Wednesday 28th June 2023.
Our wildflower walk began by meeting at the crossroads in Melness above Portvasgo where we left our vehicles and walked down the hill to Portvasgo bay. Our guest wildflower guides for the day were Ian Evans and Gwen Richards from the Assynt Field Club. The weather was mild and overcast but dry with a touch of a welcoming breeze and very dry underfoot.
Our first stop was to admire the orchids we could see around us and Ian drew our attention to one of many heath-spotted orchids (Dactylorhiza maculata).
We headed up the cliff to the right towards the Talmine coastal path with a spectacular view down in to Portvasgo Bay
At the top of the cliff Ian pointed out a small patch of goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea).
We also encountered numerous lesser butterfly orchids (Platanthera bifolia) along our path over the cliff top.
With the froth of common cotton grass (Eriphorum angustifolium) all around us we began to head down towards the small beaches at the side of the Kyle of Tongue, with Ian and Gwen pointing out various grasses and flowers on the way, including the delicate silver hair-grass (Aira caryophyllea) and fairy flax (Linum catharticum).
We reached a particular patch of cropped grass with numerous small mounds and holes, Ian explained that this was clear evidence of field vole (Microtus agrestis) activity. At the entrance to one of the holes Ian found a number of cowberries (Vaccinium vitis-idaea), presumably part of the field vole larder stash.
Continuing on our way down the hillside towards the beach we encountered swathes of bog asphodel (Narthecium ossifragum) the tiny yellow flowers glinting in the sunlight, so dense were the blooms that one or two of us could detect a perfume from them reminiscent of lilies.
Some of the other species noted as we walked were wild thyme (Thymus polytrichus), mountain everlasting (Antennaria dioica), milkwort sp. (Polygala sp.), common birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), common butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris) and sea thrift (Armeria maritima).
As we approached the beach for our lunch stop we came upon a number of the exquisite Primula scotica. Lovely examples of this tiny primula.
We stopped for lunch at the side of the beach with a wonderful view over the Kyle of Tongue to Ben Loyal, where we found a light knot grass moth (Acronicta menyanthidis) larva.
After lunch we made our way back uphill noting further species including spring squills (Scilla verna), grass of parnassus (Parnassia palustris )and sea plantain (Plantago maritima).
We also spotted a well-used otter (Lutra lutra) sprainting site next to the small fresh water rock pools.
Gwen drew our attention to the very unusual and splendid Adder’s-tongue fern (Ophioglossum vulgatum) hidden away amongst the heath grasses and mosses.
Finally as we reached the top of the crags we were greeted with a lovely patch of ragged robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi) to finish off our day.
Many thanks to both Ian and Gwen for their company and expertise, it was a very interesting and informative few hours in a stunning location.
All images by Susan Kirkup ©