Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Slime moulds 25/04/2016

 Three photographs of an extensive fruiting of a slime mould on the "shreddings" spread under some Alder trees outside Waitrose/Podium.  From a distance it looks lke some ashy deposit on the compost but closer observation shows they are massed sporangia from a plasmodium. They were probably originally one single cell!
The species is probably Physarim cinereum which fruits on the outside of my composting black bags.
By the way Siskins roost on the Alders every winter but as they become completely silent when going to roost no-one spots them!Hope this is of interest.

Thank you Alan F 

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Bird Song SIG trip to Ham Wall and Meare Heath

We had a good 4 hours listening and watching birds in this fantastic wetland habitat, mainly focussing on warblers. We enjoyed the deep, Basso Profundo “booming” male Bitterns and the delightful “trilling” call of Little Grebe. The high pitched “scream” of a newly arrived Swift was heard above the soft buzzing chatter of many Sand Martins. Reed Warblers delivered their rather monotonous continuous ditty while its relative the Sedge Warbler gave us an array of mimicry including “pink” notes of Chaffinch, a “swee…eep” of a Yellow Wagtail and the alarm note of a Blue Tit and joyful twitter of a Swallow. There were plenty of Blackcaps singing their fluty jumble of notes, staring somewhat hesitantly and then building up to a big finish. The poet, John Clare, referred to a Blackcap as the March Nightingale. Willow Warblers were dotted along our route from the car park to the first platform at Ham Wall, emitting their simply rather muted trickle of soft descending notes ending in a modest trill. A distant Cuckoo was heard very briefly.
In total contrast to the Willow Warbler, Cetti’s Warblers were blasting us with their outbursts at high volume. If you are caught unaware of the bird’s presence deep in cover only a foot or so away, the un-expected song almost knocks you of your feet! We were so lucky that one bird decided, very out of character, to sit in full view on a low bare branch for nearly three or so minutes and even burst into song for us to see. That was a real treat to us bird listeners! Another warbler kindly let us take a look at him, that was a Common Whitethroat who after some hopping about in a hawthorn, popped into a nice gap in the foliage to let us see him deliver his short, rather scratchy song.
We had good views of male Marsh Harriers and Great White Egrets in flight, but we unfortunately missed Bitterns displaying at Meare Heath by a couple of minutes. The surprise of the morning was flushing a Short-Eared Owl at Ham Wall when in pursuit of a singing Sedge Warbler. This reserve never disappoints in any season and the new hide overlooking the scrape at Meare Heath with views also behind overlooking the reed beds is now open!

Thank you Lucy Delve

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

10-4-2016 Trip report Limpley Stoke and Freshford,

Natural Neighbourhood Watch in Limpley Stoke and Freshford, Sunday 10th April 2016
Gathering outside the Church (Tom Harper)

A large turnout of about ten Bath Nats members and forty local residents gathered at St Mary’s Church for the start of this event under a mostly cloudy but dry sky. After a short introductory talk in which I described the purpose of these events to enhance awareness of local biodiversity and the lessons and pleasure it holds for us in appreciating and understanding recurrent patterns of life from small to large scales, we ventured into the churchyard to discover some examples of these for ourselves. Soon we were on our knees or standing up against the church walls, examining the rippling and branching patterns of lichens and bryophytes – which came as a surprise to many of us, and a pleasing reminder to others of what we can pass by daily without noticing. After taking turns to bounce on Springy Turf Moss (Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus), we then set out across fields, noticing the first flowering shoots of Bulbous Buttercup along the way. I pointed out the reflexed sepals that enable it to be distinguished from Meadow and Creeping Buttercups, without digging it up, and mentioned that it is a sign of a potentially species-rich meadow. Some wind-strewn ash twigs then provided opportunity for close examination of the ‘coral reefs’ of epiphytic lichens that can be found without need to travel to exotic locations.

So far, so good, but the main attraction of the day still awaited us – a huge 7-year-old, privately owned pond.
The owners, Jez and Heather, explained how and why it had been made, through their love of wildlife, and had already been found spontaneously by an abundance of animals and plants, including many fish, Common Sandpiper and a pair of Mandarin Ducks. As we walked around its perimeter, our attention was drawn especially by a large gathering of metallic blue beetles amongst the decaying remains of Bulrush, Yellow Flag, Greater Pond-sedge and Great Willowherb from last year’s growth. Glen Maddison and Janine Scarisbrick later identified these as a kind of Flea Beetle, Altica lythri, which feeds on Willowherb and can jump – as we noted – to considerable heights when disturbed.
 Flea Beetles (Glen Maddison)

Suitably impressed, we then made our way back along paths and across fields to the church, where tea and cake awaited and Andy Daw showed us the collection of ten different species of snails he had collected along the way. This included some tiny, yet fully grown Grass Snails, which Andy had gathered into a Sim card container.

Many thanks to our local organizers Freshford and Limpley Stoke Environment Group ( and to St Mary’s church for making the arrangements for what I think was a very successful meeting, enjoyed by all who attended it.

Alan Rayner

Thursday, 7 April 2016


Plenty of chiffchaffs in the steway lane area of Batheaston at the moment managed a photo of this one on the garden pond.

Steve Curtis

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Nice find at Combe down.

Willow Tit, Summer Lane, Combe Down, Bath 27-3-2016

Thanks to Paul Wilkins

Trip report River Chew Valley, Compton Dando 2nd April 2016

Twenty members gathered for this first walk from Compton Dando towards Chewton Keynsham in the River Chew Valley. The route had had to be carefully chosen due to the very muddy under-foot conditions after so much winter rain. A singing Chiffchaff entertained us before we set off and a a Dipper gave fleeting views to only a couple of the group as we crossed the river bridge. As the walk commenced several more Chiffchaffs were heard and seen together with common species such as Dunnock, Robin and Blackbird but eventually the first Willow Warbler of the year was spotted amongst the Chiffchaffs. This was quickly followed by a pair of Bullfinches, although they weren’t always easy to see in the dense cover. As we emerged into a more open area several stands of Lady’s Smock were in flower and some Primroses added to the early Spring colour.
The path then led us into a wooded section of the walk where Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits were seen and eventually a Blackcap was heard singing, although it too could be tricky to see as it was singing from thick cover.

Our Our group leaving the wooded area and climbing up for views over the valley.
As the sun broke through, there was plenty of bird song to listen to and Raven, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were all heard and seen, with the latter drumming down in the river-side willow trees. Buzzards were now up in good numbers with at least eight soaring on thermals, joined on a couple of occasions by a single Sparrowhawk and a Kestrel.
What we assumed to be a falconer’s bird caused a stir at one point, resembling a harrier with its white rump and long tail. However, due to its rather broad wings and chestnut upper-wing coverts, the consensus was that it was probably a Harris’s Hawk, although no-one was able to spot any jesses!
The return produced more of the same until a Siskin was at first heard and then seen extremely well in river-side vegetation. Being an adult male in Spring plumage, it was a very smart bird. The walk concluded with the Willow Warbler finally giving us some of its song and perhaps better views than on the outward journey and was probably joined by a second individual.
Although we did not record any butterflies on the walk, a lone male Brimstone was in the lane as I drove home towards the Two-headed Man from Compton Dando. Initial feed-back suggests that this might be a walk that we do again next year?

Chris Vines