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.
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.
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