Trainee Ecologist, David Freeman, tells us about a recent trip to Corrimony nature reserve...

In the heat of the morning

One of my most recent and so far most rewarding reserve visits has been to RSPB Corrimony. In particular I was working in the stunning, but at times tricky to navigate gorge the river Enrick runs through. The gorge is located in the east of the reserve and is  surrounded by a large area of beautiful Caledonian pine forest.  At one point, the gorge channels the fast flowing river over the frothing Corrimony falls. This creates a magical scene that I felt very privileged to be working in. I spent the first afternoon at the site scoping out the gorge, looking for areas that were easily accessible and safe to work in. The weather was fantastically hot, so the water level was relatively low and this meant I could accesses large areas of the gorge with relatively ease. This left me confident I could spend the next day navigating the gorge looking at the abundant bryophyte flora without risking life and limb.

Corrimony Falls

The next morning was again an absolute scorcher. Clear blue skies again as far as the eye could see and shimmering heat haze on the ground. As I walked past the ancient Corrimony Cairn, an impressive sight confronted me. Now I’m no Ornithologist and my knowledge of birds is basic at best, however the unbelievable size of the bird hanging in the clear blue sky before me left me with little doubt that I was face to face with a Golden Eagle. The gigantic creature circled a while before gracefully sliding off to go about its business. This certainly has to be one of the most memorable moments of my time at Corrimony.

Corrimony Cairn

Walking through the Caledonian pine forest situated around the gorge I found the ground flora was dominated by Vaccinium myrtillus and wonderfully textured carpets of Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus and Hylocomium splendens. These three species together create a unique picture of greens and yellows under the purple shaded light of the pines. In the gorge itself there is a dazzlingly array of mosses and liverworts. I certainly have enough specimens to keep me very busy for the next few weeks. Some of the highlights I have identified so far include the tiny Bryum pallens and Bartamia pomiformis. I found Bryum pallens tucked away on a sandy stream edge glittering like handful of rubies in the hot sun. The striking Bartamia pomiformis was immediately apparent to me as it has a range of distinctive reproductive structures called sporophytes. These sporophytes resemble miniature green apples hanging from long stalks (seta) above the main body of the plant.

Bartamia pomiformis

 I still have plenty of specimens to identify from Corrimony including a range of weird and wonderful thallose liverworts and some rather atypical sphagnums. The sheer number of species I’m learning about and identifying for the first time demonstrate the time I spent at Corrimony was a great success. This is a reserve I am keen to visit again in the future.

Bryum pallens

Hylocomium splendens

Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus