Following weeks with loads of rain a chilly, settled, anticyclonic period and a local trip to see some birds proved to be rather disappointing in its objective but the company was good and of course there are always the plants despite the late season and a single encounter with a dragonfly.
This female Migrant HawkerAeshna mixta was in the reed bed safari on the slurry lagoon at Netherfield and looked immaculate despite the late date. The flight period extends from late July into November but I don’t know how late into the season, new adults emerge. This one looked like it had done so a few days ago but I suspect it is at least 4 weeks old.
Star birds were Buzzard, Jays, predictable ducks, Grey Wagtail, Cetti’s Warbler, Green and Great-spotted Woodpecker etc. No sign of the Yellow-browed Warblers and Bearded Tits we were hoping for and no sign of anything exciting that we were not expecting.
Cotoneasters were looking good though and Dave drew my attention to Cotoneaster x watereri and this, one of the parents of x watereri which is the hybrid of C. frigidus and C. salicifolius.
The reed bed safari is a nice touch at Netherfield and allows visitors to get up close with the reeds which although dominated by Common Reed have some Wood Small-reed in places allowing direct comparison if it were needed – and without much else to photograph, I decided that it did:
Six-and-a-half hours of steady slog around a mostly bird-free wilderness of salt-marsh, dunes and foreshore, and for sure, there is a lot of the latter at low tide north of Mablethorpe.
Doe Deer were confiding (to a degree) and vocal and there were a lot of crows and Redwings but scarcer migrants were in short supply and the best of these was a Whinchat and a Brambling though the few Stonechats might also have been passing through.
Prolonged scans of the said foreshore produced only crows until the afternoon and long hikes out to sea revealed a few curlews and two small parties of Common Scoters. Eventually we found some birds – lots of Shelducks, Wigeon and gulls at Saltfleet Haven and there were small skeins of Pink-footed Geese moving south just off shore all day long and all too far away for a useful picture so the best I could manage was this Long-tailed Tit.
Mid October is a bit too late for the plants to arouse much excitement in me but Dave found a lot of old friends including this:
Anagallis tenella without its pink flowers might not look much to you (or me) but for Dave, it was plant of the day!
A dubious decision by my Nissan sat-nav to take us through the centre of Lincoln did not brighten the day and no sooner had I got home than BirdGuides announced both Lapland Bunting and Yellow-browed Warbler – at Rimac!
Following several days of very heavy rain, today began with a light frost and then wall to wall sunshine though the botany season is nearing its natural end and soon the priority will be birds.
A horse appearing from a thicket onto the Langar – Cropwell Bishop road turned out to be the precursor of what I assume was the Belvior Hunt in their finery with a well-behaved pack of hounds at the redcoats’ command. One van driver was impatient so the hounds were ushered into a group for his convenience.
The sound of the horn could be heard intermittently throughout the morning and a fox did a leisurely looking circuit of Langar, presumably having been disturbed by the hunt, as the horn sounded in the distance. By lunchtime there was no further sign of them and we felt free to wander.
The appearance of two pairs of forewings and two pairs of hindwings on this darter must be caused by strong shadows.
I know next to nothing about the identification of fungi but this one was putting on a good show in a covert and it proved quite simple to find a match from illustrations. I think I’m right but don’t rely on me.
The underside of a Comma shows how it got its name.
The margins of some fields held a bewildering mixture of plants with many native species of doubtful provenance and many aliens presumably aimed at nectar sources and pheasant cover. The latter included a variety of CabbageBrassica oleracea, (possibly Kale), LucerneMedicago sativa ssp. sativa, ChicoryCichorium intybus, QuinoaChenopodium quinoa, PhaceliaPhacelia tanacetifolia – and this:
Well, that it is what it keyed out as ‘in the field’ but Dave is going to give a sample some further interrogation in his ‘lab’.
Last week’s apple proved rather difficult and the combined botanical and horticultural brains of Nottinghamshire have not, so far, come to an agreement.
As usual at this time of year, gangs of gulls were loitering in the fields; nearly all were Lesser Black-backed, of mixed ages. This is a first year.
An unsettled week and I had nabbed the best day for a trip to Frampton with wifey so we were showered several times with the final one being a 15 minute downpour made even more unpleasant as we were walking the Epperstone by-pass at the time.
This is an apple according to Dave and when he tells me a little more following desktop research, I will pass it on.
Insects were in short supply though we managed a Speckled Wood and a Small White and this, which I think is Mesembrina meridiana. It is certainly a good match but it is risky to be positive about the id of flies from a photo.
