Field Notes: Dazzling display on Quinag

Quinag Conservation Officer Romany Garnett shares some of Assynt’s late summer wild treats

Chris puddephat   autumn 2020 detail

As the equinox draws closer, the endless long days of summer are clipped back. The mountain turns into tawny hues and burns gush full frothing with water again. Splashes of foxy auburn and russet leaves dazzle in wooded glens. The tips of deer grass give an overall orange and brown hint to the hillside. Skeins of pink-foots flying high on favourable thermals are heading south from Iceland to their winter quarters. It seems suddenly that we are in the midst of autumn.

It has been a strange summer spent gradually returning to relative normal in the aftermath of lockdown. I’ve been outside most of July and August monitoring, litter picking and keeping an eye on things.

Volunteer days started and I have several very enthusiastic volunteers eager to learn and help. This makes a nice change from my solo days tramping around the hillside for monitoring. We’ve been filling in potholes and cutting back rushes from the path.

Many people have remarked at the very vibrant colour of heather this year. It has exceeded itself and filled hillside with a bright mauve and gaudy purple. It has been magical: when walking through mists of pollen spray are released and you can almost taste the honey. Quite a treat. One of the reasons for this dazzling display could be that flowering was held back by late cold weather followed by a dry, hot spell; so, what is usually a long flowering season was compressed and concentrated into a month. 

Bright red rowan berries weigh down the branches of the mountain ash and it is a great harvesting time with blaeberries ripe and brambles too. Chanterelles have been abundant and shine like gold on the woodland floor. It is a few degrees cooler which brings a welcome freshness and nip to the air.

Our partnership with the Assynt Field Club, to gather records and snippets of info from Quinag, will gain momentum this autumn. I am looking forward to collecting and adding to our knowledge of the natural history and heritage of Quinag.

Photograph by Chris Puddephatt shows heather at Quinag.