MONDAY 29TH JULY 2019

STURTON LE STEEPLE + DCW

Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul, Sturton le Steeple

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 Road closures, public highways becoming restricted byways and maps that are out of date caused some confusion but it all turned out nice again and we found some inexplicable topsoil strips that pulled in the likes of Common Cudweed Filago 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 Plantain Plantago coronopus, Annual Beard-grass Polypogon monspeliensis and Slender Sandwort Arenaria leptoclados, the plants of interest were all aquatics; with the scarcest of these being the undesirable introduction, Water Fern Azolla filiculoides.

Water Fern (with Lemna minor)

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.

Painted Lady

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.

Roesel’s Bush-cricket

We also found a Lesser Marsh Grasshopper Chorthippus 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:

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.