Saturday, 21 December 2013

Trip report, 14/12/2013 The Geology Trail, Brown’s Folly Nature Reserve


A group of 32 people, plus and minus their cars, gathered at the entrance to Brown’s Folly nature reserve near the top of Farleigh Rise, waiting to be entranced by Elizabeth Devon’s introduction to the Geology Trail that has been marked out through the woods and grassland with blue-topped posts. Elizabeth is one of those rare educators who bring her subject enthusiastically to life by setting the scene of the ‘big picture’ within which the details of the smaller scale, analytical view can be appreciated and understood. She laid out a magnificent coloured wall chart for us to view, on which were mapped out the environmental circumstances in which the surface rocks of different regions of Britain and Ireland were formed. This gave us the awareness of how to look, where to look, what to look for and why we would expect to find it there, which is so crucial to well-informed – as distinct from haphazard - naturalistic exploration and enquiry.
Thus prepared, we set out first of all along the top of the reserve to Site I, possibly an old adit mine whose roof has collapsed and been cleared. Here we were able closely to examine the layer of cream coloured Bath Oolite that was mined for use in the buildings in and around Bath. Informed by Elizabeth’s introduction, we were able to examine the tiny spherical ooids – or hollows where they had been – in full knowledge of how they were formed. Above this was the hard ‘Roof Bed’, which serves as a very clear marker band in rocks seen elsewhere around the reserve.
We continued around the trail in mild, mostly dry and at times breezy conditions, visiting the different sites at which we were able to observe such features as current-bedding – which gives some exposed rocks a striking ridged and grooved appearance, and a variety of fossils. Amongst the most exciting of the latter was a sample of fossil coral, which drew gasps of admiration from people as they took a close look at it with a hand lens.
Back at the car park, Elizabeth handed out some free wall charts and took a small party who were prepared to delay lunch, to see some fascinating fossil burrows through rocks near there. We left richly informed and looking forward to future visits to Brown’s Folly reserve well-prepared to understand the above ground distribution of surface fauna, flora and mycota in the context of what lies below ground – and how, why, where and in what circumstances it got there.

Alan Rayner

Trip report, 07/12/2013 Winter biodiversity in Smallcombe Cemetery



A hardy group of 15 people assembled on a dull damp day at the entrance to the Cemetery to meet Alastair Cowan representing friends of St Mary’s Cemeteries.  Alastair explained the plans for the Cemetery and his hopes that the biodiversity of the site might be enhanced in the future.  We intended to assess what we could find in a morning and due to the season and weather this was going to be limited.  Our task was made even harder by the Council having strimmed the site a day or two before so that everything was covered with a layer of chopped grass.
Having established the need of the day Alastair guided us around part of the Cemetery and we found much biographical detail (on the gravestones) to interest us. 
Despite the best efforts of the Council we were undeterred in our plan to carry out a biodiversity assessment using bryophytes and snails which was still possible if somewhat more difficult.  I explained the technology of the biodiversity assessment for bryophytes (using a dog lead and three canes) and we allocated tasks.  Alan and Marion Rayner were our referees for identifying bryophytes. Andrew Daw set about exploring nooks and crannies for snails, finding an impressive total of 16 species in all, including blind, glass and grass snails.
I think most people expected to find very little, so it came as rather a surprise that in the first circle we found 13 species. We continued for another four circles and each circle took about 15 minutes to examine so that after about an hour and a half we had examined 5 circles amounting to a 250 m2 area. Clearly this detailed examination of the gravestones and grass is more fruitful of species than the traditional “surveying by walking about”. By now everyone was getting a little chilled so we stopped albeit that the method optimises at 20 circles.
The data were assembled and analysed using a method that I have specially developed and applied widely to sites in the vicinity of Bath as well as elsewhere in the UK.
We found a total of 24 species and the data indicated that at least 30 would have been present.  I calculated a Nitrogen (pollution) index and the index was just over 5 indicating that the site is polluted (unpolluted would have an index of around 3).  This therefore established a baseline for us to check as progress is made in the restoration of the site.  Alan and Marion found a further nine species either just outside our circles or on a previous visit so the total of 33 for the site is an indication of the extent of suitable surfaces/niches for bryophytes.
Pollution will presumably continue to be a feature of the site and it was noticeable that the acidic granite and sandstone gravestones had no bryophytes associated with them whilst the alkaline limestone gravestones neutralized the acid and were “fertilized” by the pollution.

