Excursion Reports - 2013
Bold Burn and Glenmead Burn Excursion, 14th April 2013
A party of 9 turned up on a very wet day for the first TWIC excursion of the season. Our destination was Bold Burn and Glenmead Burn near Innerleithen in the Scottish Borders. This valley site is 1.8km long and consists of a narrow burn and associated riparian habitats. When the site was surveyed by the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) in 2000 an Adder skin was found. The aim of the field visit was to look for signs of reptiles in the valley and to record other wildlife on site.
The day started poorly with heavy rainfall. Fortunately, the group were able to sit out the worst of the weather in the comfort of the landowner’s conservatory and help themselves to a hot drink. Reuben Singleton, our leader for the day, took the opportunity to give us some background information to the site and reptile recording. Reuben explained that Adders usually come out of hibernation at this time, hence why we were visiting in April. Unfortunately, spring was late this year, and with the current weather conditions our chances of seeing Adders were not high. Reuben had placed some tiles at various locations on site prior to the field visit, which we would check as part of the outing. When Reuben had put these out, he had had no choice but to place them on a layer of snow!
Once the rain had eased we set out to Bold Burn. The site is known to have mature Juniper (Juniperus communis) along the burn and this was our first port of call. The botanists amongst us also attempted to compile a plant list as we went, which was not easy as it was still early in the season. Nevertheless, we were able to identify the tough leaves of Tufted Hair-grass (Deschampsia caespitosa) and the fine leaves of Pignut (Conopodium majus). The former plant is one of the first grasses people learn to identify, having a tufted growth form and rough-textured leaves that are almost impossible to run your fingers along in one direction. A single Primrose (Primula vulgaris) was in flower on the bank, brightening the scene.
The group exploring Bold Burn. Note Juniper (Juniperus communis) in foreground. Photograph (c) Gary Hovell
As we continued upstream, Graham spotted Otter spraint prominently positioned on a Mole hill next to the burn. We took turns at smelling it; Otter spraint has a slightly pleasant aroma, which some people liken to the smell of Jasmine tea, whereas Mink spraint is distinctly unpleasant.
Otter spraint. Photograph (c) Mike Beard
When we approached the area that Reuben considered to be most suitable Adder habitat, we ceased our conversation and moved more slowly in order to improve our chances of seeing reptiles. Reuben informed us that the Adders were likely to be small, perhaps 30 cm long, and dark, even black. We kept a careful look out and Reuben (armed with thick gloves) lifted the tiles and other Adder refuges, whilst the rest of the group stood at a respectable distance to watch. Each time Reuben lifted a tile there was an air of anticipation amongst the group. Sadly, we were not lucky on this occasion. However, Reuben will return to the site in due course to check the tiles again.
On our return leg to Glenmead, we took the forestry track and came across several clumps of Frog spawn in the pools and ditches adjacent. Several birds also put in an appearance, including Chiffchaff, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Coal Tit and a Buzzard overhead. More Juniper bushes were seen on the east side of the burn, some quite young plants, which we suspected were planted. One of the Juniper specimens had a columnar form. Another plant noted along the track was Colt's-foot (Tussilago farfara), which was in full flower. Close to Glenbenna, we observed a large patch of variegated Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon ssp. argentatum). The plants most likely originated through the dumping of garden waste. In the final kilometre, the group saw a flock of Chaffinches; another reminder that spring is late getting underway this year.
Many thanks to Reuben Singleton for leading the excursion and to the landowners at Glenmead for their excellent hospitality. We had a most enjoyable trip.
Posted: April 18th 2013