Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Mongorrey in January

Mongorrey is our highest local point. Here's the view west:

Right in the centre you can see Donegal's highest mountain: Mount Errigal with its top in the clouds.

The area surrounding Mongorrey was extensively planted with Spruce and Fir in the 1950's and the crop is now being harvested. For a period of a few years after the clear-felling takes place, the land tries to revert to its original peat-bog conditions, with the return of plants and insects that haven't been seen there for decades. This will, of course, all change when the newly planted conifers begin to shade the ground again. It's interesting to note that of the 1200 or so species that I recorded in the last 5 years, only around 20 are dependent on coniferous plantation. You can see why I'm not a great fan of these plantations.

The borders of the forestry have fortunately been planted with Beech. That means that at least the access roads have an interesting fauna. The buds of Beech are quite interesting:

Each grey scale hides a new leaf, and the pointed bud stretches quite suddenly, forming new leaves and branches simultaneously. Beech leaves are amongst the last of the new leaves to open, usually in early May.


Here's a fairly unseasonal shot of Bramble flower buds:

Our mild winters are not quite severe enough to kill off these buds any more. Tomorrow I'll show some pictures of other unseasonal flowers.

2 comments:

Howard Fox said...

The ratio of 1200 species in the Raphoe countryside to 20 principally in the local conifer forests is interesting.

The PLANFORBIO project ForestBio studied 20 sitka spruce plantations in 2007. The flora and fauna lists are rather meagre. The ground flora diversity is at its minimum in mid-rotation sitka spruce forests.

The number of species known in Ireland that have thus far only been detected in conifer plantations is very low. There are 3 mites new to Ireland from near Timahoe, Co. Laois mentioned in a recent paper by Arroyo & Bolger in the Irish Naturalists Journal.

Among the lichens Absconditella pauxilla found by Roy Alexander in Limerick and Rinodina biloculata found by Linda Coote in West Cork are the only species in sitka spruce stands that have not been detected in the wider countryside.

Byssoloma subdiscordans is a species that I have not seen outside sitka spruce plantations, but is known from heather dominated habitats.

There area a few specialists worth looking for in sitka spruce forests. Colura calyptrifolia is a small liverwort on young plantations on live branches with needles in thicket stage plantations. It formerly grew on heather and appears to be spreading in sitka spruce forests planted on peaty soil.

Later in the forest cycle one can find Porina leptalea: a crustose lichen with small orange fruits on deeply shaded trunks and dead attached damp branches.

Sitka spruce needles do harbour foliicolous lichens. The Fellhanera species on sitka spruce has been tentatively identified as Fellhanera boutellei and this turns up fairly frequently.

Dimerella pineti and Dimerella lutea are quite common in mid-rotation and mature sitka spruce stands.

Sarea resinae is an orange ascomycete that grows on white resin tracks on sitka spruce and seldom is noted elsewhere.

Stuart said...

Howard,

welcome to the blog and thanks for the info: more things for me to chase up!

When I was making my comment about coniferous-dependent species, I included things like Pine Weevil and Pine Ladybird. Also the micromoth Epinotia tedella, a Norway Spruce associate which I added to the Donegal list last year.