MONDAY 8TH JULY 2019

WILLOUGHBY ON THE WOLDS WITH DCW

Nottinghamshire is not as big as it once was; boundary changes have annexed bits into neighbouring counties and south of Willoughby, a tongue of land between Kingston Brook and the A46 was once in Nottinghamshire and remains in the vice county of Nottinghamshire aka VC56. For such a small area we managed a decent list which included notables such as Thorn-apple Datura stramonium, Water Forget-me-not Myosotis scorpioides, , Common Hemp-nettle Galeopsis tetrahit, and the alien bramble Rubus laciniatus.

Thread-leaved Water-crowfoot

Thread-leaved Water-crowfoot R. trichophyllus, I learned, has smallish flowers with petals that don’t overlap and has only capillary leaves – so no floating laminar ones. It was in a pond that had several interesting aquatics. including this Jointed Rush Juncus articulatus.

Jointed Rush
Marsh Foxtail

Marsh Foxtail Alopecurus geniculatus is quite common nationally but I don’t seem to come across it very often. It looks rather like Black-grass A. myosuroides but the habitat is quite different and if you search among the stems you will find that they are ‘kneed’. (I recently found some Black-grass in a crack in my yard).

One more grass – they are at their best now –Silver Hair-grass Trisetum flavescens was scattered around the tetrad with this plant in a gutter of the A6006.

Silver Hair-grass

Rarity of the day was an equal first to Dropwort Filipendula vulgaris and Strawberry Clover Trifolium fragiferum but the former was not in flower and its photo turned out to be unexciting so the clover gets the award.

Strawberry Clover

I would have walked straight past it. Dave didn’t though because although he had never walked along Occupation Lane before, his years of experience told him to look out for it. Not just anywhere along it, but in the middle of the rutted track.

We finished the day off with a look along Kingston Brook which is a near to natural a stream here than you are ever likely to find; wending, undercutting the bank, deep and wide in places and narrow enough to step across it in others.

WEDNESDAY 4TH JULY 2019

STURTON LE STEEPLE WITH DCW ET. AL.

A trek to the far east and mid north of Nottinghamshire and we were accompanied by Mags and Sally who made the day more fun even than usual. With four pairs of eyes one can assume that very little was overlooked but the coverage was not reflected in the species list so it is fair to conclude that SK88B, 5 km south of Gainsborough is species poor.

Star plant was Lady Fern Athyrium filix-femina, but I’d wandered off for a butterfly excursion whilst the others searched a wood, hence I dipped out on that, so the notables for me were a couple of grasses:

Phalaris aquatica

Bulbous Canary-grass Phalaris aquatica has an odd specific name for an arable weed but we found it in what appeared to be a ley of Yorkshire-fog; an oddity of itself.

And, at a couple of locations this rather attractive and distinctive species was found;

Bromus secalinus

Rye Brome Bromus secalinus, has a scattered distribution throughout Nottinghamshire with a minor stronghold in this vicinity.

Well, that’s it for plants; I scored around 170 taxa but Dave may have kept a few more to himself. Luckily it was a warm and sunny day and butterflies were on the wing; 8 species put in an appearance including my first Essex Skipper of the year and a few Painted Ladies represented Sturton le Steeple’s contingency of the current influx. Some had seen better days!

Crane flies seem to be getting my attention lately – perhaps because they are obligingly photogenic. Here is a Nephrotoma flavescens.

Nephrotoma flavescens

Earlier we saw a couple in-cop, so there should be more next year. Shield Bugs too are cropping up regularly and I hadn’t realised that the three pairs of raised ‘lumps’ on the ‘elytra’ (more strictly the hemelytra, because in the heteroptera, the forewings are not fully hardened) is a nymph character.

Pentatoma rufipes

So this is a Forest Bug (or Yellow-legged Shieldbug) nymph – I think final instar – and this is a larva of a Dusky Sallow moth.

Dusky Sallow

I don’t know all these things at a glance you realise. The beauty of digital photography is that I can appear to know things when all I have done is plodded through the literature and the internet for the best part of a day following these outings. It helped to know that lepidoptera have three pairs of true legs and four pairs of prolegs (ruling out sawflies and others) but thereafter it was a thumb through Porter 1997.

