Sunday, 31 December 2017

6-12-2017 Box, Wilts trip.

 (Leader: Terry Doman).

Fifteen members joined the leader in the car park at the Selwin Hall, Box.  After a safety brief we proceeded to the adjacent 'Rock Circus', where the leader explained that it had been constructed as an educational structure for anyone who was interested in the geological history of this country.  The 'Rock Circus' comprised 8 waist high pieces of rock, equally spaced around in a circle of approximately 20 feet diameter.  An excellent display board explained the age of each piece and what part of our country they came from.  We then walked on to join the 'By Brook' where a beautiful male Bullfinch was seen and downstream of the bridge, and a Dipper was singing.  Richard Pooley pointed out evidence of Otter, a spraint dropping, on the bridge base.  As we walked on up-stream we saw Little Grebe, Little Egret, Grey Wagtail and Kestrel.  At Drewits Mill we crossed the stream on the bridge by a large mill pool and  started our return route downstream.  Alan Rayner discovered some interesting species of fungi on our way back.  The weather was good to us, dry but cold and 25 species of bird seen.

Terry Doman.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Membership subscription

Dear Members 

I am writing to remind you that the annual membership subscription is due in January. Single annual membership costs £8, joint £12 and student £4. 

There are three ways to pay: 

1) At the AGM on 6th January 

2) Send a cheque payable to Bath Natural History Society, to 12 Rowacres, Bath, BA2 2LH 

3) By bank transfer using sort code 20-05-06 account number 80142123 and add your name for the reference. 

Also, please consider setting up a standing order as this helps our society to run smoothly and efficiently. I have attached a form. 

Kind regards 

Alison Lang 
Membership secretary 

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Bath Natural History society programme January 2018

                     AGM - Saturday 6th January 2018
2pm for 2.15pm in the Elwin Room at the BRLSI

Meet: 10.00 am. Pulteney Weir, next to Beazer Maze adjacent to Bath Rugby Ground. GR ST 754648. Landranger 172/Explorer 155.
Finish:  13.00, possibly returning by bus from Newbridge Park and Ride
Focus: Urban and riverine wildlife in winter
Description: A level, 4-5 km walk along riverside paths.

Tuesday 16th January: Identification of Conifers: Paul Wilkins
 (Daytime Workshop in The Percy Hall, United Reform Church, Grove Street, Bath from 2pm to 4pm)

Although there are very few indigenous species of coniferous trees in Britain, there are a great many species that have been introduced from other parts of the world into our gardens, parks and forestry plantations, which have a significant influence on natural biodiversity. Paul will help us to learn to identify the species that we are likely to encounter most commonly within and around Bath. 

Saturday 27th January: PORTLAND/WEYMOUTH HARBOUR, Dorset. Joint RSPB/Bath Nats Coach Trip
Meet: Coach leaves Riverside/Ham Street Coach Park 08.00
Finish: Coach returns approx. 18.00
Focus: Target Birds should include overwintering Divers, Grebes, Brent Geese and wildfowl. Reed-bed birds including Bearded Reedling and Cetti’s warblers at Radipole, with waders and Marsh Harriers.
Description: Paths and shore-line tracks should be fairly easy going, but stout footwear and rain-proofs are essential. Warm winter clothing recommended.
Booking essential by coach booking form and pre-payment.

Study groups are also run by the Bath Natural History Society by and for its members.
The Study Groups are as follows: Biodiversity, Dragonfly, Grasshopper, Moths.
News Site: ; Website: Twitter: @Bathnats

Reg Charity No 1107468

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

18.11.2017 Midford Valley Meeting

Report on Bath Nats Field Meeting along the Midford Valley, Saturday 18th November 2017
Greeted by what is known as a mizzle, ten of us gathered in the first field at the top of the Midford Brook. The work to develop the 11 acre field owned by Avon and Tributaries Angling Association as a wildflower meadow has had to be put on hold while the Environment Agency completes the work on the measuring flume. Maurice outlined the concerns of the fishing club: agricultural run-off, erratic weather (rain patterns), concretisation of the river bed and the damage done by cattle to the riverbanks (known as cattle poaching).
The route took us down the river bank for about a mile, interspersed with a walk along the disused Limpley Stoke-Camerton branch, until we got to Monkton Combe, where we enjoyed our packed lunches in the churchyard. The return was on the Tucking Mill Road, beside the lake, and then back to Midford largely by the cycle path (the abandoned Somerset and Dorset Line). While Maurice drew our attention to the issues of riverside management, Alan Rayner pointed out the variety of fungi, bryophytes and vascular plants that could be found along the way. Amongst the more spectacular fungi were a prolific outgrowth of Purple Jellydisc (Ascocoryne sarcoides) along a recently cut Hazel pole, and some beautiful freshly forming Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) at the base of an old willow tree. Bird life was rather less in evidence than usual in this beautiful valley, but we were entertained by a Heron wheeling around in the gloom and the busy probing of Wrens amongst the riverside vegetation. All present agreed that it had been a very informative and enjoyable meeting, notwithstanding the damp and overcast weather.
Maurice Tennenhaus and Alan Rayner

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Bath Naturewatch facebook group

Just started a new Bath Naturewatch facebook group,for anything wildlife related within about 7 miles of Bath abbey,if your interested in any local wildlife please join up.

Monday, 30 October 2017


Frills, Spills and Crossbills in Alfred’s Tower Woodlands. 
A group of 17 of us gathered in the National Trust car park near Alfred’s Tower on what was to turn out to be a very pleasant, mild and often sunlit October day, with much to see and appreciate in varied habitats very different from what we’re used to around Bath.
Our first port of call along the track leading down from the car park entrance was a series of log piles  where, during our recce ten days previously, Marion and I had come across a frilly brown and white bracket fungus that I had only found once before – in Jersey, in April – but not been able to identify. After following some false trails, this eventually proved to be Laxitextum bicolor, a species that until recent years had been very seldom recorded in Britain. This is apparently the first record for south-west England. We found plenty of other fungi adorning the logs: Slimy Scalycaps, Turkeytails, Hairy Curtain Crusts, Bleeding Oak Crusts, Purple Jellydiscs etc, but, no Laxitextum. Puzzled, I returned a short while later and did manage to find some patches of the fungus, but not where we’d previously seen it growing abundantly. Apparently the log pile where we’d seen it had been removed following our recce! Such is the way of managed woodlands.
No matter, our party continued downhill before turning east along the path towards Convent Bottom. As we did so, Lucy Delve alerted us to the chattering parties of up to twenty Crossbills that were to accompany us for much of the day, at one stage settling in the top of a tree for all of us to see. Other notable species included Bullfinch, Redwing, Raven, Buzzard, Marsh Tit (heard), Great Spotted Woodpecker, Siskin, and a single flyover Redpoll.
As we made our way along the path Marion and I pointed out a variety of the bryophytes, lichens and fungi that could be found in the interwoven dry and wet habitats formed as water percolates and spills from greensand ridges into soggy valley bottoms. At Convent Bottom, our attention was briefly diverted by the mysterious water wheel in the woods, which 
Terry Doman explained to us in his inimitable way, as water spilled from a pipe onto its rotating receptive surfaces. Then we ventured down into the beautiful wet woodland habitat, abounding with mossy textures, and encountered the very lovely fluffy flow-forms of the Handsome Woollywort (Trichocolea tomentella), a liverwort with extremely divided leaves. All that now remained for us was to climb slowly back uphill after a richly varied and rewarding day.

Hairy Curtain Crust (Stereum hirsutum) [John Garrett]
. Handsome Woollywort (Trichocolea tomentella) [Marion Rayner]

Candlesnuff Fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon) [John Garrett]
Laxitextum bicolor  [Marion Rayner]

Alan Rayner

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

4.10.2017 Corsham Park walk

Corsham Park walk with Bath Nats. Wednesday 4th October 2017

Early arrivals reported Bullfinches by Lacock Road car park, where 
15 Nats members met to walk the Corsham Court parkland. We entered the park directly across the road, emerging through boundary trees into open parkland, pasture, freestanding oak trees and the lake ahead. On the lake there were: 2 Great crested grebes, 120 Canada geese, 6 Mallard, 10 Black headed gulls, Herring and Lesser black backed gulls, a Grey heron flew overhead.  Beyond the lake were 3 Cormorants on a dead tree. At the west end of the lake, we stopped to examine some cup and bracket fungi on an oak stump as well as Silk Button Spangle galls and Marble galls growing on an oak close by. We then headed north, on the permissive path through the park, following a hedge-line bearing an impressive crop of Hawthorn berries. A Song Thrush and Wren were seen briefly along the overgrown ditch by the hedge. Greenfinches flew overhead. Beyond the hedge we spotted the first of three Green woodpeckers and enjoyed telescope views of a Nuthatch using a hole in the trunk of oak tree.

Continuing northward we passed through woodland, to parkland beyond. Here we spotted another green woodpecker, but few other birds. However we did find a variety of fungi under an oak tree here. Alan Rayner provided help identifying several of these including, Rosy Bonnet, Lilac Fibrecap, Fool’s Funnel, Common Cavalier, Red Cracking Oak Bolete, Pleated Inkcap, Fairy Inkcap and Parasol mushroom. Later we saw some Waxcaps and Golden Spindles on short grass sward as we retraced part of our route, before heading on though the church yard to Corsham high street. From the south end of The High Street we re-entered the park; returning
to our cars along the tree lined south side of park. Trees here included Limes and  brown leaved Horse chestnut trees.  Thus ending a pleasant walk, though this historic landscape. 

Phillip Delve

Thursday, 28 September 2017

27-9-2017 Greyfield Wood

Scarlet Berry Truffle and Other Exciting Fungal Finds at Greyfield Wood, 27th September 2017

Ten of us gathered for this meeting in hazy, mild dry and calm conditions. We were in for even more of a fungal treat than in 2016, with around 70 species being recorded in the morning, including several notable finds. First we explored the western part of the wood. As in 2016, this was very species-rich, making our progress slow but rewarding. Some of the more notable finds included: two large groups of Sinuous Chanterelles (Pseudocraterellus undulatus); an outcrop of Jelly Tooth (Pseudohydnum gelatinosum) on a conifer stump, a large specimen of Dyer’s Mazegill (Phaeolus schweinitzii) on another stump; a large group of Beige Coral (Clavulinopsis umbrinella); several Poplar Brackets (Oxyporus populinus) on a sycamore trunk; tiers of Antrodia xantha on the cut end of a conifer log; a splendid array of Yellowing Curtain Crust (Stereum subtomentosum) on a log and several Stinkhorns (Phallus impudicus) at various stages of eruption, disruption and fly coverage. But then, as we approached the main path through the wood, Alice Nissen pointed to something red protruding through the ground, which I had superficially dismissed from a distance as a squashed yew berry! Closer inspection revealed it to be a kind of truffle, but not one I had ever seen before. Some on-the-spot internet searching by Chris Hargreaves quickly revealed it to be Scarlet Berry Truffle (Paurocotylis pila), and further searching of the area revealed another ten or so specimens. Apparently it is an immigrant from New Zealand, where it is said to imitate the fruits of Podocarpus trees and get eaten by large birds. There have been fewer than 40 records in the UK, only three of which are in Southern England (two in Sussex, one in Devon).  
Alan Rayner

  Red Berry Truffle on the ground (Karen Tesson)

Red Berry Truffle in Alan Rayner’s hands after cutting open to reveal convoluted internal spore-producing surface (John Nissen)

                                  Sinuous Chanterelle (Karen Tesson)

                                             Tiers of Antrodia xantha (Karen Tesson)

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

17/09/17 Dolebury Warren

led by Alan Feest

We gathered as a small group in the small car park at the foot of Dolebury Warren on a misty morning and I explained the nature of the site and the intention to look for CHEGs (Clavaria, Hygrocybe, Entoloma, Galerina) species, which are characteristic of nutrient poor grassland and therefore threatened in today’s polluted countryside.  If enough CHEG species are recorded from a site it may be classified as an SSSI.  Such is the case for Dolebury Warren (along with many other features) and between 1999- and 2004 Justin Smith and I carried out a full assessment of the CHEG status of three areas on the Warren.  We were therefore looking for CHEGs (and anything else!).
As often happens the first interesting species  was identified by Alan Rayner (Phlebia tremelosa, Jelly Rot), which was found on a stump in the car park. Then, when nearing the top  of 150 steps up the hill out of the trees into rough grassland, we encountered the Ascomycete Helvella crispa (White Saddle) and our first CHEG (Hygrocybe conica).
Reaching the first ramparts of the Iron Age fort , we were immediately struck by the huge human effort of creating such a huge structure with nothing more technical than a deer’s antler. Moving into the first area of the fort, a huge number of ant nests came into view, a rare sight in the British countryside due to ploughing. It seemed that we were too early for the bulk of the CHEGs and most of the fungi we encountered were coprophiles, growing on cow and sheep dung, notably species of Coprinopsis and Panaeolus.
Looking at the water runs down the scattered Oak trees proved to be interesting since not only was this the habitat of some interesting bryophytes but also of the bryophilous fungi, Mycena pseudocorticola and M. hiemalis, which are not often recorded by mycologists with their eyes on the ground!. These were also abundant in nearby woodland, where the leaf litter was extensively colonized by troops of Marasmius  rotula.
Back in the open we continued to record Galerinas,  Psathyrellas and Lycoperdons  then finally another beautiful Hygrocybe (possibly H. chlorophana). We continued to find scattered fruit bodies of other common species (Rickenella swartzii, Bovista nigrescens) and then a single spike of “Golden spindles” (Clavulinopsis fusiformis). 
We moved to the highest point and had spectacular views of the estuary and Wales and were struck by the black patches of the Photo-voltaic “farms”. After lunch in a sheltered spot we continued into the large inner part of the fort and continued to find numerous coprophiles and spotted some Speckled Wood butterflies flying in the sunny shelter against the wood. After finding some specimens of  Slender Parasol (Macrolepiota mastoidea) and Pestle Puffball (Lycoperdon excipuliformis), we realized our finish time was approaching and so hastily retraced our steps across the Warren and down through the wooded hillside towards the car park. Along the way we saw a Small Heath butterfly, a colony of Entolomas (probably E. serratulum) and then the rarity of the day, Orange Coral (Ramariopsis crocea) as a group of branched yellow fingers poking up through leaf litter (thus completing the CHEG list).  Having scared off a Roe Deer we were left to extricate our cars from the car park.

