Wednesday 20 February 2019

Blowing the cobwebs away

The weekend which followed the Otter experience also featured an Orkney Field Club walk, this time at Hobbister on the north coast of Scapa Flow. This area is an RSPB reserve, but the Sunday of the walk saw the weather in a wild mood, so there was not much bird life on display.

The group met at Waulkmill Bay, and set off along a clifftop path around the reserve. Several members were keen to look at mosses and lichens and were immediately dubbed the Brothers Bryophyte. The rest of us looked wistfully out into the Flow, in the forlorn hope of catching a glimpse of sea ducks, divers and auks. There were a few Eiders and Long-tailed Ducks, but most of the birds seen were Fulmars. They, at least, were enjoying the blustery conditions, hanging in the air at the cliff edge, in defiance of gravity, meteorology and the concept of giving a jot.

A pair of Ravens were quite conspicuous, too, flying back and forth with occasional tumbles and rolls, which I was advised was probably territorial behaviour. Whilst we stopped at a conveniently-located bench (we weren't exhausted, the bench was in the lee of a small hillock), one of the pair flew by with nesting material.

After our breather, we detoured slightly to look at a small ravine which I had not visited before. This may be why I was volunteered as 'duty womble' to retrieve a largish helium balloon ensnared in some vegetation by its string.

Photo courtesy of Eagle-eyed M
As well as finding plenty of mosses and lichens, the Brothers Bryophyte also discovered a recent Peregrine kill and were able to identify the prey species as a Golden Plover from these few feathers...

The most colourful thing seen on the walk (with the exception of the helium balloon) was a species of Sphagnum Moss.

Also rather impressive was this clump of [reads notes...] Woolly Fringe-Moss.

In one rather water-logged ditch, the group stopped to look at another species of moss, one which goes by the colloquial name of Drowned Kitten Moss, owing to its similarity to the appearance of bedraggled fur. There's not a photo, I'm afraid, for the following reason. At the point where someone suggested it could've been more sensitively named 'Soggy Moggy', I had to walk away before I started channelling the spirit of Mrs Slocombe from 'Are You Being Served?'

As we retraced our steps, we were fortunate to catch a brief glimpse of a Hen Harrier, hunting in the distance but, in truth, the day belonged to the mosses.


Coastal Ripples said...

A good way to start my day, reading this post. Soggy Moggy indeed. Those helium balloons get everywhere! B

Imperfect and Tense said...

It is uncanny, Barbara! We seem to find more than our fair share of balloons. And I sincerely hope your day had got much better than reading my scrawl :o)

Spadger said...

Ha ha what a giggle! Soggy Moggy snigger! Another moment of nostalgia springs to mind with reference to Mrs Slocome and the time I was on stair/lift duty at an AGM. On hearing the ping of the lift bell (exactly like on TV), I stuck my head around the corner from the stairwell to see Frank Thornton waiting for his wife to come out from the lift! OMG the temptation was so great, but I managed to control myself.

Imperfect and Tense said...

JD, I find it difficult to believe that you managed to control yourself!