WEDNESDAY 26TH AUGUST 2020

LANGFORD LOWFIELDS + DCW

Over the past few years when ‘square-bashing’ for the atlas was the priority, segueing into birds occurred later in the year than this. The objective of the day was the avifauna but there were lots of plants to see – and it’s just as well because birds were very unexciting, though it did begin well with several sightings of a Hobby or Hobbies.

We headed off to the Trent to begin with but the tide was in and the river had backed-up, covering the beaches that hold some interesting plants. However some were on show including Tasteless Water-pepper Persicaria mitis, Beggarticks Bidens frondosa, Marsh Yellow-cress Rorippa palustris and, I think Water-pepper Persicaria hydropiper.

Marsh Yellow-cress – Rorippa palustris
River Trent below Cromwell Weir

Anglers, we learned, come from far and wide (well Hertfordshire at least) to try for a big Barbel at what is the premier site for such a challenge, with a recent specimen approaching the national record (of 21lb 2oz).

Does anyone know what this is?

Dave brought it to my attention as looking ‘not right’ for a Herring Gull with a mantle that is too dark, but not dark enough for a LBB. I had a go at pinning it down but gull identification has moved on since I was keen and is now a subject in itself.

Trifid Bur-marigold

Trifid Bur-marigold Bidens tripartita is the native version of the American Beggarticks.

White Melilot

White Melilot Melilotus albus, is pretty easy as the others are yellow-flowered (but beware albinos, says Dave). I only saw the one plant.

The foregoing was before we entered the RSPB reserve which as I have already said, was rather short on interesting birds, though there were many more than the 10 Little Egrets that I managed to count (and we did see one or two Greenshanks and a Great Egret late on) but the flora was diverse thtoughout though without any really notables.

Greater Bird’s-foot Trefoil

On Greater Bird’s-foot Trefoil, the calyx teeth curve outwards (at least the lower ones) while in bud. These flowers are a little advanced but the character is still visible.

Greater Duckweed

Greater Duckweed Spirodela polyrhiza is said (by Dave) to be spreading. Here it is with Lemna minor and Lemna trisulca (though I can’t make the latter out in the photo).

There was reported to be a Caspian Gull in the area but don’t let that influence your gull id.

MONDAY 10TH AUGUST 2020

ANCASTER, LINCS +DCW

A return to Lincolnshire after just less than one week and we parked up outside Ancaster Church where a plaque draws attention to the Roman origins of this village at the crossing of Ermine Street (which I heard of when I was at school) and King Street (which I’d never previously heard of).

I had also heard of the Ancaster Gap, indeed it probably cropped up in some 1968 geography exam as being the place where the River Trent once flowed until a glacier blocked the passage and the mighty river had to find a new course to the sea – northwards to the Humber, which it subsequently found to its liking and has followed ever since.

The Ancaster Valley is another thing altogether. It is dry and its origins seem bathed in the mystery of ancient history, though melting glaciers may have played a part.

It is now an attractive nature reserve and SSSI that hosts a good selection of calcicolous plants; many that a botanist might predict and a few that a Nottinghamshire one might not be accustomed to.

Thus Dwarf Thistle, Common Centaury, Saw-wort and Agrimony were on the scene but Squinancywort (Asperula cynanchica) almost evaded us and Horseshoe Vetch (Hippocrepis comosa) (which evaded us last week) appeared readily once we had been enlightened.

Squinancywort
Horseshoe Vetch

Horseshoe Vetch is a favoured food-plant of both Adonis and Chalkhill Blue and Ancaster is the last known site in Lincolnshire for the latter species of butterfly. With the good management of the grasslands around Ancaster, might this species return?

Meadow Grasshopper

This one became quite a companion and continued to enjoy the valley from its elevated position during an interesting and prolonged discussion with an Ancaster resident and her Border Terrier (the latter contributed little to the conversation).

Some of that discussion related to bush-crickets, of which I have a working knowledge but it is rusty when it goes beyond coneheads and Roesel’s. So this one, I have only seen once or twice before and I’ve always understood it to be an inhabitant of shrubs and trees – they occur at Rushcliffe Country Park; this one was in the hot grassland.

Speckled Bush-cricket

Apparently quite common, its call is an intermittent beep, and hard to hear and hard to locate from a bat detector.

Ancaster is rightly proud of its Tall Thrift distinction (though BSBI online maps suggest there is at least one other plant just outside Aldershot).

MOOR CLOSES
For the last few hours we wandered the nearby Moor Closes nature reserve, which is a wetland site with Ragged Robin, Fen Bedstraw and a range of sedges as well as Devil’s-bit Scabious (Succissa pratensis).

