Saturday, 29 June 2013

Blackbirds nest

This nest was found in a neighbours hedge , will report on any developments as and when they happen.


When taking photographs, the welfare of birds must always come first. Schedule 1 breeding birds are protected by law, which means you need a licence to photograph them at or near the nest. Please check the schedules list in the link before you take any photographs.
If your bird is not legally protected, please still consider whether you really need to photograph it at its nest. You will always cause some disturbance to the bird, which may result in it deserting the nest. You might also draw attention to the nest, which will make the birds more vulnerable to predators. 

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Tues 25th June

I saw more damselflies round my garden pond on Bannerdown today than I have ever seen before  - at least 40 Common Blue Damselflies (including mating and ovipositing pairs), 2 Red Damselflies and a male Broad-bodied Chaser patrolling and hoping for a female to drop in. Here is a picture of the Chaser.
 Best wishes, Lis

Thanks Lis

Special Midsummer Discussion, ‘Invasive Species’, 25th June 2013

Thirty members and visitors attended this meeting, venturing indoors from the temptations of a fine, warm summer evening. Alan Rayner introduced and chaired the meeting by inviting participants to reflect on four basic issues: ‘what is invasive?’, ‘threat or promise?’, ‘what becomes of 'them' and 'us?' and to control or not to control?

Four invited speakers provided us with four very different examples to consider. Ben Fitch, from Wiltshire Wildlife Trust started us off with an informative account of New Zealand Pigmy Weed or Swamp Stonecrop (Crassula helmsii). This succulent plant has what is known as ‘crassulacean acid metabolism’, which enables it to absorb dissolved carbon dioxide very efficiently in aquatic or semi-aquatic habitats, forming dense growths that can smother other plants and be disseminated rapidly as small vegetative fragments. It was brought to Britain from Tasmania in 1911 as an ‘oxygenating plant’ for use in ponds, first recorded in the wild in an Essex pond in 1956, and is now widespread, especially in the south of England. Mention of possible control measures, including use of chemical herbicides, caused some rippling of raised eyebrows amongst the audience. Paul Rutter from Plantlife then provided an account – thoughtfully framed within the general context of ‘native’, ‘introduced’ and ‘invasive’ plants – of Spanish Bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica). This species, introduced as a garden plant, is threatening to replace or hybridize with our more slender, pendulous, fragrant and deeper blue native species (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), half of the world population of which grows in Britain. Next Remy Poland, from Clifton College, gave an exciting, informative and vibrantly illustrated account of the Harlequin ladybird, Harmonia axyridis. Described colourfully as ‘the ladybird that landed’ and ‘the most invasive ladybird on Earth’, this species arrived in Britain in summer 2004 and has indeed ‘spread like wildfire’ since then. Remy described how it ‘ticked all the boxes’ that make it ‘invasive’, a threat to the biodiversity of resident wildlife. But she also offered hope that resident parasitic wasps, mites and fungi were beginning to apply the brakes on its movement. Last but not least, our very own Mike Bailey rounded off with an informative and entertaining presentation about ‘invasive moths’. This included the remarkable horse-chestnut leaf-miner, Cameraria ohridella, first observed at Ohrid Lake in Macedonia in 1984 and first described as a new species in 1986, which has ‘hitch-hiked’ its way throughout Europe and was first found established in Britain in Wimbledon 2002. It is now widespread throughout most of southern England, the Midlands and East Anglia.

After a ten-minute break for conversation and refreshment, the ensuing discussion revealed the complexities of the issues that become apparent when the variability and dynamic organization of natural ecosystems are taken into account, making the effects of human intervention difficult to predict in the long run. It was also recognized that ill-considered and unwitting human interventions and introductions have played a significant
role in creating the circumstances in which certain kinds of organisms can spread cancerously, at the expense of rather than a way of enriching the diversity of  resident communities. There is always the possibility that what we then do to try to remedy the problem may have unexpected side-effects or worsen it, like the old lady who swallowed a fly. It was agreed that there is a need for close monitoring and greater public awareness of local biodiversity, and it was felt that local naturalist societies have an important role to play in this.

Alan Rayner

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Local Look magazine

As seen in the Local Look magazine.

                                                                   Many thanks to Alan Rayner

Saturday, 22 June 2013

slime moulds

For those who wondered where the slime moulds went to look at the attached pictures of our rotting garage door (rotting slowly from the lhs).  the black blob in the rhs corner below the bottom window can be seen to be a mass of black powder (spores).  The plasmodium has strolled from the rot through the unrotten wood to fruit on the rhs.  Species Amaurochaete atra.

click photos to enlarge

Common Broomrape (Orobanche minor) (I think) found on the railway Sustrans path at Midford.  Seemed to be growing on wild carrot. Thursday 20/06/13.

