Tuesday dawned wet and windy, and with little prospect of improvement during the day. Sensible people would have found a nice sheltered woodland but we decided to test how good our waterproofs were on top of the Trotternish Ridge (in case you're interested, the answer was not very). The main reason for going up there was to look for the moss Sphagnum skyense which is virtually endemic to Skye. One of Britain's best bryologists lives just down the road but unfortunately was too busy to join us. He did give us the useful tip that unlike most Sphagnum species it does not grow in wet areas but on grassy ridges.
Shortly after leaving the car park we found some potential skyense but continued up the ridge looking for anything different. Going by the criteria in the book we got some samples that looked promising so, thoroughly soaked, we headed back to the car. Seth had something else for us to look for before we returned to the hotel however.
We drove to a secret site where he had been told there were Freshwater Pearl Mussels Margaritifera margaritifera. Sites for pearl mussels are usually kept strictly confidential due to illegal collecting and this species wasn't even on my radar. If we could get this it really would constitute charismatic megafauna - for this trip anyway. Seth had only tried this site once before and a combination of high river levels and dodgy directions meant that he had failed. Ten minutes or so of searching though and
|Sphagnum skyense? Probably not but we will never know|
Seth squeezed a few drops of water from the Sphagnum sample and from those few drops I got seven new species! What? How? Freshwater algae, that's how. This was a whole new world to me and I love 'em. I don't have any photos but you can see some of the funky shapes you get in Seth's blog from last year. I was going to be saying that I'm considering getting the identification book but I am weak and earlier today I ordered it!