Tuesday, 5 March 2019
Monday, 11 February 2019
|Golden plover David Hall|
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.
Posted by steve curtis at 9:10:00 pm
|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!
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’
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|
Posted by steve curtis at 11:05:00 am
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.
Posted by steve curtis at 12:22:00 pm
Sunday, 16 December 2018
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!
|Greylake Teal & Wigeon|
|Great White Egret|
Posted by steve curtis at 10:19:00 am
Wednesday, 5 December 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!
|Lemon and cyan|
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
Posted by steve curtis at 10:03:00 am
Thursday, 29 November 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).
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.
Alan and Marion Rayner
Posted by steve curtis at 11:12:00 pm
Saturday, 6 October 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
Value Index (rarity) 2 (=/-0) 2.75 (+/-0.75) 4.04 (+/-1.53)
Frequency (colonies) 40 115 244
(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
Posted by steve curtis at 9:45:00 pm
Monday, 1 October 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.
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).
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).
Photographs (By Marion Rayner and John Garrett)
Posted by steve curtis at 10:33:00 am
Thursday, 28 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.
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|
Posted by steve curtis at 9:10:00 am
Saturday, 9 June 2018
Expectations were high in the weeks leading up to this trip to the chalk hillside of Pewsey, as the trip last spring was awesome....but as 15 of us assembled in the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust car park at the base of the Downs, we were not too confident of a good day!
The skies were grey, the wind was on the cool side, to put it mildly, and a few spots of rain were in the air. Unperturbed, we set off through the kissing-gate, and up the hill, where we’d had such great views of Orchids and Butterflies last year. Alas, though we searched, and spread out across the hill-top, we didn’t even see a single Butterfly, and only 1 Early Purple Orchid! Spring was running about two weeks later than usual, and boy, did it show!
I did however manage to find a spider that was new to all of us...a female Larinioides cornulus, the Funnel Spider!
Whilst we took an early lunch, a single Marsh Fritillary landed on a bare patch of earth behind Lucy, so everyone rushed to see it...but some members were not fortunate and thought they their chance had gone, due to the weather!
But, good things come to those that wait....and as the sun broke through and the cool wind dropped, we aborted our decision to leave early, and made our way down the hill and around to the warmer, chalky, south-facing side. On the way Alan showed us a small patch of Clustered Bellflower and we saw the caterpillar of the 5-spot Burnett prior to it changing into its chrysalis stage.
The sun was now out, and it became very warm indeed, and as we followed the narrow chalky paths along the hillside, we were rewarded for our patience in spectacular style!
Over 100 (maybe many more) Marsh Fritillaries we’re out, including mating pairs amongst the males and females, and thousands of Garden Chafers were flying around and courting in the grass. The Butterfly sightings began in earnest, with Green-Hairstreak, both Dingy & Grizzled Skippers, Brown Argus, Small and Common Blue, Small Copper, three Whites, including Green-veined, and a Wall-Brown...all in all a total of 13 species seen by all of us!
We were also fortunate to find a few moths, though not the profusion of Forester Moths that we had last year.
This time, sharp-eyed Steve found a Small Elephant Hawk, and a freshly emerged Fox Moth also gave good views. 5 moth species were counted, including a Common Heath and Five-spotted Burnett, also freshly emerged. Also Alan pointed out, among the Birds-foot Trefoil and Rock Roses, patches of beautiful blue Chalk Milkwort.
So, after initially thinking we would have to abort our field-trip early, it was so good, that we all ended up staying another hour!
Posted by steve curtis at 8:35:00 am
Thursday, 7 June 2018
Sunday, 20 May 2018
Leader Lucy Delve
Nine members gathered in the Ham Wall car park for a 9.30am start on a fairly breezy morning, after a very short delay for a passing rain shower. From then on there was ever-decreasing cloud and we enjoyed viewing and listening to birds, among other wildlife, under sunshine and a brilliant blue sky. We spent some four hours in the Ham Wall reserve and about two hours on the Shapwick NNR reserve later in the afternoon.
Most members attended the meeting with the express desire to learn how to identify birds by their songs and calls, so I concentrated on that. We studied several warbler species including Willow, Garden Warbler and Blackcap. It was useful to have a Sedge Warbler singing in close proximity to a Reed Warbler so as to hear the differences in pitch, speed of delivery and variation in the complexity and variety of notes and phrases. The Sedge is a great mimic. You can stand and listen to its song for several minutes and detect other bird calls including Blue Tit, Swallow, Skylark and Yellow Wagtail. Indeed, we watched Marsh Harriers, Great White Egrets and wildfowl including a Great Crested Grebe with a stripped “humbug” youngster on its back, against an almost continuous cacophony of Garden, Willow and Reed Warblers. It was great to see good numbers of Swifts, at last, and as the morning progressed and the temperature rose, greater numbers of Hobby appeared. Probably an estimate of around 30 at the end of the day would not be unreasonable. Bitterns boomed occasionally and some members were lucky to have a reasonable flight view of a bird low over the reeds opposite Viewing Platform 1. Two male Cuckoos seemed to be competing with each other, calling from either side of the old railway track for much of the morning, but quite distant. However, one called briefly from trees close to the path, not far from the railway bridge, and I was lucky to see the bird fly across the track not far in front of me.
Other notable birds seen were a Little Ringed Plover and a small flock of Black-Tailed Godwit on the scrape on the Shapwick reserve. Glen M located a male Garganey (summer visitor) and we had great views of this most attractive duck from the grassy track leading to the Avalon Hide, from where we saw several male Marsh Harriers at close quarters. Unfortunately, a young Tawny Owl did not feel inquisitive during our visit - there is an owl nest box on the edge of the woods and during my visit on 8th May, one of the youngsters was looking out of the hole! We saw three distant Cattle Egret from Viewing Platform 2, and around 1.45pm during our picnic back at the car park pools, one Cattle Egret flew low across towards Shapwick.
