Lochinver Glebe Wetland

November 23rd 2021

Lochinver Glebe Wetland

Beside the road to Glencanisp Lodge, east of Lochinver, is an extensive wetland area (photo 1, NC098223).  It is at the northern edge of a larger area of former glebe acquired by the Assynt Development Trust from the Church of Scotland, which includes possible sites for new housing.   

The area is crossed by a winding watercourse, originating on the hill north of the road, which feeds and is flanked by a series of boggy pools, some with conspicuous beds of common reed Phragmites communis.  The first of these pools is right beside the road, just west of a bend to the south, and its interest has been known to local naturalists for several decades.

Freshwater animal life

On the first edition of the local O.S. map this wetland area is called Loch nan Deala or loch of the leeches.  Craig Macadam, Conservation Director of Buglife – The Invertebrate Conservation Trust, has been engaged in a search, across Scotland, of possible sites for medicinal leeches Hirudo medicinalis.  He has friends in Assynt, and on 24th August 2021, whilst in the vicinity, he surveyed the roadside pool.   

His report is posted on the ADT website.  There is a link to it here. It describes the invertebrate fauna as ‘diverse’, and lists the following eleven species: leech Glossiphonia complanata, wandering snail Ampullaceana balthica (formerly Lymnaea peregra), alderfly Sialis lutaria, large red damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula, emerald damselfly Lestes sponsa, pond-skater Gerris lacustris, greater water-boatman Notonecta obliqua, lesser water-boatmen Hesperocorixa linnaei and Sigara scotti, water beetle Haliplus confinis (a lowland species that feeds on stoneworts) and caddisfly Triaenodes bicolor.  

He also recorded oligochaete worms, ostracod and cladoceran crustaceans, sphaeriid bivalve molluscs and chironomid midges.  Both palmate newt and toad were present (and frog spawn also occurs in quantity in the spring).  Regrettably, no medicinal leeches were found.  They have not been recorded from Highland Scotland since 1957, and it is possible that the old name of the site relates to the horse leech Haemopis sanguisuga, which does occur in Assynt.

Plant life

We did not come across this report until late September and thought that we might complement it with a survey of the higher plants.  There were only a handful of previous records, from a visit made by Pat Evans in August 1994, and so we visited the site on the afternoon of 10th October 2021. 

The roadside pool (photo 2, NC099223) provided the first features of interest, with a stonewort Chara virgata, floating bur-reed Sparganium angustifolium, and the whip-like leaves of slender sedge Carex lasiocarpa.  The last is a feature of the boggy pools further in, where it is joined by bog-sedge Carex limosa and good stands of common reed Phragmites communis (photo 3).  

Black bog-rush Schoenus nigricans is occasional at the edge of the pools, but white beak-sedge Rhynchospora alba is much more frequent, scattered across the site.  We were pleased to find the bronzy over-wintering rosettes of pale butterwort Pinguicula lusitanica, with just a few flowers left (photo 4).  

Wooded crags

We worked westwards around the northern edge of the deep boggy pools until we could cross the exit burn (at NC098222) and find our way back along the wooded crags and scree on the southern side.  These house a canopy of ancient downy birches, hazels and rowans, with occasional hollies, over boulders with a dense carpet of bryophytes, ferns (photo 5) and higher plants, including honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum and greater woodrush Luzula sylvatica.  

The bryophytes include fat cushions of mougeot’s yoke-moss Amphidium mougeotii on the crags, with invading strands of swan’s-neck thyme-moss Mnium hornum (photo 6).  The former indicates some degree of base-enrichment, and the bryophyte flora certainly merits further examination. 

More pools

Pools on the southern edge of the boggy area provided us with a sample of Nordic bladderwort Utricularia stygia, from which we extracted a desmid sample for expert David Williamson.  He later reported finding 18 species in the sample, including the more unusual Cosmarium ovale and C. variolatum.  We also added a further dragonfly, the black darter Sympetrum danae, to the insect list. 

Summary

We recorded 56 species of higher plant on the site (excluding the roadside verges and adjacent woodland); not bad for the time of year.  The wetter parts are an unspoilt example of a range of the plant communities typical of mesotrophic mires in Assynt, with a really diverse fauna.  We have driven past this site on many occasions, but had no idea it was so rich.

Ian M. Evans and Gwen Richards

With thanks to Craig Macadam for comments on an earlier draft of this article 

 

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Recent Sightings

Kestrel

Single bird hovering between road and waterfall, Clashnessie (Neil McCrimmon) (26/11)

Fieldfare and Redwing

A mixed flock of c30 fieldfare and c10 redwing in tall aspens, Nedd (Ian Evans). Mixed flock of 200+ birds over Culkein Drumbeg (DAH) (23/11)

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Single hen bird in back garden, Nedd (Ian Evans).  Rarely seen in this part of Assynt (21/11)

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Single bird, Bay of Stoer (John Gilbertson) (21/11)

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c80 birds in a mixed flock flying over the B869 by Rhicarn (Richard Chappell and Ennis Jones) (20/11)

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Single bird in tree overhanging river Inver, Little Assynt (Richard Chappell and Ennis Jones) (20/11)

Kestrel

Single bird hovering by roadside, Inchnadamph (Richard Chappell and Ennis Jones) (20/11)

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