached by rounding the base of the mountain from the old abandoned village of Slievemore. We were rewarded with Jubula hutchinsiae, Metzgeria conjugata, Plagiochila corniculata, Tritomaria exsectiformis, Nardia geoscyphus, Lepidozia pearsonii, Jungermannia subelliptica, Drepanolejeunea hamatifolia, Fissidens curnovii, *Pohlia lutescens and Campylopus shawii.

The coast to the west, under Tower Hill produced Leptodontium flexifolium, Harpanthus scutatus, Sphenolobus minutus and Geocalyx graveolens (T. B. and D. G. L.) in its third Achill locality.

*Pohlia filum was found in a disused sandpit east of Lough Doo.

10 August. One group went to Keem on the south side of Croaghaun and recorded *Tortula marginata on old ruined houses. In the valley west of Keem strand Gyroweisia tenuis, *Rhynchostegium lusitanicum (T. B.) , Gymnostomum aeruginosum and *Anthelia juratzkana (J. A. P.) were found. In a large coastal ravine west of Croaghaun, *Gymnostomum calcareum (T.B.), G. recurvirostrum, Homalothecium sericeum, Hypnum callichroum, Marchesinia mackaii and *Scapania lingulata (D.G.L.) indicated the basic nature of the rocks.

L.F., E.R. and D.S. went to Salia on the eastern side of the island where roadsides and old buildings produced Blasia pusilla, Haplomitrium hookeri and *Dicranella cerviculata. At Bull’s Mouth, a sandy bank in the lee of storm beach had Cephaloziella hampeana, Brachythecium mildeanum and *Campylium calcareum.

11 August. On the last day of the Achill meeting, the weather was cold and misty. One group which went to the slopes above Lough Acorrymore recorded Adelanthus decipiens, Anastrepta orcadensis, Kurzia trichoclados, Sphenolobus minutus, Dicranum scottianum and Ulota hutchinsiae, before being driven down by the mist.

T.B. and G.R. went round to Doonty on the northernmost part of Slievemore and recorded for this unworked square, being rewarded with Aphanolejeunea microscopica, Drepanolejeunea hamatifolia, Harpalejeunea ovata, Lophocolea fragrans, Frullania microphylla, F. fragilifolia, Radula aquilegia, R. complanata, and Cyclodictyon laetevirens which grew on wet rocks in a hole by a stream. Returning by the large corrie they added *Ctenidium molluscum var. condensatum, Barbilophozia floerkei and Tetraplodon mnioides.

The misty morning kept some of the golfers off the dunes at Keel where the rest of the party congregated. D.L. found Catoscopium nigritum in its second Achill locality. Moerckia hibernica, Bryum marratii, B. calophyllum and Brachythecium mildeanum were also of interest.

David Long made a final stop at a sandpit quarry four km east of Keel and ended the Achill fieldwork in fine fashion by finding *Campylopus subulatus new to Mayo, and **Scapania curta new to Ireland.

Achill was a good place for a B.B.S. meeting. Very little driving had to be done once we got there. Extreme Atlantic conditions, variety of geology and topography and an interesting mixture of northern and southern species contributed to the success of the meeting, which was helped also by the skill, good humour and kindness of participants. The local secretary wishes to thank particularly Hilary and Roy Perry for their hospitality, Philip Stanley for assistance with intricate transport arrangements, Jean Paton for deputising as leader, Mrs Whitehouse for brightening at least one evening with spectacular 3D slides of familiar and exotic mosses, Michael Fletcher for his unquenchable enthusiasm, Keith Lewis and Dorothea Allen for boosting the home contingent and all those overseas bryologists who made no complaint when things went wrong and who seemed to enjoy the bryology on the edge of the Atlantic.

A Bryophyte Flora of Achill is being prepared by D.G. Long and A.J.E. Smith and is to be published in Glasra (Contributions from the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin).

D. Synnott


Achill Island