And now for some local history. Since very few people visit this part of the world and there is only one house in the entire tetrad (even that appeared to be unoccupied during extension works) you might be interested to know that the Romans built the road and a causeway across the Trent nearby, which King Harold crossed on his way to get featured in the Bayeux Tapestry, William the Conqueror crossed two years later to ravage the Saxons and which enabled Oliver Cromwell to relocate during the battle for Gainsborough.

For around 1,600 years, everybody who was anybody passed along this road but yesterday there were just four botanists, six cyclists and a car.

Even the ‘three-penny bit’ toll house has shut up shop.

WEDNESDAY 26TH JUNE 2019

KIMBERLEY; OLD GREAT NORTHERN RAILWAY – A WOOD WEDNESDAY

A massive crowd turned out for this, the dullest, chilliest, June, Wood Wednesday of my experience. Though not really on a Glastonbury scale this bench got rather crowded and it’s a good job P-Nut had nipped off in search of Upright Brome leaving George and Hal to have a good old natter over an apple and a sandwich.

The Bromopsis erecta was difficult to capture as it wafted about in the stiff breeze and the 4k shooting came into its own.

But a firm grasp on a leaf blade enabled a portrayal of its ‘Camel’s eyelashes’.

Ten of us enjoyed the delights of this old railway complex but I’m afraid the 11th looked a bit lost; India seemed unimpressed by our enthusiasm for grasses and weeds though she would surely have found the floriferous grassland of our lunch break delightful if only the sun had shone. There was Viper’s Bugloss Echium vulgare, Kidney Vetch Anthyllis vulneraria, Quaking-grass Briza media, Betony Betonica officinalis, Common Spotted-orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii and its hybrid with Southern Marsh-orchid D. praetermissa = Dactylorhiza x grandis.

Dactylorhiza x grandis

With Common Spotted-orchid nearby, the lack of spots on the leaves and the much darker tones to the flowers were evident; the reduced extent of the central lobe on the lower lip ( the labellum) was a decider.

There were tantalising hints that a sun still shone in the heavens and my first Ringlets were having battles with the Meadow Browns at such moments and a Blackneck moth attracted attention.

Blackneck

It has extended its range through the Midlands during the last decade and is often evident in flower-rich grassland; its favoured food-plant is Tufted Vetch Vicia cracca which is also present.

Plant of the day for Dave and for others familiar enough with inland-seaside specialities, was Catapodium marinum – Sea Fern-grass, a road salt opportunist in the gutter of the A610 – look carefully on your next visit to IKEA.

Sea Fern-grass

Another of this ilk was on show at the side of the A52 as we crossed the Wilford-Ruddington road in the slowness of the evening traffic; the most inland Sea Wormwood is doing well where Dave first found it, in similar circumstances last year,

SUNDAY 23RD JUNE 2019

HOLME PIERREPONT

Orchids are showing well now and many of the grasses are letting it all hang out including Arrhenatherum elatius False oat-grass which is the abundant species on our roadside verges. These are already being hacked down before they reach their prime. The delicate beauty of this common grass cannot be appreciated from a car but nature’s perfection is all around us if we care to take the time .

False Oat-grass

A freely growing verge not only allows common grasses to do their stuff but there are many wildflowers tucked away there too and an abundance of invertebrates that are wiped out when the mowers come along. And of course, there are shrews, voles and Harvest Mice in there as well supporting owls, bats and Kestrels.

Some verges, where visibility is an issue, of course need to be maintained but I see our local authority wasting money right, left and centre – destroying nature just as it approaches its best.

Bee Orchid

Bee Orchids are one of the wild flowers that could benefit from better road verge management as it is fighting back and becoming quite an opportunist given the right conditions.

Common Spotted Orchid

Common Spotted Orchid remains generally scarce in the wider countryside but Holme Pierrepont has them scattered around and a less glamorous relative, Common Twayblade, is around too though more difficult to spot.

Common Twayblade

Highlight among the invertebrates was this Painted Lady. I’d heard there were massive numbers of them in North Africa earlier this year, their population boosted by rains, but the anticipated big immigration has not transpired.

