Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Shapwick Heath and Ham Wall: 28th August 2019:

Leader Lucy Delve
Ten members and one non-member joined me at 10am in Ham Wall RSPB car park and we promptly headed towards Noah’s Hide, Shapwick Heath where the adult Osprey was located, for, possibly, the 11th or 12th consecutive year. It is commonly referred to as “The Bank Holiday Bird”.  Some believe it to be a female; the bird is un-ringed. We stopped a few times along the footpath to look as Great White and Little Egret, Grey Heron, Gadwall and Wigeon, also a number of dragonflies including Migrant Hawker and Ruddy and Common Darters.

The forecast was for rain from around midday so it we looked at these insects I the sunshine while it lasted.The Osprey was on the short tree stump where I viewed it in August 2018. It had caught a fish about an hour ago so was unlikely to fish again for at least another hour. We had sustained excellent views of the bird through telescopes with much preening of feathers and occasional glances around giving us lovely views of the facial markings. A female Marsh Harrier put in an appearance but did not seem to bother the wildfowl present which included Greylag Geese, Great Crested Grebe, Gadwall, Mallard and a few Tufted Duck. There were plenty of Mute Swan and Black-headed Gulls.  As the wind increased and the clouds rolled in, a party of migrating Sand Martin dropped in, progressively flying lower over the distant reed bed and feeding on low-flying insects.
We had an early lunch back in the shelter at Ham Wall and met up with three members including our President, who had unfortunately been delayed. The rain came, as predicted, but thankfully it was only short-lived, and we set off to the first viewing platform where staff and volunteers were cutting and burning reed, as they do at this time of year. We walked on to the second platform and found more egrets and wildfowl and a few Lapwing, sadly no Wood Sandpipers. Swallows dashed by as we watched another female Marsh Harrier drift leisurely over the reeds.
On the way back to the car park, we diverted to the Tor View Hide and had close views of Little Grebe and heard a Water Rail call several times.  Parties of small birds were on the move through the reed bed including Long-tailed Tits, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs. Cetti’s Warblers are not that vocal now, a few uttered some sub-song, a more subdued version of the normal blast of loud notes. By now it was raining quite hard, although thankfully the rain eased as we walked back to the car park at around 3pm.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Bath nats trip report, Sunday 9th June: Bathampton Meadows, nr Bath


Click links for more photos

Thanks to all who turned out on an overcast but warm day,credit must be given to Peter Fear and his team for keeping the riverside path as wildlife friendly as possible.We took a steady walk along the river path and then on to the private nature reserve with plenty to see and discuss throughout.
 I would also like to thank all who kept records during the walk, below are a list of findings, with plenty of photos on https://www.facebook.com/groups/127504944553098/ .

BIRDS  Bathampton Meadows
Canada goose, swift, jackdaw, wood pigeon, whitethroat, sand martin, buzzard, blackbird, reed bunting, robin, magpie, moorhen, chiffchaff, bullfinch, kingfisher, blue tit, blackcap, carrion crow, mallard,swift.

Bathampton Meadows 2019-06-09 notable species
Riverside path
Small Teasel
10-spot, 7-spot and 2-spot Ladybirds on nettles, as well as Harlequin Ladybird, which was almost everywhere.
Large patches of Cleavers galled by the mite, Cecidophyes rouhollahi, causing twisted, swollen and folded leaves.

Ox-bow NR
Early Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza incarnata) [sighting], Southern Marsh Orchid (D.praetermissa), Common Spotted Orchid (D.fuchsii) and the hybrid between the last two (D. x grandis).
Meadow Rue (Thalictrum flavum) frequent and increasing. Otherwise rare and very scattered along the river elsewhere.
Celery-leaved Buttercup (Ranunculus sceleratus) [sighting] on mud on the edge of a ditch.
Pink Water-speedwell (Veronica catenata) and Blue Water-speedwell (Veronica anagallis-aquatica) in muddy areas and the edge of the ox-bow [sightings]
Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia), abundant along the path by the river.
Rust (Puccinia phragmitis) on Clustered Dock (Rumex conglomeratus) [sighting]. Its other host, Common Reed, grows in the ox-bow.
Leaves of Alder (Alnus glutinosa) galled by two species of mite, Eriophyes inangulis (in angles of veins) and E.laevis (red 'knobs' between veins) [sighting]
Old trees of Grey Alder (Alnus incana) by river.
Sawflies: Tenthredo mesomelas and Athalia rosae
Tapered Drone-fly, Eristalis pertinax
Honey Bee, Apis mellifera

