A warm day with blue skies and a gentle NW breeze greeted a good turnout of 16 MNA members outside the Grand Hotel near the pier, most having travelled by train. The plan was circuit of the Orme by way of the Marine Drive. It got off to a promising start with Ivy Broomrape opposite the Hotel and fine displays of Sea Spurrey and White Stonecrop on top of the seawall. Soon the steep grassy slopes were a mass of yellow Rock Rose, Harebell and Small Scabious with a sprinkling of Yellow-wort, Carline Thistle, Mouse-ear Hawkweed and Large Birdsfoot Trefoil. Looking over the wall revealed a solitary Slender Thistle and a good clump of Rock Samphire. Movement attracted us to Small and Large Skippers, a very obliging Hummingbird Hawkmoth and a Dark-green Fritillary which dashed about. A very confiding Rock Pipit flitted up and down the roadside rocks, so close that binoculars were hardly needed. Occasional seepages supported dozens of the insectiferous Butterwort, some being in fresh flower. As if that was not enough we found Saw-wort, a single specimen – similar to Creeping Thistle but no spines – a first for most observers.
At our lunch stop 4 Peregrines, an adult with 3 young, called, soared and even hovered in the updraught directly above us. Cormorants were on a large flat rock far below with a single Oystercatcher. Up the road a Stonechat called and offered good views as it perched on top of the Bracken while the nearby rocks held a few Dropwort and the large leaves of Wild Cabbage. Then the cliffs below the old lighthouse came into view – no auks, mainly Shags and Kittiwakes. Fulmars soared and banked on stiff wings as Gannets passed by far offshore. All was fairly peaceful until a Peregrine cruised along the cliffs! Some of the party ahead of us saw a Great Black-backed Gull dismembering a Kittiwake, a Black Guillemot on the sea and half a dozen Oak Eggar moths in the turf.
Dropping down to the more warmer more sheltered, western slopes the rocks were alive with Graylings while the grassy patches with Bramble flowers were the domain of the Silver-studded Blue. Diversity was made with the Small Heath, a perfectly posed Dark-green Fritillary and another but paler Hummingbird Hawkmoth. While Linnets flocked about the gorse below a Wheatear and 4 Greenfinches were on the rocks high above, just as 2 Choughs called and flew by against an intense blue sky. Meanwhile we added to the flora with Ploughman’s Spikenard, Spotted Catsear, Great Bellflower, Spiny Restharrow and surprisingly numerous Vervain with its delicate lilac flowers.