A cloudy and decidedly chilly start melted into a warm and breezy afternoon in deepest Vale of Belvoir for another day of filling in gaps in the national atlas. Several target species, specifically missing woodland and wetland plants were the order of the day. However the only woodland we could access had a ground storey totally dominated by what my kids call stickyweed (Galium aparine) and the Carr Dyke produced only Fool’s WatercressApium nodiflorumWatercressNasturtium officinale agg. and Water StarwortCalliriche agg.
However, as always with Dave at the helm, there was loads to see and learn and I brushed up on the elms.
The leaves of this hybrid are too small for Wych Elm U. glabra (and the petioles are exposed) and too oblong for English Elm U. procera. Also they were slightly rough to the touch. What I can’t describe is thirty odd years of devoted experience that went into the assessment and the indescribable jizz which that allows.
The gall mite Aceria campestricola is to blame for the pimples. It’s an odd name for something that doesn’t seem to turn up on Field Maple Acer campestre but interestingly, it doesn’t seem to occur on Wych Elm either.(Chinery 2011, Britain’s Plant Galls, WildGuides).
Perhaps because of its name Malva neglecta, I make some effort to find Dwarf Mallow as it seems sad that it is neglected. However Dave beat me to it today after much of the day and then we found loads of it about a metre from where we’d parked the car.
Plant of the day was Slender TrefoilTrifolium micranthum in a lawned verge in the village. Here it is with its larger cousin Lesser TrefoilTrifolium dubium.
This ancient tree is a False AcaciaRobinia pseudoacacia in a roadside hedge – very odd!
Hawksworth sewage treatment works is a rotating biological contactor with open access on the occasion of our visit (the gate had fallen down) and has quite a rich flora within its compound including Hoary PlantainPlantago media.
One Little Egret a few common butterflies, two Blue Tit nests (one found by a passing South African ornithologist) and a few unidentified flitting moths just about sums up the incidental sightings.
A Sunday morning stroll with my ‘fam’ in the expectation of seeing some migrant birds but it turned out to be mighty dull on the ornithological front with only Sedge Warbler new for the year. I revised my plant naming expertise instead (Common Twayblade is almost in full flower) and found this disorientated Hornet in one of the Anglo-Saxon huts…
My first trip out this year to see how the Barn Owls are doing and the answer it seems is very well. It looks like a bumper year for voles as they have well stocked larders and some large clutches. 7 eggs is as big as they get and if the parents can rear them all it will equal the project’s biggest brood.
This male (the one on the right) was in a box in a barn near Widmerpool.
Males have pure white breast feathers; the females have dark spots.
My first visit to a dumble. I heard about them donkey’s years ago and I wasn’t disappointed to explore our miniature grand canyons that were formed at the end of the last ice age by the torrent of melting ice eroding the soft overlying rocks. That is a coarse summary of information from the interpretation panels there but I found the internet unhelpful in elaborating the formation of these dumbles – there are others.
This is not a part of Nottinghamshire known to me and it was also a first visit to Gedling country park though this was largely limited to the carpark which constitutes a convenient access to the much more natural countryside nearby as the dumble runs through rich areas of meadow
Our approach to the dumble caught the attention of the local farmer, whose wife and dog came out to see what we were up to and we took the opportunity to ask her about her herd. It consists of a Limousin bull and British Blue and Hereford cows which produce calves that go to slaughter at (I think) around two years old. (I recall that beef cattle were fattened for three years in the 1970s).
My trips out of Rushcliffe with its largely clay soils inevitably find new plants and the first today was Wood SpeedwellVeronica montana which immediately struck me as unfamiliar. Sanicle was another new one for me. Two lifers in one day!
Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage, Hard and Soft Shield-ferns and Woodruff featured in and around the dumble while the meadows had Bugle, Devil’s-bit Scabious, Burnet-saxifrage, Tormentil and Pignut.
Insects caused some digression from the target class with many Red and Black Froghoppers and a Small Yellow Underwing moth among those getting named.
Grasses are maturing to an identifiable state and I’ll be revising hard. Here’s one for starters; Giant FescueSchedonorus gigantea (formerly Festuca gigantea) is big and has impressive auricles.