Thanks to Alan Feest

Friday, 21 June 2013

Ubley Warren on saturday.canceled

Dear All,
I have just been speaking to Nigel Milbourne, who was due to lead our field meeting at Ubley Warren on saturday.
Sadly we came to the conclusion that in view of the poor weather forecast for saturday, the exposed nature of the site and the delayed season, it will be best to CANCEL this meeting, and hope for better luck next year.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Birdsong Skills Improvement Group Updates

Although the ideal warm still air, favoured by Nightjars for display, was not predicted on the evening of Monday 17th June, I decided to visit Stockhill Plantation near Priddy on the scheduled date, in hopes of hearing and possibly seeing Nightjars. Tom Rogers joined Phillip and me and we walked up the slope to the plateau, where much thinning out had taken place and there were several huge timber log piles.

As we walked we listened to the birdsong of Chaffinch, Song Thrush, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff.  We watched a dog Fox scent marking down a grassy track. As we encounted quite strong wind on the hilltop, the likelihood of any “churring” Nightjars seemed very low and so we started walking back down to the road. When we reached the road at about 10.15pm, we heard” distant churring” on the other side of the road close to Fair Lady Well. Then as we walked back to the car park entrance we could also hear “churring of a second bird, probably due east of North Hill.  When we pulled in the lay-by near the large pool, no birds were calling. Conditions were still quite breezy. Certainly the site is worth a further visit in the next week or so on calm and warm evening (if we are lucky enough to get those conditions)!

 My previous bird song meeting at Wentwood, west of Chepstow, was more successful in that we heard and saw well our main target species, namely Wood Warbler and Tree Pipit.  We had a surprise while having a coffee break at about 9.30am at Cadiera Beeches car park when I picked up the song of a Firecrest! 

I hope everyone continues to listen, and learn, as bird song continues before it tails off at the end of the month and into July. There are now lots of calls from newly fledged youngsters and attentive parents.

The 2013 programme has now ended but I will again be running a short series of field workshops in 2014 between March and June. The Nats main field programme for 2014 will have bird song interest in a number of its meetings so I encourage you to attend those. 

Lucy Delve


17 June on Claverton Hill.

Spotted flycatcher

Photo taken morning 17 June 2013. We think it's a Small Waved Umber.

Thanks to Carole Catling

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Pewsey Downs Report

Sunday, 16th June 2013:
Pewsey Downs NNR (Leader: Tom Cairns)

On a damp grey morning, eight hardy souls gathered in the Natural England car-park that was surprisingly busy with both walkers and preparations for a horse-riders’ orienteering event.

As we walked up to the Wansdyke, a small flock of Linnets was observed in a Hawthorn bush together with a Yellow-hammer, bright against the darkening sky, whilst the sound of Skylarks above our heads deluded us into thinking that the weather might improve. It did not!

The Wansdyke, a 5th century boundary between two Saxon kingdoms, is particularly well-preserved here with its high earth-bank and deep ditch and we were able to walk along the top from which the distinctive ‘plum-pudding shape’ of the 6,000 year old Silbury Hill burial mound could be seen in the distance. As the drizzle started to thicken, bright yellow patches of Horseshoe Vetch and intense blue patches of Chalk Milkwort lightened the gloom as we continued to walk along the top of the earthwork.
A Meadow-pipit was seen and heard and a Buzzard flew overhead.

Forgoing the opportunity to make a long steep climb up the back of Milk Hill, we left the Wansdyke to join the Mid-Wilts Way at the top of the hill, stopping for a brief chat with the friendly local farmer whose arrival had disturbed a large Hare sitting in the field. He owned both the land and the native Wiltshire Horn sheep and young beef steers that provided the essential grazing for the wildlife-rich grassland of this National Nature Reserve. He enthusiastically told us that he had seen a Hoopoe on his land some time ago.

The patches of Horseshoe Vetch grew in size and number as we walked over to the south side of the hill where Kidney Vetch and Rock Rose added their contribution to the yellow palette as did the paler lemon hue of Mouse-eared Hawkweed. Many orchids should have been at their peak flowering but only a few emergent heads of Common Spotted Orchid were seen. Despite one week of warm sunny weather, the ‘season’ was still running nearly a month late.

