Rockers’ Workshop 2005, Braemar & Kintail:
a personal account

As one of the Lichen Apprentices and co-coordinator of the Scottish Lichen Churchyard Group, I have a particular interest in saxicolous lichens. The following account is my personal diary of the Rockers’ Workshop fortnight.

Sunday 22nd May.
VC 92, South Aberdeenshire: Braemar, Mar Lodge Estate, Glen Lui, bridge below Creag an Diuchd, 37(NO)063.914, alt. 400 m; E side of bridge, consolidated turf (parking area) with concrete rubble; within Eastern Cairngorms SSSI.

VC 92, South Aberdeenshire: Braemar, Mar Lodge Estate, Clais Fhearnaig, 37(NO)06.93, alt. 500 m, valley with SE-facing crags (including limestone) & NE-facing scree and narrow lochan; within Eastern Cairngorms SSSI.

We walked from the car park to the east side of the bridge over the Lui Water and came across a mini ecosystem on the gravel/peaty track-side containing Peltigera rufescens (with Polycoccum peltigerae), Solorina spongiosa and Verrucaria bryoctona. We then hiked north up the track to Clais Fhearnaig to a boulder scree with siliceous schist and a limestone outcrop. Here, we encountered the dark brown upland, exposed form of Platismatia glauca. Brian scrutinised a huge boulder near the top of the scree for a long time and found a considerable number of species, including Fuscidea austera, F. gothoburgensis and F. intercincta. On the limestone we found Acarospora glaucocarpa, the bright orange/red apothecia of Gyalecta jenensis var. jenensis together with Protoblastenia calva, P. incrustans and P. rupestris, and on bryophytes Caloplaca cerina var. chloroleuca with its vivid green fruits. The rain came on after an hour, so we had lunch then carried on up the track where we found masses of Stereocaulon condensatum on a recently disturbed shallow banking of peat. Peder Aspen and Andy Cross headed off to try to locate some more limestone. On their way back, Peder twisted his ankle whilst eagerly trying to view his specimen of Stereocaulon condensatum at the same time as running to catch up to the main group.

Monday 23rd May.
VC 92, South Aberdeenshire: Braemar, Mar Lodge Estate, Glen Lui, Creag an Diuchd, 37(NO)05.91, alt. 500 m; NE-facing crags, with part calcareous influence; within Cairngorms SSSI.

Parking by the side of the track we had a short few hundred-meters walk to the overhanging rock face and boulder scree. A dead Scots pine on the way up produced the nationally rare Hertelidia (Lecidea) botryosa. On boulder scree we noted Micarea subnigrata, Umbilicaria cylindrica and U. polyphylla. On the rock face we encountered Caloplaca obliterans and Peltigera britannica, with Chaenotheca furfuracea, Micarea botryoides and Leproloma diffusum var. chrysodetoides in the sheltered under-hangs, the latter confirmed back at base by Alan Orange’s TLC. Alan was demonstrating the TLC drying procedure over a hot plate, when the glass plate shattered across the workbench. However, we were able to retrieve it and put the pieces back together like a jigsaw puzzle.

Tuesday 24th May.
VC 92, South Aberdeenshire: Braemar, Invercauld Estate, Craig Leek, 37(NO)18(-9).92(-3), alt. 400–500 m; NE–E-facing crags, partly limestone; within Craig Leek SSSI.

This was a phenomenal site with new species for me turning up all over the place. We got our eye in on the boulders near the track with such crustose lichens as Clauzadeana macula, Carbonea vorticosa, Rimularia gyrizans and Schaereria fuscocinerea. The Parmelia-types were well represented here, with Arctoparmelia incurva, Melanelia disjuncta, M. hepatizon, M. stygia, Neofuscelia pulla and Parmelia discordans. We found a large boulder with the greenish-tinged fruits of Orphniospora moriopsis, and the distinctive clustered black apothecia of Lecidea auriculata.

Stopping at a large and intricate sheep fank, Brian found Miriquidica atrofulva and Alan Fryday picked up Protoparmelia atriseda which (after lunch) we found in quantity on the side of one of the walls. We had to pull ourselves away from the riches of the sheep fank to go to the crags. Not far from the crags Brian found Cladonia luteoalba growing on exposed peat and I stopped to have a look at a single elder perched on the slope to find Caloplaca cerinella and Strangospora ochrophora growing on branches. Resting at the start of the scree, Brian and I found an Acarospora sp., and on limestone Aspicilia contorta subsp. hoffmanniana and Rinodina bischoffii. Just below the crag on a wet ledge I came across a number of small thalli of Lempholemma botryosum. Alan Fryday traversed across the ledge to confirm the find.