The garden moth trap is slowly getting worthwhile again after a major lull during last week’s horrid weather. Yesterday morning there were just two Light-brown Apple Moths but today saw the year’s first Pale Tussock, 3rd Waved Umber, 5th Double-striped Pug and 50th Shuttle-shaped Dart.
GREAT CENTRAL RAILWAY.
Barnston Cutting south of the A6006 has been managed by Butterfly Conservation and Notts BAP volunteers for the Grizzled Skipper population and I’m pleased to say that their efforts (including mine occasionally) are paying off as I reckon I saw about ten over a 500 metre stretch.
There were also a few Brown Argus and a Treble-bar moth.
There is also a terrific variety of plants to be found here with at least two “species” of Hawkweed as well as Field Scabious, Rustyback, Common Cornsalad and a Polypody to name a few that spring to mind
I was doing my best to come up with a complete inventory of the flora of the meadow but spotted this chap in a damp hollow. The photos are awful, sorry and I can’t be certain of the id. Given the location it is a Slender GroundhopperTetrix subulata but given climate change it could (perhaps) be T. ceperoi which I can’t tell apart. I should have potted it up rather than taken (or rather, attempted to have taken) its portrait. I’ve recorded Common GroundhopperTetrix undulata in the meadow before.
Unlike grasshoppers, groundhoppers overwinter as adults or final instar nymphs, so this one is fully developed even in May. It will die in a month or two after mating and then there will be a range of developing nymphs until the end of the summer when they will be ready to enter dormancy.
I was told that a Little Egret had been in the meadow earlier and I’m happy to accept the record (the first). Tim saw a Muntjac with a fawn in one of the pastures.
In late afternoon from my front door I could just about see a couple of distant Swifts but a scan of the sky through binoculars revealed several along with a few House Martins and a further scan of apparantly empty space showed what has to have been a Hobby at great height and climbing before it coasted north till lost from view. I’ve eliminated Eleanora’s and Red-footed Falcon on the grounds of probability!
Despite a forecast high of around 11°C the sun, when it shone, brought out a good range of butterflies including our first Small Copper of 2019.
The others were more predictable but here they are anyway: Speckled Wood, Orange-tip, Green-veined White, Small Tortoiseshell, Brimstone and Holly Blue.
The churchyard of St. Mary and All Saints eventually revealed a decent but not spectacular list of plants including the almost inevitable Field Wood-rushLuzula campestris but it’s very disappointing to see how much they loathe Swallows there. How lovely would it be to have a pair of busy parents swooping in and out, oblivious of the passing congregation. Tear down the mesh I say.
Various piles of dumped material in the square, create risks to life and limb (well limb anyway) in discovering the diverse range of garden throw-outs. They included cultivated Wood SpurgeEuphorbia amygdaloides ssp. robbiaePeach-leaved BellflowerCampanula persicifolia and Perennial CornflowerCentaurea montana.
Despite pressure to keep up with my mentor, I did manage to look at the occasional insect and bagged another cranefly Tipula vernalis.
A misty, moisty morning but then we had the sunniest day for a week and the insects responded accordingly. The objective though was the flora and we managed a good list without any great rarities or surprises for Dave, though I wasn’t anticipating MoschatelAdoxa moschatellina.
Plants with tiny flowers feature in my selection of plant images on the day with these two; Field MadderSherardia arvensis and Swine CressLepidium coronopus…. being the chosen ones.
…being the chosen ones.
Harlequin Ladybirds were frequent, with these two forms being present.
Form spectabilis seems to be the most common and the new Bloomsbury guide on Ladybirds confirms this as the norm but it does not mention the form that I found at Radcliffe on Trent last summer and repeated here which I decided was an orange variation of form conspicua.
This hoverfly, Syrphus ribesii joined me for lunch…
—this Giant CraneflyTipula maxima (apparently Britain’s largest fly) was in a damp ditch, which is right where it should be and, for something completely different, this is the second week running that I’ve spotted a Victorian letter box though this one is still actually in use. The one on the wall of The Unicorn’s Head at Langar is retained as a curiosity with a modern replacement nearby.