Alan Feest

Monday, 11 September 2017

11/09/2017 - 09:36 Otter sighting

I watched an Otter in the River Avon from about 10.55-11.10am on Sunday 10 September”. My first sighting in the city centre!  The animal kept close to the far bank and within the bank-side vegetation. It was actively hunting for food. It dived a few times and I was able to follow its trail of bubbles, before its head emerged again. It continued swimming down the river and I eventually lost its trail when I was down by Spring Gardens”.

Thanks Lucy

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

19-8-2017 East Woodlands Bath Nats meeting

Fabulous Fungi at East Woodlands, Bath Nats meeting on Saturday 19th August 2017
East Woodlands Amethyst

A group of sixteen of us gathered under the magnificent veteran oak trees outside East Woodlands Church on a morning that began coolly but became increasingly warm and sunny towards lunchtime. We had a real fungal treat awaiting us!

We began by examining the undersides of some of the oak tree leaves, where several specimens of the spider, Paidiscura pallens, were present, along with their extraordinary spiky white egg cases. Emerging from the ground beneath the oak trees were fruit bodies of a variety of fungi that form ectomycorrhizal partnerships with the tree roots. These included a Death Cap (Amanita phalloides), unfortunately decapitated by recent grass-mowing, numerous Scaly Earthballs (Scleroderma verrucosum), a White Saddle (Helvella crispa), some Xerocomus cisalpinus boletes, Rosy Brittlegill (Russula rosea; formerly known as R.lepida) and Sepia Brittlegill (Russula sororia). A bracket of Beefsteak Fungus (Fistulina hepatica) was also present on one of the trees.

Thus alerted to the possibility of fungal abundance, we made our way quite rapidly along the byway towards the beech-wooded Roddenbury Hill, stopping briefly to examine specimens of Russet Toughshank (Collybia dryophila), Clustered Toughshank (Collybia confluens), Brown Rollrim (Paxillus involutus) and Redlead Roundhead (Leratiomyces ceres). At the base of the hill we examined some strong growths of Bank Haircap moss (Polytrichastrum formosum) and Rob Randall showed us some low-spreading plants of the bramble, Rubus arrhenii, with its sour-flavoured fruits. This species is confined in Britain to the Greensand on the Somerset/Wilts border and the peat moors at Shapwick and Catcott. But from then on, the fungi stole the show. Climbing uphill we soon came across a fine group of Chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius), which were quickly followed by a large number and variety of other species including Ceps (Boletus edulis), Amethyst Deceivers (Laccaria amethystina), Beechwood Sickeners (Russula nobilis, formerly R. mairei), Ochre Brittlegills (Russula ochroleuca), Grey-spotted Amanita (Amanita excelsa) and the uncommon Dappled Webcap (Cortinarius bolaris).

As if that wasn’t enough, having rounded Roddenbury Hill, we decided to take the path downwards into the very different wet woodland habitat of Lower Woods. Here we came across two large outcrops of perhaps our most exciting find of the day, a deep pink jelly fungus called Salmon Salad (Guepinia helvelloides). But that was not all. Further downhill, under pine trees, we encountered a group of Saffron Milkcaps (Lactarius deliciosus), then, in wet oak and birch woodland we came across some magnificent Scarlet Brittlegills (Russula pseudointegra) along with several other uncommon and beautiful fungi, as well as the slime mould Tubifera ferruginea. A return visit 
East Woodlands Bramble
East Woodlands Chanterelles

 Dappled webcap 

Scarlet Brittlegill

Alan Rayner and Rob Randall

Photographs (By Terry Doman):