On the way back we waited at a massive boulder for some of the group to catch up. Joe spotted a strange pyrenocarp, which we collected and upon describing it to Vince he thought we might have found Megaspora verrucosa, which we had been asked earlier by Brian not to collect! Upon closer inspection back in the lab however, we were relieved to find that it was just Polyblastia theleodes. Vince had found Arthrorhaphis alpina on a cliff face at Craig Leek, a somewhat unusually low altitude for this comparatively rare montane species. On the scree we found large quantities of Lecidea silacea and some Buellia ocellata. Further down, on the top of a boulder I found a Micarea-like thing, with a whitish granular thallus and small convex black fruits; Chris Ellis had also found this thing and correctly identified it that night as Lecidella wulfenii. On our way back, a Peregrine falcon wheeled into view above the crags screeching its annoyance at being disturbed by us. A large boulder just before the exit track was home to Calvitmela aglaea and Fuscidea austera. On our way out in a drain near the path we spotted a strange bright yellow fungus which Ray identified as Bog beacon (Mitrula paludosa).

Wednesday 25th May.
VC 92, South Aberdeenshire: Braemar, Mar Lodge Estate, track from Glen Quoich to Beinn a’Bhuird, S, E & N of Carn Allt na Beinne, and mostly at An Dìollard, 37(NO)07(-8).95(-6), alt. 500–780 m; moorland, montane heath and boulders; within Eastern Cairngorms SSSI.

Hiking up the mountain trail the weather began to deteriorate as we headed into low cloud. I had my first encounter with Alectoria nigricans and Flavocetraria nivalis. Cetraria islandica and Ochrolechia frigida were also frequent among the Calluna heath. The weather had closed in on us and the rain was sweeping across the mountain making conditions very poor for lichenology. Myself and Alan Orange took more sheltered positions on the mountain side, away from the prevailing wind, and began to inspect boulders and rocks in among the Calluna. We found Clauzadeana macula, Fuscidea intercincta and Lecidea pycnocarpa f. pycnocarpa. The rain and wind had both increased so we all decided to have a last half hour and then descend. Before we left, I grabbed a rock which had a strange looking Micarea on the shaded side; this was later identified by Brian as Micarea pseudomarginata.

Thursday 26th May.
VC 92, South Aberdeenshire: Braemar, Invercauld Estate, eastern corries [western part] of Beinn a’Bhuird, 37(NO)08.98(-9), alt. 850–1100 m; montane rocks, heath, snow patches and lochans; within Eastern Cairngorms SSSI.

Our march in was a long one, despite the fact that we were dropped off by the kind-hearted Mar Lodge Ranger Service. On the way to the corries we found on exposed peat Cladonia zopfii, Pertusaria dactylina, some well developed Pycnothelia papillaria and under the heather on peat Thelocarpon strasseri at an unusually high altitude. We were then treated to a Fryday Stop. This phenomena was first described by Peder as: Alan F. stopping to wait for the rest of the group to catch up, taking off our packs for a breather, getting our flasks out for a cup of tea and developing into an exchange of life stories and finally a quick look around for lichens. Here I found Rhizocarpon hochstetteri and proceeded to turn a small granite boulder into rubble with the back of my 16oz geological hammer in order to get a nice specimen. On a large boulder just before we entered the Corrie, Alan F. pointed out Lecidea luteoatra, Miriquidica nigroleprosa and a strange form of Lecidea confluens, which looked like it had minute lirellate soralia.

Joe Hope and I decided to take a different route to Dubh Lochan. On our way up, the massive boulders (some the size of a small room), proved tough going but we found Toninia squalescens growing with bryophytes on flat boulder surfaces. At this point I had a nose bleed and managed to lose my hammer, all these new finds were becoming a bit much for me. We ate lunch behind one of the massive boulders and watched the figures of Peder, Alan and Steve Chambers prowling across this impressive boulder-strewn landscape. Peder’s group found Calvitimela aglaea and Steve had the find of the week, with Brodoa intestiniformis growing on boulders just above the water line on a small chain of Lochans. This species had been found by Peter James in the 1960s in this area but on exposed boulders higher up the Corrie, and it had not been re-found since. This was clearly a different habitat, in a more sheltered and humid niche. We found large numbers of thalli on boulders close to and in the lochans just above the water level.

Friday 27th May.
(i) VC 92, South Aberdeenshire, Inver Hotel (east of Braemar) NO 29
Chris Ellis treated myself, Peder, Nick Hodgetts and Richard Hewison to a look at the Inver Hotel aspen stand. Here we saw three of the four aspen specialists: Lecanora populicola (with the parasitic Candelariella superdistans) and the sorediate Caloplaca ahtii. Leptorhaphis atomaria eluded us.