Butterflies:   Common Blue  10                  Brown Argus 2            
Small Tortoiseshell  1               Speckled Wood 1             
Green-veined White  1 

Macro Moths:  Yellow Shell  1                   Heart & Dart   
1            Flame Shoulder   1                   Common Wave  
1              Silver Ground Carpet  2 

Micro Moths: Straw Dot (Rivula sericealis),   Mint Moth  3                      Thistle Ermine 
1          Stigmella glutinosa (Leaf mine on Alder) , Tortrix moth (Agapeta hamana)

Dragonfly:     Emperor   1 

Damselfly:     Azure  3                                 Common Blue 
7            White Legged  4                      Large Red    
1                        Blue-tailed   6 

                      Banded Demoiselle 10,         Beautufl Demoiselle  
3,  Red-eyed   1. 
Parasitic wasp with aphid carcass on the Oak leaf was Discritulus planiceps .
Spring Fieldcap ( Agrocybe praecox) and Wrinkled Fieldcap ( Agrocybe rivulosa) mushrooms, respectively in grass and on a wood chip pile. The latter species was first described in 2003 and first recorded in the UK in 2004, since when it has become widespread.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Bath Nats Wildlife Recording Visit to the American Museum, 26/4/2019

A group of 14 of us gathered in the car park of the American Museum on a sunny, mild morning, and were joined by the Head Gardener, Andrew Cannell and Matt Postles from the Bristol Natural History Consortium, who told us about the purpose of the international ‘City Nature Challenge’ to which our records for the day would contribute. By the time we gathered, Richard Pooley had already identified nine moths from his trap set up overnight in the grounds – a small catch due to the cool overnight conditions but including the infrequent Pale Pinion (Lithophane hepatica) and attractive Red-green Carpet (Chloroclysta siterata). Most of us then went on during the morning to record in monad ST 7864, which includes the grounds in front of the Museum and the beautiful ancient woodland of Hengrove Wood. On the bank in front of the Museum, we were immediately attracted to several spikes of Common Twayblade Orchid (Neottia ovata) already in flower. The woodland floor was awash with bluebells and we quickly compiled good lists of woodland birds, vascular plants, lichens, fungi and bryophytes. Amongst the latter, we were especially pleased to find Rustwort (Nowellia curvifolia), a mostly western species of liverwort, which had formed a soft orange covering over the surface of a decaying log.

After lunch, as several rain showers began to make their presence felt, a small group of us made our way down through Conygre Wood, at the bottom of which we admired an especially large and handsome specimen of Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus). Emerging into the adjacent grassland and garden area, as on our previous visit, we came across a tufa-lined spring, where we we found the first of many well-established gatherings of Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum capillus-veneris) as well as the beautiful Curled Hook-moss (Palustriella commutata). A quick visit to the ancient orchard enabled us to add two infrequent mosses to our list for the day: Dwarf Neckera (Neckera pumila) and Flat-brocade Moss (Platygerium repens).

Meanwhile, the entomologists amongst us had been busy recording a variety of micromoths and other insects. Andy and Jane Daw were especially pleased to come across a Water Cricket (Velia capris) and Mike Bailey and Paul Wilkins’s finds included larvae of the Barred White Clothes Moth (Nemapogon clematella) feeding on fruit bodies of Hazel Woodwart fungus (Hypoxylon fuscum).

By the end of the day we had made 575 observations, including around 350 species to contribute substantially to the City Nature Challenge (in which Bristol and Bath held their position as ‘top in Europe’) and also add considerably to our cumulative list for the American Museum. We now look forward to our next recording visit on 3 July 2019.

