Summer on blanket bog

Cray Moss waiting for thunder © Lyndon Marquis

A summer transect across one of our restoration sites.

Because of recent events, we have had to hurdle the spring transect and put on a sprint finish to summer. As usual, you can listen to someone (me) walking a transect and recording the ambient noise.

I walk the route on a hot, crushingly humid day, waiting for the relief of a thunderstorm that will not arrive until after I have left.

Geeting up to the transect is much easier than the winter outing. As I drive up the track, a family of wheaters goes scudding ahead of me, white-rumped heralds of my arrival. A handsome male kestrel glides and banks above.

As I set out on foot, the ground is noticeably drier than my autumn visit. There's give and a little squelch, but I can tell that summer has taken a toll with the heat and the wind.

There's plenty of sphagnum about, some species I recognise, some I don't, and remnants of this season's cottongrass. Even today's punishing heat, a bog pool remains, briming with (I think) S. cuspidatum. One or two stalks of the cottongrass staning proud have retained their white bobble hats. A patchwork of reds and greens surround the pool, turned white and crispy in places. That should regenerate as soon as the rains come back - it's a tough little genus, Sphagnum...

I see something with a slightly scaly form growing through a rich, maroon carpet of S. capillifolium and am briefly giddy that it might be S. divinum. Two and a half years on the peat team and I have gone from no peat background to being giddy at the prospect of a single species... Closer inspections reveals it is not the species formerly know as magellanicum, but (I think) papillosum. With the benefit of hindsight, I should have a hand lens and species key, but we live in strange times and I wanted to spend no more time in the office than was necessary.

I can hear nothing but the fitful breeze as it stirs through the grasses and sedges, brings sporadic relief from the heat - I am somewhere around the 430m contour and it is 27oc. At least you can hear me sniffing every two metres...

As I continue up the transect, I find more pools, some of them quite extensive, and little clusters of bog asphodel still in sulphurous blossom. From a blanket bog restoration point of view, this is a transitional plant often viewed as a sign that the bog is drying out. The transect I am walking is one of our oldest restoration sites; the asphodel is growing over the fence on of our most recent and may actually be a sign that that bog is rewetting. There is lush patch of it just above a gully, recently blocked and now brimming with water and the sphagnum pioneer, cuspidatum.

There is certainly plenty of squelch as I weave around small pools to keep dry feet (for reasons of hasty packing, I have not brought my gaiters). It's fantastic that, given the recent dry spell and thoday's oppresive heat, the bog is holding so much water.

As I continue, I see dwarf shrubs standing proud of the bryophytes. Delicate little bilberry and resinous crowberry, with the distinctive white stripe down the underside of its leaves. I find a small patch of cloudberry with its distinctive, umbrella like leaves; they put me in mind of rhubarb in miniature.

I hope that you've enjoyed this post and accompanying soundtrack and that you'll join me for spring, next year, when I will finally get some birdsong.