Alpine plant survey at Rahoy Hills

In July, I along with Marta as part of our volunteer placement in the Highlands through the European Voluntary Service (EVS), had the opportunity to work with Steve, the Scottish Wildlife Trust Ranger at Rahoy Hills Reserve.

We traveled down to the beautiful region of Morvern to help conduct an alpine plant survey on the mountains of Rahoy Hills. The aim of the study was to get an idea of how some rare alpine plants were doing. The last survey was done in 2000/01 and involved 14 arctic alpine plants, however on this occasion due to the time necessary to survey the entire mountains it was decided to focus on only one plant the arctic sandwort – Arenaria norvegica.

 

 

Arctic sandwort © Elizabeth Harwood

We spent the first day looking at known patches of the plant in order to get familiar with the identification so that we could be more independent, when we became confident enough to identify it (and tell it apart from wild thyme which is very similar) we combed the slopes of Benn Iadain for suitable habitat.

A. norvegica grows on bare ground in high altitudes, although it was very hard to spot this tiny plant at first, we soon got our eye in and started seeing the tiniest of seedlings. On the whole we found that the due to the grass encroaching on the bare ground there are a reduced number of patches or arctic sandwort, in fact some areas from the 2000/01 survey no longer had A. norvegica  on them.

Monitoring arctic sandwort © Marta Zabalegui

 

Thank you to Steve for this great experience in plant surveying especially as were also able to get familiar with other alpine plants. Beinn Iadain is a wonderful and peaceful place to work and visit with amazing views, we were also lucky with the weather every day that we were up on the hill.

View from top of Beinn Iadain © Marta Zabalegui

We were also lucky to see some great fauna as well, the butterflies were very active with lots of painted ladies, small heaths and red admirals. There were many golden-ringed dragonflies and on our last day we even spotted a brightly coloured moth caterpillar!

It wasn’t just fauna and flora though we got a close view of a golden eagle, a couple of ravens and herd of at least 74 deer. The highlight of this trip though was the discovery of a family of ptarmigan as this bird hasn’t been seen on the reserve since 1996.

Ptarmigan spotted on Beinn Iadain © Elizabeth Harwood

I strongly recommend that if you are planning a trip to Morvern to hike up Binn Iadain, it is quite a trek to the top but its worth it to see the wonderful views of the reserve and weather permitting out to the Isles of Skye, Rum and Eigg, and who knows you may even spot a ptarmigan!

Elizabeth Harwood

Elizabeth is taking part in a year-long placement with the Trust through the Erasmus+ funded European Voluntary Service.

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Preface

In July, I along with Marta as part of our volunteer placement in the Highlands through the European Voluntary Service (EVS), had the opportunity to work with Steve, the Scottish …

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