Alan and Marion Rayner

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Roy Curber

Roy Curber, long standing member of Bath Nats died aged 89 years on 1 March. He acted for many years as the bird recorder for the Society.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Bath nats Birdwatching at Slimbridge WWT.6th February 2019

Golden plover David Hall
By 10AM, when thirteen of us met at Slimbridge WWT, the early mist had given way to sunshine. Entry formalities over, we headed out to the Holden Tower, from which to view both Tack Piece and the Severn Estuary foreshore. Arriving shortly after a high tide ensured that many estuary birds had moved inland within viewing range. Notable on the foreshore there were several Cranes and a large flock of Barnacle Geese. Dunlin, Meadow Pipit, Skylarks & Linnets were feeding just beyond the scrape in front of the hide. The flooded inland field called Tack Piece, provided a wonderful spectacle of several thousand waders and waterfowl. White-Fronted, Greylag and Canada Geese. Bewick’s Swans, a huge flock of Wigeon, Lapwings, Golden Plover, Dunlin, with a few Redshanks and Curlews in the mix. We took advantage of the other hides overlooking Tack Piece, to gain closer views. Most of us saw the Water Rails attracted to bird feeders, close to a hide facing in opposite direction. We took packed lunch in the Peng Hide with it’s close views of Bewick’s Swans, Pochard, Pintails, Tufted Ducks. After lunch, we wandered through part of the wildfowl collection on our way to Zeiss and Kingfisher Hides. Needless to say several of us stopped to look at Goldeneye, Smew, and Eider Ducks  along with more exotic species here.
The Ziess Hide overlooks a small reed-bed, a large lake, and the seawall beyond. Using a telescope  from here we could see, a pair of Peregrine Falcons perching well out towards the 
estuary and several Common Snipe on an island near by. A Water Rail walked out from the 
reed-bed close to the hide. From the Kingfisher Hide, and new for the day, there were several Ruff along with Dunlin and Redshank. Over the course of the day we had made several attempts to see an elusive Jack Snipe from the Martin Smith Hide without success. So after a short look from the South Lake Hide, most of us headed back to the Martin Smith Hide for one last look; and there it was, hunkered down in short reeds, the elusive Jack Snipe! One of our 65 wild bird species seen  on the day. 

Phillip Delve
Wigeon David Hall
Pintail David Hall

Water rail David Hall
Shellduck David Hall

Teal David Hall
Little egret David Hall

Fem Pintail David Hall
Curlew (Steve curtis)
Bewick swan David Hall
Common Snipe (Steve curtis)


Barnacle geese (Steve curtis)



Bath nats field trip Thursday, 31 January 2019: Carrs Woodland LNR

Alan Rayner explaining the territorial interfaces of fungi on a beech stump 

On a bitterly cold winter’s day, twenty members met to explore this small Local Nature Reserve in Twerton, which includes woodland, grassland and a small stretch of the Newton Brook and was designated in 2006 as an “urban fringe” LNR. After admiring the frosted capsules of Clustered Feather-moss (Rhynchostegium confertum) on an old wall, we headed into the east strip of woodland along the top of a steep bank above the railway. Immediately we disturbed a flock of Great Tits and Blue Tits, busy in the trees together with Chaffinches and a Coal Tit. Several Blackbirds were feasting on Ivy berries and we soon saw a Grey Squirrel, a Robin and a Magpie. Beside the old stone steps, a legacy of the garden of Wood House (now demolished), we examined two different species of snowdrops, the common Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) and Pleated Snowdrop (G. plicatus) and their hybrid (G. x valentinei). Continuing along the path, we found fruit bodies of Jelly Ear Fungus (Auricularia auricula-judae), admired two more mosses, Tender Feather-moss (Rhynchostegiella tenella) and the dendroid Fox-tail Feather-moss (Thamnobryum alopecurum), then spotted a Buzzard in the trees on the slope just below us. Shoots of Ransoms (Allium ursinum) and Celandines (Ficaria verna) were a tentative hint of spring!
Territorial interfaces between
 fungi on a Beech stump
Emerging into grassland, Alan and Marion Rayner showed us another world on branches of an Ash tree: an amazing array of lichens and mosses, including Wood Bristle-moss (Orthotrichum affine)Green Yoke-moss (Zygodon viridissimus), a bright pink parasitic fungus (Marchandiomyces corallines) growing on the lichens, and a tiny liverwort, the Minute Pouncewort (Cololejeunea minutissima), with five-sided perianths, like tiny bishops’ hats!