Alan Feest

Friday, 13 December 2013

Sad news Friday, 13 December 2013

Dear Bath Nats,

I have just heard the sad news from Gillian Barrett that Peter James, a Past President of BNHS died yesterday. I have no further details, but thought those of you who will remember him would like to know.
Warmest
Alan

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Buttoned Snout moth Sunday, 8 December 2013


A Buttoned Snout moth, a rarely sighted moth in Somerset, was found in my living room of all places on 1st Dec.I live in Oldfield Park and the moth was on the wall behind the TV ! I have never seen one of these before. The photo is not good but enabled the ID to be confirmed by Richard Pooley and others in the Bath Nats moth group. This is one of the few macro species that over-winters as an adult and probably came in from the ivy flowers in the vicinity. An amazing find !


Thanks to Geoff Hiscocks

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Paul wilkins overwintering pupae Wednesday, 4 December 2013

"Now that moth activity has almost ceased I have turned my attention along with another Bath NATS member to searching for overwintering pupae. This is the first time I have done this since I was a young man back in the 1970's and I found it just as exciting as I remembered, just like searching for buried 'treasure'

From my past experience I have found that searching around the base of mature isolated trees in a field or parkland tends to give the best results. So on this occasion we went to a field in Claverton Down where mainly mature Oak and Ash and the odd Beech were growing in parkland grazed by cattle.

The method used was to very carefully dig with a small hand-fork or trowel immediately around the trunk and buttress roots of the tree to a depth of about 2 inches (50mm) starting about 6 to 8 inches (150 - 200mm) away from the trunk searching through any leaf litter or grass roots as you go. Most pupae will be found in this top layer, if you find that the ground is hard then so would any pupating larvae so try a softer area. If it is evident that the ground has already been disturbed then it's very likely that any pupae here would have already been predated by birds or small mammals.

As one would expect Oak trees can often yield the best results, however on this occasion we were surprised to find that we had better results searching around an old Ash tree than around the couple of Oak trees we tried.

Although we only found a total of just eight pupae of varying shapes and sizes together with a couple of hibernating larvae in a little over an hour it was a most enjoyable pastime on a pleasant autumn morning.

It is very important that when collecting pupae like this that you put the soil, grass and or leaf-litter back as you found it, firming it back down carefully when you've finished searching.  Another thing to consider is that once you have found your pupae you will need to keep them until they emerge the following spring/summer because once they have been disturbed from their 'pupal chamber' in the soil they will need to be protected from predators and the elements.

Now comes the task of trying to identify your pupae which unless the pupae are very distinctive like those of the various Hawk-moths this can be quite difficult with any great certainty.

Start by looking at which species are associated with the particular tree where they were found and then look at which of these overwinter as pupae and whether their normal pupation site is underground?  Then considering the size of the pupa you can start to narrow down what possible species they could be.

One of the identifying features of pupae is the shape and form of the cremaster (tip of abdomen) which can have different arrangements and numbers of 'hooks' and 'bristles' however I have yet to find a definitive guide for this.  There is surprisingly little on the internet on moth pupae although I have found that the website UK Lepidoptera to be one of the best. If anyone knows of a better source then I would be very grateful to know about it.

Ultimately though with a bit of luck and a bit of TLC you will be rewarded with an adult moth the following spring/summer.

Another very useful outcome of collecting pupae is that you can sex the individual pupae with a hand lens or low powered microscope and this can help to find females of a number of species that do not readily come to light in the same way the males do and is particularly useful for finding species that have wingless females such as the Dotted Border or Pale Brindled Beauty which you don't normally see.

