Monday, 24 September 2012

Gorumna Island

Last day in Connemara today. Surveying a small coastal fringe of grassland on the edge of the boulder-strewn heathland that makes up the majority of Gorumna island. While the extent of the grassland habitat was very limited it was a nice example of the species rich neutral grassland that occurs in small pockets along the southern Connemara coast. The most interesting species recorded was Ophioglossum azoricum (found at L_9315_2232 or thereabouts). This small , rather un-fernlike, pteridophyte is almost entirely restricted to islands as can be seen from the BSBI on-line distribution map. It grows in short, damp sward on cliffs and rocky outcrops near the sea. This is the first time I have found it in Connemara but the third time I have observed it in Ireland. The two previous occasions being at Malin Head (C_3985_5969), Co. Donegal in 2010 and at Dooncarton (F_8010_3839), Co. Mayo in 2011. 

Ophioglossum azoricum  Dooncarton (F_8010_3839), Co. Mayo 2011 

A more frequent species in this area is the small orchid Spiranthes spiralis. Its English name, autumn lady's tresses, while evocative is slightly misleading as it had already gone over today. Having reached its peak about three weeks ago around the end of August. In Britain I have seen it only a handful of times and always on inland limestone grassland. In the west of Ireland however, it is frequent on machair and other base-rich coastal grassland types.       

Spiranthes spiralis
Belmullet, Co. Mayo
F_61790_19549) 2011
Another frequent species here is Gentianella campestris. This attractive species of un-improved grasslands is much decreased and now quite rare in the southern half of the UK but is still locally common in Connemara.

Gentianella campestris Roundstone, Co. Galway (L_715_386) 2011 

Finally, though not a species of grassland, Daboecia cantabrica is a classic Connemara species. Along with Erica cinerea and Ulex gallii it was still in flower today adding colour to a grey and drizzly day.  

Daboecia cantabrica
Doonloughan, Co. Galway 2011

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