Guepinia helvelloides

Russula pseudointegra

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

9.8.2017 Bathampton Down meeting.

Great Mullein
Just four of us gathered for this meeting on a damp but by no means impossibly wet morning. After slowly climbing up the short, steep hillside from North Road, we entered the deep dark woodland along the skyline path beside Bathampton Warren and enjoyed the abundance of shade-loving plants growing there, which included a head-high outburst of Scaly Male-fern (Dryopteris affinis)  as well as a variety of common bryophytes. Amongst several wood-inhabiting fungi present were some groups of Dead Man’s Fingers (Xylaria polymorpha) and a pair of Velvet Shields (Pluteus umbrosus). Emerging out of the woodland into calcareous grassland we stopped to inspect and identify the numerous lichens and bryophytes growing at a convenient height on an overhanging tree branch. Close examination of an ant-mound near the TV masts revealed a few shoots of the uncommon Rose-moss (Rhodobryum roseum) which is characteristic of this habitat. Walking across the grassland towards Bathampton Wood, we enjoyed the fine displays of numerous Woolly Thistles (Cirsium eriophorum)  in full flower, even though these lacked the abundance of attendant bees and butterflies that would have been present in sunnier conditions. On the golf course, we came across a pile of sawdust on which troops of Grey Ink-caps (Coprinopsis cinerea) were fruiting, surrounded by cut logs inhabited by several bracket and crust fungi including the uncommon Splitgill (Schizophyllum commune). Descending the hillside back towards Sham Castle we came across a fine patch of species-rich grassland with abundant Small Scabious (Scabiosa columbaria) and Spiny Restharrow (Ononis spinosa), and at the top of the clearance just below the folly were some fine plants of Great Mullein (Verbascum Thapsus).  Overall this was an enjoyable multi-interest circular walk with excellent views.


Sham Castle scaly male fern                            sham castle spiny restharrow

Alan and Marion Rayner

Photographs (by Marion Rayner)
Scaly Male-fern
Spiny Restharrow
Great Mullein

Saturday, 29 July 2017

25-7-2017 Hazelbury/Wadswick Common (& Bannerdown)

A couple of images of some male, Six Belted Clearwing moths attracted to a pheromone lure, this Tuesday, July 25th with Geoff Hiscocks and Richard Pooley. A minimum of 5 were attracted, probably at least seven. (Attracted them at both sites in 2015), I’m grateful to Paul Wilkins who kindly passed me the lure. Also a Painted Lady there. (3 Painted Lady seen at Bannerdown earlier in the day, also with Geoff).

Best wishes,
Chris Woods

13-7-2017 Hollow Marsh Meadow and Chewton Wood

On a warm summer’s day, eight members met in Farrington Gurney for a visit to Hollow Marsh Meadow. As we walked down Pitway Lane, we saw Goldfinches and Swallows and heard a Yellowhammer.  Six species of butterfly were spotted in the lane: Red Admiral, Large White, Gatekeeper, Small Copper, Meadow Brown and Ringlet.  In the ditch along the edge of a field, a stand of Greater Pond-sedge (Carex riparia) was seen, and a leaf collected for comparative purposes later.

Hollow Marsh Meadow is a Somerset Wildlife Trust reserve and part of Long Dole Wood and Meadows SSSI.  It is an example of unimproved neutral grassland, maintained by grazing, although there was no evidence of grazing so far this year.  Betony (Betonica officinalis) was flowering profusely, with Devil’s-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis) just coming out.  Many different species of grass were found in flower, and we soon added Marbled White, Small Skipper and Green-veined White to our list of butterflies.  A ditch crosses the meadow, where we saw Purple Loostrife (Lythrum salicaria), Fool’s Watercress (Apium nodiflorum) and Brooklime (Veronica beccabunga).  A large stand of Lesser Pond-sedge (Carex acutiformis) was examined, and the ligule compared with of the leaf from C. riparia.  A patch of Dyer’s Greenweed (Genista tinctoria) in full flower was admired and a few plants of Saw-wort (Serratula tinctoria) were found.  The western end of Hollow Marsh Meadow is clearly more acidic, supporting Purple Moor-grass (Molinia caerulea) and much Tormentil (Potentilla erecta).  We found a single plant of Sneezewort (Achillea ptarmica) and many more leaves of Saw-wort.

The adjacent field, Long Dole Meadow, is part of the SSSI and is maintained as a species-rich hay meadow.  It is a stunning sight, purple with Knapweed, Devil’s-bit Scabious and Betony: it was thus disappointing to find that it had already been cut for hay, probably the previous day!  A remaining corner indicated just how attractive it had been and here we added Silver-washed Fritillary, Peacock, Comma and Speckled Wood to our butterfly list.

After lunch, we set off to explore Chewton Wood.  Along the main ride, stunning patches of Wood Vetch (Vicia sylvatica) were seen.  The rides are maintained with wide verges, providing a diversity of flowers to encourage insects.  We saw ten species of butterfly along the main ride, adding Brimstone and Holly Blue to our list, as well as Scarlet Tiger Moth.  Pausing at a junction we watched a family of four busy little Wrens.  A mycological diversion was provided by a patch of grass found to be suffering from Choke: white mycelial collars which form around the tillers, later turning orange as they produce spores.  A whitethroat was singing as we left the wood.  Returning along Pitway Lane, we added a Small Tortoiseshell to our butterfly list, taking the total to 16 species plus Scarlet Tiger Moths.


Sunday, 16 July 2017

22-7-2017 BANNERDOWN COMMON, Batheaston


Female Silver Washed Frit

Mating Small Coppers
Brown Argus, showing ID pointers on underwing

Photos,Thanks to GEOFF HISCOCKS

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

7-11-2017 Chris Woods post.

A pair of Scarlet Tiger, that I thought were colourful in the garden from the 27th June (this year). They seem to do well here in Thickwood, I’ve had them in the garden every year for a good ten years now. 

 Social pear sawfly - Neurotoma saltuum at Hazelbury  June 26th .

Thanks for the Post Chris

Friday, 7 July 2017

1-7-2017 National Meadows Day

National Meadows Day at Midford.

On the morning of a day that started cloudy and became increasingly sunny and warm, Rob Randall, Terry Doman and Alan and Marion gathered together in ‘the garages field’, a brook-side meadow owned by the Avon and Tributaries Angling Association (ATAA). The ATAA are intending to develop this meadow into a nature reserve, with the help of information about its biodiversity supplied by members of Bath Natural History Society’s Biodiversity Study Group. Earlier in the year we had made a baseline survey of the bryophyte diversity.  On this occasion we intended to make a similar survey of the diversity of vascular plants, prior to helping with a ‘natural neighbourhood watch’ meeting for members of the public in the afternoon. These baseline surveys provide us with a sound basis for recognising changes in biodiversity at a site over the years, and how these changes may be related to management practices. Rob set off on his own to do a ‘walkabout’ survey, while Alan, Marion and Terry did a quantitative survey of plants identified in twenty 50 square metre plots, with the aid of two walking poles and a dog lead. As expected, the highest species numbers (up to 33) were found in plots along the margins of the meadow, while nearly 80 species were recorded overall.  Amongst these were some beautiful patches of Meadow Barley (Hordeum secalinum).
In the afternoon an enthusiastic group of around twenty of us gathered. For our first treat, we listened to Maurice Tennenhaus and his fellow fishermen, as they identified the living creatures that exist in Midford brook and go mostly unseen by us humans.  A fishing net was used to sweep samples from the brook.  These samples were then placed in a white tray filled with water, so that Bullhead fish, Damselfly nymphs, worms etc., were easy to see, this made identification easier.  All these creatures were then counted and recorded as proof of water quality. We then looked at examples of the varied flora that we had identified during the morning, and especially enjoyed the abundance of butterflies (including Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Marbled White, Comma, Small Skipper, Small Tortoiseshell) visiting the stand of four different thistle species along the east margin of the meadow. One of these butterflies remained very still as we approached, and the reason for this became clear when we got close: it had been bitten by a beautiful Crab Spider lurking within the flower-heads.

Alan Rayner

Bullhead fish in sampling tray (Terry Doman)

Red-tailed Bumble-bee, Meadow Brown and Small Skipper on Creeping Thistle (Terry Doman)
Meadow Barley (Marion Rayner)

Saturday, 27 May 2017

21-5-2017 Ham Wall and Shapwick Heath

Great Crested Grebes
Sixteen members, including three new recruits, joined me in exploring these wonderful wetland nature reserves near Glastonbury. We saw a good variety of wildlife, including insects, but I was very much concentrating on bird identification by sight and song.
The excellent tree cover and vegetation along the old railway track running through Ham Wall makes for good habitat for warblers and we stopped to listen to six species, firstly Garden Warbler. This to me sounds like a speeded-up Blackbird song; a rich, rounded warbling which changes little in volume or pitch. By comparison, the typical song of the Blackcap begins somewhat hesitantly with a few scratchy notes and includes fluty higher pitched notes, the song ending in a louder flourish.  The Willow Warbler delivers a totally different song, a soft descending series of notes, concluding with a soft trill.  The Chiffchaff, of similar appearance, has a simple two syllable song, as the name of this species suggests.  The Reed Warbler will invariably sing from within a reed bed and its song is a fairly steady rhythmical series of repeated short, mainly low pitched phrases, with some mimicry of birds such as Blue Tit or Bearded Reedling. Finally, the Cetti’s Warbler song “burst” from the bushes at various intervals during the day; an explosion of notes of Nightingale quality, a song so loud, it almost knocks you off your feet. All these species can be difficult to see at this time of year – hence some necessity to know their songs!
So, what were our other highlights and what birds did we see well.  During our walk to the Avalon Hide, returning via the 2nd platform on the old railway line, we encountered several sightings of Marsh Harrier and from the hide we saw a food pass between a male and female. A pair of Great Crested Grebes conveniently stayed close to the hide from which we had good views of one adult with two black and white stripped youngsters on its back.
Taking the grassy track from the hide to the 2nd platform, we stopped to view two smart male Garganey and other waterfowl including Little Grebe, Little Egret, a pair of Wigeon and Gadwall.  Back on the track, we stopped by the platform and watched a couple of Hobby dashing over the reeds catching insects and the birds perched for a few minutes on dead trees allowing everyone to have a view through a telescope.  By the time that we were heading quite purposely back to the car park, a number of the group had seen Bittern in flight; always exciting to see. We lunched whilst listening to the croaking of Iberian Pool Frogs and periodically looking up to see a Hobby or two and a passing Buzzard. It was rather disappointing not to encounter the Glossy Ibis or a Cuckoo and it proved difficult locate a Reed Bunting within close range but that is the unpredictability of birding and there is the matter of luck, being in the right place at the right time.
The last 90 minutes of the meeting was spent at Shapwick Heath. There were many Black-tailed Godwits, some in full breeding plumage on the scrape and a couple of Lapwing. We also had close views of a Great White Egret. Not everyone saw the passing Cattle Egret which was heading from Shapwick over to Ham Wall but I think everyone saw the Bittern, again the bird was in flight.  As the temperature had risen considerably, more Hobby were airborne catching insects. Much of their prey includes dragonflies and we recorded several during the day including Four Spotted Chaser, Hairy Hawker and Azure Damselfly. Other insects included butterflies such as Orange Tip, Brimstone and Peacock.
The total number of bird species recorded by the leader was 58.

