Friday, 27 September 2019

Bath Nats Field Meeting at Greyfield Wood, 25th September 2019

Report on Bath Nats Field Meeting at Greyfield Wood, 25th September 2019
Veiled Oyster

A group of thirteen of us gathered for this meeting on a day that was to prove to be mostly dry, mild and dappled with sunshine. And, as on previous visits, we had a fungal treat in store for us despite the long dry spell that had preceded the meeting.
We started with something that most people would pass by without noticing – the black stromatic growths of Eutypa maura on decorticated sycamore branches. Close inspection of these growths reveals an evenly spaced distribution of tiny pimples, which are the openings from the flask-shaped fruit bodies (perithecia) of the fungus immersed in the underlying wood. The fungus is very attractive to grey squirrels, whose teeth marks score the surface.
Next we found an ash stump with the perithecial stromata of King Alfred’s Cakes (Daldina concentrica) at all stages of development from brown, powdery beginnings through to the familiar black excrescences from which the fungus gets its common name. From here on, progress through the wood was very slow, as we found more and more to examine and talk about. Especially abundant were clumps of Sulphur Tuft (Hypholoma fasciculare) and eggs of Stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus). But there were more uncommon and startling finds too. These included Silky Piggyback (Asterophora parasitica) growing on decaying fruit bodies of Blackening Brittlegill (Russula nigricans), Veiled Oyster (Pleurotus dryinus) and Aniseed Funnel (Clitocybe odora). But pride of place had to go to Scarlet Berry Truffle (Paurocotylis pila), which we had come across on our visit in 2017, and Parasitic Bolete (Pseudoboletus parasiticus) growing closely associated with Common Earthball (Scleroderma parasitica). Despite the name, it is nowadays thought that the mycelia of these fungi both form mycorrhizal partnerships with tree roots, and that the Bolete is stimulated to fruit by the presence of the Earthball.
Pseudoboletus       Asterophora

After a short sojourn for lunch, we walked down to view the waterfall, which was in full spate following recent rainfall, and some of us were rewarded by the sight of a Dipper. Time had flowed surprisingly quickly by now, and so we made our winding way back to our meeting point, where a sparrowhawk briefly skirted by us. But our treat wasn’t over! Most of us then made our way to Helena Crouch’s home for tea and cakes and a walk around her extensive garden, followed by a display of labelled specimens that I had assembled in the meantime. It had been a fine day in more ways than one.
Alan Rayner

Photographs (By Marion Rayner)
Silky Piggyback
Veiled Oyster
Parasitic Bolete

Monday, 23 September 2019

Item for  Twitter feed


To mark this special occasion, TV presenter, zoologist, author, conservationist and RSPB President MIRANDA KRESTOVNIKOFF will be joining our Bath RSPB Local Group celebration – and you’re invited.

Come and hear Miranda’s talk: PIONEERING CONSERVATION - FUTURE CHALLENGES at 7.30pm on October 1st at Kingswood School Theatre, Lansdown Road, Bath

Tickets available from Bath Box Office 01225 463362,, @bathboxoffice

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Shapwick Heath and Ham Wall: 28th August 2019:

Leader Lucy Delve
Ten members and one non-member joined me at 10am in Ham Wall RSPB car park and we promptly headed towards Noah’s Hide, Shapwick Heath where the adult Osprey was located, for, possibly, the 11th or 12th consecutive year. It is commonly referred to as “The Bank Holiday Bird”.  Some believe it to be a female; the bird is un-ringed. We stopped a few times along the footpath to look as Great White and Little Egret, Grey Heron, Gadwall and Wigeon, also a number of dragonflies including Migrant Hawker and Ruddy and Common Darters.

