Wednesday 28th November.
An immigrant Dark Sword-grass in the trap this morning was presumably swept in on the overnight Atlantic winds and my second ever Scarce Umber (see 18th Nov.) this one in rather better condition.
Monday 26th November.
Rutland Water with DCW.
Max 7°C but thankfully hardly any wind and indeed an occasional blue sky but sadly little in the way of exciting birds to warm us. Prolonged searching through the masses assembled in 'South Arm III' (which included thousands of Coot) produced a few Pintail and Red-crested Pochard and eventually two Great White Egrets. Dave detected a fly-over Golden Plover on call, a skill that I have lost. So we took a look at the plants seeding in on the exposed shore; the water level is well down on what Anglian Water must hope for at this time of year.
The dreaded New Zealand Pigmyweed Crassula helmsii was present of course, in some places blanketing the shore. In other parts a few Golden Dock Rumex maritimus were still identifiable (by DCW) and in others there were many Black Nightshade Solanum nigrum in what is a native habitat and a single plant of Water Chickweed Myosoton aquaticum
A small aggregation of washed up Zebra Mussels Dreissena polymorpha was found in one area and I'm sure the authorities know of its presence as it is yet another non-native invasive species, though it took its time to get going as it was first found in England in the 1820s. It is notorious for clogging up water pipes and filters in water treatment works.
Pairs of Egyptian Geese were here and there and there was also a sheep, so ugly that it has to wear a bag over its head.
Then we switched to Lyndon but with no better luck on the bird front though I was pleased to have Small Teasel Dipsacus pilosus pointed out to me.
And in desperation, I took to photographing Cormorants and distant Muntjac
Monday 19th November.
Calverton former colliery land - with DCW.
The cold easterly wind with a hint of showers was a sudden reminder that we were in late November but the diversity of plants in flower contradicted the date and reflected the foregoing mild weather. Well over 25 species still had blooms though none were quite so floriferous as Gorse Ulex europaeus.
Gorse has the most beautiful aroma of any plant I know but we struggled to name its closest match; almond came to mind but perhaps coconut is a better analogy.
The sandy margins of a potato field held some nice plants, similar to the ones we found two weeks ago in the same vicinity but with the very notable Field Woundwort Stachys arvensis as a bonus. A Notts RPR species and Near Threatened nationally.
Common Fumitory Fumaria officinalis is a delightful plant when in bloom and there was lots in the same field as well as several very large plants of Bugloss Anchusa arvensis.
Given time and patience I would have found all the above, but it takes someone with Dave's extensive experience to name this one readily though we did check through the key to be sure; California Brome Ceratochloa carinata
Plant of the day for me, because of its novelty, was Pirri-pirri-bur Acaena nova-zelandiae. It came in to the country via imported wool from Australia and New Zealand in the early 20th century and is invasive especially, according to Plantlife on "cool, damp cliffs and upland habitats" where its dominance threatens rare native species.
I discovered how it might be imported in wool and dispersed around the countryside after discovering my camera strap had brushed against it.
A Sweet-briar Rosa rubiginosa was obliging in exhibiting all its distinguishing features at once though the glands beneath the leaves, that give off the apple scent when rubbed were hard to capture.
Roses don't have thorns. Technically they are armed with prickles formed of epidermal outgrowths whilst the thorns of hawthorn and Blackthorn are modified branch stems. Some roses, including Sweet-briar have smaller prickles which are called acicles.
Bush Vetch Vicia sepium was another of the many plants managing a few flowers.
No invertebrates today - hardly surprising given the wind and maximum temperature of 8° C and birdwise we saw a couple of Sparrowhawks two Buzzards and a Woodcock (though we were looking at the ground most of the day!)
Footnote: A sample of mint sp. was later identified by DCW as Pennyroyal Mentha pulegium "It is not native at this site being of the upright form".
Sunday 18th November.
A couple of nice moths on the trap this morning; a December Moth and a Feathered Thorn.
And one from a couple of nights ago; not so nice to look at as it is quite worn but a first for the garden nevertheless - a Scarce Umber, which despite its name is common and the reason for it being a first it that for most of the time I've been trapping (since 2004) the trap has not been run in the winter. Now that I'm using actinic, I'm more inclined to leave it on, at least on the more promising looking nights. And on that note these could be the last moths for a while given the weather forecast of much colder and windier weather.