The west edge of Carrs Woodland has impressive Beech trees along the top of a steep slope above the Newton Brook, with far-reaching views of the hills west of Bath. A “clattering” of Jackdaws flew out of a tree, with a couple of Carrion Crows, to announce our arrival. Several ancient Beech trees have been felled: a large stump gave Alan the opportunity to explain that the tortuous black and brown lines in the wood represent the territorial interfaces between different invasive fungi. We saw the fruiting bodies of the Artist’s Bracket (Ganoderma applanatum), which attacks the heartwood of Beech trees and Beech Woodwart (Hypoxylon fragiforme) growing on dead Beech, and also the Yellow Brain fungus (Tremella mesenterica) which is parasitic on a resupinate fungus on wood. Meanwhile other members spotted a small flock of Redwings and a Jay and a very large bird which was in fact a tree surgeon, high in a Beech tree! We stopped to watch a pair of Bullfinches busy in Alders, heard Greater Spotted Woodpeckers drumming, and some saw a Nuthatch and Song Thrush, and heard a Green Woodpecker. As a reminder that we were in an “urban fringe” LNR, we encountered a lot of fly-tipping at the edge of the wood, and a vast sheet of the invasive alien Three-cornered Leek (Allium triquetrum).

A slippery icy path through rough, ungrazed grassland took us down to the brook, where we saw a Wren and marvelled at the fiery red and orange wood of a recently felled Alder. Alan showed us the delightful Elegant Bristle-moss (Orthotrichum pulchellum) with calyptras like tiny ballerinas’ skirts, growing with the more common Lateral Cryphaea (Cryphaea heteromalla). On a fantastic ancient Ash tree beside the stream, we saw the Shaggy Bracket (Inonotis hispidus). Marion was pleased to find Pointed Lattice-moss (Dialytrichia mucronata) on concrete beside Pennyquick Bridge: this species grows on periodically inundated substrates.

The spoil heap of Pennyquick Colliery has been landscaped and was sown with a wildflower mix, now well established. We admired the wintry remains of Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum), Bristly Ox-tongue (Helminthotheca echioides), Ox-eye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare), large clumps of Salad Burnet (Poterium sanguisorba) and little tufts of Curly Crisp-moss (Trichostomum crispulum) with hooded leaf-tips. Returning along Newton Road we saw Wood Pigeons and Starlings, a tiny pink flower of Field Madder (Sherardia arvensis) at the edge of the pavement, and on a street tree (a Lime) Alan showed us Small Hairy Screw-moss (Syntrichia laevipila) with wonderful long silvery hair-points to the leaves. During this gentle walk on the urban fringe, we saw at least twenty different species of bird and all enjoyed exploring a little-known reserve not far from the centre of Bath.
Lichens and bryophytes on an Ash branch
Young Jelly Ears

Sunday, 27 January 2019


The fossil cast of the dinosaur Rhomaleosaurus cramptoni provided an interesting backdrop and contrast of scale as we set up for our workshop on ‘Bryophyte Ecology’ which was attended by 20 Bath Nats members and visitors.
For this workshop we started with the premise that different habitats can (to some extent) be home to predictable suites of moss and liverwort species and that this can help greatly when learning to identify these intriguing plants. So we had set out mini study stations representing 7 common local habitats such as trees, mortared walls, dry stone walls, limestone grassland, woodland banks, soil and tarmac. Each habitat station was equipped with species descriptions, photographs and of course fresh material of the key species for each habitat. Armed with LED hand lenses everyone was invited to have a go at identifying the species for one habitat before moving on to another.
Many mosses and liverworts were examined, from huge clumps of Rambling Tail Moss (Anomodon viticulosus) found on dry stone walls, to small leafy liverworts such as Dilated Scalewort (Frullania dilatata) on tree bark.
As expected the ‘big two’ ubiquitous species Common Feather-moss (Kindbergia praelonga) and Rough-stalked Feather-moss (Brachythecium rutabulum) proved tricky to recognise but examination of tiny details with a hand lens helped separate these confusing species. The gemmae cups of thallose liverworts on soil provided some interesting insights into vegetative reproduction in liverworts.
Two hours passed very quickly as intense and sociable study ensued, and hopefully most people will now be able to identify Springy Turf-moss (Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus) and Pointed Spear-moss (Calliergonella cuspidata) in their lawns.

