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Botany Group 6th May 2024

Yesnaby  Primula Scotica Survey (and a bit more)       

On Monday 6 May our group of nine met for the first time in 2024 to visit a less well-known colony of Primula scotica, in a fenced-off area just to the east of the Brough of Bigging near Yesnaby. In fact it seems to have been neglected by botanists since the 1960s and 70s when Elaine Bullard and colleagues carried out a study there. Leaders for the day Jenny Taylor and John Crossley thought it would be very worthwhile to add to knowledge of the species in Orkney by counting the number of plants growing there. Hence U3A Botany Group’s first targeted survey!

The day had started warm but became chilly in the afternoon; nevertheless, we persisted with our self-appointed task. Our survey plan was to establish the boundaries of the area where PS was growing, mark this out with canes and then attempt to count all plants within the marked perimeter by walking line abreast and evenly spaced across the area.  It worked reasonably well given the temptation to wander off line to the best places with plants in flower! There were many in flower and they and even the non-flowering rosettes were easy to spot against the short turf still wearing its more or less wintery coat of brown. The colony was at the peak of its first (spring) flowering; the plants all seemed healthy and the flowering plants mostly had multiple florets carried on tall (for Primula scotica!) stems. The eventual total of 3250 +/- 20% was arrived at by a combination of actual counts and estimates of remaining uncounted parts of the survey area. 

Apart from the PS itself there was not a lot to see plant-wise: mainly scattered Scurvy-grass, Ribwort Plantain and Spring Squill just coming into flower. Territorial Oystercatcher and Ringed Plovers were alarmed at our presence but we did not linger long enough to keep them from their nests. Away from the PS area there was more variety to see, especially Marsh Marigold lining the small burns with gold and the Noust of Bigging entirely carpeted with Scurvy-grass.

John Crossley

Jenny Taylor

primula scotiamarsh marigoldscurvy grass

Photography Group One 1st May 2024

Ten of us met at the roadside Car Park in Finstown on a day with little wind and some low cloud but with the sun trying to get through. We set off to the Community Garden where we found lots of lovely colourful flowers out as well as tree buds bursting forth. The Burn was a great source of images.

Jocky Wood was painting a new picnic bench with the appropriately titled Wood Stain! He does a great deal of the work on the garden as well as his own just up the hill opposite. 

Six of us then headed for Binsgarth Woods.

The track was muddy in places but the spring flowers were out all the way. There was Pink Purselaine, Wild Garlic, Wood Anemone,  and the invasive Salmon Berry. Since the tree leaves were not blanketing the light, one was able to get good photos close up. The Burn had lots of interesting tree roots and hanging tyres and ropes from the kids' dare devil antics. Then it was back to the shop for rolls and along to Tom's house for a cuppa and a nice piece of cake. Thank you very much for that Tom and all the stories too.

The next meeting will be going to Westray on Wednesday 29th May for the day. Arrangement will be made nearer the time.

All in all a lovely morning, taking time to look at the flowers and listen to the Wrens, Willow Warblers, Chaffinches and Robins singing in the woods.

Keep clicking.


Walking Group One 25th April 2024

Five hardy souls collected today at Happy Valley for the first Hill Walk of the year .The temperature was cool with a North Easterly wind blowing and a hint of rain on arrival.

Off we set heading towards Russadale Quarry, spotting a Buzzard on the way.Turning into the footpath we remained sheltered from the wind all the way to the top of the hill.

The sun was out at the Quarry and a Greenshank was feeding at the edge of the Lochan. Then it was up the Peat road to the summit with spectacular views across Stenness and Harray Lochs, plus a view of the Closed Road beyond the Watch Stone. On the other side we looked over the Flow and down towards the Oil Platform and South Ronaldsay 

Then it was back down after a stop for a snack and finally a walk around Happy Valley itself. The Daffodils planted by James and others were looking lovely and the Bluebells are days away from opening. Then it was on to a well deserved lunch at the Pier Cafe, having walked 4 miles and gone up 800 feet (and down again )

The next walk will be on Friday 24th May and hopefully more hills and views.

Keep moving.

u3a Walking Group One - October 2023

by Tim Wright - 09:27 on 28 October 2023

Twelve of us met at the Market Green in Dounby on a cool morning with a bit of Easterly breeze. We had no rain on our walk which was a reverse of the St Magnus route that usually ends at Canada (Farm).

We set off up along the Hillside road and then along to Beauoy on quiet roads above Sabiston Loch. Some of us were lucky to see the Cattle Egret that has taken up residence near there but it didn't settle for a good look. Down through the gorse on the path by the bee hives to the farm track again. The bees were not in evidence unlike Wednesday in the sun when they might have been out on the gorse flowers. Then we went through the farm and down to the road on a rather shorter 2.75 mile walk than intended. The Magnus Way goes up to the right at the last farm on a road but it soon goes into a very rough unused track full of tussocks and boggy areas. One of our party admitted she had done it in the past and had fallen over. However all made it back to the cars for the return to Dounby. Two decided to walk the whole way but the Dounby to Birsay road is straight and fast and not advisable in my opinion for a group of 12.

The next walk will be Thursday 30th November with the place and time to be decided 2 days before as usual. I will send out a reminder a week before.

Keep moving, Tim.

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