Duart ruin harbours gold 

June 1st 2018

Duart, on the western shore of the mouth of Loch Nedd (NC1332/1333), is an extensive area of cliffs, woodland, marsh and coastal heath centred on a tidal lochan (photo 1).  It is shared between the townships of Nedd and Drumbeg, part croft, part common grazing, and quite difficult to access unless you can find the start of the two tracks into it.  Eighty or more years ago parts were cultivated and there are the ruins of houses, byres, barns and fanks which date back into the 19thcentury.  Now it is largely covered by trees, and one of the glories of this sheltered area is the luxuriant growth of ferns.

I was reminded of this on 14th May 2018, when I went to check out some large old hazels at the corner of one of the Duart ruins.  Its middle section (photo 2) contains one of the biggest crowns of ferns I have ever seen, standing well over a metre high.  It is particularly spectacular in the spring when the young fronds, or croziers, are unfurling, since their stalks are densely covered with shining golden scales (photos 3, 4, 5).  It is a splendid example of the golden-scaled male-fern Dryopteris affinis, a long-lived perennial which can rival the royal fern in size.   Fern experts consider D. affinis to be an aggregate of closely-related forms and one of them found three different forms self-sown in my garden at Nedd.  I may be able to identify this Duart specimen more precisely later in the year, when the fronds have matured.

The golden-scaled male-fern has a particular liking for rocky areas so this ruin qualifies on that score. However, the fern’s golden shuttlecocks are also a conspicuous feature on screes along the road to Lochinver at this time of year.

Ian Evans

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Recent Sightings

Kittiwake

c100 adult and 1st-winter birds feeding off Clachtoll (DAH) (24/09)

Tufted Duck

two male birds on Loch Drumbeg (DAH) (22/09)

Merlin

single bird near Stoer Village Hall (DAH) (21/09)

UPDATE on colour-ringed Oystercatcher

we have heard back from the Icelandic Wader Group regarding the colour-ringed Oystercatcher spotted at Bay of Culkein on Tuesday. It was ringed, as an adult, near its nest while it was territory-guarding on 19th May this year; the location was Eskifjorour which is on the east coast of Iceland. We will post a short article on the Field Club's website in the next few days regarding other sightings of colour-ringed birds recorded in Assynt (DAH) (20/09)

Pink-footed Goose

c225, in four skeins, heading east over Culkein Drumbeg (DAH). Oh boy, it's autumn! (20/09)

Wigeon

single male in eclipse plumage Loch Inver (DAH) (20/09)

Manx Shearwater

young bird rescued from a garden at Inchnadamph (Chris Rix/Andy Summers). The bird, which was well off-course, was successfully released at Stoer the next day. (18/09)

Oystercatcher

four birds resting on rocks Bay of Culkein (DAH). One of these birds, an adult, had a combination of coloured rings on its legs. The details have been submitted to the appropriate ringing scheme, which appears to be the International Wader Study Group, and we will report back once we hear from them. (18/09)

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