Marion Rayner

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Greylake, Catcott and Ham Walls – 9 December 2018

 Leader: Lucy Delve

Fifteen of us, including one non-member, gathered on a very windy but sunny morning in the RSPB reserve of Greylake car park off the A371.  We were surrounded at one point by a very large flock of Lapwing and Golden Plover, clearly disturbed by a bird of prey. It was great to see a number of House Sparrows and Chaffinches, attracted to the small bird table in the car park area, together with one female Reed Bunting.
From the hide, which we had to ourselves, we spent some 90 minutes viewing the immediate flooded pasture, distant fields and farming landscape. Teal, Wigeon and Snipe were all very close to the hide and when the sun appeared from behind the clouds the plumage of the wildfowl was beautifully enhanced.  We also located a few Pintail, Gadwall and Shoveler and Grey Heron. I was fortunate to have my telescope in the right place to pick up a small, fast- flying falcon not far off the ground which looked to me like a female Merlin; not everyone saw it and unfortunately the bird did re-appear. However, everyone had wonderful views of a juvenile female Peregrine who definitely had her eyes on a duck for a good meal!  The two other birds of prey seen were a male Kestrel and Buzzard. Roe Deer was of non-avian interest.
At about noon, we made our way to the Somerset Wildlife Trust Catcott Reserve near Burtle.  Unbelievably, there was no large flock of wildfowl – only a few Mallard, Mute Swan and Canada Geese. A “ringtail” Hen Harrier had been seen earlier in the day. Never mind, we ate our lunch, saw a distant female Marsh Harrier and then moved off towards Burtle, on-route to Ham Wall, stopping to admire a group of ten feeding Cattle Egret.  Excellent – this species had been giving me the slip over the last 18 months!
Cattle Egret
Ham Wall was not yet overwhelmed with visitors and we wandered along to the Tor View Hide and had superb views of a Great White Egret, standing motionless, in hunting mode on the edge of the reeds. Views of Marsh Harriers were good too, the birds battling somewhat in the strong wind.  We walked to the second viewing platform but not much doing there; I did hear a Water Rail and Treecreeper.  Some folks were gathering for the Starling roost which we were told was in the Waltons/Loxton areas, so we spread put along the old railway track keeping an eye on the skies. Thankfully, the wind was easing and the clouds clearing to reveal a rising crescent moon.  It was eventually clear that the main roost was going to be Waltons close to the small “hides” so most of us made our way to the first viewing platform and eventually down to the grassy area below the railway path. Here we could hear the birds chattering and watch them bathing. The reeds became so densely packed with birds that the roost seemed to split into two, with many hundreds flying over to roost in the reeds on the edge of Loxtons. It was a shame that the flock did not make lots of fantastic shapes as they manoeuvred into larger groups, however, we all agreed that it was, as ever, a wonderful end to a great day out on The Somerset Levels. My thanks to David Hall for some super photographs of some of the star species of the day.

Lucy Delve

Greylake,Shoveler &Wigeon

Greylake Snipe

Greylake Teal & Wigeon

Great White Egret

Thanks to David Hall for the photos

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Friary Fungi Day,Hinton Charterhouse, 31st October 2018