Painted Lady

THURSDAY 20TH JUNE 2019

KEYWORTH

My fourth garden Shoulder-striped Wainscot this morning:

Shoulder-striped Wainscot

And a peculiarity from Tuesday morning’s trap; a Snakefly (Raphidiidae).

a Snakefly – possibly Xanthostigma xanthostigma

They have an elongated prothorax which enables them to raise their head in a snake-like manner. There are four British species but not much help available to tell them apart.

Snakeflies are classed as a true bug (Hemiptera – Homoptera) and closely related to Lacewings and Alderflies in the family Neuroptera. It seems though that Snakeflies are very rarely encountered as the adults spend most of their time in the tree canopy whilst the larvae live under the bark. NBN Atlas https://species.nbnatlas.org/species/NBNSYS010000601 has only 286 records of X. xanthostigma nationally whilst Eakring Birds http://www.eakringbirds.com/eakringbirds2/insectinfocusxanthostigmaxanthostigma.htm knows of four Nottinghamshire records, the most recent coming from Attenborough NWT.

MONDAY 17TH JUNE 2019

HOVERINGHAM + DCW

The strong chilly morning breeze became a welcome zephyr later in the day as a summer’s day made a rare appearance for a plant-filled main course with invertebrates for sides.

We were polishing off SK74D by crossing the river whence we could glimpse Kneeton church where we had meandered on 30th April on our earlier excursion into the tetrad.

Ewan’s Wood with Kneeton church beyond – looking south-east from Ferry Farm

We saw and I photo’d enough stuff (not always successfully!) to cover a week of wanderings and there are a couple of identifications still to be determined so I’m going to have to be selective. Great Yellow-cress Rorippa amphibia and Hemlock Water-dropwort Oenanthe crocata at the edge of the swollen Trent were the first of an array of wetland species that made me realise how poorly I know them – I find them slow to get to grips with because I haven’t targeted aquatic habitats, because they are often out of reach and because they vary even more so than terrestrial plants depending whether they are in deep water, slow-flowing or fast-flowing water, emergent or submerged – or at least many do.

Marsh Yellow-cress

Here’s one from the edge of the sailing lake but there must be about sixteen other aquatics that I would not be able to name spontaneously – including several sedges and rushes. I have left it all rather late in life but I might just manage the local ones before my field days come to an end.

It doesn’t help when I am so easily distracted by invertebrates – and there are so many of these that I will never know them well but this is an easy one, though the markings vary – a Nursery-web Spider, Pisaura mirabilis.

Pisaura mirabilis

The wonderful Musk Thistle is numerous on the Trentside pasture; perhaps because it is readily recognisable as a thistle its splendid appearance is underestimated by growers.

Musk Thistle Carduus nutans

We found a flower-rich meadow that hosted many scarce plants including Pepper-saxifrage Silaum silaus. Notables, not already mentioned included Squirrel-tail Fescue Vulpia bromoides, Water Dock Rumex hydrolapathium, Amphibious Bistort Persicaria amphibia, Stream Water-crowfoot Ranunculus penicillatus, Blue Water-speedwell Veronica anagallis-aquatica, Spiked Sedge Carex spicata, Knotted Clover Trofolium striatum, Greater Bird’s-foot Trefoil Lotus pedunculatus, Little Mouse-ear Cerastium semidecandrum, Fennel Pondweed Potamogeton pectinatus, Common Spotted-orchid Dactyllorhiza fuchsii, Southern Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa, Water Forget-me-not Myosotis scorpiodes, Flowering Rush Butomus umbellatus, Greater Duckweed Spirodella polyrhiza , Rat’s-tail Fescue Vulpia myuros, Yellow-wort Blackstonia perfoliata and Common Centaury Centaurium erythraea.

The full list for the tetrad (SK74D) was an amazing 346 taxa.

SUNDAY 16TH JUNE 2019

KEYWORTH & COTGRAVE FOREST

After a very wet week, this morning was sunny and cheering. By 8.00 there was a Common Blue in the burial ground meadow and a Hare finding the cover of the growing herbage to it liking.

Hare

Although there is some False Oat-grass Arrenhatherum elatius now becoming evident, I’m sure (as I can be for now) that it has reduced dramatically from last year and that Soft Brome Bromus hordeaceus has increased dramatically. There is still plenty of variety including some decent patches of Hay-rattle Rhinanthus minor.

