Today started cloudy but the weather forecast promised improvement so we decided to walk up into the rough land to the northeast of Loch Mudle. We've walked in the general area before, and knew it would be tough going, but what made it so worthwhile was the variety of wildflowers we found, some of which we can't identify.
Having parked the car by the forestry gate we dropped down into the valley of the burn which drains Loch Mudle, the Allt an Doire Dharaich, the burn of the oak grove. The slope is steep, rocky, and half-covered with scrub, but in the damp patches we found three types of orchid, of which this one, in its startling pink, was the most unusual. It's very like the northern marsh orchid but pink rather than the northern's startling purple, so it may be the closely-related early marsh orchid Dactylorhiza incarnata.
By the time we had reached the top of the knoll called Tom na Ghainmheich (the sandy knoll), it turned into one of those frustrating mornings when there is blue sky away to the north over Eigg and Rum, but it refuses to move in our direction. By this stage we were struggling through knee-high heather mixed with clumps of grass, through which masses of cottongrass protruded.
This is the first of the wildflowers we've failed to identify. The flowers themselves are less than 10mm across and have a characteristic dark stripe running along the petals. We only found one patch of it, on top of the ridge called Druim an Scriodain (see map at bottom of post). Does anyone know what scriodain means?
The plant had a long, thin and hairy stem which rose out of short, equally hairy leaves.
As we crested the ridge we came almost face-to-face with a group of a dozen red deer, a mixture of stags and hinds. They took off too quickly for what would have been a great picture, not stopping until they were well away from us.
To the west of the ridge we came across this small, boggy puddle around which we found a magnificent collection of wildflowers. There were two species of orchid - miles from the next nearest one we found - and....
....this pretty, ragged white flower growing out of the water. The flower was about 30mm across, and had very characteristic long, bladed leaves. One would have thought it would be easy to identify in the three books we consulted, but we've failed.
This one we think is common butterwort, of which there were a mass growing in a bank just beside the puddle....
....but this one again defeated us. It had a single, rather floppy flower about 10mm across, on top of a long stem, along which very characteristic seed pods - seen behind the flower in the picture - had formed. The leaves were crinkly, like lettuce. It's a plant with determination: it had managed to grow up through a stand of heather over a foot high.
On our way back to the car, and not looking forward to having to recross the burn and then fight our way uphill to the car, we heard a bark. For a moment we thought it was a fox, but the sound came from this roe deer hind. Hear a roe deer bark on the YouTube clip here.