Friary Fungi Day, 31st October 2018

On the brilliantly bright and crisp morning of Wednesday 31st October a group of around 17 members met in the classroom at Friary, Hinton Charterhouse, by kind invitation of Penny and Richard Williamson, and were treated first of all to coffee and biscuits while examining a display of diverse fungi that I had collected the previous day from local woodlands. We then walked up the steep narrow road from Friary towards the A36, flanked by wooded banks, to see what we could find. And, with many eyes working together – not just mine – we found quite a lot! Amongst the larger fungi were Collared Earth Stars (Geastrum triplex), Dead Man’s Fingers (Xylaria polymorpha), White Saddle (Helvella crispa), Wood Blewits (Lepista nuda), Ivory Woodwax (Hygrophorus eburneus), Pearly Parachutes (Marasmius wynnei) Pink Spinecrust (Steccherinum fimbriatum)and what I have tentatively identified as the very seldom recorded Large White Dapperling (Leucoagaricus subcretaceus). But in many ways stealing the show from their larger cousins were the tiny – and seldom recorded - agarics of Beech Petiole Parachute (Marasmius setosus) and Beechleaf Bonnet (Mycena capillaris) respectively inhabiting the petioles/midribs and laminae of beech leaves.
After a delightful lunch of quiches, salad and potatoes, followed by chocolate brownies and ice cream, we used up some calories by walking along the public path steeply uphill into the western part of Friary Wood. Here, we found both Trooping and Clouded Funnels (Clitocybe geotropa and C. nebularis) and some delightful young specimens of Magpie Inkcap (Coprinopsis picacea). We then walked to the eastern part of Friary Wood, where we encountered poisonous Funeral Bells (Galerina marginata) and Lilac Fibrecaps (Inocybe geophylla var. lilacina) and in some ways, for me, the most delightful sight of the day. Examining a decaying log supporting a swarm of Lemon Discos (Bisporella citrina) I turned it over to reveal a gathering of Green Elfcups (Chlorociboria aeruginosa). The juxtaposition of yellow and turquoise cups was simply breathtaking. Finally we walked down to the riverside to examine a fine display of Alder Bracket (Inonotus radiatus). It began to rain just as we got back to our cars. It had been a rich and very enjoyable day!
Alan Rayner


Funeral Bell 


Helvella crispa

Lemon and cyan



Steccherinum fimbriatum

Photographs by Andrew Daw:-
Collared Earthstar; Large White Dapperling; Green Elfcup and Lemon Disco; White Saddle; Magpie Inkcap; Steccherinum fimbriatum; Dead Man’s Fingers; Trooping Funnel; Funeral Bell

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Bath Nats Wildlife Recording Visit to the American Museum, 15/11/2018

A group of 17 of us gathered in the car park of the American Museum on a brilliantly sunny, mild morning, and were met by the Head Gardener, Andrew Cannell, who provided us with some helpful background information and advice. Most of us, apart from a small group of Lepidopterists led by Mike Bailey and Paul Wilkins, then made our way into Hengrove Wood, a lush, moist and shady area of ancient mixed deciduous woodland on the east-facing slope of Claverton Down. Given the time of year, we focused much of our attention on fungi, lichens and bryophytes and quickly began to assemble quite a significant list of these organisms, amongst the highlights being the tiny liverwort, Micheli’s Least Pouncewort (Lejeunea cavifolia), Velvet Shield (Pluteus umbrosus), Collared Earthstar (Geastrum triplex), Inky Mushroom (Agaricus moelleri) and the breathtakingly coloured Cobalt Crust (Terana caerulea).
Cobalt Crust (Marion Rayner)

After lunch, we made our way down through Conygre Wood, an area of relatively dry woodland containing some very large Grey Poplar trees as well as a mature English Elm and several mature Birch trees, some of which were inhabited by the Birch Polypore, Piptoporus betulinus. Emerging into the adjacent grassland and garden area, we came across a tufa-lined spring, where Helena Crouch was delighted to find the first of many well-established gatherings of Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum capillus-veneris) which had last formally been recorded here in 1978. Also present in profusion, here and elsewhere associated with moist seepages was Curled Hook-moss (Palustriella commutata).

By the end of the day we had recorded 75 species of fungi and lichens, over 50 bryophytes and over 100 vascular plants. A subsequent visit by us (Alan and Marion Rayner) on 27th November added a further 25 fungi and lichens and around 20 bryophytes. David Goode meanwhile made a list of 19 bird species, including Marsh Tit and Tree Creeper, and the Lepidopterists found 47 species of insects. Amongst the latter was the Virgin Bagworm (Luffia ferchaultella). The larvae of bagworms form a case usually made from debris collected from their food plant. This provides them with camouflage as they feed exposed on lichen-covered surfaces such as walls, tree trunks and fence posts (as on this occasion). L. ferchaultella is unusual in that the wingless females are self fertile, hence their common name, and no males are known to exist in Britain. This is a new site for the species with only a handful of other sites known. Last, but not least, Alan Feest reported two rare slime moulds: Physarum notabile (4 previous British records) and Hemitrichia abietina.
Inky Mushroom (John Garrett)
Virgin Bagworm (Paul Wilkins)

It had been a very interesting and enjoyable day and we all agreed that further recording visits in Spring and Summer would be worthwhile to provide a fuller picture of this biodiverse, unspoilt and beautiful locality close to Bath.

