Friday, 12 June 2015

North Uist Machair

We have spend a wonderful week on the North Uist Machair. This rare habitat is formed by small fragments of shell, blown inland towards the peat further inland, with the grass and wildflowers managed in a traditional way and crops and fertilised with seaweed. The landscape is wonderful, with the sandy beaches on the windswept west coast becoming wildflower meadows. The habitat is alive with breeding waders and insects, and there are some wonderful olants to be found.

The commonest plant on our visit was Birdsfoot-trefoil Lotus corniculatus, with a sea of yellow acress the landscape. I have never seen this growing in such abundance.

Birdsfoot-trefoil Lotus corniculatus

There was a large amount of Common Storksbill Erodium cicutarium, with beautiful patches of this pink member of the geranium family.

Common Storksbill Erodium cicutarium

On the cultivated ground we found large amounts of the yellow-flowered seaside curtisii subspecies of Wild Pansy Viola tricolor. 

Wild Pansy Viola tricolor spp. curtisii

Not yet in flower, but in evidence everywhere where the leaves of Yellow Rattle Rinanthus minor. Not a plant that I was expecting to see in the machair, and something that I have been pleased to establish in my own garden.

Yellow Rattle Rinanthus minor

On several sites we found the coccinea subspecies of the Early Marsh Orchid Dactlyorhiza incarnata. This subspecies gets it name from the rich cochineal-red flowers, and is found on sand dune systems.

Early Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza incarnata spp. coccinea

There was also some Kidney Vetch Anthyllis vulneraria, but we only found this on a couple of sites when I though it would be much more common.

Kidney Vetch Anthyllis vulneraria

In the zone on and behind the beeches there was abundant Sea Sandwort Honckenya peploides and the characteristic pink patches of Thrift Armeria maritima.

Sea Sandwort Honckenya peploides

Thrift Armeria maritima

Everywhere we looked the Machair was humming with bees. The Moss Carder Bee Bombus muscorum was abundant.

Pollinator on the Machair

A wonderful habitat, and one we have decided to return to. We did not see the machair at its best. It has been a slow year with the cold spring, and a visit in July is in order in future years.

The Machair

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