The forecast was for rain from around midday so it we looked at these insects I the sunshine while it lasted.The Osprey was on the short tree stump where I viewed it in August 2018. It had caught a fish about an hour ago so was unlikely to fish again for at least another hour. We had sustained excellent views of the bird through telescopes with much preening of feathers and occasional glances around giving us lovely views of the facial markings. A female Marsh Harrier put in an appearance but did not seem to bother the wildfowl present which included Greylag Geese, Great Crested Grebe, Gadwall, Mallard and a few Tufted Duck. There were plenty of Mute Swan and Black-headed Gulls.  As the wind increased and the clouds rolled in, a party of migrating Sand Martin dropped in, progressively flying lower over the distant reed bed and feeding on low-flying insects.
We had an early lunch back in the shelter at Ham Wall and met up with three members including our President, who had unfortunately been delayed. The rain came, as predicted, but thankfully it was only short-lived, and we set off to the first viewing platform where staff and volunteers were cutting and burning reed, as they do at this time of year. We walked on to the second platform and found more egrets and wildfowl and a few Lapwing, sadly no Wood Sandpipers. Swallows dashed by as we watched another female Marsh Harrier drift leisurely over the reeds.
On the way back to the car park, we diverted to the Tor View Hide and had close views of Little Grebe and heard a Water Rail call several times.  Parties of small birds were on the move through the reed bed including Long-tailed Tits, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs. Cetti’s Warblers are not that vocal now, a few uttered some sub-song, a more subdued version of the normal blast of loud notes. By now it was raining quite hard, although thankfully the rain eased as we walked back to the car park at around 3pm.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Bath nats trip report, Sunday 9th June: Bathampton Meadows, nr Bath


Click links for more photos

Thanks to all who turned out on an overcast but warm day,credit must be given to Peter Fear and his team for keeping the riverside path as wildlife friendly as possible.We took a steady walk along the river path and then on to the private nature reserve with plenty to see and discuss throughout.
 I would also like to thank all who kept records during the walk, below are a list of findings, with plenty of photos on .

BIRDS  Bathampton Meadows
Canada goose, swift, jackdaw, wood pigeon, whitethroat, sand martin, buzzard, blackbird, reed bunting, robin, magpie, moorhen, chiffchaff, bullfinch, kingfisher, blue tit, blackcap, carrion crow, mallard,swift.

Bathampton Meadows 2019-06-09 notable species
Riverside path
Small Teasel
10-spot, 7-spot and 2-spot Ladybirds on nettles, as well as Harlequin Ladybird, which was almost everywhere.
Large patches of Cleavers galled by the mite, Cecidophyes rouhollahi, causing twisted, swollen and folded leaves.

Ox-bow NR
Early Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza incarnata) [sighting], Southern Marsh Orchid (D.praetermissa), Common Spotted Orchid (D.fuchsii) and the hybrid between the last two (D. x grandis).
Meadow Rue (Thalictrum flavum) frequent and increasing. Otherwise rare and very scattered along the river elsewhere.
Celery-leaved Buttercup (Ranunculus sceleratus) [sighting] on mud on the edge of a ditch.
Pink Water-speedwell (Veronica catenata) and Blue Water-speedwell (Veronica anagallis-aquatica) in muddy areas and the edge of the ox-bow [sightings]
Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia), abundant along the path by the river.
Rust (Puccinia phragmitis) on Clustered Dock (Rumex conglomeratus) [sighting]. Its other host, Common Reed, grows in the ox-bow.
Leaves of Alder (Alnus glutinosa) galled by two species of mite, Eriophyes inangulis (in angles of veins) and E.laevis (red 'knobs' between veins) [sighting]
Old trees of Grey Alder (Alnus incana) by river.
Sawflies: Tenthredo mesomelas and Athalia rosae
Tapered Drone-fly, Eristalis pertinax
Honey Bee, Apis mellifera

Butterflies:   Common Blue  10                  Brown Argus 2            
Small Tortoiseshell  1               Speckled Wood 1             
Green-veined White  1 

Macro Moths:  Yellow Shell  1                   Heart & Dart   
1            Flame Shoulder   1                   Common Wave  
1              Silver Ground Carpet  2 

Micro Moths: Straw Dot (Rivula sericealis),   Mint Moth  3                      Thistle Ermine 
1          Stigmella glutinosa (Leaf mine on Alder) , Tortrix moth (Agapeta hamana)