To aid future identification of pupae I have photographed each one as shown below noting where and when it was collected and what species of tree it was associated with.

Each pupa has been placed in a separate labelled container so that when the moth emerges I can relate it to appropriate photograph"

Photos to follow

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Bath Nats Field Trip to Rainbow Woods on 20th November 2013

Bath Nats Field Trip to Rainbow Woods on 20th November 2013
A total of eight members braved the wet and windy weather to enjoy some of the trees and their associated wildlife within Rainbow Woods itself and part of Bath's Skyline Walk through a small part of the National Trusts woodland. We began by observing the prolific natural regeneration, together with the community planting within the area adjacent to North Road also known as ‘Free Fields’, which was almost totally blown down in one night following the devastating storm of 25 January 1990. Whilst the loss of such a unique and beautiful Beech woodland was considered very sad by many people at the time, it was evident that the 'new' young woodland has now become much more interesting. There are many more species of trees including Silver Birch, Ash, Sycamore, Wild Cherry, Scots Pine as well as young Beech along with a very much richer under-storey of native shrubs and herbaceous plants all of which has improved the wildlife diversity of the woodland in general.
Despite the loss of the majority of the mature Beech within this area, members were treated to the beauty of a number of mature trees that withstood the storm and a glimpse of what the former woodland must have looked like. This was nowhere more apparent than in the two majestic Beech that are still growing on a steep bank next to the old gymnasium in the grounds of Prior Park College with their amazing exposed root systems that at least three generations of children have used as steps and a launch pad for the rope swing tied high in a long lateral limb.
After a coffee break, our gentle pace continued despite heavy rain, past a stand of mature Lime trees with characteristic epicormic growth around their base, towards a splendid view of the City – or at least it would have been if it hadn’t been raining quite so hard! Then, as the rain began to give way to a brighter spell, our walk continued towards Rainbow Wood House where Oak, Hornbeam and Sweet Chestnut were seen in their 'open grown' state along with a small group of Redwing feeding amongst the numerous ancient ant hills that littered the field below us. Back through the National Trust skyline woodland a number of fungi were found including Ivory Wax Caps (Hygrophorus cossus) Yellow-staining Wood Mushroom (Agaricus placomyces) and Foxy Dapperling (Lepiota vetriosospora).
Heading back towards Free Fields, mature Silver Birch were observed with their 'Witches Brooms' looking just like a large birds nest or a squirrels drey, which are caused by a fungus known as Taphrina betulina, which makes the tree produce a mass of small twigs.  Also growing in the woodland edge alongside the public footpath were native hedgerow trees including Spindle and Dogwood, the former sporting their pink capsules with clashing bright orange seeds.
By this time the rain had stopped and there was blue sky breaking through the grey clouds providing a pleasant and colourful walk back to our cars.
Photograph by Peter Shirley

Paul Wilkins

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Bathwick Moth Trap Tuesday, 19 November 2013

We ran a UV moth trap on balcony last night expecting to catch very little. 
We were amazed to attract 2 Dark Sword-grass moths. 
More seasonable were an additional 4 December moths .



Dark Sword-grass moth Wingspan 35-50 mm.
One of Britain's most regular migrants, it can appear in large numbers in some years, and then be relatively scarce in others.Occurring in any month between March and November, it is however most numerous between August and October, and though more frequent in the south, can turn up almost anywhere.The larvae feed on or below the ground and at night, on various herbaceous plants and their roots. Due to its retiring nature, breeding in this country has never been reliably proven.


December Moth Poecilocampa populi
Wingspan 30-45 mm.The flight time for this moth is, as the name suggests, late in the year. In fact it can be found from October until mid or late December.It is a fairly common species over much of Britain.The female is distinctly larger than the male, and the wings have a slightly translucent appearance, due to their thinly-scaled surface.The larvae feed in spring on a variety of deciduous trees.


