I lept out of bed on Saturday morning, not because the sun was shining and the great outside beckoned, but because I had forgotten I had another plant identification training session with the other conservation volunteers! I got to Aberlady Bay in time! This is one of the four sites comprising the grazing project run by East Lothian Council. We have a stalwart Biodiversity Officer, Stuart, who accompanies us on these training sessions, giving up his Saturday mornings, but he told me he enjoys it so much that he doesn't mind! And there is something really special about minutely examining the wild plants in their diverse habitats. Aberlady Bay is a big reserve and for the purposes of this survey, it is broken down into three different groups to include marshland plants, and loads of others I have yet to discover! I am joining their team this year, having worked on Trapain Law for the last two years. It's a huge site and the more volunteers the merrier.
We started off by crossing the wooden footbridge and immediately found plants to examine.
Apart from the specific features of each plant, we are trying to learn how to identify them within their family groups. The bit I love as much as anything are their names. Here is a kingcup, or marsh marigold.
In amongst the collection of greenery, in the photo below, there are the immature leaves of ragged robin, meadowsweet, and the kingcup. We saw the young leaves of wild angelica, hemlock, lesser burdock, marjoram, lady's bedstraw, and the carnivorous plant, butterwort. In flower there was springbeauty (which I recognised but had never heard the name before), cowslips, dog violet, common mouse-ear, the pretty pale mauve flowers of milk maid - or maybe you know it as cuckoo flower or lady's smock. That's another wonderful feature of wild flower names, they vary according to which part of the country you come from. As a child I knew lady's smock as milk maids; others in the group recognised it as cuckoo flower.
It's a windswept site but with wonderful views across the bay and the Firth of Forth, to Fife. The grassland may look grey and unpromising but you would be surprised at the range of plants nestling in amongst the dead winter grasses. There are carnation sedges,
In complete contrast to the grey windy weather of the morning, by late afternoon the sun was shining and Tilly was hinting about a promised walk.
In the woods around the house, and along the top edge of one of the fields, there is yellow archangel - a handsome plant, with another wonderful name.
The late afternoon sunshine, giving a sideways light, really livens up the colours! I love the clean line of this field, sitting in front of the wood behind.
This is the seedhead of the coltsfoot, one of the first flowers to come out at the very end of winter. The flower stalk comes first, with its lovely bright yellow flower, and later the big floppy leaves.
And lastly, yesterday, one of my favourite wild flowers, the field pansy, or I know it as heartsease. The flower is absolutely tiny, but it packs a punch for me!