Summer meeting 1998: Isle of Jura

HomeEventsSummer meeting 1998: Isle of Jura

1 August 1998 - 7 August 1998

Meeting report

Saturday 1 August

A reduced party from that on the Isle of Islay caught ferries for the short crossing to Jura (VC 102) during the morning: John Blackburn, Agneta Burton, Blanka Buryová, David and Geraldine Holyoak, Jean Paton, Mark Pool, Phil Stanley, Rod Stern and Harold Whitehouse.

From the ferry crossing the summits of the Paps of Jura, three conical quartzite mountains that dominate the southern part of the island, seemed quite close and binoculars revealed Red Deer scattered on the long moorland slopes leading up to the higher rocks, as well as a Golden Eagle soaring over a distant ridge.

Abhainn Mhór to Daimh-sgeir, NR4468 to NR4467

Agneta, Jean and John caught an early ferry and began work in earnest before the rest of the party reached Jura. A substantial list of bryophytes was recorded by them from stream banks, including Frullania teneriffae and Diphyscium foliosum.

We then moved on to the Jura Hotel at Craighouse, which was to be our (very comfortable) headquarters for the week. In warm, sunny weather, we enjoyed a picnic lunch on the hotel lawns.

Craighouse ‘ravine’, NR5266

The afternoon was devoted mainly to exploration of the wooded, rocky valley of the small river that reaches the sea near the Jura Hotel. Luckily the water-level was low and, except for a climb to avoid the waterfall, there was little difficulty in following the course of the river upstream, giving access to a luxuriant bryophyte flora that included Aphanolejeunea microscopica, Bartramia ithyphylla, Dumortiera hirsuta (in several places), Fissidens celticus, F. curnovii, Heterocladium heteropterum var. heteropterum, lots of Jubula hutchinsiae, Lejeunea lamacerina, L. patens, scattered Lophocolea fragrans, Metzgeria conjugata and also Ulota drummondii. On the walk back, an old track into a pasture near the roadside produced Fossombronia wondraczekii, Philonotis caespitosa*, Pohlia bulbifera, P. camptotrachela, Riccia sorocarpa and R. subbifurca.

Sunday 2 August

Corran River valley, NR5472 to NR4973

During a dry morning the whole party followed the Corran River upstream across open moorland to Loch an t-Siob. Peaty banks along the way produced Cladopodiella francisci* and Lophozia bicrenata* found growing very close together by Jean, and other finds included Anastrophyllum minutum, Calypogeia neesiana, Campylopus atrovirens, Cephaloziella divaricata, C. hampeana, Kurzia trichoclados, Pohlia bulbifera and Sphagnum quinquefarium. The edge of Loch an t-Siob had Scapania umbrosa in addition to patches of Water Lobelia Lobelia dortmanna.

During the afternoon the slopes of two of the Paps of Jura around Gleann an t-Siob and an adjacent hill were visited by small groups. The rather unprepossessing quartzite screes of the southern slopes of Beinn Shiantaidh were covered by Agneta, Jean, Harold, Phil and Rod, who found Glyphomitrium daviesii and Hedwigia stellata* there on small boulders of basaltic rocks, whereas the quartzite boulders were bare. John and Mark tackled the wetter northern slopes of Beinn Mhearsamail, and found extensive ‘mixed liverwort mats’ that included Bazzania tricrenata, Herbertus aduncus ssp. hutchinsiae and Plagiochila carringtonii, as well as Racomitrium ellipticum*. Blanka and I searched the north-eastern slopes of Beinn Chaolais, finding similar liverwort mats but with the addition of Anastrepta orcadensis, Barbilophozia floerkei and Dicranodontium asperulum; Andreaea alpina* occurred there on rock.

Monday 3 August

Inver Cottage area, NR4469 to NR4473

A large group braved steady light rain with occasional heavier outbursts to explore the coastal slopes northwards from the Feolin Ferry, with its stretches of raised beach and sea-caves. Cyclodictyon laetevirens was admired at its well-known site inside a damp cave entrance, and Calypogeia azurea was noticed growing nearby. Despite the poor weather, energetic recording resulted in a total list of over 100 bryophyte species, including Blasia pusilla and Dicranella cerviculata, and new records for Pohlia flexuosa* (P. muyldermansii) and Splachnum sphaericum* found by Rod.