Devil’s-bit Scabious

The final hour of so involved this incapacitated calf in a muddy drain. It had made a couple of attempts to get out but seemed tired and irretrievably stuck. My pulling on its neck and Dave lifting its haunches had no impact at all and following a message to the Lincs Trust we called 911 unsure as to whether we would be convicted for the abuse of public services but within moments Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue were on their way.

Emergency sirens were heard in due course and ultimately 13 personnel, two fire engines and a rescue boat were on the scene.

The calf seemed to know full well that all this commotion would see it freed from the mud and it contentedly chewed the cud like a wallowing water buffalo while beefy firefighters heaved and moved on to plan 2…… and 3…..

I was hoping to capture the moment that the grateful beast was released but tea-time tempted, and on the way back a Roe Deer played chicken on the A52, getting bowled over twice but seemingly getting to the other side with just a few bruises.

TUESDAY 4TH AUGUST 2020

RAUCEBY WARREN, LINCS + DCW

A drive of under one hour found us amid new scenery and a couple of fantastically rich Lincs WT nature reserves. Rich at least for the botany but the cloud stubbornly remained and a spitting drizzle accompanied an increasing breeze so the invertebrates mostly kept themselves hidden.

Ploughman’s Spikenard was the first notable plant, found near the western entrance.

Ploughman’s Spikenard (Inula conyzae)

Carex spicata was the most frequent sedge though Dave picked out C. muricata too.

Carex spicata on the left with Carex muricata

Sadly for the less sharp-eyed among us, the long bract on the spicata is not consistent and no help in identification. C. spicata has a ligule that is longer than wide.

Purple Milk-vetch (Astralagus danicus) is one of the specialities here being a local plant confined to old calcareous grassland, mainly in eastern Britain.

Purple Milk-vetch

The sun briefly promised a prolonged appearance and we managed 9 species in total including a couple of Essex Skippers, this one on a head of Yarrow.

The next one was a wonderful treat for me as I hadn’t seen it before (even though it can be found at Wilwell, a few miles from my home) and because I knew what it was without help – other than having it pointed out to me in the first place. In one area, Adder’s-tongue was truly numerous with hundreds of plants across the bed of the old quarry which over the winter is flooded; last winter, to a tremendous depth as evidenced by the snow-white mats of stranded algae.

Adder’s-tongue Fern

Here’s another scarce plant that I recognised though this time I have seen it before – as an arable weed in eastern Notts. This is Dwarf Spurge.

Euphorbia exigua

Two plants of dry calcareous soils, so not found in my neck of the woods are Basil Thyme and Knotted Pearlwort. Despite their habitat preferences their national distributions are quite different with Basil Thyme being southern with strongholds in the North and South Downs and along the Cretaceous chalk from Norfolk to the Cotswolds whilst the pearlwort is mainly northern, though both occur in the Peak District and so are well known to Dave.

Basil Thyme (Clinopodium acinos)
Knotted Pearlwort (Sagina nodosa)

The main objective of the day took some finding but Dave spotted it after about four hours of heads down. A lot of the plants mentioned today are small and low-growing but Smooth Rupturewort is diminutive in the extreme with flowers about 2mm across. Once spotted though, we readily found more at the eastern end of the reserve. Nationally rare, it is found at widely distributed locations throughout England with a minor stronghold in the Brecks.

Heriaria glabra – Smooth Rupturewort.

Determination of the identity was clouded in the field by the styles being indistinguishable with a x10 lens and the stems of the plant being quite hairy (not glabrous) but that is permitted.

Favourites of mine are the two fluellens. I think this is because I found one that was then the first scarce plant of my independent botanical efforts.

Sharp-leaved Fluellen (Kickxia elatine)

DUKE’S COVERT

For the final hour of out trip east of Grantham, we switched to another Lincs Trust reserve a short drive away that was surely the most floriferous place I’ve ever visited. I took many more pictures but I think three more is enough.

Duke’s Covert

Duke’s Covert is shown as scrub on the OS map and the Trust literature states that it had become overgrown and dominated by Bracken but good management has restored this site which has a lot of Perforate St. John’s-wort, Burnet-saxifrage and Common Knapweed along with Greater Knapweed, Field Scabious, Small Scabious, Harebell, Common Rock-rose, Dropwort, Dwarf Thistle and the very rare inland form of Thrift.

Dwarf Thistle (Cirsium acaule)
Armeria maritima ssp. elongata

This subspecies of ‘Sea-pink’ is classed as Critically Endangered and only found around here and at a site near Aldershot.