Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Blagdon Lake Trip Report

Sunday 14th Decmber 2014
Blagdon Lake; (Lead by Nigel Milbourne )

On this cool morning, fourteen of us met by the Dam at Blagdon Lake. Sheltered from a stiff southerly wind by the Mendip Hills, the lake was relatively calm, glinting under a grey sky.  Many water birds were visible, predominantly Coot and Tufted Ducks with the occasional Great Crested Grebe. Almost immediately we were finding less common birds on the lake. While scanning through a distant flock of Common and Black-headed Gulls, two Mediterranean Gulls were spotted briefly and seen by a lucky few. Despite a determined search and deploying several telescopes we were unable to relocate either gull. Then we spotted an immature Peregrine Falcon flying down the lake, putting up the gulls until these in turn began to mob the Peregrine!

Before moving our cars into the Bristol Water lodge car park, Nigel Milbourne our leader for the day, showed us inside the old “venturi house” to explain recent adaptations to promote bat conservation. Blagdon Lake has been found to provide significant habitat for several bat species, including the little studied Nathusius’ pipistrelle, which have been recorded advertising from the “venturi house”. Other bats using the building include Brown long-eared and Soprano pipistrelles. One significant feature of the “venturi house” is a deep pit below, providing cave like conditions for bat hibernation.

From the lodge we walked the metalled track along the south shore of the lake following various inlets.
A Black-necked Grebe with striking ruby red eyes has been wintering on the lake for some weeks. Locating the bird from approximately half way down the lake, we took some time for everyone to see the bird through a telescope before moving on.

In the fields flanking the lake, we saw Starlings and Redwings feeding on adjacent farmland, and with these just a few Fieldfares. A flock of Lapwings flew up the lake. In wooded sections there were the typical passerines including Goldcrest, Tree creepers and tit species, although many  were recognised by call rather than sight. At the eastern end of the lake we found wintering a Chiff-chaff.  This is the shallow end of the lake which is favoured by dabbling ducks, and we saw Gadwall, Shoveler  and Teal.  Here we also watched several Snipe fly up from the reed-bed.  Finally we visited the old fish hatchery, with inlet stream Mistletoe clad Poplar trees and bird feeders, before heading back to our cars along the lake.

List of birds recorded at the meeting:
Mallard, Teal, Shoveler, Wigeon, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Goldeneye, Ruddy Duck, Canada Goose, Barnacle Goose, Mute Swans, Grey Heron, Cormorants, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Coot, Moorhen, Water Rail, Lapwing, Snipe, Buzzard, Peregrine Falcon, Pheasant, Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gulls, Common Gulls, Mediterranean Gull, Wren, Robin, Dunnock, Reed Bunting, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Pied Wagtails, Grey Wagtail, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tits, Coal Tits, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Fieldfare, Redwings, Song Thrush, Starlings, Magpie, Jay, Crow, Ravens, Jackdaws, Goldcrest, Treecreeper, Chiffchaff, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker.

61 species recorded and of these 12 only heard.


Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Wood Mouse

 Picture of a Wood Mouse in my back garden on the peanut feeder, which I took on 5th Dec. this year.
Already sent the record to Nats as a 2014 mammal record, the last Wood Mouse I saw in my small Oldfield Park back garden  ( on the ground ) was a couple of years ago.
Thank you Geoff

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Marsh or willow tits on Bannerdown common ?

Hi all, has anyone seen Marsh or willow tits on Bannerdown common lately, if so will you please leave a message in the comments box below, thank you.

All the best Steve

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Next Trip

Sunday 14th December: BLAGDON LAKE

Friday, 5 December 2014


“I had a lucky sighting of an otter in the River Avon at about 11am on Sunday 30th November.
I simply stopped on the bridge, heading for the London Road, just to look for any Little Grebes or Moorhens in that patch and was amazed to see an otter swimming quite fast, its head clearly visible out of the water, and heading for the south bank (Kensington Meadow side). I saw it quite clearly without binoculars as it moved along toward the bridge, keeping very close to the bank. It soon dived and I waited for a few minutes, including looking over the other side of the bridge but there was no further sign of it.
My only other local sighting has been one in the river at Batheaston many years ago.
Lucy Delve 
Please could Nats members send me their written mammal records for 2014, by e-mail, with all necessary information, such as date, location and grid reference, by 12 January 2015”. 

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Trip Report

Twerton Roundhill and the Englishcombe valley

Saturday 22nd November 2014

Fifteen people turned up to Mount Road under threatening skies for this general
interest walk on the Southern edge of the city.

A short steep hike to the top of Roundhill got us off to an energetic start and
gave ample opportunity to savour the amazing panorama and view the valley
into which we would shortly descend. For many this was their first visit to the hill
and I implored them to visit again in the summer when the hilltop will be a rather
beautiful and diverse meadow. While some admired the hedgerows, heavily
laden with hawthorn berries and common lichens, a late active slow worm was
found on the adjacent grassy slope.

Heavy rain throughout the previous twenty-four hours had necessitated a change
of plan from the steep paths towards woodland as the clay terrain had become
treacherous, so we instead proceeded down to a lane-based route that afforded
some captivating views of the Englishcombe landscape and opportunities to
consider the history of the area as the industrious site of Ware’s Nurseries.