(ii) VC 92, South Aberdeenshire, Craig Choinnich NO 16 91, alt 400-538m, South Aberdeenshire, Braemar, Invercauld Estate, alt 400 – 538m.
Brian, Nick, Chris and I then headed out to Craig Choinnich (one of the regular stomping grounds used by the lichen training courses held at Kindrogan) where Brian showed us Protoparmelia nephaea, Rimularia intercedens, Lecanora swartzii and the yellow footballs of soredia on Rhizocarpon ridescens growing on south facing crags. Later, we walked down to a stone dyke where the bright yellow thallus of Pleopsidium chlorophanum occurs. This species has only one other known British site.

Saturday 28th May.
We moved to our new base camp in Kintail and set about converting the lobby into a fully functional lab.

Sunday 29th May.
VC 105, West Ross: Kintail, Kintail Estate, N slope and crags of Beinn Bhuidhe, 18(NG)977.217 to 982.220, alt. 50–300 m; siliceous rocks on slope and damp N-facing crags.

We set out walking from the Base Camp in light rain and stopped to investigate siliceous boulders along the path. I found Thelocarpon laureri growing on a cocoon on the side of a boulder. Other finds on boulders along the path included the beautiful shiny black lirellae on the white thallus of Lithographa tesserata, and Pilophorus strumaticus looking like a dark green and black version of Baeomyces rufus. Myself, Alan Orange and Peder carried on up the track and had a look in a couple of small gullies to find Polyblastia cruenta and Porpidia hydrophila, which Alan sectioned in the field to reveal the bright blue hymenium. Alan then crossed a burn and Peder and I decided to cut straight up and over into the corrie which was piled with boulder scree. On top of these boulders we found the distinctly dodgy custard-coloured crust of Toninia thiopsora. Later we found Umbilicaria hyperborea and the parasite Epilichen scabrosa on Baeomyces rufus. Alan was working on the other side of the Corrie and found Ionaspis odora and Stereocaulon tornense. Just before we left the Corrie I was waiting while Peder stopped for a ‘pee stop’ I picked up a small stone with a strange black and white crust; this turned out to be Stereocaulon plicatile.

Monday 30th May.
VC 104, Mid Ebudes, Skye, Trotternish Ridge, The Storr, 18(NG)500.540(-2), alt. c. 450m; basalt boulders and crags.

Peder and I were the last to leave the car park and we met up with the group half way up the hill as the dense conifer forest opens up to the impressive weathered and pointed rock formations. The group were checking out a large boulder supporting colonies of Stereocaulon symphycheilum and Coccotrema citrinescens. Further up we stopped at another group of boulders and Alan showed us Rhizocarpon caesium and Porpidia islandica. On the crags Pannaria hookeri and Vestergrenopsis elaeina were re-found. Peder and myself then headed up another crag to find Gyalecta jenensis var. jenensis, Bilimbia sabuletorum and a brown diminutive form of Dermatocarpon intestiniforme. On the way back, Joe and myself stopped off at a small boulder field and found the yellow sorediate thallus of Pertusaria flavicans.

Tuesday 31st May.
(i) VC 105, West Ross: Dornie, Carr Brae, 18(NG)895.244(-5), alt. 130–150 m; W-facing crags, including metalliferous seam, but this mostly heavily shaded under trees.

Peder and myself went to explore the potential of this copper prospect, Brian would meet us later on. The weather was calm, warm and sunny and we had a lovely view of Loch Duich looking like a huge mirror. The west-facing crags produced an impressive saxicolous Lobarion flora including Pseudocyphellaria intricate, P. norvegica, Fuscopannaria leucophaea, F. mediterranea, F. sampaiana, Pannaria conoplea, Parmeliella triptophylla and Peltigera britannica. The ash, elm and hazel trees also supported a good Lobarion community. The shaded copper prospect cliff face produced a few interesting finds including Rimularia intercedens, Rinodina interpolata and Tylothallia biformigera.

(ii) VC 105, West Ross: Kintail, Kintail Estate, St Dubhthach’s Church (Kintail Old Parish Church), 18(NG)946.210, alt. 10 m. Grade B listed Ancient Monument.

We finished the afternoon at St. Dubhthach’s Church where we met Sandy and Jack the dog who had been for a walk in the hills. Peder and I coordinate the recently formed Scottish Churchyard Lichen Group and we were glad to have Brian helping out with this mission. The path to the churchyard was covered in Xanthoparmelia conspersa and near the entrance we found Collema fuscovirens on a low concrete wall. We worked our way round and Brian pointed out the small grey thallus of Caloplaca chlorina, which could have easily been overlooked for grey crud. Peder and Sandy went back to base camp to prepare his Iranian meatballs for supper and Brian and I continued. We found Leptogium cyanescens on a shaded wall amongst bryophytes and I pointed out a strange looking thallus on a chest tomb, which looked a bit like a Rinodina. This turned out to be the Nationally Rare Halecania spodomela. The churchyard turned up 93 records including 7 nationally scarce, 1 nationally rare and 1 international responsibility.