As the rain set in, the wind got up and the temperature dropped, we unsurprisingly chose not to stop for lunch but were humbled by the sight of a party of not-so-young campers perched amidst some Gorse bushes on the brow of the hill and who were happily sitting in the rain drinking their tea and eating their sandwiches! Nearby, Swifts swooped low over the ground to catch what few insects were airborne.

Despite the inclement weather, we admired the increasing richness of the flora as we passed over the top of the Alton Barnes White Horse and onto Walkers’ Hill where Red Fescue took over from Upright Brome as the dominant grass in fields that were alive with colour. Wild Thyme and Rock Rose particularly favoured the old mole hills and, in amongst the yellow of Horseshoe and Kidney Vetch, we found individual spikes of Field Fleawort, a nationally rare plant that bears a single large daisy-like yellow flower.

As the car-park came into view, a brief respite from the rain allowed us to detour away from the path around the southern edge of the hill to a sunken Neolithic earth structure called ‘The Enclosure’ where local tribes gathered to feast after taking their livestock up into the hills for spring and summer grazing (transhumance). This less well known part of the reserve is significantly more sheltered and warmer than elsewhere and here at last we were able to see not only lots of emerging Common Spotted Orchids but also Fragrant Orchids and Lesser Butterfly Orchids including a fine specimen of the latter in full flower.

Because of the poor weather, we finished at 1pm, two hours earlier than planned, but had managed to see, experience and enjoy quite a lot of interest despite the rain.

Thank you Tom

I went up to Pewsey Downs again yesterday to get some of those photos that weren’t possible on Sunday . and the view coming back towards the White Horse. There were quite a few Adonis Blue Butterflies around yesterday as well but they wouldn’t stop long enough for me to photograph them!

click photos to enlarge

Burnt-tip Orchid

Lesser Butterfly-orchid
Chalk Milkwort

Regards Tom

Monday, 17 June 2013


Indoor Meeting
Tuesday 25th June: Special Midsummer Discussion: "Invasive Species"
(Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution, 16-18 Queen Square, Bath. BA1 2HN).
Doors open 7:00 for 7:30pm start.
Recent years have witnessed the arrival in Britain of a wide variety of formerly 'non-native' species, either 'under their own steam' or following deliberate or accidental introduction by people. The spread of such species arouses concern about their impact on resident wildlife, and how this should or should not be managed. Do 'invasive species' enrich or destroy resident communities and should they be encouraged, tolerated or controlled in some way? Opinions vary greatly. The aim of this special midsummer meeting is to enable members to discuss this controversial issue with a panel of ecologists, conservationists and environmental managers representing different viewpoints, and with respect to some specific illustrative examples.


Saturday 22nd June: UBLEY WARREN NATURE RESERVE, near Cheddar Gorge

Meet: 10.00 am. Park at roadside or behind nearby Charterhouse Centre. GR ST 503 554 Landranger 182/Explorer 141

Finish: 16.00

Focus: Grassland fauna and flora.

Description: We will explore the Somerset Wildlife Trust reserve, formerly owned by Bristol University, that forms part of the Cheddar SSSI complex. Lead mining was carried out at Charterhouse from pre-Roman times until the end of the 19th century and has had a significant impact on the area including the topography. The ground is uneven but we will walk gently around the large grassland looking at how mining created a mosaic of micro-habitats suitable for some special flora and fauna. Bring a packed lunch and something to drink.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

next trip


Meet: 10am Natural England car-park on brow of hill on south side of lane. GR SU 118 638 Landranger 173/Explorer 157 (Marlborough and Savernake Forest)
There is no bus service

Approx Finish: 3.00 pm

Focus: Exceptionally rich downland flora, insects and raptors. Important archaeology and spectacular views.

Description: A moderate walk of 5-7 km around Pewsey Downs NNR. Starting at the car-park, the walk will cross the road and up to the Wansdyke where it will follow the top of this well-preserved ancient earthwork before circling around and up Milk Hill (steep) before following the White horse Trail back across the top of the Alton Barnes White Horse past Walkers Hill to the car-park. The walk is gently undulating apart from the steep climb up the back of Milk Hill that can be left out if the weather is unfavourable. Carry a packed lunch. A joint meeting with Wiltshire Botanical Society.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Hawthorn Shieldbug

Found this one in the garden this evening.
The hawthorn shield bug, Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale, Its chief food is haws, the fruit of the hawthorn tree, but adults can overwinter on a diet of leaves, and individuals can be found on many potential food plants, including pedunculate oak, sessile oak and whitebeam.They may grow up to 17 mm long, and are camouflaged in shades of green and brown. Like many so-called "stink bugs", they may release unpleasant odours when disturbed.
A distinctive species, although confusion with the smaller and less elongate Birch Shieldbug E. interstinctus is possible. The lateral extensions of the pronotum are larger in A. haemorrhoidale, and are marked with red, while the scutellum is green and the abdomen frequently red-tipped.