Dragonfly:     Emperor   1 

Damselfly:     Azure  3                                 Common Blue 
7            White Legged  4                      Large Red    
1                        Blue-tailed   6 

                      Banded Demoiselle 10,         Beautufl Demoiselle  
3,  Red-eyed   1. 
Parasitic wasp with aphid carcass on the Oak leaf was Discritulus planiceps .
Spring Fieldcap ( Agrocybe praecox) and Wrinkled Fieldcap ( Agrocybe rivulosa) mushrooms, respectively in grass and on a wood chip pile. The latter species was first described in 2003 and first recorded in the UK in 2004, since when it has become widespread.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Bath Nats Wildlife Recording Visit to the American Museum, 26/4/2019

A group of 14 of us gathered in the car park of the American Museum on a sunny, mild morning, and were joined by the Head Gardener, Andrew Cannell and Matt Postles from the Bristol Natural History Consortium, who told us about the purpose of the international ‘City Nature Challenge’ to which our records for the day would contribute. By the time we gathered, Richard Pooley had already identified nine moths from his trap set up overnight in the grounds – a small catch due to the cool overnight conditions but including the infrequent Pale Pinion (Lithophane hepatica) and attractive Red-green Carpet (Chloroclysta siterata). Most of us then went on during the morning to record in monad ST 7864, which includes the grounds in front of the Museum and the beautiful ancient woodland of Hengrove Wood. On the bank in front of the Museum, we were immediately attracted to several spikes of Common Twayblade Orchid (Neottia ovata) already in flower. The woodland floor was awash with bluebells and we quickly compiled good lists of woodland birds, vascular plants, lichens, fungi and bryophytes. Amongst the latter, we were especially pleased to find Rustwort (Nowellia curvifolia), a mostly western species of liverwort, which had formed a soft orange covering over the surface of a decaying log.

After lunch, as several rain showers began to make their presence felt, a small group of us made our way down through Conygre Wood, at the bottom of which we admired an especially large and handsome specimen of Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus). Emerging into the adjacent grassland and garden area, as on our previous visit, we came across a tufa-lined spring, where we we found the first of many well-established gatherings of Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum capillus-veneris) as well as the beautiful Curled Hook-moss (Palustriella commutata). A quick visit to the ancient orchard enabled us to add two infrequent mosses to our list for the day: Dwarf Neckera (Neckera pumila) and Flat-brocade Moss (Platygerium repens).

Meanwhile, the entomologists amongst us had been busy recording a variety of micromoths and other insects. Andy and Jane Daw were especially pleased to come across a Water Cricket (Velia capris) and Mike Bailey and Paul Wilkins’s finds included larvae of the Barred White Clothes Moth (Nemapogon clematella) feeding on fruit bodies of Hazel Woodwart fungus (Hypoxylon fuscum).

By the end of the day we had made 575 observations, including around 350 species to contribute substantially to the City Nature Challenge (in which Bristol and Bath held their position as ‘top in Europe’) and also add considerably to our cumulative list for the American Museum. We now look forward to our next recording visit on 3 July 2019.

Alan and Marion Rayner

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Roy Curber

Roy Curber, long standing member of Bath Nats died aged 89 years on 1 March. He acted for many years as the bird recorder for the Society.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Bath nats Birdwatching at Slimbridge WWT.6th February 2019