Jura House Gardens, NR4863

Smaller groups visited the attractive gardens and woodland around Jura House, Ardfin, and amassed large lists of bryophytes, but with few real surprises among them. The ‘Tea Tent’ in the gardens provided welcome respite from steady light rain. The garden was created a hundred years ago, and much of it is sheltered by a wall up to five metres high. It contains many Australian and New Zealand plants especially collected for the garden.

Coast near Daimh-sgeir, NR4468

Finally, Jean and Phil searched coastal rocks and caves above the road in continuing rain, locating Calypogeia muelleriana, Gymnocolea inflata, Plagiochila killarniensis, P. punctata, Dicranoweisia cirrata and Dicranum fuscescens

Tuesday 4 August

Lealt, NR6690

A morning with good weather was used to explore the ravine along a small river. The steep-sided ravine above the road had several low waterfalls and required some scrambling, but it proved to be rich in bryophytes with, among others, Bazzania trilobata, Blepharostoma trichophyllum, Fissidens taxifolius var. pallidicaulis, Harpalejeunea molleri (H. ovata) and Lepidozia cupressina, as well as masses of Jubula hutchinsiae, and plenty of Frullania teneriffae epiphytic on hazels. The lower part of the ravine produced Barbilophozia attenuata on the trunk of a living oak tree, Cephalozia catenulata on a log, C. lunulifolia, Harpanthus scutatus and Microlejeunea (Lejeunea) ulicina, but this part of the ravine also had steep and inaccessible sides.

Tramaig Bay, NR6588

Woodland on a low rocky slope near the shore had a varied bryophyte flora, including Adelanthus decipiens, Barbilophozia attenuata, Cephalozia lunulifolia, Frullania fragilifolia and Thuidium delicatulum. The best find was made just as we were about to leave, a patch of Plagiochila atlantica* found by Blanka.

Tarbert Bay, NR6082

Brief searching around the shores of the bay resulted in finds of Bryum subapiculatum (B. microerythrocarpum), B. rubens* (found by Rod), Drepanocladus aduncus, Pellia neesiana, Pohlia camptotrachela and Tortella flavovirens.

Loch na Mile, NR5471

The edges of several sandy bays were searched in the hope of finding Bryum salinum, but only unidentifiable, non-fertile material was found. Only slight consolation was obtained from finds of Pohlia bulbifera and Bryum rubens

Wednesday 5 August

Jura House Gardens, NR4863

A second visit to the gardens by a larger group resulted in two new finds there: Anthoceros punctatus* in garden plant pots and Marchantia polymorpha ssp. ruderalis* in garden beds and in pots. Other bryophytes were studied in an adjacent marshy field. Blanka, Harold and Phil left for the mainland later in the day. The remainder of the party explored a short distance along the coast to the east, then sat on the beach for lunch, watched by three wild goats high on the cliff.

Inver Cottage area, NR4469 to NR4473

A return visit to this rich area with Mark, in fine weather, resulted in a few additions to the list, including Hedwigia stellata, Orthodontium lineare and Thuidium delicatulum. The occurrence of numerous calciphiles, including Eucladium verticillatum, in a few places along the base of the quartzite sea-cliff was attributed to flushing by base-rich ground water.

Ardfernal, NR5570 to NR5671

Jean, John and Rod explored steep natural woodland, scrub, rocky grassland and salt-marsh around this coastal headland and bay. The most significant finds from a long list of bryophytes were Bryum dunense* and Barbilophozia floerkei found by Rod, B. subapiculatum by John, and Ulota drummondii by Jean. The eastern part of the same area was revisited briefly the next morning.

Thursday 6 August

Beinn an Oir, NR4774 to NR4975

The remoteness of this area from the road led to arrangements being made for transport by Land Rover along rough tracks to the base of the mountain. The only day when this transport was possible unfortunately turned out to be very wet. Hence the small group (Agneta, Mark and me) who decided to walk into the mountains enjoyed steady rain and views of less than fifty metres throughout. The northern slopes of Beinn an Oir had areas with well-developed ‘mixed liverwort mat’, including Herbertus aduncus ssp. hutchinsiae and Plagiochila carringtonii, but there were no surprising finds. The long walk back to the road through the Inver Cottage area saw the weather improve, and allowed a few more additions to the bryophyte list for that by now well-worked area, including Sphagnum girgensohnii found by Mark.

