Tom Gray’s Nature Notes: St Cyrus v Largo Bay dunes

Tom Gray
Tom Gray

In spite of inclement weather recently (albeit that due to a more recent gales things were to deteriorate!) I chose to participate in a “bioblitz” of St Cyus Nature Reserve over the sand dunes, a few miles north of Montrose.

A bioblitz is an event where a group of naturalists get together to survey an area for its biodiversity by producing a list of species of plants, birds, insects, etc. which they find present therein.

The St Cyrus expedition confined its survey mainly to Gastropods, i.e. the class of molluscs better known as slugs and snails, with experise on hand to confirm the identification of any rarities found by the 30 or so enthusiastic participants who had enlisted for the day.

As it was my own collecting jar was rapidly filled up with conspicuously banded snails of both Brown-lipped and White-lipped Snail species, with a lesser number of unbanded forms of both species being less conspicuous on the sandy clearings amongst the Marram Grass which held the dunes together. By contrast similarly sized, less regularly patterned Copse Snails restricted themselves to the habitat under the copses of Alder trees growing in the ditch which now identified the bed of where the river had once crossed the dunes on its way to the sea.

On the St Cyrus site I dd not find hells of the much larger Garden Snail of which I tolerate a few in my own Glenrothes garden in spite of their ravages on lettuce and other seedlings.

If any reader fancies a similar snail hunt I recommend a visit to the nearby dunes of Largo Bay where in addition to the wide variety of Banded Snails they may seek out the spire shell form of a much rarer snail species known only as Helicella itala amongst an isolated colony far from their established home amongst the machair of the Outer Hebrides, and thus identifying a rare reserve of machair-type vegetation on the east coast of Scotland!

The St Cyrus identification event was organised by the North East Scotland Biological Records Centre (NESBReC)

To add...

Locally my highlight of the week was spotting the identifying cross-banded tail of a visiting Merlin passing over the car bonnet as it hedge-hopped by the road when we passed through the village Scotlandwell.