July 7th 2018

The Quinag estate of the John Muir Trust is famed for its iconic hill, which rises to 808m on Sail Gharbh.  It also shares a southern boundary, stretching west for 5km from Skiag Bridge, with the longest and deepest local freshwater loch, Loch Assynt

Less well-known, perhaps, is Quinag’s seaward northern edge, which extends for 2km along the southern shore of Loch a’Chairn Bhain, from the mouth of the Allt na Ghamhna round to Creag an Spardain (together with the offshore island of Eilean a’Ghamhna).  Romany Garnett of JMT led a walk on 4thJune across the central part of this area, east of Torr a’Ghamhna (NC2132),  which was enjoyed by six local participants (and collie Jess).

A list of the 79 species of the ferns and flowering plants noted on the walk follows, as do notes on particular finds amongst the plant and animal life.  The plant list includes at least half the species that might be expected to occur in the wide range of habitats in this 1km square, which include wooded gorges, roadsides, dry and wet heath, hillside woodland, an old shieling and the seashore itself. [A return visit on 11thJune added a further 61 species.]

Two features of the plant-life are worth special mention.  Mineral-rich areas of the Lewisian gneiss underlying the landscape yield basic springs and flushes, which are marked by silvery tussocks of black bog-rush, two frequent associates, lesser clubmoss and yellow saxifrage, and a good suite of sedges.

On a deer track through the edge of a patch of bracken-dominated grassland just outside the old sheiling, Gwen Richards made the best plant find of the day, a dense stand of the small fern adder’s-tongue, with its fertile spike separate from the leaf-like undivided frond.  This had previously been recorded from only 17/164 tetrads in Assynt, although the habitat is not atypical.  It was accompanied by an another uncommon plant, barren strawberry, which bears small white flowers with gaps between the petals, unlike the much commoner wild strawberry.

Amongst animal life, there was evidence of a couple of mammals, red deer and badger, and sightings of just four birds, with common sandpiper on the shoreline, and all three local amphibians, including a land-phase palmate newt.  Invertebrates included a brilliantly-coloured common blue damselfly, a large shiny ground beetle Carabus glabratus, an irridescent green leaf weevil (still to be named), adult fox moths and an early instar larva of the emperor moth.

The flowery verges of the B869, where we started and finished, yielded the papery cocoons and newly-emerged adults of the six-spot burnet moth, whose larvae feed on the locally abundant common bird’s-foot trefoil, and a fast-flying small pearl-bordered fritillary. Altogether, a really pleasant half-day off road, in good company, with plenty to see.

Ian Evans

Torr a’Ghamhna, NC2132, 4thJune 2018, 1100-1415hrs

JMT walk led by Romany Garnett, with Greg Allen, Ian Evans, Julian Jacobsen, Chris and Carol Puddephatt, Gwen Richards (and Jess)

  1. 216321: frog (GR)
  2. 216322: common blue damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum (ChP)
  3. 216323: frog (RG); common heath moth (GR); galls of mite Acalitus rudis on downy birch leaves (CaP, det.IME)
  4. 215324: large black slug Arion ater (IME)
  5. 215325: birch woodwart fungus Hypoxylon multiforme, on dead branches of downy birch (GR)
  1. 215325: wood horsetail Equisetum sylvaticum (GR); ground beetle Carabus glabratus (RG, det. IME); toad (GR)
  1. 215326, flush: yellow saxifrage Saxifraga aizoides, lesser clubmoss Selaginella selaginoides (GR); frog (CaP); adult fox moth (det. GR); emperor moth, early instar larva (det. GR)
  2. 216327: badger snuffle holes; silver Ymoth (GR)
  3. 217328, just above shoreline: green weevil; orbweb spider Larinioides cornutusspun up in head of red fescue Festuca rubra
  4. 217327, flush: yellow saxifrage Saxifraga aizoides; palmate newt, landphase (RG); frog (CaP)
  1. 21733273, along deer paths in bracken area: adder’s-tongue fern Ophioglossum vulgatum (numerous fronds over 2+ sq.m., new site, GR), barren strawberry Potentilla sterilis
  1. 217327: badger snuffle holes (GA)
  2. 216323: frogs (2, GR)
  3. 215321, roadside bank: six-spot burnet moth cocoons and newly-emerged adults (IME)
  1. 214321, below road: small pearl-bordered fritillary flying (IME)
  2. 2132: common sandpiper (on shoreline CaP/ChP), cuckoorobin, willow warbler