Notable species first began to appear as we passed between farm buildings on
the approach to a majestic avenue of hornbeam. Here, a large retaining wall
sheltered late-flowering clumps of the very local, introduced Crested Field-
speedwell (Veronica crista-galli) while a leopard slug languished on its stone
face. Birds became more noticeable with calls from mixed flocks of tits along with
goldfinches and goldcrests before attention turned to fungi as we entered the
avenue itself.
 by Glen Maddison

A photogenic example of Variable Oysterling (Crepidotus variabilis)
was admired along with the fragrant Soapy Knight (Tricholoma saponaceum) and
the ubiquitous candle snuff (Xylaria hypoxylon). Beside the stream were jelly ear
(Auricularia auricula-judae), Coprinellus domesticus and an unusual fossil
believed to be ancient corals. With time running out attention turned away from
nature to the challenging tromp back uphill to Whiteway Road, but in a final
flourish of interest some path-side wood chippings revealed the rare Redspored
Dapperling (Melanophylllum haematospermum) and a grass road verge some
fine Snowy Waxcaps (Hygrocybe virginea), while both a sparrowhawk and a
kestrel encouraged us back towards Roundhill before the rain returned.

Janine Scarisbrick

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Badger set at Southdown

There is a badger set in the lane at the back of my house (Southdown) Two moved in four years ago and had six pups the following spring. some of these have moved on but there are still a couple left and their parents. I am moving out soon and am a nit worried as to their wellbeing when I am gone. If any one would like to observe badgers at close quarters without trudging into the country, with guaranteed viewings, I could accommodate two at a time in my garage / office - I have made a video of four of the pups eating at my office door and put it onto You Tube if any of your members are interested. Badger Nuts 2 is the search term. I have uploaded a photo here too. Regards

Len Gunstone
Email :
Phone : 07976 715157

Another interesting visitor to the Botanical Gdns pond

Sunday 9th November
Waiting for Lunch at the Botanical Gdns

 Gordon Rich

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Trip Report Titchfield Haven Saturday 11 October 2014

Titchfield Haven National Nature Reserve, Hill Head, near Southampton

Led and written by Alan Barrett
Water Rail  by Tim Locke

Despite a shaky start to the day when the coach had to return to Radstock to pick up four
members who had been shocked to see it ‘sail’ past them at the Hotel, 32 of us set off in
glorious sunshine! The forecast for Titchfield was heavy rain showers all day! We
encountered our first, a very heavy one, just as we, and two more members, arrived! After
that, our only other one was at lunchtime, when some of us were in a hide and others were
sadly between hides! The rest of the day was warm and sunny.

The Titchfield Haven National Nature Reserve covers 369 acres of the Meon Valley. Apart
from the river running through it, it has a mosaic of fen, pools, reedbed and meadow,
managed by Hampshire County Council. It is part of the Chilling Coastal Area on the Solent over
1000 acres purchased by the Council in 1970 to secure areas of open countryside in an
increasingly developed part of the south coast. It is managed to achieve conservation
objectives and to enable the public to enjoy beautiful scenery and wildlife. This probably
provides more protection than would SSSI designation.

The reserve has a visitor centre with a shop, a picture gallery and tea rooms serving hot food,
drinks and home-made cakes. There are eight hides, conveniently four on east and west sides
to visit in the morning and afternoon respectively to have the sun behind you. In view of the
bad weather forecast, there were hardly any other visitors and no photographers taking two
seats each. So, we were able to have good views.

On the east side the Boardwalk Trail (1 mile return) passes mainly through wet woodland
with two ponds where water rails and voles can be seen, as well as warblers, tits and
goldcrests. Pig-like squeals of water rails were heard. A quiet version of the usually loud and
elusive Cetti’s warbler was heard, presumed to be by a juvenile learning the call. The east
hides look mainly over the Meon River, where kingfishers are most likely to be seen, as we
discovered. The north one of these, Knight Bank, looks over a meadow and a narrow strip of
river where stonechats and meadow pipits can be seen. A kestrel, sparrowhawk and buzzard
were spotted. Another hide, Suffern, had herring, common and black-headed gulls, gadwall,
little grebe, magpie and cormorant. A large flock of Canada geese flew past. The best of the
east hides, called Meadow, overlooks Duck Bay. It is a large newly-built hexagonal hide with
good windows all round and space in the middle for viewing with telescopes. Birds seen here
included stonechats, buzzard, green woodpecker, swallow, house martin, kingfisher, wren,
lapwing, starlings, moorhen, robin and barnacle geese. A Cetti’s warbler and a Jay were
Click Photos to enlarge
Lapwing by John Garrett
Cormorant by John Garrett
Little Eagret by John Garrett
Ruff Photo by John Garrett
The west hides are reached by walking along the promenade. The tide was now high, and
mallards and mute and black swans were on view. We had seen a flock of turnstones on the
beach when we arrived. There is a public viewing place on the roadside where waders, driven
in by the high tide, stand on rafts close by in the reserve. We saw only black headed gulls.
The highlight of this venture was a common lizard, spotted and photographed by Linda, as it
sat curled up on a branch of ivy on a wall. Then Helen spotted a wood mouse moving nearby.

From the road the Scrapes Trail (1.3 miles return) serves the west hides. After a short walk
there is a small platform to look over a reed bed for bearded tits. One was thought to have

been heard but not seen. 25 were recorded the previous week as they flew around the reserve
in family parties. The Meon Shore Hide, the best I think, overlooks several islands marked
with letters for ease of reference. Here we added ruff, great white and little egret close
together for comparison, teal, shoveller, black-tailed godwit, redshank, snipe, water rail,
photographed by Tim, many oystercatchers, moorhen, pochard and wigeon. We had close
views of many of these birds. During our recce, Gillian and I had even closer ones as the
water was a little lower. The highlight was seeing two snipes on the edge of a mud bank
fighting for several minutes providing time to photograph them. Two more hides added
avocet and greenshank. Over 40 bird species were recorded plus red admiral, speckled wood
and clouded yellow butterflies, a drone hoverfly, and migrant hawker and common darter
dragonflies. It was a most enjoyable day.

