Thursday, 13 March 2014

Trip Report 12 March Combe Hay

Wed 12 March   Combe Hay  (leaders Rod and Liz Thomas supported by Alan Rayner)

Photo left Candle snuff and Brachythecium

On a cold misty morning 18 people gathered at Rowley House in Combe Hay for a local walk. The president began by identifying some flourishing and extensive moss cover in the lawn-including pointed spear moss (Calliergonella cuspidata) and springy turf moss (Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus). Alan, encouraging people to use his hand lens (and showing photos from “the brick”, a heavy tome on mosses) was a huge help and indeed delight, throughout the walk.
We looked inside a beehive where most of the bees were clustered in the hive but a number of workers could be seen at the top, feeding on a block of fondant, a winter supplement occasionally needed. On the drive there were beautiful examples of some grey lichens growing on ash trees, in an elliptical pattern as the trees grow faster than the lichen (Lecidella elaeochroma and Arthonia radiata) (see photo). We also saw a mistle thrush from the drive and clearly heard its wild ringing spring song. There were more impressive examples of hanging tufts of lichens on a blackthorn (Ramalina farinacea and Evernia prunastri, or oak moss).
As we walked along the old railway line we saw flocks of redwings, heard several bird songs including song thrush, greenfinch, goldfinch and goldcrest. There were many more luxurious growths of mosses, such as the bonsai- like foxtail feather-moss (Thamnobryum alopecurum) and Tamarisk moss (Thuidium tamariscinum) ( Photo). Here there was also Candle snuff fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon), which had turned black, surrounded by rough-stalked feather-moss (Brachythecium rutabulum) with its pale tips (photo).
There were several spring flowers identified. In a number of sites, for example on the south facing cutting, there were the bright violet flowers of  early dog violet (Viola reichenbachia) and also white and violet flowers of sweet violet (V. odorata). On an old fence post at the side of the footpath there was a microcosm of nature with a collection of common pincushion mosses (Dicranoweisia cirrata) and Cladonia lichens, even more wonderful with a lens (see photo). One of us said it was magical and then made a quick correction – not magic but nature.  Alan reminded us of William Blake’s words: “But to the eyes of a man of imagination, nature is imagination itself “.
There was too much to list here, from a round mouth snail to the mandible of a fox and we heard a single hoot of a tawny owl. While crossing the stream at the hairpin bend of the Combe Hay locks, known as the Bull’s Nose, most people had a good view of a grey wagtail. In the beech wood, known as Engine Wood, there were more mosses including the uncommon squirrel tail moss (Leucodon sciuroides) (photo). Also we heard and saw more goldcrests flitting restlessly in the trees and ivy (in all 21 species of bird were identified).
As we returned we passed a beautiful multi-coloured gathering of turkey tail fungus (Trametes versicolor) on a stump at the bottom of the drive. Finally, as we approached the cars, the president confirmed what he had privately suspected. There was an extensive growth of squirrel tail moss on the drive; jokingly this area was declared an SSSI and therefore closed to vehicles!
Despite the low temperature, the morning seemed to be enjoyed by everyone.

                        Common pincushion and Cladonia          Lecidella and Arthonia

                                Squirrel-tail moss                                 Tamarisk moss

Thanks to Rod and Liz Thomas

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