Monday 22 June 2020

Gloup loop

On a recent dull and cloudy afternoon, we hankered after a walk somewhere different than the usual circuit to the old kirk and back. Now that we can drive a distance to take our daily exercise, we ventured across to Deerness and the Mulll Head nature reserve. To be honest, I wasn't in the mood for a hike all around the reserve, so we simply bimbled along the clifftops between The Gloup and the Brough of Deerness, marvelling in the delights of the tiny wild flowers which flourish in this harsh environment.

As we left the Gloup car park, there were several birds on the path in front of us. By their size and shape, they were obviously finches. I was fairly certain that they were young birds, because they kept very close together and weren't at all sure whether to be wary of us. As an aside, I feel it is a shame that birds have not evolved an ability to recognise the logos of wildlife charities and so know that not everyone is out to shoot them for fun. Anyways, these particular finches looked like they may be Twites, although my record in IDing them, as opposed to Linnets, is shockingly, and unerringly, poor.

Wandering out on to the clifftops, we were thrilled to discover all manner of flowers growing in the habitat between the edge of the moorland and the rocky cliffs. There was plenty of Thrift and Bird's-foot Trefoil, the mixture of the yellows and pinks providing wonderful vistas. But we were really taken with the Sea Milkwort, which was abundant in the grassland (though practically invisible) and out on the rocks, where it was decorating the rock crevices.

Once we began to look more closely, there was all sorts of stuff growing. Some we could identify, some we couldn't. One particular tiny flower spike grabbed my attention, and my little camera's macro mode was able to capture the intricate detail of it. Back home, through the pages of a local ID book and a bit of internetting, I discovered it was Sea Arrowgrass.

Not far away was a small colony of Eyebrights. Now, there's hundreds of species of Eyebright world-wide, but in Orkney there's only 12 distinct species. However, they hybridise like it's going out of fashion, so we actual have another dozen or so hybrid crosses. All very puzzling to a complete novice. So I took several photos, hoping that better minds than mine could ID it later. The laughing dog face was completely unintended! 

[The local recorder has ID'd it as Fouls Eyebright Euphrasia foulaensis]

Swathes of Thrift and Bird's-foot Trefoil

A distant Golden Plover

The small cove by the Brough
In the sheltered bays, the sea was teeming with birdlife: auks, gulls, Shags and Fulmars. Our Lass was really pleased to finally see a Puffin in 2020.

Aukestra: Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin and another Razorbill

There was one more plant we were hoping to find, but it was early in its flowering season, Grass of Parnassus. With a bit of searching, we did discover three flower heads, one of which was fully open. Happy Sigh!

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