Golden plover David Hall
By 10AM, when thirteen of us met at Slimbridge WWT, the early mist had given way to sunshine. Entry formalities over, we headed out to the Holden Tower, from which to view both Tack Piece and the Severn Estuary foreshore. Arriving shortly after a high tide ensured that many estuary birds had moved inland within viewing range. Notable on the foreshore there were several Cranes and a large flock of Barnacle Geese. Dunlin, Meadow Pipit, Skylarks & Linnets were feeding just beyond the scrape in front of the hide. The flooded inland field called Tack Piece, provided a wonderful spectacle of several thousand waders and waterfowl. White-Fronted, Greylag and Canada Geese. Bewick’s Swans, a huge flock of Wigeon, Lapwings, Golden Plover, Dunlin, with a few Redshanks and Curlews in the mix. We took advantage of the other hides overlooking Tack Piece, to gain closer views. Most of us saw the Water Rails attracted to bird feeders, close to a hide facing in opposite direction. We took packed lunch in the Peng Hide with it’s close views of Bewick’s Swans, Pochard, Pintails, Tufted Ducks. After lunch, we wandered through part of the wildfowl collection on our way to Zeiss and Kingfisher Hides. Needless to say several of us stopped to look at Goldeneye, Smew, and Eider Ducks  along with more exotic species here.
The Ziess Hide overlooks a small reed-bed, a large lake, and the seawall beyond. Using a telescope  from here we could see, a pair of Peregrine Falcons perching well out towards the 
estuary and several Common Snipe on an island near by. A Water Rail walked out from the 
reed-bed close to the hide. From the Kingfisher Hide, and new for the day, there were several Ruff along with Dunlin and Redshank. Over the course of the day we had made several attempts to see an elusive Jack Snipe from the Martin Smith Hide without success. So after a short look from the South Lake Hide, most of us headed back to the Martin Smith Hide for one last look; and there it was, hunkered down in short reeds, the elusive Jack Snipe! One of our 65 wild bird species seen  on the day. 

Phillip Delve
Wigeon David Hall
Pintail David Hall

Water rail David Hall
Shellduck David Hall

Teal David Hall
Little egret David Hall

Fem Pintail David Hall
Curlew (Steve curtis)
Bewick swan David Hall
Common Snipe (Steve curtis)


Barnacle geese (Steve curtis)



Bath nats field trip Thursday, 31 January 2019: Carrs Woodland LNR

Alan Rayner explaining the territorial interfaces of fungi on a beech stump 

On a bitterly cold winter’s day, twenty members met to explore this small Local Nature Reserve in Twerton, which includes woodland, grassland and a small stretch of the Newton Brook and was designated in 2006 as an “urban fringe” LNR. After admiring the frosted capsules of Clustered Feather-moss (Rhynchostegium confertum) on an old wall, we headed into the east strip of woodland along the top of a steep bank above the railway. Immediately we disturbed a flock of Great Tits and Blue Tits, busy in the trees together with Chaffinches and a Coal Tit. Several Blackbirds were feasting on Ivy berries and we soon saw a Grey Squirrel, a Robin and a Magpie. Beside the old stone steps, a legacy of the garden of Wood House (now demolished), we examined two different species of snowdrops, the common Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) and Pleated Snowdrop (G. plicatus) and their hybrid (G. x valentinei). Continuing along the path, we found fruit bodies of Jelly Ear Fungus (Auricularia auricula-judae), admired two more mosses, Tender Feather-moss (Rhynchostegiella tenella) and the dendroid Fox-tail Feather-moss (Thamnobryum alopecurum), then spotted a Buzzard in the trees on the slope just below us. Shoots of Ransoms (Allium ursinum) and Celandines (Ficaria verna) were a tentative hint of spring!
Territorial interfaces between
 fungi on a Beech stump
Emerging into grassland, Alan and Marion Rayner showed us another world on branches of an Ash tree: an amazing array of lichens and mosses, including Wood Bristle-moss (Orthotrichum affine)Green Yoke-moss (Zygodon viridissimus), a bright pink parasitic fungus (Marchandiomyces corallines) growing on the lichens, and a tiny liverwort, the Minute Pouncewort (Cololejeunea minutissima), with five-sided perianths, like tiny bishops’ hats!

