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.
Bole? “Bole is a village and civil parish in the Bassetlaw district of Nottinghashire…” Population 247 at the last count. We spent the day around Bole Ings (and I kept remembering England winning the cricket world cup the previous day for some reason).
We began the day in the cool of a ‘tall-herb fen’ dominated by MeadowsweetFilipendula ulmaria with splashes of Purple-loosestrifeLythrum salicaria and ReedmaceTypha latifolia with Yellow LoosestrifeLysimachia vulgaris a speciality. It was also home to a lot of hungry mosquitoes.
And then it was out into the sunny and rather warm, post-industrial land associated with the West Burton power station where Common Centaury and Yellow-wort were present with Juncus compressus in the wetter areas.
Dave’s thorough investigation along a drain resulted in a further good selection of aquatics that included Marsh HorsetailEquisetum palustre and Glyceria notata.
All but one of the dozen or so skippers we saw were Essex. I saw one Large and one probable Small.
The genus Helophilus and its close relatives are easy to pick out with their striped thorax. This is a male H. pendulus. The generic name is appropriate as they seem to enjoy a spot of sun-bathing, often near water.
Scarcest plant of the day was Opposite-leaved Pondweed Groenlandia densa which Dave knew was there. No matter where we go in the county, Dave has been before and pretty much knows what we will find. This is an RPR species known from just a couple of localities in Notts in the vicinity of Bole and it is declining nationally due to eutrophication and falling water tables.
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-notMyosotis scorpioides, , Common Hemp-nettle Galeopsis tetrahit, and the alien bramble Rubus laciniatus.
Thread-leaved Water-crowfootR. 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 RushJuncus articulatus.
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-grassTrisetum flavescens was scattered around the tetrad with this plant in a gutter of the A6006.
Rarity of the day was an equal first to DropwortFilipendula 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.
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.
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 FernAthyrium 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:
Bulbous Canary-grassPhalaris 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;
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.
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.
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.
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.
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-grassBriza media, BetonyBetonica officinalis, Common Spotted-orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii and its hybrid with Southern Marsh-orchid D.praetermissa = 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.
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 VetchVicia 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.
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,
Orchids are showing well now and many of the grasses are letting it all hang out including Arrhenatherum elatiusFalse 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 .
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 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 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.
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.