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)


end



                

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).
Buzzard 

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
[HJC]




Sunday, 27 January 2019

BRYOLOGY ECOLOGY WORKSHOP- 15.1.2019




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