Monday 12th November.
RSPB Langford Lowfields with DCW.
Botany season largely over we set off for a spot of birding though other aspects of nature came our way and this Coral-spot fungus, a group that we confess to knowing litle about presented itself on the dead timber in the wood near the carpark. The colour that the camera captured does not do justice to the true colour of the fungus.
And despite his best intentions, Dave relapsed into botany, pleasingly drawing my attention to the rosettes of Spring Beauty Claytonia perfoliata in the same little wood on the sandy soil of this region so not a species that one would come across on the clays of Rushcliffe.
The breeze developed into a stiff force 5 which spoiled it for any chance of prolonged views of Bearded Tit but we did hear and get a glimpse of two as they rapidly made their way across the boardwalk though this was the only reedbed speciality that we managed to get. However an obliging Kestrel, a pass through Sparrowhawk, three Stonechats and a Short-eared Owl that we flushed and refound on the ground made for an enjoyable day.
Showers approaching from the west culminated in this cumulo-nimbus cloud which looked spectacular and threatening but produced no rain at least where we were.
I totted up 47 species in all.
Tuesday 6th October 2018.
Calverton with DCW.
It was about 15 years ago that I was in this neck of the woods; Tammy was a puppy and I was with Dave and Gordon Clarke, looking for ancient trees, one of which was a Small-leaved Lime in the village churchyard. Dave mentioned it as we passed by and I recalled that in an inquisitive moment I examined a leaf and found a caterpillar of a Lime Hawkmoth.
But our attention was to the west of the village, in the vicinity of Gravelly Hollow and the former tip land to the south where various dumped plants survive in what is now mostly poor farmland with Elephant Grass Miscanthus being the dominant crop.
The tall cultivation with its limited visibility reminded me of the Fakawi tribe who live in a similar tall grassland habitat and who are named after their practice of jumping up to look out for landmarks, calling 'We're the Fakawi'.
Being a former tip, the area has several garden escapes that were imported with the waste including two Goldenrods Solidago gigantea and Solidago canadensis, and Garden Speedwell Veronica longifolia.
Nearby is a sand quarry, the margins of which host some specialist species like Knotted Clover Trifolium striatum and Small Cudweed Filago minima. Also here was the common moss, Bristly Haircap Polytrichum piliferum.
I found the most enjoyable botany, as I often do, in a field margin north of Gravelly Hollow, where there was lots of Flixweed Descurania sophia which is absent from Rushcliffe as there is very little in the way of light soils and Corn Spurrey Spergula arvensis a Notts RPR species.
Also present though less abundantly was Green Nightshade Solanum physalifolium and Henbit Dead-nettle Lamium amplexicaule.
Tuesday 31st October.
A very brief visit to Weymouth enabled a few hours at Radipole and Ferrybridge. The former hosted a Lesser Yellowlegs which was a new species for me, many Mediterranean Gulls... ...and this Heron apparantly practising the lotus position.
Attention at Ferrybridge focused on the saltmarsh plants that I used to know when I lived on the coast but needed refreshment. I found English Scurvy-grass Cochlearia anglica, Shrubby Seablite Suaeda vera, Sea Purslane Atriplex portulacoides (It was Halimione when I knew it) Sea Arrowgrass Triglochin maritima and Thrift Armeria maritima some, still with a few flowers.
Up on the shingle of this, the eastern-most end of Chesil Beach was Sea Campion Silene uniflora (S. maritima when I knew it well).
And there were larks on the shore but they were of the sky variety.
Thursday 11th October 2018.
A queen Tree Bee Bombus hypnorum was in a bedroom and a late House Martin spent a few minutes over the house.
Wednesday 10th October 2018.
A November Moth was in the moth trap.
Tuesday 9th October 2018.
Ratcliffe on Soar + DCW.
Wonderfully warm later in the day and there have been just a couple of ground frosts and one air frost that I have been aware of so the plants are holding on as best they can. We visited an area of abandoned land associated with the A453 construction. I'm surprised the contractor wasn't obliged to clear it up but despite the mess, the plants have moved in and provided some interest though rather than run through an itinerary of what we found, I'm sticking to Cotoneasters. We found several plants but just two species and since we weren't 'square bashing' there was time for me to take a keen interest in one of them.