Thanks to Alan Barrett

Monday, 3 November 2014

Inwoods Trip Report

Fungus Foray at Inwoods, 1st November 2014

Ganoderma photo by Marion Rayner

This field meeting, during a quiet, dry, bright autumn interval between two overnight
spells of rain and wind, was, for me, amongst the most enjoyable and fruitful of this year.
I was greatly heartened by the turnout of around 35 people and the interest and pleasure
expressed to me by many. The fungi put on quite a good show too, having been quite
inhibited by the dry September!

Perhaps the convivial spirit of the meeting had something to do with the fact that several
participants arrived early, to enjoy the refreshment available at the Fox & Hounds,
Farleigh Wick. As we gathered in the car park, we were joined by Carol Whitehead, who
told us that her father-in-law, Dr Denis Whitehead, had sadly passed on earlier in the
week. But at least he had been at home, in the place he loved and whose wonderfully
diverse natural history he was so happy to share with individuals and groups who
appreciate it. We felt his welcoming influence with us as we were met by Judith, his
housekeeper, and guided by her through the beautiful gardens of Inwoods before entering
the woodland itself.

White Spindles photo by Marion Rayner
The garden lawns quickly rewarded us with some delightful and brightly coloured fungi:
Snowy Waxcap (Hygrocybe virginea), Persistent Waxcap (H.acutoconica), Yellow Club
(Clavulinopsis helvola), White Spindles (Clavaria fragilis), Collared Mosscup
(Rickenella swartzii) and Ivory Bonnet (Mycena flavoalba). Just before entering the
woodland, we found some specimens of Crab Brittlegill (Russula xerampelina) growing
in association with the roots of a birch tree, with which it forms ectomycorrhizal
partnerships, and were able to affirm its distinctive odour.

After such a display in the garden, the woodland seemed initially less fruitful, though we
did see some fine rich red-brown brackets of Oak Curtain Crust (Hymenochaete
rubiginosa) on decaying oak heartwood, and Glue Crust (Hymenochaete corrugate)
bonding Hazel branches together. Then, in the middle of the beautiful central glade, we
found some lovely salmon-apricot coloured specimens of Meadow Waxcap (Hygrocybe
pratensis) nestling amongst the short grass. Moving on to the part of the woodland in
which large beech trees occur, the number of fungal finds increased dramatically. These
Spiny Puffball photo by Tom Cairns
included two special finds: Spiny Puffball (Lycoperdon echinatum), which looks like a
baby hedgehog, and Felt Saddle (Helvella macropus) in which the saddle-shaped spore-
producing surface is held aloft by a stalk with a velvety covering. Finally we gathered
under a magnificent beech tree to observe the extensive network of mycelial cords
formed by Whitelaced Shank (Megacollybia platyphylla) that I once demonstrated in the
1980s on a BBC ‘Horizon’ programme called ‘The Britannic Greenhouse’. I like to think
of this as part of the legacy of Denis Whitehead and his kindness to me in those days.
Hymenochaete rubiginosa photo by John Presland
Helvella macropus photo by John Presland
Hygrocybe pratensis photo by John Presland

Then we ‘hot-footed’ it back to the Fox & Hounds, almost on schedule for 4 pm.

Alan Rayner

Monday, 27 October 2014

Autumn Nature Day, Dyrham Park

Report on ‘Autumn Nature Day’, Dyrham Park, 26th October 2014
Photograph by Marion Rayner

Photograph by Marion Rayner
Photograph by Marion Rayner

A mostly cloudy and breezy but dry, mild day brought around 15 Bath Nats and perhaps more than 100 members of the public to the Old Lodge in the heart of Dyrham Park to view our ‘Autumn Nature Day’ displays, and, in some cases, also to join us on our short discovery walks in the surrounding woodland and grassland. In addition to our regular poster display, were some real live gatherings of local fungi, bryophytes and lichens,  and some real dead gatherings of snail shells (provided by Andy Daw), old bird’s nests, badger skulls, and deer skulls and antlers (provided by the National Trust).  Death proved an instantaneous attraction, drawing in members of the public off all ages to observe our displays, before the varied forms, textures and colours of the living specimens caught the eye. Many of these specimens were labelled both in Latin and English, which made identification easier than might otherwise have been possible for some attendees. Some spectacular displays of fungi were on offer during the discovery walks, Including clusters of Shaggy Scalycap (Pholiota squarrosa) at the base of a beech tree, and some huge Parasol fungi (first observed through binoculars from around 200m away)and a group of Field Blewits Lepista saeva) out in the grassland. I was also surprised and delighted to see a beautiful little specimen of Fringed Polypore (Polyporus ciliatus) emerging from a fragment of buried wood in the middle of a grassy path. This species rarely fruits in autumn.                      
Parasol by John Garrett
Blewit  by John Garrett

Pholiota by John Garrett

Bird-life was quite sparse, but jays, buzzards, and greater-spotted woodpeckers added sound and movement to our experience, as did some excitable Fallow deer stags.

Stag by John Garrett
All in all, I felt this was a successful day in terms of its primary purpose to introduce members of the public to the variety of autumn wildlife and I am especially grateful to Marion Rayner, Martin Kirkby, Simon Potton, Lucy and Phillip Delve and Andy Daw for their assistance on the day as well as to Beth Taylor of the National Trust for making the day possible.