Many thanks to Phillip Delve for Posting

Monday, 28 October 2013

Fungus Foray in Friary Woods, 26th October 2013



The arrival, on a cloudy and breezy but mostly dry Saturday afternoon of 30 people and 18 cars at the entrance off the busy A46 was a pleasing but rather daunting prospect for me to coordinate! Once I and we had sorted ourselves out, however, we were pleased to find that Friary Woods lived up to my previous experience of it as a local haven for fungal biodiversity. Especially productive were the deep leaf litter accumulations underneath mature beech trees. Amongst the wide variety of different species found were Panther Cap (Amanita pantherina),  Elfin Saddle (Helvella lacunosa), Collared Earth Star (Geastrum triplex), Magpie Ink-cap (Coprinopsis picacea), Crested Coral (Clavulina coralloides), several Brittlegills (Russula spp.) and  Milkcaps (Lactarius spp.), two species of Yellow Stainer mushrooms (Agaricus xanthodermus and A. placomyces) and the Tawny Dapperling (Lepiota ventriosospora).
Alan Rayner

Earth Star Fungi                                                                 Black Helvella



Candle Snuff Fungi                                                              Lycoperdon spp.


Stigmella tityrella - Leaf mining micro moth larva on Beech

Thanks to Paul Wilkins for the top quality photos.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Trip Report Bath City Farm 19-10-2013

Fungal Revelations at Bath City Farm, ‘Autumn Natural History Day’, Saturday 19th October 2013

Eleven people joined this meeting, including an 11 month-old ‘babe-in-the-woods’, who was keen to carry Alan Rayner’s collecting trug! As at our Spring meeting, in April, we gathered first of all in the training room, which provides an excellent facility for displaying and examining material, as well as taking shelter in inhospitable weather. We decided to start out by taking a walk around the perimeter of the farm to see what we could find by way of autumn wildlife and check out possibilities for more detailed study in the afternoon. The first 100 metres took us around 30 minutes, as we quickly discovered a variety of fungi fruiting on logs, stumps and in grass. These included Calocera cornea (Small Stagshorn), Crepidotus mollis (Peeling Oysterling) and Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca (False Chanterelle). We then walked more briskly through the first meadow on the way to Kelston Copse, where we slowed down to check out the variety of fungi on display there. Especially attractive was a group of Lepiota aspera (Freckled Dapperling), some young specimens of which were just breaking loose from the partial veil that covers the gills and then forms a membranous ring on the stem. Slightly less attractive – though only because they were becoming rather old and worn – was a group of Polyporus badius. We also found some Stereum subtomentosum (yellowing curtain crust). Walking down through the line of beech trees we came across a fine specimen of Hebeloma sinapizans (Bitter Poisonpie). Next we crossed the meadow to the group of large beech trees, some of which had hollowed out trunks. Staring into the fire-blackened cavity of one of these, we saw the ghostly form of Pleurotus dryinus (Veiled Oyster) looming out of the darkness to greet us. On the outside of the trunk were tiers of Bjerkandera fumosa (Big Smoky Bracket). We then made our way back along the lower farm path to the pond, noticing a number of grassland fungi, including a Parrot Waxcap (Hygrocybe psittacina) and being greeted there by a nosy Southern Hawker dragonfly.

We returned to the training room for lunch and conversation, the latter being especially concerned with the question of how to encourage members of the public to become more familiar with the delights of their ‘natural neighbourhood’, and the educational potential provided by such places as Bath City Farm. Following up on this, Alan Feest provided a brief introduction to the meaning of ‘biodiversity’ and how this can be studied. We then walked back to the first meadow we had walked through in the morning, armed with dog lead and canes, to estimate the diversity of grassland fungi there. Alan’s point that you find far more than initially meets the eye when you sample systematically, was quickly proven. We recorded over ten species in a site where an initial ‘look-see’ would have suggested a total absence. Included were specimens of Clitocybe dealbata, one of the highly toxic grassland funnel-caps, Bolbitius vitellinus (Yellow Fieldcap) and Mycena olivaceomarginata (Brownedge Bonnet). Back at the training room, Alan ‘number-crunched’ on his laptop and reported his findings to us, as, outside, the rain that had been threatening all day (but held off while we were outside) finally began to pour.