Lucy Delve

Azure Damselfly

Four Spotted Chaser

Thanks to John Garrett for the photos

Thursday, 11 May 2017

8-5-2017 Common sandpiper Prior Park Gardens

Common sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) on mud
Small brown and white wading bird in the family Scolopacidae, moving north during spring passage. An unusual visitor to Prior Park Landscape Gardens, Bath, UK.
By Ian Redding

10-5-2017 Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum)

I came across this on the edge of the river bank yesterday.
Maurice Tennenhaus

Yes that is Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum).  There are 2 subspecies, one introduced (often grown in gardens) and one perhaps native in East Anglia.  Whichever subspecies yours is, it is probably an introduction here. The introduced one (subsp. umbellatum) has larger flower and up to 20 of them.  Your photo shows around 20 flowers and buds, but I can’t tell whether they are all on one stalk.  The “probably native” one (subsp. campestre or angustifolium, depending which book you look in) has 4-12 flowers.  I think these are badly recorded at subspecies level and Stace says that further study is needed, which slightly puts me off trying!  If it is growing right on the river bank it may have arrived by river from a garden, as a bulb or seed.

Thanks Helena 

Dear All
There is quite a lot of it in the Midford and Wellow area so it has been there for many years. It is well established on the Hinton Charterhouse edge of Cleave’s Wod, there are scattered populations along a track and FP which run between White Ox Mead near Peasedown, along the ridge between the Wellow Brook and the Cam Brook. it also grows by the Coal Canal locks where the feeder stream joins the canal from Rowley Wood and on the track from near Burnt House down to the pub at Combe Hay. Given that there used to be a colony of Tulipa sylvestris on the slopes near Dunkerton it may have arrived with grape vines either in Roman or mediaeval times.

Rob R 

Friday, 14 April 2017

14-4-2017 Steway lane to Bannerdown

Nice walk up steway lane to Bannerdown today, fairly quiet on the migrant front with a few swallows on the high ground along with this chiffchaff, nice Roe deer, nice to see the  Coralroot(Cardamine bulbifera)at the top of steway lane in full flower. click photos to enlarge


Coralroot(Cardamine bulbifera)
Steve curtis

Sunday, 2 April 2017

1-4-2017 Local Nats News

Local Nats News
On 1 April, while walking along river-side looking across to trees in front of the Bath postal sorting office, not far from St John’s church, I heard a Willow Warbler in full song, and then saw three Willow Warblers feeding in the trees. This is the earliest Spring date I have ever recorded this species. (A fellow Bath Nats member I then bumped into said he had seen one the day before)! I heard another Willow Warbler at Prior Park NT gardens today (Sunday 2 April). Southerly winds have brought in more Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs. Also on 2 April, I saw my first male Orange Tip butterfly of 2017, again the earliest I have ever recorded.  Other butterfly species seen were Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Comma and male Brimstone.
Thank you Lucy Delve