Alan Rayner

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Wrinkled Fieldcap - Agrocybe rivulosa 25/10/2014

Here are some photos of Wrinkled Fieldcap, Agrocybe rivulosa, growing on a pile of wood chippings resulting from the felling of a large beech tree in Dovers Lane, Bathford earlier this year. The speed with which the fungus has become established and produced fruit bodies is remarkable. The story of the initial discovery and subsequent widespread appearance of this fungus is also remarkable. It was first described as a species new to science by Marijke Naute from a site in the Netherlands in 2003. It was added to the British list in 2004 and has since been found all over the UK. The large, thin ring on the stem and wrinkled pale yellowish cap are very characteristic.        

          Warmest Alan 

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Trip Report Dyrham Park 15.10.14

A select group of hardy enthusiasts gathered at 11:00 am despite a threatening
weather forecast. Since it was high season for fungi we agreed to concentrate
on these despite the exceptionally dry September and the consequent
suppression of fruit body formation. We argued that recent rain will have
alleviated the suppression.

Almost before we had left the car park we found the most notable species of the
day: Schizophyllum commune (Splitgill)
on a piece of wood used to mark the
roadway. Although common in Europe and a subject of numerous laboratory
culture experiments this species is uncommon in the UK.

Wandering over the grassland to the North of the car park it became clear that
Bolbitius vitellina (Yellow Fieldcap) and Panaeolina foenisecii (Brown Mottlegill)
were widespread and it subsequently proved to be that all the grassland areas
we visited had a liberal scattering of these two species. Then we spotted a “black
lump” looking like a piece of charred wood and Alan (R) identified this as
Hygrocybe nigrescens (Blackening Waxcap), which, when mature, is black but
starts off as an orange-red colour. Waxcaps are indicators of fungal biodiversity-
rich meadows. Next was a lump of brown jelly which proved to be Auricularia
auricula-judae (Jelly Ear) which despite being in grass proved to be attached to a
piece of buried wood in the ground. A fungus with its ear to the ground!

Coming close to two Lime trees we started to record different species such as
Coprinopsis atramentaria (Common Inkcap, which contains a toxin with similar
effects to Antabuse and therefore should be avoided when drinking alcohol!);
Galerina graminea (Grass Bell) and Clitopilus prunulus (The Miller). These were
followed by the most spectacular find of the day, three large specimens of
Boletus luridus (Lurid Bolete),
which lives up to its name. This was clearly living
in ectomycorrhizal partnership with the Lime trees.

Entering the wood at the northern end of the site a range of wood-rotters were
found on the many lumps of timber lying around (Stereum hirsutum, Trametes
versicolor, Pseudotrametes gibbosa, Hypoxylon fragiforme and Auricularia
mesenterica)to be followed by a nice example of Inocybe geophylla var. lilacina
(Lilac Fibrecap), which, like all of the Inocybes, is poisonous. The next species
was a Mycena vitilis distinguished by the wiry tough stem which snaps audibly
when pulled. Whilst still in the wood we then found examples of T. mesenterica
(Yellow Brain) and Exidia thuretiana (White Brain) and a single specimen of
Mycena galopus (Milking Bonnet) confirmed by the broken stem producing a
white milky latex. Our records for this woodland finished with a collection of
wood-rotters: Lycoperdon pyriforme, Hymenochaete rubiginosa and Tyromyces

We now re-entered the grassland and encountered a minute developing
specimen of Agaricus campestris (Field Mushroom) followed by a perfect
photogenic specimen of Paneolus sphinctrinus (Toothed Mottlegill). A diversion
to the ‘Old Lodge’ was rewarded with a copious quantity of Coprinus cinereus

(Grey Inkcap) and Peziza vesiculosa (Blistered Cup)
on a load of hay bales set out
for children as a maze. Just outside this area on the south side were a number of
Beech trees on the base of one of which we found a large quantity of Pholiota
squarrosa (Shaggy Scalycap).

We then aimed for Pond Wood but were halted by a magical demonstration of
Fallow Deer rutting with the stags chasing around clashing antlers in complete
disregard of us; they were being followed by “flock” of hinds. Pond Wood was a
very interesting site for most things except fungi; lots of interesting Bryophytes
and for Alan (F) a specimen of young fruiting slime mould (Trichia varia). The
large circular pond in the middle was nearly 20 ft. below its overflow height,
following the dry September. It was used by the Blathwaytes as a boating lake
and probably as a source of ice for the ice house next to the pond (which one
could drop into if unaware!).

On time the first indications of rain made us hurry to our last site which was the
Whitefields a newly created wild flower meadow used for a biodiversity
assessment earlier in the year. We saw clearly that there was a high biodiversity
of meadow plants and just in time we found an area where there were numerous
specimens of young colourful Hygrocybe nigrescens . It remains to be seen if the
other biodiversity indicator meadow fungi follow this pioneer species.

Finally we looked under the trees in the car park to find liberal quantities of
saprophytic fungi on the thick covering mulch of wood chips; these included
Coprinus cinereus and Psathyrella conopilus
(Conical Brittlestem). The best
display of the day.

Discretion caused the day then to be abandoned due to rain exactly on 13:00 as
forecast. So ended a visit which, despite the unpromising conditions, yielded an
interesting sample of fungi.

Alan Feest

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus) Combe Down, Bath 17-10-2014

This is the largest Garden Spider I have ever encountered it's abdomen was about 15mm long and it's legs spanned approx. 40mm.