As we watched and listened to birds, we also delighted in many butterflies including Orange Tips and Peacocks and damsel and dragonflies including Azure Damsel and Hairy Hawker. Such insects were still low in numbers.
Glen totalled up 68 bird species seen and/or heard for both sites.
Posted by steve curtis at 9:26:00 pm
Thursday, 12 April 2018
Bath Natural History Society
Aust (Leaders : Tom Pinckheard and Lucy Delve)
Only 4 members plus the leaders braved the grey morning day with the forecast of initial heavy rain. However, we were immediately rewarded with a pair of Kestrels hovering above us, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks were singing and a couple of Swallows dashed past. At 10am, we departed for the New Passage at Pilning, avoiding a sudden down pour, at a rising high tide which usually brings in waders and ducks. The rain conveniently stopped. In the distance on the grass, many Shelduck and Curlews could be seen with a few Canada Geese. We then walked around the coastal path towards Severn Beach where species seen and /or heard included Linnet, Dunnock, Starling, House Sparrow, and Chiffchaff in the coastal scrub and many Oystercatchers and Shelduck above the tide line. We returned to the New Passage to the walk along the Northwick Warth grassy path, past an inland pool which yielded many water birds, in particular, a flock of about 50 Redshank, a Little Egret, many Gadwall, Shoveler, Tufted Duck and Teal. On our return walk, Lucy heard a brief snatch of Willow Warbler song and the bird was soon picked up visually; a newly arrived bird from Africa. She also identified a small group of Redpoll flying overhead. We then drove to Shirley’s Cafe in Severn Beach for a welcome drink and home-made cake and to use their very smart Scandinavian style toilet shed. After this break, we returned to our original starting point at Aust Warth for lunch as the clouds
cleared and at last the sun appeared. After lunch, spent listening to Skylark and Meadow Pipit songs, we walked towards the M48 suspension bridge past Aust cliff again hearing and seeing Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs in the trees. Tom P went all the way past the fossil hunters to the bridge and saw a very bedraggled and injured bird of prey crouched unmoving at the bottom of the cliff. Tom’s photograph showed it to be a Peregrine. On the way back, by amazing coincidence, we met a group of fossil hunters lead by Ed Drewitt, the well-known Bristol Peregrine expert, who said he would collect the bird and see if it could be saved. We spent the rest of the afternoon at Aust Warth waiting for a sighting of the short eared owls which had been reported several times this week by the Severnsidebirds blog; the birds roosted in the long grass during the day, emerging to hunt in late afternoon, around 5pm. As we waited and scanned the grassy area, we found a couple of male Wheatear, battling for ownership for a nearby log. Unfortunately, no owls were seen by the time our last car left at 17.00, not helped by dog walkers and a man flying his drone. The total bird species count was 54.
(TP and LD )
Posted by steve curtis at 9:08:00 pm
Saturday, 24 March 2018
Twelve of us gathered on a cool but quite sunny morning, with snow still lingering in drifts and patches from the heavy fall the previous weekend. As we set out for our morning exploration of the woodland in the vicinity of Smitham’s Chimney, we were quickly rewarded by the sights and sounds of a gathering of Siskins, Goldfinches and Bramblings amidst the branches and tops of the larches and spruces near the car park. Then, a few hundred metres down the main track, we turned right, down into the wet willow woodland where a profusion of bryophytes decorated the banks, wet hollows and tree trunks and branches. Amongst these were the tiny fuzzy growths of an unusual liverwort, Fingered Cowlwort (Colura calyptrifolia). On the other side of the track was an old moss-covered wall on which a good variety of some of the larger common species could be seen, including some beautiful cushions of Swan’s-neck Thyme-moss (Mnium hornum) covered in sporophytes. Here we also stopped to examine some coppiced hazel branches bonded together by the Glue Crust fungus (Hymenochaete corrugata) and the first of several large groups of Scarlet Elfcup (Sarcoscypha austriaca) which add such extraordinary colour to the woodland floor at this time of year. After lingering reflectively by the pool in front of Smitham’s chimney, our next port of call was a moss, lichen and fern-covered old wall, on the way to which we found large amounts of frogspawn lining the partly frozen puddles along the muddy track. We enjoyed lunch sitting on a bank overlooking Chew Valley Lake in the distance and, in the foreground the lead-rich ‘gruffy ground’ in which the rare and tiny Lead-moss (Ditrichum plumbicola) has one of its very few sites in the UK. Sadly, we couldn’t find it on this occasion. After lunch, we bravely ventured down the steep hill – knowing that we would have to climb back up it – to the magical hidden world of Harptree Combe. On our way, we encountered a troop of Winter Polypores (Polyporus brumalis) growing on decaying wood, then a flock of sheep and lambs, some of whom found us of great interest. Once there, on a decaying tree trunk, we found a large gathering of Ochraceous Turkeytail (Trametes ochracea). A solitary Windflower (Anemone nemorosa) foretold of Spring to come, and amongst the luxuriant carpets and tufts of bryophytes were Big Shaggy-moss (Rhytdiadelphus triquetrus), Dwarf Neckera (Neckera pumila) and Greater Featherwort (Plagiochila asplenioides). All that now remained for us was to climb steadily back uphill past the now disinterested flock of sheep and lambs that had distracted us with their attention on the way down. By the time we reached the car park, deep in conversation, our naturalists’ appetites had been well and truly satiated.
Alan and Marion Rayner
Photographs by Marion Rayner
Posted by steve curtis at 9:03:00 am