Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Summer Nature Day Bath City Farm 21st June 2014

The day got off to a promising start as, whilst setting up the training room, an active mole-hill outside the window kept us on tenterhooks wishing that its creator would make an appearance. Unfortunately the newcomers and families we'd hoped to attract were not so eager to join us so, at 11.15, six Bath Nats members set out for a tour of the farm.

We were immediately distracted by a sparrowhawk - with prey - flying overhead amongst several screeching swifts, and as we passed along the top field with its fantastic view of Bath we briefly glimpsed a raven in the distance. As we escaped further from the bustle of the farm buildings the bird soundscape took shape in the form of house martins, chiff-chaffs, and a truly enormous flock of resident jackdaws.

The wooded areas of the farm revealed modest numbers of fungi and a particularly fine slime mould, cue for Alan F to fascinate us with their astoundingly complicated life-cycle. Further on, between fields, an amazingly gnarled and rotten willow tree, clad with ivy, turned out to be housing a nest of a newcomer to the UK - the tree bumblebee. Flowers in the fields were disappointingly scarce, with only isolated examples such as yellow meadow vetchling and bird's foot trefoil, but it was perfect timing for flowering grasses, which we collected diligently throughout the morning.

Laid out on the training room table, these 20 beautiful grass species provided ample resource for Alan R to inspire us with his insightful tips on identification as the afternoon got underway. With still no youngsters arriving we decided to forego the pond-dipping but indulge nonetheless in a little tree-bashing. The star species of the day was then found at the small pond in the farm allotments; a broad-bodied chaser who obligingly entertained us for some time, and abruptly upstaged the damselflies (azure and large red) that were abundant both here and at the large pond earlier in the day.

Also deserving of a mention were several butterflies including large skipper, meadow brown and speckled wood, and the wonderful examples of moth - from micro moth to elephant hawk moth - kindly brought in by Paul for our enjoyment.

Janine Scarisbrick

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