Paul Wilkins

Bath Time in the Botanical Gardens

Sunday 12th October Goldcrest  

Thanks to Gordon Rich

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

5th October 2014 Asham Wood Report

Bath Nats meeting at Asham Wood, Sunday 5th October 2014

A sunny but fresh autumn morning greeted a group of 10 of us as we gathered at
the entrance of Asham Wood. Our local leader, Stuart Reynolds, made some
introductory comments about this semi-ancient woodland and its history, which
included an unusually informative account of ticks, their life history and role in
the recent spread of Lyme disease. Undaunted, we made our way down the track
into the woodland, and were immediately rewarded with some fine fungal
specimens, growing on wood:
Dead Man’s Fingers (Xylaria polymorpha), King
Alfred’s Cakes (Daldinia concentrica), Waxy Crust (Vuilleminia comedens) and
Yellow Brain (Tremella mesenterica). These sightings proved a little deceptive,
however, in that not many more larger fungi were seen during the rest of the day –
perhaps partly a legacy of the dry September and partly due to the thin soil, lack
of leaf litter and predominance of Ash trees within the woodland. Our attention
was therefore drawn instead by the exuberance of Bryophytes (mosses and
liverworts) growing on trees and banks, especially in the humid valley bottom,
which had a primeval feel. Amongst those species pointed out were Tamarisk
Moss (Thuidium tamariscinum), Fox-tail Feather-moss (Thamnobryum
alopecurum), Common Striated Feather-moss (Eurhynchium striatum),
Catherine’s Moss (Atrichum undulatum), Crisped Neckera (Neckera crispa), Flat
Neckera (Neckera complanata), Blunt Feather-moss (Homalia trichomanoides)
and Wall Scalewort (Porella platyphylla). Amidst the moss covering on one old
tree, Rob Randall spotted an unusual frilly brown lichen, Leptogium lichenoides.
Rob was also on hand to identify some of the uncommon flowering plants in the
woodland, including Thin-spiked Wood Sedge (Carex strigosa),
Wood Vetch
Wood Vetch
(Vicia sylvatica) and – as only he could – the ‘Noble Bramble’ (Rubus
nobilissimus). Meanwhile, the ‘tic-tics’ of Great Spotted Woodpeckers were heard
everywhere as buzzards mewed and ravens croaked overhead and we were
entertained by the sunlit territorial dance of a pair of Red Admiral butterflies. All
in all, we enjoyed a delightful and varied autumn day amongst the diverse wildlife
of this special local woodland.
Complanate tassel
 Rob Randall explaining the ‘finer points’ of Rubus nobilissimus to Stuart Reynolds. 

Alan Rayner

Accompanying photos (by Marion Rayner):

13/09/14 Report of Trip to Chew Valley Lake

Looking More Closely at Chew Valley Lakeside Biodiversity

A select group of seven Bath Nats met at the café site and observed the Lake full
of fishermen and sailing dinghies. Just as well we were not targeting birds. We
visited the nearby woodland and immediately it became clear that the driest
September since 1960 was having its effect. Beech leaves were falling and the
black dry scallops along the edge indicated the effect of drought. Looking at the
crowns of the Beech trees they were obviously thinning. This did not bode well
for a visit aimed at the less popular and obvious elements of biodiversity namely
Lower Plants and Fungi. Nonetheless a walk through the trees around the two
public car parks did produce some fungi namely: Sepia Bolete (Boletus
porosporus), The Deceiver (Laccaria laccata), Lilac Fibrecap (Inocybe geophylla
var. lilacina), lots of Sulphur Tuft (Hypholoma fasciculare) and The Miller
(Clitopilus prunulus). We also found a freshly emerging specimen of Dyer’s
Mazegill (Phaeoleus schweinitzii) which is an uncommon pathogenic bracket
fungus on coniferous trees and checked out its spore-producing surface, without
picking it, using a dental mirror. Meanwhile, the nearby toilets yielded excellent
numbers of Small emerald moths (Hemistola chrysoprasia) attracted by the
permanently on lights (plus a Speckled Bush cricket)!

Alongside the lake we found plenty of Southern Aeshnas hawking for insects of
which there were a lot of Crane flies evident. Few birds were seen or heard but
as we headed towards the ‘Bittern Trail’ we started to get our eye in for the
Lower plants under Alan R’s care and found that some parts of the Bittern Trail
itself looked productive and so would be good use for our intended biodiversity
assessment in the afternoon, which we did during the afternoon, after a lunch
break. Here the crack willows were falling around drunkenly and indeed many of
their trunks were procumbent. They were thus excellent for observing the lower
plants and Fungi. Setting out our first sampling plot, and with Terry in charge of
the dog lead (!), we listed the species seen and counted the number of
individuals of the macrofungi. This turned out to be quite a lengthy business as
there was so much to see and immediate conclusion was that without this sort of
close study we would have missed a lot of the biodiversity. At the end of two
hours we had worked on four plots and decided this was enough for a first
M. pseudocorticolaa Photo by Alan Feest

estimate of the biodiversity.
es Fungi
Species richness
Simpsons evenness(population)
Simpsons evenness(biomass)
P. schweinitzii
Gyrodon lividus Photo by Alan Feest

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Trip Report

Saturday, 20th September 2014

Cleveland Lakes Reserve (Cotswold Water Park Trust)

Leaders: Ben Welbourn and Gareth Harris

Light drizzle greeted the eighteen assembled members, some of whom had driven
up in thick fog to get to the site which includes two of the largest man-made lakes in
the Cotswold Water Park. Visibility soon improved to leave a day that was dull in
terms of weather but far from dull in terms of natural history interest.

Managed by the Cotswolds Water Park Trust, Cleveland Lakes is the most important
site for breeding and passage water birds in the Water Park and Bath Nats were
privileged in being allowed to visit areas of the reserve not yet open to the public as
quarrying activities are only just coming to an end on part of the site.