Cotoneaster hjelmqvistii is according to Dave, readily recognisable by its shiny orbicular leaves but I quizzed him about it and we consulted Stace. Without the flowers and the fruits together, we didn't get far so I went to Poland. That's a standing joke among botanists and refers to the principal author of the 'Vegetative Key'.
Which took us very easily to 'COT F' via the unorthodox but very efficient key; (Leaves <3cm, sparsely hairy below. Low ∓ horizontal shrub (occ. erect in C. helmqvistii), <1m tall, sprawling).
But then we had an issue as to whether the leaves were 'more or less' net-veined or not. In my experience, this is when keys fail because without experience, interpreting 'more or less' is subjective to say the least. Holding a leaf up to the light and looking at it with a x10 lens, the leaves were clearly net-veined. A less intensive examination with the naked eye might suggest that they are not net-veined, but actually 'herring-bone' veined.
I brought a twig home and the images on the web clearly concur with Dave's initial identification as hjelmqvistii so they are, in Poland's world, not net-veined. Having got this far, and given that the leaves clearly are 'more or less' orbicular we have to decide on the dimensions of the leaves; I sampled 10 randomly picked leaves from a single randomly chosen twig and they were:
Making the mean length 13.4mm and the mean width 12.5mm which would incline me away from hjelmqvistii but that is what it is.
Some of the best plants (that I wasn't going to mention) were, Knotted Clover Trifolium striatum, Wild Liquorice Astragalus glycyphyllos, Burnet-saxifrage Pimpinella saxifrage and Yellow-wort Blackstonia perfoliata. A Common Blue was the only butterfly despite the warm sunshine and a Stoat made a typically fleeting appearance.
Friday 5th October 2018.
A very large emergence of "whiteflies" was evident in the afternoon here. They were seemingly attracted to the red car but were also evident on many other surfaces and numerous in spiders' silk and first appeared to be be specks of ash from a fire.
There are around 30 species of Whitefly in Britain and they are beyond my ability to get down to species but I'm betting these were the common 'cabbage whitefly' which makes my attempts at growing organic crucifers rather pointless.
Monday 1st October 2018.
Keyworth + DCW.
Low carbon emissions today as Dave bussed it here and the exploration began in my weedy back garden where I'd overlooked Rubus ulmifolius and possibly Conyza sumatrensis. A good range of willowherbs was confirmed, explaining the generally good turnout of Elephant Hawkmoths I find most years, providing that I'm not too thorough with the weeding.
Then it was all on foot. A pond near the footpath from Wolds Lane to Lings Lane (in Norman's pig field) was productive with Floating Sweet Grass Glyceria fluitans, Coltsfoot Tussilago farfara and Celery-leaved Buttercup Ranunculus sceleratus but also a mystery plant, for the time being; Dave has taken a sample of an emergent grass that could possibly be something exceptional and which turned up a nymph, Water Scorpion Nepa cinerea as a by-product.
Keyworth churchyard proved unexceptional with the Hawkweed Hieracium maculatum being the most notable. The Hawkweeds are an aggregate of more than 400 microspecies and this is perhaps the easiest to narrow down because of its purple-blotched leaves although the name applies loosely to several microspecies that share this character. There is also a fine Western Red-cedar Thuja plicata as well as Yew Taxus baccata, Weeping Birch Betula pendula and Field Maple Acer campestre.
A steady walk to the north end of the village with Dwarf Mallow Malva neglecta on the way and a small area of old meadow that has not been sprayed with herbicide along the frontages on the north side of Normanton Lane which has Lady's Bedstraw Galium verum and Sorrel Rumex acetosa.
The stream alongside Platt Lane has the ferns Hart's-tongue Asplenium scolopendrium and a Polypody Polypodium sp. and both White Populus alba and Black Poplar. The latter, Populus nigra had several galls on its petioles which may indicate the species, however the gall looks like it was caused by the gall midge Contarinia petioli.