Near Knockrome, NR5571

During the morning the ‘lowland group’ (Jean, John and Rod) walked from the airstrip near Loch na Mile along the shore and up over Rubha Bhride to search salt-marsh and dunes around the bay before returning by way of Ardfernal. Searches for Bryum salinum were again unsuccessful, but the bryophytes found included Blasia pusilla, Cephaloziella hampeana and Campylium stellatum var. protensum.

Jura Forest, NR5370

The ‘lowland’ group later explored the grounds of Jura Forest House, surrounding woodland and open moorland above. Despite rain and midges, the more significant finds included Anthoceros punctatus (outside the walled garden) and Phaeoceros laevis in the garden.

Friday 7 August

West of Tarbert, NR6082, NR5982, NR5984, NR6083

John and Rod left early for the mainland. The four bryologists remaining drove north to the narrowest part of Jura and worked an area of moorland, old tracks and the sea shores of Loch Tarbert, in mostly light rain. Substantial lists of species were recorded for two 10 km squares, including the first Sphagnum molle to be noticed on the trip, but the best finds were of Cephalozia macrostachya var. macrostachya* (discovered by Jean on a Leucobryum tussock in open moorland) and Campylopus subulatus. Other bryophytes recorded included Bryum subapiculatum, Calypogeia sphagnicola, C. neesiana, Cephalozia catenulata on a peat bank, Cephaloziella hampeana, Fissidens osmundoides, Kurzia trichoclados and Splachnum ampullaceum. Mark made a long walk to patches of woodland on the western side of the head of Loch Tarbert, where numerous species were added to the list, including Riccardia palmata and Sphagnum quinquefarium.

Partly bare patches in the top edges of the salt-marsh at the head of the loch had many patches of non-fertile Bryum, again raising hopes of B. salinum, but the absence of sporophytes prevented any of it from being identified.

Glen Shiel (VC 105), NG9217, NG9317, NG9318

After leaving Jura, Blanka, Harold and Phil travelled northwards on the Scottish mainland to search for Philonotis cernua (Bartramidula wilsonii) at a locality where it had been found by Dr Warburg 50 years ago. Although the P. cernua was not relocated, a rich bryophyte flora was recorded on the eastern slopes of Sgurr Mhic Bharraich, including Douinia ovata, Herzogiella striatella, Marsupella sphacelata, Plagiochila carringtonii, Scapania nimbosa and Sphagnum strictum.

The Isle of Jura is geologically less varied than Islay, being composed mainly of quartzite, so it supports a less varied bryophyte flora. Larger parts of Jura are also difficult to reach, since there is access by road only along the southern and eastern coasts, and long hikes or the use of a boat are necessary to reach many northern and western parts of the island. Hence, although the Isle of Jura does not have an especially rich bryophyte flora, there are doubtless still some species awaiting discovery there. The presence of such strongly Atlantic species as Cyclodictyon laetevirens on Jura and Islay, and Adelanthus lindenbergianus and Lejeunea holtii on Islay, may well hint that other Atlantic species still await discovery in VC 102, such as perhaps Bazzania pearsonii or Mastigophora woodsii. Nevertheless, the ‘northern mixed liverwort mats’ of the mountains of Jura are species-poor compared to examples elsewhere in western Scotland, and the impression of a rather restricted bryophyte flora on the island as a whole is probably correct.

Unfortunately, the famous island distillery adjacent to our hotel was closed for the week. The frequent rain was only heavy enough to restrict bryological fieldwork on some of the days and perhaps partly as a result of the wet weather, we were less troubled by midges, horseflies or deer ticks than might be expected in some parts of Scotland. Clear spells revealed some splendid mountain and coastal scenery, and allowed sightings of Merlins, Hen Harriers, Black Guillemots and Arctic Skuas.

Thanks are due to various estates for allowing access to their land, and to Richard Gulliver for making many of the arrangements for this access. John Blackburn, Jean Paton, Mark Pool, Rod Stern and Harold Whitehouse helped with providing lists for this report.

David Holyoak


Isle of Jura