The party entered the reserve along the permissive footpath where a thick hedge of
native scrub species served to provide cover for the birds in the reed-beds beyond
and also provide excellent habitat for small birds. In places, the scrub had been
augmented to encourage breeding Nightingales which are thriving in the Cotswold
Water Park, in sharp contrast to their national decline. Rare native Barberry bushes
had been planted along one stretch to provide habitat for the even rarer Barberry
Carpet Moth (Pareulype berberata). It is to be hoped that the important populations
of Lesser Horseshoe Bat that use the reserve favour other moth species!

We stopped at several breaks in the cover to observe the birds on the lake that
included breeding populations of Herons, Little Egrets and Great Crested Grebes,
the latter being busily engaged in their courtship activities. . Excellent views of the
birds on the lake were also had from the attractively designed bird-hide that had
sadly suffered some serious vandalism. Large numbers of Wigeon were seen.

Reed Buntings flitted in and out of the reed-swamp and a Cetti’s Warbler could be
heard singing loudly in the scrub. At one point,
Otter spraints were pointed out and
were clearly seen to contain the hard indigestible remains of the American Crayfish.

We then left the public area of the reserve to view the permanent shallow scrapes
where a sluice is used to manage water levels in late summer and autumn so as to
provide suitable conditions for feeding passage water birds and waders. A Hobby
was seen in the distance and a Ruff sat conveniently in our main field of vision
behind which were flocks of Lapwing and Gadwall. Several resident Herons patrolled
the area, putting up the other birds as they did so.

As we walked towards the active quarrying area (the site closed at lunchtime), an
invitation to walk through part of the reed-bed to flush up any Snipe present did not
produce results but some fine specimens of
Pale Gallingale (Cyperus eragrostis)
were noted. Entering the quarry area, we stopped to view the ‘moonscape’ of a large

empty pit that had only recently been dug out, its un-restored steep sides making it
both a safety hazard and of little value to wildlife. Restoration would involve re-
profiling the edges of the pit with waste from development sites to provide the gently
sloping contours that favour vegetation growth and provide suitable habitat for birds.

Before leaving the active quarry area, we passed between two pits where soil bunds

-erected on either side to prevent vehicles falling into the water – had created ideal
conditions for a rich variety of plants that favour disturbed ground. These included
Small Toadflax (Chaenorhinum minus), Red Goosefoot (Chenopodium rubrum),
Weld (Reseda luteola) and Wild Mignonette (Reseda lutea).
Blue Fleabane
(Erigeron acer) was also seen as we joined the footpath back. A Bullfinch provided
some final interest before we turned into the car-park for a vote of thanks to the
leaders for a most interesting and varied meeting.

Tom Cairns

Many thanks to Marion Rayner for the photos

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Wildlife Trackers

Queen bumblebees and autumn flowers

Sep 18, 2014 05:24 am | jellyhaus

It’s that time of year when there’s little else to interest me in the garden except queen bumblebees. These large, furry bees are the daughters of the founding queens of nests established in spring. The nest and founding queen, along with her workers and males are by now dead or dying; only the daughter queens remain, having mated with the males in summer.
Queen bumblebees are bigger than workers and males because they need to be robust. Not only do they hibernate over winter, but then they spend all spring and summer laying eggs. Most bumblebees live for only around six weeks, but queens are tough – many live for nine months. At this time of year, if they haven’t already gone into hibernation, they are stocking up on nectar to build up their fat reserves. Many then don’t eat anything at all for up to six months.
Buff tailed queen bumblebee
Buff tailed queen bumblebee
And so the queen bees I am seeing in gardens, parks and allotments now are feasting on the nectar of abelia, Verbena bonariensis, hebe, Japanes anemones, passion flower, ivy and fennel. Mostly they are buff-tailed bumblebees, Bombus terrestris, but I have also seen the queens of tree bumblebees, Bombus hypnorum, and red-tailed bumblebees, Bombus lapidarius.
I think one queen has found a nice hibernation spot in the bricks above my bedroom window. I have seen her going in and out on several occasions; presumably she’s not quite ready to go to sleep yet. Other hibernation sites include holes in the ground, compost heaps and piles of autumn leaves. As long as they remain dry and cool over winter, they have a good chance of survival.
We have a great range of bee hives and nesters if you want to go the extra mile of attracting larger numbers of bees.
When they wake up in spring they will be hungry. They need food and they need it fast. They need nectar to give them the energy to fly to find a nest, and then pollen to expand their ovaries so they can fertilise their eggs and start a new colony.
As early as February I’ve seen queen bumblebees clinging to unopened crocus flowers, willing them to open.
If you have a garden then please plant some crocuses for emerging queen bumblebees in spring. Other early spring bulbs for bees include snake’s head fritillary, snowdrop and grape hyacinth, while good later flowering species include allium and English bluebells. You could also plant some hellebores, lungwort and primroses. The huge bees you see feasting on the last of the summer flowers now are the same bees you’ll see crawling on the ground in spring. The more flowers we grow for them, the greater their chances of survival.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Saturday 30 August 2014: East Harptree Woods

 (Leaders: Helena Crouch and Rob Randall)

On a fine day, a party of seventeen assembled to explore East Harptree Woods.   The site is owned by the Forestry Commission and is a mixed plantation of coniferous and broad-leaved trees with areas of heathland and wide forest rides. The leaders explained the geology and history of mining and smelting activity which have created the mosaic of vegetation on the site, after which we set off along the main ride.  Slender Rush (Juncus tenuis) was pointed out: an American species, most often found on woodland rides, which appears to be increasing locally.  Coal Tit (Periparus ater), Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) and Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) were heard.  Forays were made into the woodland to admire the array of bryophytes, particularly Bank Haircap (Polytrichastrum formosum), Common Tamarisk-moss (Thuidium tamariscinum), Common Feather-moss (Kindbergia praelonga) and Waved Silk-moss (Plagiothecium undulatum).  Taking the small path through dense trees towards Smitham Chimney, many mycological stops were made.  We found False Chanterelle (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca), Bay Bolete (Boletus badius), Downy Milkcap (Lactarius pubescens) and the striking Yellow Stagshorn (Calocera viscosa).  Beside the path, a single fruiting spike of Broad-leaved Helleborine (Epipactis helleborine) was seen; more were found later, also fruiting spikes of Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) and probable hybrids between that species and Southern Marsh Orchid.