Alan and Marion Rayner

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Bath Nats Primrose Hill 16th September 2018

Report of visit to Primrose Hill 16th September 2018
A group of four revisited Primrose Hill to repeat the biodiversity measurements begun in 2012.  It was an autumn day after a dry summer which will have not helped the growth of our target organisms.  There were many visitors to the site (plus dogs).  We found that there had been much clearing of the undergrowth and dead wood with the brush wood burnt and the larger pieces stacked as in good practice so passage though the wood was easy.  We recorded the presence or absence of so-called lower plants (bryophytes, lichens and fungi) in 20 x 4 m radius circles.  The position of the circles was determined by our random generator (Alan R).  One unexpected complication was that despite notices at the gateway asking people to take their dog faeces home with them it was almost impossible not have them in our circles so pollution we thought might be high!  This is not the only place in Bath where this happens (try the Linear Pathway!) but it was I thought the worst.
The site was established in 2000 on an arable field so we would expect that there would not be any bryophytes lichens and fungi on site (or at least not woodland ones) so starting from zero we have data from 12 and 18 years after establishment.  We did not expect to find any real rarities but you never know.  In fact we did find some less common bryophytes such as Cololejeunea minutissima (Minute Pouncewort) a tiny epiphytic liverwort growing on Field Maple and Fissidens incurvus  (Short-leaved Pocket-moss) on soil.  Surprisingly a small piece of stone lying on the surface yielded two species not encountered anywhere else in our sampling: Tortula muralis (Wall Screw-moss) and Eucladium verticillatum (Whorled Tufa-moss) the latter of which is very small. For comparison we have data from an 18 year old coppice at Lower Woods, an ancient woodland site In Gloucestershire.
Below are the different scores from these three samples:

    Primrose Hill 2012                     Primrose Hill 2018                         Stanley 2000
Species Richness             4                                                        16                                      17
Simpson’s Index of
Evenness                           2.99                                                  9.69                                   17.62
Species Conservation
Value Index (rarity)         2 (=/-0)                                             2.75 (+/-0.75)                   4.04 (+/-1.53)
Frequency (colonies)      40                                                     115                                    244
Nitrogen Index
(pollution)                         6.2                                                    4.94                                   4.68
The picture emerging from this is that after a time sites are colonized by common species and that the distribution of these colonies increases in time. Rarer species are part of this colonization. There is some amelioration of the nitrogen pollution from the arable field but the dogs are doing their best to slow this down. Stanley is similarly dogged by dogs.
We will be repeating this in the future when this will become an increasingly fascinating experiment.  We have several other sites under observation that we hope to visit in the future.
May thanks to Alan and Marion Rayner for their unflagging enthusiasm with identifying  “lower plants” and Kate for her care recording of the field data

Monday, 1 October 2018

Fabulous Fungi at East Woodlands, Bath Nats meeting on Wednesday 5th September 2018


A group of nine of us gathered under the magnificent veteran oak trees outside East Woodlands Church on a morning that began coolly but became increasingly warm and sunny towards lunchtime. As in 2017, and despite the hot, dry early-mid-Summer weather, we had a real fungal treat awaiting us, easily making a list of over 60 species.