Ian Evans


Torr a’Ghamhna, NC2132, JMT walk, 4thJune 2018

List of plants observed

Ferns and fern allies

Hard fern Blechnum spicant

Wood horsetail Equisetum sylvaticum *

Fir clubmoss Huperzia selago

Beech fern Phegopteris connectilis

Adder’s-tongue Ophioglossum vulgatum *

Common polypody Polypodium vulgare

Bracken Pteridium aquilinum

Lesser clubmoss Selaginella selaginoides *


Sweet vernal-grass Anthoxanthum odoratum

Quaking-grass Briza media

Red fescue Festuca rubra

Creeping soft-grass Holcus mollis

Purple moor-grass Molinia caerulea

Rushes and sedges

Dioecious sedge Carex dioica

Common yellow-sedge Carex demissa

Star sedge Carex echinata

Tawny sedge Carex hostiana

Pale sedge Carex pallescens

Carnation sedge Carex panicea

Few-flowered spike-rush Eleocharis quinqueflora

Common cottongrass Eriophorum  angustifolium

Hare’s-tail cottongrass Eriophorum vaginatum

Black bog-rush Schoenus nigricans

Other flowering plants

Yarrow Achillea millefolium

Thrift Armeria maritima

Daisy Bellis perennis

Downy birch Betula pubescens

Heather Calluna vulgaris

Marsh thistle Cirsium palustre

Pignut Conopodium majus

Heath spotted-orchid Dactylorhiza maculata

Northern marsh-orchid Dactylorhiza purpurella

Crowberry Empetrum nigrum

Lesser celandine Ficaria verna

Heath bedstraw Galium saxatile

Lady’s bedstraw Galium verum

Herb-Robert Geranium robertianum

Bluebell Hyacintoides non-scriptus

Slender St.John’s-wort Hypericum pulchrum

Cat’s-ear Hypochaeris radicata

Bitter-vetch Lathyrus linifolius

Fairy flax Linum catharticum

Common bird’s-foot-trefoil Lotus corniculatus

Yellow pimpernel Lysimachia nemorum

Bog myrtle Myrica gale

Bog asphodel Narthecium ossifragum

Wood sorrel Oxalis acetosella

Lousewort Pedicularis sylvatica

Common butterwort Pinguicula vulgaris

Sea plantain Plantago maritima

Heath milkwort Polygala serpyllifolia

Bog pondweed Potamogeton polygonifolius

Tormentil Potentilla erecta

Barren strawberry Potentilla sterilis*

Primrose Primula vulgaris

Selfheal Prunella vulgaris

Meadow buttercup Ranunculus acris

Yellow-rattle Rhinanthus minor

Sheeps sorrel Rumex acetosella

Eared willow Salix aurita

Yellow saxifrage Saxifraga aizoides *

English stonecrop Sedum anglicum

Rowan Sorbus aucuparia

Greater stitchwort Stellaria holostea

Devil’s-bit scabious Succisa pratensis

Wood sage Teucrium scorodonia

Wild thyme Thymus polytrichus

Lesser trefoil Trifolium dubium

White clover Trifolium repens

Sea arrowgrass Triglochin maritimum

Marsh arrowgrass Triglochin palustre

Bilberry Vaccnium myrtillus

Common valerian Valeriana officinalis

Germander speedwell Veronica chamaedrys

Marsh violet Viola palustris

Common dog-violet Viola riviniana

 * see general notes for more details

Ian Evans

Report a Sighting

Recent Sightings


Two adult birds and nine juveniles off Culkein Drumbeg (DAH). Sadly a very rare record now for Assynt, but great to know we had at least one breeding pair this year. (25/07)

House Martin

15+ birds around Culkein Drumbeg jetty (DAH) and large number also around Culag Hotel, Lochinver. (Andrew Mackenzie) Both records late evening. (25/07)

Common Lizard

Single animal, Clashmore (Andrew Mackenzie) (25/07)

Red-throated Diver

Two birds, Bay of Stoer (DAH) (24/07)

Common Dolphin

15+ very active animals just off Sgeir Mhòr, Loch Kirkaig (DAH) (24/07)

Black-throated Diver

Six birds in a group, Loch Kirkaig (DAH) (24/07)

Antler moth (Cerapteryx graminis)

Single moth in Strathan garden (Jean Macleod) (24/07)

Magpie moth (Abraxas grossulariata)

Single moth Clachtoll, (Dorell Pirie) (24/07)