*Chinery 2011 says this is more prevalent on Aspen and more rarely on other poplars. A similar-looking petiole gall, caused by the aphid Pemphigus bursarius is especially frequent on Black Poplars but it seems not exclusively so.
Just outside the pumping station there is Fern-grass Catapodium rigidum and Water Bent Polypogon viridis and in the spinney along Debdale Lane, Olive Willow Salix eleagnos.
*Chinery Michael 2011, Britain's Plant Galls, WildGuides Ltd.
Thursday 27th Sept 2018.
The moth trap has not been on for almost a fortnight as the gales last week were in danger of blowing it away and the subsequent cold nights didn't inspire me to get it going again until yesterday and this morning it held a nice collection of moths including a Black Rustic and Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing. It also had a Hawthorn Shieldbug Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale, probably the most common locally, and a wasp which I took a closer interest in than I usually do.
In particular I wanted to know whether it was a male (drone) or a female (worker). I could see from its size that it wasn't a queen. I feel sure I've heard it said, twice at least recently, that the nuisance wasps of late summer are the lads who are out of work now that the job of raising the colony is complete. But of course the males can't sting so I'm intrigued as to the sex ratio of these layabouts.
This one turned out to be a worker (female) as a brief period in the freezer showed it to have a stinger and it had just 12 antennal segments (males have 13). It is a Common Wasp Vespula vulgaris. The black anchor mark on its face indicates this and its abdominal pattern, although variable, supports it. I've read that the males are generally less of a nuisance than the females and I will keep a look out for them.
The Ivy towering over my old garage is attracting quite a few wasps along with many Honey Bees Apis melifera but not much else in the way of anticipated hoverflies and late summer butterflies.
Monday 24th Sept 2018.
Shelton + DCW.
Mostly a bright and sunny day out in the north-east of Rushcliffe with the birding highlights being Little Egret, Red Kite and a large flock of what were probably all Linnets. Plant wise, no real surprises apart perhaps from a Pale Willowherb Epilobium roseum but once again, both species of Fluellen were found and Blue Fleabane Erigeron acris was abundant on the disused railway across the boundary at Cotham. An unusually relaxing pace permitted time for me to attend to photo opportunites though the new Lumix TZ90 is taking some getting used to and produces massive contrasts and yellow hues for some reason (the bridge camera reverted to its old temperamental ways).
I've spent plenty of time in the past looking at grasshoppers and they still confuse me sometimes. This one's pronotum keels seemed much too incurved for Meadow Grasshopper Chorthippus parallelus but its short wings (this is late September so it's not a nymph) the bulge on the costa and the black 'knees' on the hind legs, make this a (female) of that species.
I've looked at lots of Long-winged Coneheads too, but I still find them beautiful and fascinating and their antennae are ridiculously long!
This is the first time though, that I've come across what I think are Otter Lutra lutra spraints and prints; largely because I don't generally walk underneath river bridges. I'm sure Otters do occur along the River Devon anyway.
Another shieldbug and another (common) species. This one is a Green Shieldbug Palomena prasina.
The ivy is coming into its honey-scented autumnal best and attracted a couple of the many Hornets Vespa crabro that we saw on the day.
Monday 17th Sept 2018.
Wysall + DCW.
A small area of sandy soil to the south-west of Wysall was suspected because of the presence of Spotted Medick Medicago arabica and confirmed by the excavations of a Badger sett; one of the mysteries of geology to me but some subtlety of the melting glaciers here 12,000 years ago. It may also account for the Velvetleaf Abutilon theophrasti a rather exotic looking plant that like so many others are casuals originating from imports of bird seed.
Bird seed surely accounts also for the presence also of Ragweed Ambrosia artemisifolia and Cockspur Echinochloa crus-galli in my garden.
The Ragweed is native to North America and the Cockspur to the tropics.
This is the rather well-named (for those of us who remember it) Sputnik Gall. It is caused by the gall wasp Diplolepis nervosa which is in the same genus as the one that causes the familiar Robin's Pincushion.
There were many Small Coppers and the occasional Small White, Common Blue and Comma. Also a Raven calling persistenly during our elevenses, one roadkill Hedgehog in the village and a mutilated Mole killed by a scrub cutting tractor-driver.