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

19.3.2017 Gully Wood excursion,

 The day started with blustery winds and sideways drizzle but fortunately drier conditions prevailed by the time six Bath Nats members plus the owner of the wood, Judith Gradwell assembled in the wood.
Judith was able to tell us about the past and present management of the wood before we walked to the lower section to look at the stand of Broad-leaved Lime trees that occur here.
We then turned up the public footpath which was bordered by old Yew trees capping the steep slope with an extensive badger sett to the left.  Here Goldcrest were heard amongst the trees. The scene to the right was woodland backed by impressive cliff faces with the occasional huge fallen boulder. Here we looked at cramp balls (Daldinia concentrica ) on Ash and some Jelly Ear fungus (Auricularia auricula-judae) on Elder. The boulders and rock faces provided good opportunities to look at some of the mosses: Rambling Tail-moss (Anomodon viticulosus) and Foxtail Feather-moss (Thamnobryum alopecurum). Bolder members of the group scrambled up the slope to investigate a large cave.
Retracing our steps we followed the woodland ride north and stopped to see the effects of management- scalloped areas which had created more open conditions initially were now recolonising with ash seedlings.
As well as a wonderful bank of Primroses we noted some examples of more uncommon mosses characteristic of woodland banks on limestone: Frizzled Crisp-moss (Tortella tortuosa) and a very small patch of Spiral Extinguisher-moss (Encalypta streptocarpa).
The path here passes through an area of huge boulders on steep slopes and the presence of an oak with unusual epicormic growth added to the sense of mystery.
Reaching a boggy area Judith explained that this was a pond supplied by a spring which had previously been piped downhill for domestic purposes at Warleigh. The area above is a humid rock-scape and the mosses were noticeably luxuriant.  As well as the abundant Greater Featherwort (Plagiochila asplenioides) we were able to show the uncommon Bitter Scalewort (Porella arboris-vitae) which actually tastes bitter! It occurs here on a rock with a patch of brown lichen Leptogium lichenoides. A little further on the emerging shoots of bluebells hinted that a return visit in a few weeks would be rewarded.
Although the breezy weather precluded bird spotting we had a pleasant and informative walk in this  unexpected ‘woodland with cliffs’ which we had driven past for many years without exploring.

  • Looking for micro-moths amongst the ferns

Bitter Scalewort- Porella arboris

Marion Rayner 19.3.2017 

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Timsbury Nat’s talk

On Monday 20th March at the Conygre Hall, North Road, Timsbury BA2 0JQ Mya-Rose Craig will be giving a talk on the wildlife found on Antarctica. The start time is 7.30 pm and admittance for non-members is £3.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

7-3-2017 River Avon circular walk – Bathampton to Batheaston:

Nineteen members joined me in the car park at The George, Bathampton, on a calm and sunny morning. Here, some saw a Buzzard being mobbed by Jackdaws and I heard and saw one Redwing. We encountered more corvid species along the first section of the walk; Carrion Crow and Magpie, and we spent a few minutes watching Rook activity at the small rookery in trees close to the Tollbridge. The river level was high and I listened out for any Kingfishers or Grey Wagtails to no avail, so we meandered along the shared cycle/footpath toward the Batheaston car park and most of the group saw a female Sparrowhawk heading across fields towards Bathampton Down (flap-flap-flap-flap – glide, on rounded wings). There were several Canada Geese and Moorhen feeding in the nearby field and we stopped near the bridge to listen to bird song, including Dunnock, Robin, and the three note “cooing” of the Collared Dove. Black-Headed Gulls and a Lesser Black-Backed Gull flew low over the river disturbing the Mallards.
We took a short break in the small walled garden by the car park where I found a Long-Tailed Tit in a quite open prickly bush and one of our party quickly noted that the bush contained its nest, a composition including lichen and moss, held together with spiders’ webs. It was wonderful to take a close look at the nest through telescopes; we kept a distance from the bird to cause as little disturbance as possible. We saw a female Blackcap with her russet-brown cap in ivy and a Goldfinch kindly sat up and sang its tinkling and twittering jumble of notes and I had a brief view of a male Chaffinch.
Heading out towards the round-a-bout at the end of the by-pass, we made a couple of stops to view the river and the Bathampton Meadows Avon Wildlife Trust reserve beyond. A Grey Heron and a male Teal were seen only briefly by a few members, as were a couple of Kingfishers in fast flight which I picked up initially on call (a short sharp high pitched whistle, often of two notes of slightly different pitch). Everyone saw the Cormorants sitting on top of the distant pylon but I think I was the only person to see a couple of Song Thrushes in flight before they disappeared into cover. Meanwhile, more Dunnocks were singing, the predominant songster during our walk. At the entrance to river-side apartments near the end of the by-pass we were delighted to watch a Goldcrest singing in the open; this tiny bird often moves about quickly and within the cover of ivy or in a coniferous tree so this was an excellent sighting.
The final stretch of the walk across fields, the railway line, and along the lane returning to Bathampton church and the pub was fairly uneventful. One member heard a Raven call, I heard a Buzzard “mew” and the squeaks of a small mammal, likely a field vole, were heard from dense grassy tussocks near the railway crossing. The small flock of Redwing I saw and heard the previous week had departed and in the churchyard, I pointed out the high-pitched, thin two-note song of the Coal Tit. Here ended a pleasant morning during which twenty-seven species were recorded.

Lucy Delve