Wednesday 1st June.
VC 97, Westerness: Glenmore River, NE of Suadalen, 18(NG)88.17, alt. 90 m; riverside woodland (hazel, ash, alder, birch); serpentenite outcrop; boulders in side-stream; moorland. Serpentine outcropping by river & under trees.

On a tip off from Peder (and despite the light rain), we decided to have a look at some serpantenite outcrops by the Glenmore River. The rocks revealed Fuscopannaria leucophaea, Lecidella anomaloides, L. asema, Leptogium lichenoides and some of the best-developed lobes of Sticta sylvatica I have ever seen. The hazel woodland supported Pseudocyphellaria crocata, Parmeliella parvula and Peltigera collina.

I moved across the moorland to a burn and found Alan Orange on an aquatic lichen hunt. He had found Placynthium flabellosum and Rhizocarpon lavatum in quantity and was proceeding to take a few Verrucaria samples. Further upstream we found Aspicilia laevata on a boulder by the bank, together with the dark green squamules of Massalongia carnosa. The rain was getting heavier at this point so we decided to retreat back to the minibus.

Thursday 2nd June.
Skye Mid Ebudes. VC 104 (18) NG 585 185 Limestone outcrops Torrin, Strath, near Camas Melag.

Peter, Jutta, Alan Orange, Joe and I headed out at around 1 o’clock to look at some limestone on Skye. Alan knew a site, which he had surveyed before. When we got there the rain was so heavy we voted to go to the nearest tearoom and sample their tea and cakes. We found a place called the Blue Shed and ran from the car park to the tearoom in the pouring rain. Joe and myself went for a luxury hot chocolate drink (with cream and maltase’s). Immediately, Alan O. knew he had made a poor choice in going for the tea. Myself, Joe and Jutta went for a huge slice of Lemon meringue, which was a tad heavy in the pastry department. Alan had made the correct choice this time, with his slice of sticky chocolate nut cake.

We went out in the rain for a second assault on the limestone and found that it was coated in what Oliver Gilbert had called the 5 layers of obscurity: one on either side of your glasses; one on either side of your viewing lens, and one covering the rock. We managed to make out some Protoblastenia sp. fruits, and the delicately crinkled apothecia of Petractis clausa. Alan O pointed out Lepraria nivalis on the limestone underhangs near the Allt nan Leac Burn, and I knocked off several mosaics of specimens with my hammer to review when we got back to dry land. They later revealed Clauzadea immersa, Collema fuscovirens, Hymenelia prevostii, Verrucaria baldensis and V. caerulea.

Friday 3rd June.
VC 104, Mid Ebudes, Skye, Strathaird, Bla Bheinn, Coire Uaigneich, 18(NG)54.21, alt. to 250 m; calcareous rocks in deep ravine, and siliceous rocks and boulders.

The weather was decidedly dodgy with persistent light rain. The group split at the car park, with Brian Coppins taking a group to look at Kilmarie graveyard. Alan Fryday headed the group up the moorland track. We had problems crossing the swollen burn, with a number of the party getting a soggy boot full. We had to cross the raging burn again at the site, to get to the rock faces in the steep ravine. The rock face contained a few members of the Lobarion community including: Degelia plumbea, Pseudocyphellaria intricata and the bright green lobes of Peltigera leucophlebia. The dry under-hangs contained Opegrapha gyrocarpa and Porina ginzbergeri. Strigula confusa was found on the vertical face of a large boulder growing on moss near Coccotrema citrinescens. On the way back I decided to pile straight into the river instead of trying to skip across the slippery rocks.

Concluding remarks
This was a tremendously enjoyable and educational trip. Having the experts on hand to determine specimens in the field and in the lab was incredibly useful. I returned with a few bagfuls of specimens, some of which I am still working on. I would like to thank the following people for making the trip so successful and memorable:
Sandy Coppins for her outstanding work in organising and running the workshop.
Brian Coppins & Alan Fryday for helping to set up and run the workshop and their invaluable assistance with identifications.
Chris Ellis for driving the minibus.
Alan Orange for his tuition with TLC and identifications.
Vince Giavarini and Steve Chambers for their assistance with identifications.
All the cooks, washer-uppers and cleaners.

Cheers, John Douglass.