We began by finding a variety of fungi growing underneath and upon the oak trees. These included several ectomycorrhizal fungi - Scaly Earthballs (Scleroderma verrucosum), some Xerocomus cisalpinus boletes and Sepia Brittlegill (Russula sororia), and two bracket fungi - Beefsteak Fungus (Fistulina hepatica) and a magnificent Oak Bracket (Inonotus dryadeus).  Then we made a quick diversion into the churchyard to examine some fine growths of Squirrel-tail Moss (Leucodon sciuroides) on a tombstone.
Squirrel-tail Moss

As we made our way along the byway towards the beech-wooded Roddenbury Hill, we stopped briefly to examine some beautiful freshly emerging specimens of Beefsteak Fungus, as well as some colourful Purple and Scarlet Brittlegills (Russula atropurpurea and Russula pseudointegra). On and around the hill we encountered numerous Ceps (Boletus edulis and B. reticulatus) and Blushers (Amanita rubescens), Scarletina Bolete (Boletus luridiformis), a variety of Brittlegills, Small Stagshorn (Calocera cornea) and  Grey-spotted Amanita (Amanita excelsa). 
Small Stagshorn

We then took the path downwards into the very different wet woodland habitat of Lower Woods. Here, as in 2017 we came across two outcrops of perhaps our most exciting find of the day, the deep pink jelly fungus called Salmon Salad (Guepinia helvelloides).
Purple Brittlegill
Salmon Salad

Tuberous Polypore

Alan Rayner

Photographs (By Marion Rayner and  John Garrett)

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Bath Nats trip to Caen Hill Locks/Kennet & Avon Canal Side Pounds, Devizes: 23 June 2018:

Leader: Lucy Delve
Eleven members gathered in the Caen Hill Locks car park in glorious sunshine; the leader had high hopes of finding Scarce Chaser dragonflies, and lots more besides.
Scarce Chaser
The first dragonfly species seen was a male Emperor hawking over and the side pound close to the top of the locks. Searching through the dense foliage around the side pound, we found a froglet, a Scarlet Tiger moth (there seem plenty around at the moment) a nymph of a Dark Bush cricket, and many Blue tailed damselflies, with a few Azure and Common Blue damselflies.  A Stock Dove coo-ed unseen in the tall trees adjacent to the towpath as we walked down to the next side pound.
Swifts swooped low, occasionally taking a drink, and I noted only one Swallow. Other birds using this habitat included Tufted Duck, Mallard, Mute Swan, Moorhen, Grey Heron. We had a blue-flash of a Kingfisher as it darted passed us at speed, disappearing in the vegetation in the next side pound as we wandered down the grassy path adjacent to the Diamond Jubilee Woodland.  In the hedgerow, Alan R drew our attention to a Great Mullein plant which was, not unsurprisingly, hosting a number of Mullein moth caterpillars. I was lucky to be looking up whilst we gathered for a short break around midday to see a Red Kite drift over the trees and most members saw the bird if only very briefly. Butterflies seen in the area included Meadow Brown, Small Tortoiseshell and a very obliging freshly emerged Ringlet.  Rob R identified a striking looking Soldier Fly (Oxycera rara).
Soldier Fly (Oxycera rara)
I spotted smaller dragonfly being harassed by the Emperor and recognised it as a male Scarce Chaser, with its pale blue abdomen.  We found several more as we explored more side pounds, some insects traversing the grassy paths between the pounds and landing on nettles. We could see that the male had mated with females, showing the distinctive grey copulation marks down each side of their abdomen.  Rob R and some other members had a good view of an orange-brown female. I had mistakenly identified a brown dragonfly among the male Scarce Chasers as a Four spotted Chaser. However, studying my field guide after the meeting, I read that the females will darken to a dull brown colour; I did see briefly a male chaser joined to, presumably a female, darting over the water. A lone Four spotted Chaser in this habitat was unlikely!  The Brown Hawker flying around us as we continue walking down the grass slope was unmistakable! Keeping around the side pounds, we located two singing Sedge Warblers and spent some time listening and watching one of them at close quarters. Within its varied song, I could pick out mimicry of the songs and calls of Blue Tit, Goldfinch, Swallow and Yellow Wagtail.
We returned to the car park via paths through the Diamond Jubilee Wood, noting Ragged Robin, Rough Chervil, Fleabane and Grass Vetchling.  I located a male Yellowhammer at the top of a tall tree by song and we could approach the bird, so intent on making its presence known. Other birds heard here included Common Whitethroat and Blackcap and it was good to see a male Kestrel among the soaring Buzzards.
Mullein moth caterpillar