Thursday, 13 June 2013



The date: Saturday 1st June 2013.

The time: 0430 hours.

The reason: your scribe had to get out of bed to go to the loo.

The problem: now he had to make a decision, whether to go back to bed or stay up?

The decision: to stay up.

So started my day for the Bath Nats Birdsong SIG trip to Wentwood.
After loading the car with what I needed for the day I made my way to Frankcom House. It was a sunny day with a slight chill wind as Di Nelson and I were chauffeured, by Phillip Delve, to South Wales.

On arrival at the Cadira Beeches car park we found three other Birdsong SIGers waiting for us. Whilst having a cup of coffee, a Tree Creeper was spotted on a tree adjacent to the car park. The bird songs we hoped to hear were those of the Wood Warbler, Tree Pipit, Redstart and Garden Warbler.

We started our search for Wood Warblers, which we heard but did not see. At another location we heard and saw Wood Warbler. On to our next bird, the Tree Pipit. On our way to find Tree Pipit a Firecrest was seen and heard by Lucy Delve, but then made itself scarce. Further on we heard and saw Tree Pipit, which led us merry dance by not staying in one place more than 30 seconds. An unusual find was some flying insects which Phillip Delve believed were Micro Moths. Consulting the literature they were identified as Adela reaumurella, One of the features of this moth is its antenna are 2 to 3 times the length of its body.

We failed to see or hear the two other birds on our list, namely Redstart and Garden Warbler, and as it was now midday we decided to move to the Newport Wetlands for lunch. While consuming our food, the feeders provided a views of the usual suspects, plus Great Spotted Woodpecker. On the walk round the reserve we came across a nest of caterpillars of the Lackey moth (picture attached).
Among the birds seen were Shelduck, Curlew, Whitethroat, Oystercatcher, Little Owl and a Cuckoo was heard. A goodly number of Southern Marsh Orchids were found (picture attached).

Moving to Gold Cliff, were we had to go down a track more suited to 4 wheel drive vehicles to get to the car park. We saw a variety of water birds, including Avocets and a solitary Dunlin. The Avocets seemed very agitated and would take to the air frequently. The source of this behaviour became apparent when a Buzzard was spotted with something in its talons.

All in all a very good day of nature watching and listening.

A big thank you to Dave Edwards


Dear Bath Nats,
As you may appreciate, I am keen for Bath Nats to help local communities and groups become aware of the biodiversity in their neighbourhood and to support them in their efforts to care for this diversity. One straightforward way in which we can BEGIN to do this is to provide them with species-lists of organisms inhabiting specific localities. [Recall the extensive recent study that Society Members have made at Lambridge, for example]
Earlier this year I was approached by the management team for Smallcombe Cemetery for help of this kind.
I have made a start by visiting the Cemetery for a couple of hours last wednesday and making a personal note of all the species I could identify (and perhaps mis-identify in some cases!) during a slow walk-around.
Click here for Full list I made.. You may notice some personal bias in what I recorded and didn't record! I would like to encourage others amongst you to visit the site and let me know in due course of anything I haven't spotted. I'm sure it wouldn't be difficult to double the number.
I am thinking also of including a 'Winter Bioblitz' at Smallcombe in our Field Programme this coming December.


Monday, 10 June 2013

Rose Chafer ( Cetonia aurata )

Found this Rose Chafer ( Cetonia aurata ) in the garden yesterday afternoon , what amazing colours.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Combe Down Moth trap

Caught in Paul Wilkins moth trap last night in Combe Down Bath. 7-06-2013     click photos to enlarge

Heart & Dart Agrotis exclamationis
Wingspan 30-40 mm.
One distinctive feature of this species is that it always has a black band across the front of the thorax, when viewed head-on.It is a common species throughout most of Britain, and flies from May to July, when it is readily attracted to light.
Various wild and garden plants make up the foodplants of the larvae.

