Wednesday, 29 January 2014

A new BSBI group in the west of Ireland: part one.

Some of the BSBI Clare members
Image: P. O'Brien
A great start to the botanical recording year: news of the formation of the Clare BSBI Group, which held its first field meeting on 18th January 2014. Stephen Ward has been in touch to let us all know how it went; he is joint VC Recorder (with Sharon Parr) for H09 Clare, which comprises the administrative County of Clare and the Aran Islands (part of the administrative County of Galway). Stephen said "We had a successful first day, botanising at Carrownaclogh, R1588 and The Glen, Ennistymon, R1288, with smiley pictures and two substantial monad lists to prove it". 

I asked Phoebe O'Brien, one of the members of the new County Clare group, what made her want to get involved. She told me "County Clare is known for the Burren, an area of limestone pavement famous for its flora of arctic alpines and Mediterranean plants. It’s an area I have visited quite often during my Bachelor Degree at the National University of Ireland in Galway. My home is also in County Clare but inland, away from the Burren and the coast, with quite different plant communities. 


Clare recorders and doggie friends
Image: P. O'Brien
"Now that I am a qualified Botanist I want to explore as much as I can and learn as many plants as possible, starting with Irish native plants. To this purpose I joined the BSBI, and when I heard about the starting of a local group of recorders I jumped at the chance. The County Clare Group is organised by Stephen Ward and by Sharon Parr, who works on the Burren Farming for Conservation Programme which has been such a success. 

"It was a little intimidating at first (since my knowledge is so limited!) to join the group, but since everyone was so friendly and helpful I need not have worried. Stephen had chosen an area near Ennistimon to start the year's recording. It was next to a river and waterfall, and we followed a path into a hidden gorge. I was amazed at just how much I could identify in January when so few flowers were present and the plants looked not at their best. 

"It has been a mild winter here, though fairly wet. We were lucky on the day, the rain held off and after lunch we walked up a country lane toward an area of cut-over bog. The things which mostly caught my eye were the ferns and seed heads of last year’s plants. In the winter it’s easy to get distracted by lichens and mosses too, as my photos showed when I got home. I’m looking forward to the next meeting in February in East Clare."


Stephen & Co step out, recording card at the ready
Image: P. O'Brien
The Clare BSBI group are hoping to set up their own page on the BSBI website, so they can set out their group's aims and aspirations, including any recording targets they might want to set themselves towards the next Atlas. They will also be able to share resources, information about their meetings and give contact details for those wishing to attend.

Website Officer Alex Lockton is happy to set up a webpage for any local BSBI group who would like one. You just need to send him some text and a few nice images

Phoebe has also been telling me more about some of the exciting projects in Clare and on the Aran Islands, so I'm encouraging the Clare group to set up their own Blog and tell us more about farming for conservation on the Burren. 

But for now, Stephen says "If anyone (especially residents in Clare / Aran Islands) wishes to join the Clare BSBI Group on a field outing, please will they send their email address to me (Stephen Ward) at burrensward@gmail.com. I will send out further details of the next meeting as soon as possible, but it will be on 22nd February in the vicinity of Feakle in East Clare (Hectad R58).