Approaching the pond, plants typical of heathland were seen: Purple Moor-grass (Molinia caerulea), Heather (Calluna vulgaris), Tormentil (Potentilla erecta) and Heath Bedstraw (Galium saxatile), with both Gorse (Ulex europaeus) and Western Gorse (Ulex gallii).  Passing the pond, we visited a nearby slag heap to see Sea Campion (Silene uniflora) growing in this unusual habitat, tolerating the heavy metal toxicity and benefitting from low competition of this lead-rich material.  A Spotted Fly-catcher (Muscicarpa striata) was seen from the vantage point of the spoil heap.

We returned past Smitham Chimney to stop by the pond for lunch.  Members were intrigued to see that the chimney (the only remaining part of an extensive Victorian smelting works) contains a vast pile of sticks, presumably dropped from above by nesting Jackdaws.  The pond vegetation is dominated by Water Horsetail (Equisetum fluviatile) and introduced White Water-lily (Nymphaea alba), with large patches of Bog Pondweed (Potamogeton polygonifolius).  Lunch was punctuated by the sightings of dragonflies and damselflies.  During the day we saw Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea), Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta), Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum), Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) and Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum).  Only four species of butterfly were seen all day: Green-veined White (Pieris napi), Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria), Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) and a Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas).

After lunch we took a detour from the track to look at a crumbling old wall, where further Sea Campion was seen.  More excitingly, at least a dozen Common Lizards (Lacerta vivipara) were spotted basking, one of them in the process of shedding its skin.  Harebells (Campanula rotundifolia) and Common Eyebright (Euphrasia nemorosa) were admired beside the path.  The next stop was an area of “gruffy” ground: uneven terrain with patches of bare soil due to high toxicity.  Lead Moss (Ditrichum plumbicola) was discovered here in 2009 by HJC (with Fred Rumsey), and she was able to find a small patch of tiny shoots, each about 5mm tall, for members to admire.  Lead Moss is only known from about 30 localities in Britain and is entirely restricted to lead-enriched sites.  A nearby colourful toadstool was perhaps more impressive: the False Saffron Milkcap (Lactarius deterrimus) produces orange latex and stains a deep orange when cut, with older flesh developing green blotches.  A colourful Carrion Beetle was also spotted here. 

Slow progress was made back along the main track, especially because of the abundance of interesting fungi.  Species seen included the Peppery Bolete (Chalciporus piperatus), Birch Bolete (Leccinum scabrum), Blusher (Amanita rubescens) and the much-prized edible Cep (Boletus edulis).  A particularly striking fungus was Coltsfoot Rust (Puccinia poarum) which causes orange spots on the leaves of its host.  On the undersides of the leaves, the spots appear to be collections of tiny goblets filled with gold.  The commonest fern in the wood was Broad Buckler-fern (Dryopteris dilatata), with Male-fern (D. dilatata), Golden-scaled Male-fern (D. affinis) and Lady-fern (Athyrium filix-femina) also seen occasionally, Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) frequent along the rides and Wall-rue (Asplenium ruta-muraria) and Polypody (Polypodium vulgare) seen on the wall.  A few Hard-ferns (Blechnum spicant) were discovered at the edge of a ditch – the first record for this area since pre-2000 so an excellent find.  Even more exciting was a single clump of Great Wood-rush (Luzula sylvatica) which appears to be a completely new record for the wood or indeed the surrounding area.  Returning to the start, we were delighted to hear Goldcrests (Regulus regulus) in the trees around us.  This walk took in a great range of natural history, with different members able to enthuse the others within their own realms of specialism.  It also demonstrated that there is always something new to be found, even at a much-visited site.


Saturday, 23 August 2014

Red Underwing moth (Catocala nupta)

I spotted this Red Underwing moth (Catocala nupta) on the wall of our house in Raglan Terrace, Fairfield Park, Bath. Unfortunately it had it's wings closed so I could only see a little of the red colour. I've never seen one before and there are no willow or poplar trees around here, not that I know of, so it must have flown up from the River Avon area. I was impressed by the size, it's huge ! Sorry the photo is not that clear as it was taken through glass, it was too high up on the wall to capture from the outside.

Rebecca Pascoe

Thanks for the post.

Sunday, 10th August 2014 Trip Report

Sunday, 10th August 2014 Natural Neighbourhood Watch
in Bathampton
Leader: Simon Potton

The main objective of this event was to get some local residents to come
along for a gentle walk and be introduced to some of the diversity and beauty
of nature within a short distance of their homes. We had a turnout of 7
members and 6 guests, the guests being people who live locally and were
mostly new to this kind of event. This was an encouraging number, given that
some would have been put off by reports that the remains of Hurricane
Bertha were hitting our area that day and others by the wet and windy
weather that had actually arrived. In fact the rain cleared away right on cue
and we enjoyed a wonderfully sunny and fresh afternoon.