Greater Burnet-saxifragePimpinella major, is a plant I see only occasionally in Rushcliffe and then there is often just one or two plants. Today though, they were present in road verges all over the two monads that we looked at. Some were in flower but the fruits seem quite distinctive and should be useful when the leaves have been lost.
I find it very hard to name many shrubs when all I see are leaves (I should be swotting up) but recognising pear rust is a useful way of realising this is a PearPyrus communis.
The rust is caused by the fungus Gymnosporangium sabinae which also depends on Juniper for completion of its life-cycle.
A Grey Wagtail brightened up our first enforced shower break.
Berberis x stenophylla was in a hedge along the road to Woodborough and probably jumped ship from the nurseries nearby.
Lydia found a caterpillar in Cotgrave Forest and, obviously, brought it home for me and it turned out to be the first time I’ve seen the larva of Pine Hawk-moth. I put it in the bucket where our Privet Hawk-moth (Beetlejuice) went to pupate a few weeks ago and within five minutes it had hidden itself away while it gets changed.
On Friday there was a Humming-bird Hawk-moth briefly at my Buddleja.
I’m sorry if you have been enjoying my wanderings and missed them recently. I will try to catch up because although I’ve been out with Dave several times recently I haven’t found time for blogging.
We had an enjoyable day out just beyond Rushcliffe in a landscape that is not dissimilar to the Wolds but definitely has a different quality and a few different plants.
One feature that is largely missing in Rushcliffe is much in the way of industrial archaeology – the Grantham Canal being a notable exception that springs to mind. This feature is buried away on the Thurgarton Beck and I haven’t got any idea what it once was.
Opposite-leaved Golden SaxifrageChrysosplenium oppositifolium was growing abundantly nearby; it is one plant that does not occur in Rushcliffe.
And this is another; Strawberry-bliteChenopodium capitatum has only previously been recorded from a garden at Chilwell (and about a dozen other places in the British Isles).
We managed around 213 species of plant including a good many common species that were missing from the square for the purposes of the atlas. A tantalisingly inaccessible pond took up half an hour of tact and diplomacy followed by five minutes of bold determination to add –Lemna minuta.
Dave’s famous blue rucksack is torn at the shoulder (and elsewhere) and nearing the end of its life so I thought it appropriate to preserve it in a photo and to show how it is possible to minimise one’s carbon footprint by not replacing stuff until it is truly necessary.
Back in Rushcliffe to mop up some missing species for the atlas and the day began with a dull humid feel and developed fair-weather cumulus and a fresh breeze. Despite the wind, we spotted 13 species of butterfly, which is a good total for a day out in Notts and especially good for this agriculturally intensive region. Two of the absentees were Common Blue (though we did see a Brown Argus) and Small Skipper (though we did see Essex Skipper). One Small Copper was the most notable of the sightings.
Dave caught a glimpse of a Spotted Flycatcher in the churchyard (and corrected my flyover Sparrowhawk into a Kestrel – well, we all make mistakes!)
Plant notables were Bifid Hemp-nettleGaleopsis bifida, Dwarf SpurgeEuphorbia exigua and Crimson CloverTrifolium incarnata.
The latter two were along a wide field margin that had previously been sown with a conservation mix and the PhaceliaPhacelia tanacetifolia, BorageBorago officinalis and ChicoryCichorium intybus were clearly derived from that source but the others could have found their own way in. The Euphorbia is an RPR species and the Trifolium is an infrequent casual nationally that used to be cultivated a a forage crop and originates from southern Europe.
The verges of some of the lanes had FlaxLinum usitatissimum at regular intervals suggesting spillage from a previous harvest.
The mason who made the gargoyles had a wicked sense of humour and imagination.
The village is famous (according to the information panel) for its medieval dovecote and if you look carefully, there is actually a Collared Dove perched on top of it.
I often wondered (but never bothered to find out) what dovecotes like this were for and it turns out it was for food; the fledglings are very tasty and easy to harvest if you time it before they can fly.
For around six centuries, Sturton’s C14th steeple was the tallest thing around, then in the early 1970s, West Burton power station was built and along came the pylons that dwarf it.
We were back up near Gainsborough for the final time to add some plants to tetrad 88C and our eight hours in the field achieved something like 200 taxa. Road closures, public highways becoming restricted byways and maps that are out of date caused some confusion but it all turned out nice again and we found some inexplicable topsoil strips that pulled in the likes of Common CudweedFilago vulgaris, Common Centaury Centaureum erythraea and Slender Pearlwort Sagina filiformis that boosted the total somewhat.
Then, apart from a free-range wander about a land drainage compound which also added some variety including Buck’s-horn PlantainPlantago coronopus, Annual Beard-grassPolypogon monspeliensis and Slender Sandwort Arenaria leptoclados, the plants of interest were all aquatics; with the scarcest of these being the undesirable introduction, Water FernAzolla filiculoides.