Yellow-barred Brindle Acasis viretata
Wingspan 25-29 mm.
The English name of this species refers to the colour form normally found in the wild. When freshly emerged however, this species usually has a greenish colour, which does fade rapidly.
The moth is found in May and June, and in the southern part of its range, again in August and September.Occupying woodland, suburban habitats and scrubland, the species is widely distributed, though not often common in the southern half of Britain, and scarce in northern England and southern Scotland.
The larvae feed on the flowers and leaves of a variety of foodplants, including holly (Ilex) and Ivy (Hedera).

Unknown Noctuidae - Can you ID?
poss Rustic Shoulder-knot

Thanks Paul

Butterflies seen in the Bath area this week

Some butterflies seen in the Bath area this week, including one of the many Small Blues seen at Odd photos to enlarge
Marsh Fritillary Hazelbury Common

Common Blue Seen on Bannerdown transect
Mother Shipton moth Hazelbury Common

Marsh Fritillary Hazelbury (or if you prefer Wadswick) Common

Thanks to Geoff Hiscocks

Small Blues now flying

Small Blues now flying at Odd Down Park & Ride - this afternoon approx twelve between gate and first parking spaces on the left hand side.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Swift survey please help

RSPB Project Officer Stephen Fitt is hoping to extend the existing breeding Swift survey to include records from Bath and North East Somerset.

Recording our local swifts is a first step to conservation and well worth our members involvement. All that is needed is to record the location, date and Nos of swifts from known nesting sites and more obviously low flying screaming parties which indicate breeding populations.
The resident swifts on my local patch at Bathwick are displaying regularly at the moment. This is the time to be looking.

Phillip Delve

From Steve website editor, please help, just email And I will be happy to send you the form.

Thank you 

Monkton Farleigh Triangle Field trip

Wildlife of walls and waysides – ‘Monkton Farleigh Triangle’, 4th June 2013

Swifts screaming and scything through the air above the church tower, set against a clear blue sky in a quintessential English village in quintessential English countryside on a sparkling early summer’s day, greeted the arrival of seventeen members Bath Nats and Wiltshire Botanical Society. After leaders John Presland and Alan Rayner had described the intention of the meeting, we began with an intense scrutiny of the mortared stone wall opposite the church. We identified lichens which grow closely attached to he wall surface, including Aspicilia calcarea, Caloplaca flavescens, Diploicia canescens, Dirina massiliensis, Verrucaria baldensis and V. nigrescens; two ferns (maidenhair spleenwort and rusty-back fern) and a variety of flowering plants including ivy-leaved toadflax, wall pennywort, herb Robert and, rather remarkably, great mullein. Twenty minutes or so later, we started walking! We noticed Adria bellflower (Campanula portenschlagiana), a Slovenian mountain plant which has been cultivated in gardens and escaped on to walls and then rounded the first corner of the triangle to encounter our first true dry stone wall. Guided by John Presland, we were able to notice its very different succession ecology compared to the mortared wall. Along its top were luxuriant growths of mosses including   Homalothecium sericium, Syntrichia intermedia, Tortula muralis and Grimmia pulvinata, together with another lichen growing attached to the wall surface Aspicilia contorta and the strange dark brown outgrowths of the lichen, Collema auriforme and the lichen Cladonia pyxidata, which is separate from the wall surface and has upright funnel shaped structures which bear the spores. Mixed with flowering plants like biting stonecrop and shining cranesbill, the feel of a rock garden of colour and texture was palpable. Further along the road we encountered a patch of shady woodland, with two surprises in store, by way of green hellebore and goldilocks – indicators of ancient woodland. Next we turned the corner into the second side of the triangle – a straight, slightly uphill road through an avenue of beech, birch and ash trees, with wide verges of species-rich calcareous grassland vegetation. We noticed the dominance of two mosses, Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus and Pseudoscleropodium purum on some of the banks, then stopped to examine the distinctive lichens (Lecidella elaeochroma, Lecanora chlarotera, Physcia adscendens, Evernia prunastri, Parmelia spp.) and bryophytes (Cryphaea heteromalla, Orthotrichum affine) on an ash tree, following the pattern of moisture drainage down the trunk and branches. We walked the last side of the triangle, back down into the village quite fast, but paused to look at the distinctive liverwort, Porella platyphylla and mosses Anomodon viticulosus, Eurhynchium striatum, Brachythecium rutabulum on the shaded walls. All in all, the meeting served to illustrate well the wide variety of plant life especially that can be found – with a little knowledge of where to look, how to look and what to look for – alongside minor village and country roads almost anywhere around Bath.

John Presland &

Alan Rayner