Wednesday 12th Sept 2018.
Cotgrave CP. A Wood Wednesday.
Before the others arrived, Dave and I checked out the Sea Club-rush Bolboschoenus maritimus on the Grantham Canal and I discovered that I had earlier made the mistake of not looking carefully enough at the reedmace, as it was in fact Lesser Bulrush Typha angustifolia and not the much more common Typha latifolia.
The object of the day was the ponds and marshy areas in the country park which have several interesting plants, some of which are associated with the salty conditions arising from the former mine workings, but on the way we found Rigid Hornwort Ceratophylum demersum in the canal and Burnet Rose Rosa pimpinellifolia, Wayfaring Tree Viburnum lantana, Spreading Meadow-grass Poa humilis and the common 'bean' gall caused by the sawfly Pontaria proxima on Crack Willow.
The Wayfaring Tree and Burnet Rose were no doubt planted, as was a certain oak, probably Red Oak, Quercus rubra. The 'special' plants were the two grasses Annual Beard-grass Polypogon monspeliensis and Foxtail Barley Hordeum jubatum and the sedge, Juncus compressus which we had seen on Monday at Flawborough.
The latter is an introduced species said to inhabit salted roadsides but I haven't come across it in that habitat. The Annual Beard-grass however is an RPR species in Notts as its native habitat is the drier parts of salt-marshes.
We had a good look at Lesser Hawkbit Leontodon saxatilis and found the outer achenes which have a reduced pappus, distinguishing it from L. hispidus. This feature is clearly visible in the photo below.
And for a bit of variety, another Shield Bug. This one is called Sloe Bug in Chinery (1986) but Hairy Shieldbug in Brock (2014). The latter book invents common names for many of the insects it covers but it would have been nice if previously established ones had been retained. Anyway, it is Dolycoris baccarum in both.
Monday 10th Sept 2018.
Flawborough. NP + DCW.
Distinctly cooler at least during the morning session for a trip to a familiar site though as much for birdwatching than botany. Birds did get attention now and then with Hobby, Greenshank, Yellow Wagtail and Green Sandpipers showing up, but it was the plants we were after and there were plenty of them. The scarcities included Crosswort Cruciata laevipes and Stone Parsley Sison amomum.
Scarcest of all was Juncus compressus which is a Notts RPR species but quite widespread here.
Aquatic plants can be frustrating to get familiar with because of many similarites and their inaccessibility but Fennel Pondweed Potamogeton pectinatus was obliging by being close enough and displaying its fruits...
...and another submerged aquatic, Perfoliate Pondweed Potamogeton perfoliatus was readily identifiable from its perfoliate leaves, but it was rather muddy and not worthy of a picture till it freshens itself up.
Black Nightshade Solanum nigrum was widespread and dominant in some areas...
...though nowhere so dominant as the New Zealand Pigmyweed Crassula helmsii around one of the lake margins. As Dave explained, it has nearly obliterated the native docks and persicarias that would be the natural, native plants of the habitat. Some are surviving, though not for much longer by the look of things.
I've mentioned just a few of the 240 or so plant species that, thanks to Dave, we saw on the day. Small Copper and Brown Argus were the best of the five species of butterfly that managed a flutter.
Wednesday 5th Sept.
Keyworth-Wysall. With DCW.
Free at last from a week of decorating and a fine day out around my local patch that included Keyworth Meadow LNR, but first a check of the moth trap and my third ever garden Oak Hook-tip.
Wysall Lane proved to be quite rich, at least in parts though I doubt if the Tour of Britain riders will notice the now very brittle Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis, Burnet-saxifrage Pimpinella saxifraga and Salsify Tragopogon porrifolius as they race for points in the King of the Mountains up the 'Col de Wysall Lane' on Saturday.
Two big and very obvious Turkey Oaks Quercus cerris with their long leaves and hairy acorn cups, have been missed by me on my cycle rides to the The Plough...
...and back, but more worrying is my missing of Marsh Cudweed Gnaphalium uliginosum in the Meadow and around one of the ponds along Lings Lane.
After a cool start, the cloud broke and the temperatures rose to a pleasant level encouraging a good butterfly presence of seven species that included about a dozen Small Coppers and a Brown Argus.