For an illustrated blog, the plant pictures weren’t up to much so it’s fortunate that pristine Painted Ladies were out on the tiles.
I do the East Midlands branch of Butterfly Conservation’s website as well (or as badly some might say) as this one and as such I get regular email updates from the Derbyshire recorder Ken Orpe, who today (Derbyshire News and Blogs; Update No 32, 2019) suggested that these pristine Painted Ladies now being seen, are immigrants from Europe. I think they are newly emerged, local provenance from the immigrants that arrived several weeks back and I shall enquire about this – when I’ve got a minute.
12 species of butterfly were out and about at Sturton le Steeple, though they did not include Small Skipper so far as I can tell, for every one of the little skippers I looked at carefully were from Essex (so to speak).
Quite a few Silver Y moths were busying themselves among the low vegetation too though birds were unexciting; Yellowhammers called for some cheese and no bread and a Raven ‘cronked’.
I probably go on too much about bush-crickets and I will probably continue to do when critters like this show up.
We also found a Lesser Marsh GrasshopperChorthippus albomarginatus and were it not for the pressures of botany, we might have seen more orthoptera though I allowed my concentration to lapse into the more visible odonata too, and I am happy to record Broad-bodied Chaser, Common Darter, Banded Agrion, Brown Hawker, Blue-tailed and Common Blue Damselfly; though in the process of becoming happy, I learned that there is a blue form of the female, of which I believe this to be an example:
If I’m wrong I will be even happier to be corrected; there is a comment facility below:
During the 1990s, I helped out in the management of this stretch of disused canal – the bit in the borough of Broxtowe but this is the first time I’ve seen it since then. It all looked very familiar, though in those days, I think I knew my odonata better and there was an active, artificial ski-slope nearby, rather than a hilly and botanically diverse piece of former colliery spoil; the canal still holds water (always a difficulty then) and there are lots of aquatic plants to be seen. At least I know them better now, than I did then.
I recalled seeing Arrowhead here, though the ever reliable Dave suggested that Sagittaria sagitifolia was only ever found on the stretch nearer Trowell.
Then I remembered the leaflets that I wrote back then and I found some on a dusty shelf; sure enough there is an ink drawing of Arrowhead in one of the leaflets but it is in the Awsworth and Eastwood edition, and the text relates to the Erewash Canal – in Derbyshire of all places!
I probably knew Branched Bur-reedSparganium erectum then, but I don’t recall Marsh WoundwortStachys palustris despite these being quite dominant today, with the latter adding a contrasting colour to the dominant greens.
Wood Wednesdays are about botany and we all learned something from our guru, but warmth and water provided other attractions and I was notably deficient in naming them. However perusal of the adequate photos enabled these:
It’s not clear from this image but they definitely had a waist on the abdomen and I don’t think there were any Common Darters present.
Male Banded Demoiselle are easy but we were a bit mixed up between this and Emerald Damselfy, however the white pterostigma clinches this as a female Calopteryx splendens and the broader wings, clasped whilst perched would give a regular odonatist no problem at all.
This one didn’t occur on the canal in the 1990’s; it has moved in since – first to larger bodies of open water and now, to my surprise to sites such as this. I need to spend more time observing these beautiful creatures. All I need is time and sunshine.
An easy one; big, brown and the females don’t look too different.
My first Holly Blue of the second generation was the only real notable among the nine species of butterfly that came our way and plants not already mentioned include Greater SpearwortRanunculus lingua, Water DockRumex hydrolapathum, Marsh Bedstraw Galium palustre, Hemp AgrimonyEupatorium cannabinum, Lady FernAthyrium filix-femina and Sweet Flag Acorus calamus.
Sweet Flag would definitely have gone unnoticed but for Dave’s prior experience and detection of the wrinkly leaves that otherwise looked so much like Branched Bur-reed, it would never have been picked out – at least, not by me. Any doubting Thomas’s were satisfied by the pleasant but seemingly indescribable scent from a crushed leaf.
I met up with 8 lepidopterists keen to see what the forest could muster and in general we weren’t disappointed. There were many species that we should have seen but didn’t but this was compensated for by typical views of Purple Hairstreak, a fleeting view of Silver-washed Fritillary and prolonged views of a tatty male Purple Emperor.
Two or three Ravens added to the interest and several people enjoyed the plants too: The ones I pointed out included Hedge Woundwort, Wild Basil, Agrimony, Upright Hedge-parsley, Tor-grass, Perforate St.-John’s-wort and Black Bryony.