We met in the car park of The George pub at Bathampton, where after
introductions and a short scene-setting talk by our President, Dr Alan Rayner,
the Natural Neighbourhood Watch got immediately under way. Alan pointed
out a host of flora within a few metres of where we had gathered, including
Prickly Oxtongue (Helminthotheca echioides), Swine cress, Dandelion, Willow
herb (Chamerion angustifolium), Ragwort and Hedge Mustard. From the car
park we crossed the road to the Churchyard, where we saw a rather fine
Southern Bracket fungus (Ganoderma australe) and the much smaller Coral
Spot fungus (Nectria cinnabarina), which was causing canker on the
Magnolia tree. We then shared lenses to get a close up view of mosses and
lichens growing on headstones. Alan pointed out the wave form visible when
we looked closely at the lichen Caloplaca flavescens. He explained that
lichens are formed through symbiosis of fungi and algae or blue-green
bacteria. As we walked on, we spotted some Creeping Cinquefoil (Potentilla
reptans) with its palmate leaves, growing on a grave (one that happens to
have ancestral significance for the Leader!).

We left the Churchyard and moved onto the canal towpath beside the hump
bridge. Here on the wall of the bridge we found Ivy Leaf Toadflax (Cymbalaria
muralis) with its snapdragon flowers and nearby, Hedge Mustard (Sisymbrium
officinale), Great Willowherb and Pineapple Weed (Matricaria discoidea) (we
sampled the latter’s strong fruity scent).

We proceeded at a gentle pace in the warm sunshine along the towpath in
the direction of Bath, and those more knowledgeable than I pointed out many
plants along the way - Hemp-agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum) growing in
a wall, Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) (which apparently the Romans used
for washing clothing - and it’s quite rare) and growing on or by the actual bank
of the canal, Burdock, Meadowsweet (some was in fruit), Lesser Pond Sedge,

Horseradish and Angelica. Some delicate wild flowers were to be found too Skullcap
(sprig with its tiny blue flowers was passed around), Orange Balsam
(Impatiens capensis) with its distinctive orange-coloured flower and
Gypsywort with attractive white flowers.

We were not focused purely on flora. Although birds seemed not too
much in evidence, Bill Bristow reported he had seen a Sparrowhawk,
and a little farther on some mysterious peeping from the hedgerow was
identified as a fledgling Wren. Some Purple Loosestrife (which is an
insect attractor) had drawn to it Honey bees and Common Carder bees
and nearby we saw a Speckled Wood butterfly. On a smaller scale,
the results of leaf miners’ excavations were observed. The tiny tunnels
we could see on leaves are caused by the larvae of micro moths -it
was explained that you can identify which type of moth by the host plant
and the shape of the tunnels visible on the surface of the leaf. The ones
we saw were on Burdock.

Progress was leisurely, as we stopped frequently to examine newly-
found specimens. From my brief conversation along the way with
guests from the village, they seemed to be enjoying the learning
experience and were surprised at the huge variety of life forms to be
seen in such a small area.

As we neared Candy’s Bridge over the canal, more flora was still
coming to light - Crab apple (Malus sylvestris) (growing on the inward
side of the towpath ), Great Burdock and Trifid Bur-marigold.

We crossed the canal by the bridge and turned back towards the
village, traversing a meadow. Thistle Rust (Rust fungus) (Puccinia
punctiformis) and Coltsfoot Rust were visible on their respective host
plants growing amongst the grass. We also found Himalayan Balsam
(Impatiens glandulifera). When we came across some Horse Chestnut
leaves, we could see on them the results of the Horse Chestnut Leaf
Miner micro moth (Cameraria ohridella). This moth was introduced to
the UK about 12 years ago. We were told that it hitchhikes around the
country (almost literally, as it gets aboard motor vehicles, travels in
them and then alights in a new spot!). Now blue tits have discovered it
as a new food source.

We made our way through the village back towards the canal, stopping
at the old stone water trough known as the Dog’s Head. The Dog’s
Head in question is the carved water spout through which a stream from
the Hampton Down above the village feeds the trough. Scented
Liverwort grows on the trough and we crossed the High Street to
examine it there. We had seen a number of plants whose name

includes ‘wort; and Bill had explained that this indicates it traditionally
had a use (e.g. medicinal).

And here our Nature watch officially ended. It had been a rich
experience and in observing, we had used most of our senses certainly
sight, smell, hearing, and touch. The ‘guests’ from the locality
seemed to have got a lot from the afternoon and I believe that everyone
enjoyed the walk. As Leader I am indebted to Alan Rayner and the
other members who came along for their help in pointing out what was
to be observed and providing a wealth of information, from which I
learned quite as much as our guests.

Simon Potton

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Jersey Tiger in the Bath Area

As Rob Randall suggested may happen in an earlier post, Chris Vines has found this Jersey Tiger in his Saltford garden.

Thanks for the post Chris

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Greater Dodder on Nettles at Bathford, Nr Bath 11-8-2014

This Greater Dodder was spotted by Alan Rayner growing on Nettles beside the public footpath between Bathampton Meadows and Bathford.
 Greater dodder (Cuscuta europaea) is an uncommon leafless parasitic plant that grows on a number of native plants

 The dodder’s seed germinates, forming an anchoring root, and then sends up a slender stem that grows in a spiral fashion until it reaches a host plant. It then twines around the stem of the host plant and throws out haustoria, which penetrate it. Water is drawn through the haustoria from the host plant’s stem and xylem, and nutriments are drawn from its phloem. Meanwhile, the root of the dodder rots away after stem contact has been made with a host plant. As the dodder grows, it sends out new haustoria and establishes itself very firmly on the host plant.