Hay-rattle

The early brightness soon broke but for a while around noon, there was some break in the cloud and I grabbed the opportunity to do this week’s butterfly transect. It finished in a splashy rain shower and managed one butterfly – a Small White!

FRIDAY 14TH JUNE 2019

KEYWORTH

In a very soggy moth trap, there were enough dry niches in among the egg trays for there to be 33 dry moths of 10 species – the best result since 21st March! They included my 6th ever Green Arches and the first Coronet of the year.

Green Arches
Coronet

All my Coronets look like this; they are big WL 19mm (the high-end of the range given in Waring et. al. and a lot bigger than those illustrated in the first edition) suffused with green and with much reduced white highlights. So it is reassuring to see a new plate in the 3rd edition showing a bigger moth with something resembling these characters and a revised text saying that this form is prevalent in the Midlands. The provisional atlas (2010) shows its distribution as mainly southern England (south of Bristol -London) and south Wales with a very patchy distribution elsewhere. I had my first here at Keyworth in 2011 and they have become steadily more numerous (95 in 2017 and 74 in 2018).

WEDNESDAY 12TH JUNE 2019

SUTTON BONINGTON

We were hard pushed to get a day out this week given the very unsettled period with much heavy rain but today’s rain was gentle enough (for much of the day) to allow note-taking.

Caucasian Stonecrop

It’s perhaps a bit questionable whether this one is legitimate as a wild plant in this location given that gardens weren’t too far away but the decision was made and Sedum spurium will appear in the atlas for this square; many others are not allowed in but there’s no doubt about Cerastium diffusum growing along the salted kerbside given its unexciting form – hardly a garden escape.

Sea Mouse-ear

Once again it was Dave’s lengthy experience that detected the jizz of this difficult species though samples are now under the microscope for confirmation. There was lots of it, with a similar population of Fern Grass Catapodium rigidum along the verges of Park Lane.

Later on we found lots of Salsify Tragopogon porrifolius – Goatsbeard but with blue flowers – and only the second population I’ve come across (the first was one plant – this one was well into double figures).

Salsify

This happily moist moss is, I am assured, Homalothecium sericeum (Silky Wall Feather-moss)

Silky Wall Feather-moss

Later in the day the gentle drizzle became wetter and a walk along a wild public footpath was drenching from the thighs down but on our return via Hungary Lane the ‘odd’ sounding Chiffchaff we had heard earlier gave a flourish of stuttering Willow Warbler – a hybrid surely!

Willow Warbler x Chiffchaff

Well, maybe not. It seems that some Willow Warblers go ‘chiff-chaff’ when they’re hacked off. Perhaps this one was just fed up with the weather.

FRIDAY 7TH JUNE 2019

KEYWORTH BURIAL GROUND MEADOW

Before the forecast rain set in around 11am, I made a plant inventory of our sown wildflower meadow. I wish I’d done this annually since it was created as its ups and downs are so pronounced that I am losing track of them via the casual basis of my recording. You can read more about it on the Keyworth Meadow website but basically it started badly in 2012, was outstanding in 2013, slowly deteriorated (despite ideal management – thanks to Norman Davill, our neighbouring farmer) and in 2018 looked to be a dead loss.

However over the past winter, Norman’s sheep have done a grand job and they were allowed to stay until mid May. Now it seems, the False Oat-grass, so dominant last year, had been magicked away and most of the desirable herbs are still there. A few more years of late summer haymaking and winter grazing should see it improving still further – fingers crossed.

Bird's-foot Trefoil
Bird’s-foot Trefoil

In the early years, the Bird’s-foot Trefoil flowers were all yellow and I thought we had been sold some continental seed but now its all ‘eggs and bacon’ just as it should be.

This little lass is rather striking isn’t she? (Not a patch on Tannavi though!) It’s Urophora stylata, a picture-winged fly of the family Tephritidae.

Urophora stylata
Urophora stylata

The black extension of the abdomen is an ovipositor which they use to lay their eggs in plant tissue often resulting in gall formation. I believe this one likes thistles though it was resting on a willow-herb.

I like it when a photo comes out as I had hoped. This shows the female flowers at the top and the largely spent male flowers at the bottom on an inflorescence of Salad Burnet Poterium sanguisorba. The ones in between are bisexual.

Salad Burnet
Salad Burnet