The west edge of Carrs Woodland has impressive Beech trees along the top of a steep slope above the Newton Brook, with far-reaching views of the hills west of Bath. A “clattering” of Jackdaws flew out of a tree, with a couple of Carrion Crows, to announce our arrival. Several ancient Beech trees have been felled: a large stump gave Alan the opportunity to explain that the tortuous black and brown lines in the wood represent the territorial interfaces between different invasive fungi. We saw the fruiting bodies of the Artist’s Bracket (Ganoderma applanatum), which attacks the heartwood of Beech trees and Beech Woodwart (Hypoxylon fragiforme) growing on dead Beech, and also the Yellow Brain fungus (Tremella mesenterica) which is parasitic on a resupinate fungus on wood. Meanwhile other members spotted a small flock of Redwings and a Jay and a very large bird which was in fact a tree surgeon, high in a Beech tree! We stopped to watch a pair of Bullfinches busy in Alders, heard Greater Spotted Woodpeckers drumming, and some saw a Nuthatch and Song Thrush, and heard a Green Woodpecker. As a reminder that we were in an “urban fringe” LNR, we encountered a lot of fly-tipping at the edge of the wood, and a vast sheet of the invasive alien Three-cornered Leek (Allium triquetrum).

A slippery icy path through rough, ungrazed grassland took us down to the brook, where we saw a Wren and marvelled at the fiery red and orange wood of a recently felled Alder. Alan showed us the delightful Elegant Bristle-moss (Orthotrichum pulchellum) with calyptras like tiny ballerinas’ skirts, growing with the more common Lateral Cryphaea (Cryphaea heteromalla). On a fantastic ancient Ash tree beside the stream, we saw the Shaggy Bracket (Inonotis hispidus). Marion was pleased to find Pointed Lattice-moss (Dialytrichia mucronata) on concrete beside Pennyquick Bridge: this species grows on periodically inundated substrates.

The spoil heap of Pennyquick Colliery has been landscaped and was sown with a wildflower mix, now well established. We admired the wintry remains of Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum), Bristly Ox-tongue (Helminthotheca echioides), Ox-eye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare), large clumps of Salad Burnet (Poterium sanguisorba) and little tufts of Curly Crisp-moss (Trichostomum crispulum) with hooded leaf-tips. Returning along Newton Road we saw Wood Pigeons and Starlings, a tiny pink flower of Field Madder (Sherardia arvensis) at the edge of the pavement, and on a street tree (a Lime) Alan showed us Small Hairy Screw-moss (Syntrichia laevipila) with wonderful long silvery hair-points to the leaves. During this gentle walk on the urban fringe, we saw at least twenty different species of bird and all enjoyed exploring a little-known reserve not far from the centre of Bath.
Lichens and bryophytes on an Ash branch
Young Jelly Ears

Sunday, 27 January 2019


The fossil cast of the dinosaur Rhomaleosaurus cramptoni provided an interesting backdrop and contrast of scale as we set up for our workshop on ‘Bryophyte Ecology’ which was attended by 20 Bath Nats members and visitors.
For this workshop we started with the premise that different habitats can (to some extent) be home to predictable suites of moss and liverwort species and that this can help greatly when learning to identify these intriguing plants. So we had set out mini study stations representing 7 common local habitats such as trees, mortared walls, dry stone walls, limestone grassland, woodland banks, soil and tarmac. Each habitat station was equipped with species descriptions, photographs and of course fresh material of the key species for each habitat. Armed with LED hand lenses everyone was invited to have a go at identifying the species for one habitat before moving on to another.
Many mosses and liverworts were examined, from huge clumps of Rambling Tail Moss (Anomodon viticulosus) found on dry stone walls, to small leafy liverworts such as Dilated Scalewort (Frullania dilatata) on tree bark.
As expected the ‘big two’ ubiquitous species Common Feather-moss (Kindbergia praelonga) and Rough-stalked Feather-moss (Brachythecium rutabulum) proved tricky to recognise but examination of tiny details with a hand lens helped separate these confusing species. The gemmae cups of thallose liverworts on soil provided some interesting insights into vegetative reproduction in liverworts.
Two hours passed very quickly as intense and sociable study ensued, and hopefully most people will now be able to identify Springy Turf-moss (Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus) and Pointed Spear-moss (Calliergonella cuspidata) in their lawns.

Marion Rayner