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by Rosie W. - 22:37 on 14 June 2021


U3A Botany Group visit to Egilsay 8th June 2021

It was an eager group of six of us (Peter Slater, John Crossley, Kate Sutton, Phylida Wright, Rosey Whittles, Jane Rawlinson), plus two visitors, who made it through the early morning mists to Tingwall jetty for 8.00 a.m. 

The reunion was made all the more special after an absence of 18 months. The sea haar limited our views of Rousay and Wyre on the outward journey but we enjoyed the journey, sitting out on deck, and landed at Egilsay pier in thick fog. Thankfully, even before we had walked up the road to the school, the sun was beginning to break through so that looking back there was, at first, quite an eerie view of the Rousay hills floating above the clouds.

On the misty roadside walk up to the school we met a wandering cow and found: Violet sp., Lady’s smock,Yellow rattle, Creeping buttercup, Ribwort plantain, Birdsfoot trefoil, Marsh marigold, Silverweed, Northern marsh orchid, Field horsetail

Continuing across the island to the eastern shore we attempted to identify some grasses coming into their fullness: Cocksfoot, Sweet vernal-grass, Crested dog’s-tail

We crossed a peaty wetland area which gave excellent conditions for orchids. John pointed out the different characteristics of Early marsh and the Northern marsh orchids. Also there was a profusion of: Butterwort, Yellow flag iris and Bulbous buttercup (sepals down)

Along the beautiful white sandy shore by Maeness we found: Sea milkwort; Lady’s bedstraw Sea sandwort; Scurvy grass; Sea campion; Sea mayweed; Common mouse-ear; Sticky willy; Orache. Woundwort; Coltsfoot; Spring squill

Moving north and coming in from the shore there is a stretch of water, the Loch of Welland with marshy ground around it where there was dense growth of: Bog bean, Water mint, Angelica, Yellow flag, Mares tail, Amphibious bistort, Marsh horsetail, Holy grass (smells sweet; found at only 15 sites in UK), Black bog rush, Heath wood rush, Spike rush, Charlock (runch)

Furthermore on a difficult bank to access near the Loch of Watten John rediscovered Cowslips.

Returning on the stony path and meadow up to St Magnus Church we found: 

Lesser trefoil; Pineapple weed; Kidney vetch; Tormentil; Procumbent pearlwort; Daisies; Lousewort; Silverweed; Meadow buttercup. And on heathland near the monument of Magnus’ death: Sphagnum moss; Ling; Common cotton grass; Changing forget me not; Marsh thistle -and a handsome frog! On which note we can mention various animals: painted lady and green vein butterflies, white tailed bumble bee, common carder and moss carder bees (latter more rare- with foxy red heads and lemon bodies). Finally, throughout the day we came across lots of hairy caterpillars, destined to turn into garden tiger moths.

Our group sadly separated when we reached Maeness, half returning on the 1.30pm sailing, but four of us remaining until 5.00pm. 

I think I can vouch for everyone when I say a good day was had by all. Our thanks to Peter for organising our first excursion of the year- and indeed of last year too!


Some members of the Botany Group on Egilsay

East Coast Beach on Egilsay

A flush of marsh marigolds


Northern Marsh Orchid

Early Marsh Orchid


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