Alan Rayner


The Large Willow Aphid (Tuberolachnus salignus) is one of the largest aphids in Britain but even so, little is known about its biology, lifecycle and distribution. Every year, in about February, it does a disappearing act and for about five months and its whereabouts remain a mystery.No males have been recorded in this species and this may be because no males actually exist. The females are able to reproduce without males and give birth to live young that are genetically identical (clones). During certain seasons some aphid species can produce hundreds of young in a couple of weeks but more usually one aphid produces 5-10 young a day, for 10-20 days. (Source: Natural History Museum)



Coprinus plicatilis

Calocera
This gelatinous yellow fungi is found on dead and rotting wood of mostly broad-leaf trees. It is a fairly common fungi that usually found during late summer and autumn but can be found at any time of the year if conditions are suitable.



Saturday, 28 September 2013

Bannerdown Common 27-9-13

Mesembrina meridiana is a species of fly, sometimes known as the noon fly. Adults are most often seen basking in open ground or visiting flowers to feed upon nectar. Eggs are laid in cow dung, the larvae are carnivorous, and feed on other fly larvae within the dung.

Small Copper
Autumn brood Comma

Thanks to Paul Wilkins

Friday, 27 September 2013

Elm Farm Moth SIG - 25 August 2013

A particularly good Moth trap at Elm Farm yesterday. 


Click here for more Photos








Thanks to Geoffrey Hiscocks

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

TRIP REPORT - LAMBRIDGE

Sunday 6th October: LAMBRIDGE, Bath

Trip report and pictures to follow

Monday, 23 September 2013

Trip Report Bathampton Down, 22nd September 2013

Bird’s Nests, Brown Trumpets, Brackets, Bryophytes and a Battle at Bushey Norwood and Bathampton Down, 22nd September 2013

Click Photos to enlarge

The party of 22 who gathered together for this meeting led by Marion and Alan Rayner were in for quite a few big surprises when they went down to the woods on this warm, humid Sunday afternoon.

Our adventure began quietly, taking a close look at the variety of mosses and liverworts adorning the dry stone wall at the southern entrance into the area of ancient wood pasture known as Bushey Norwood, which included the infrequent ‘Squirrel-tail moss’, Leucodon sciuroides and the ‘Wall Scalewort’, Porella platyphylla amongst a dozen or so different species. Next we walked over to the 20-year-old planting of oak trees – a memorial to young lives lost in India in 1992 – where we had an opportunity to observe, within easy reach,  the lichens, mosses and fungi growing on light-deprived lower branches undergoing the processes of death and decay that lead to ‘natural self-pruning’.One fungus in particular,Peniophora quercina, was noted, the fruit-bodies of which look remarkably different – respectively as flat, lavender-coloured crusts or pale brown patches like flaking paint – depending on whether they are moist or dry.


A fairly brisk walk then took us to the entrance of the steep, intensely shady, boulder-strewn, mossy, ferny realms of Bathampton Woods, a place in which the sense of history and mystery is tangible. As we examined the prolific tree-like outgrowths of the ‘Fox-tail feather moss’, Thamnobryum alopercurum, which resemble an aerial view of dense forest when viewed from above, Alan joked that we might bump into Merlin and King Arthur around the next turn of the narrow, winding, slippery path. Sure enough, we did – or at least a modern-day battle-re-enacting version of them, complete with swords, shields and armour! Apparently, Bathampton Down is reputed to be the location of the Battle of Mons Badonicus, King Arthur’s decisive victory over the Saxons. As a helicopter swooped overhead, we wondered just what we had let ourselves in for that our ‘risk-assessment’ hadn’t foreseen! Meanwhile, we examined the reputed burnt offerings (Daldinia concentrica) of another monarch, King Alfred, along the length of a fallen ash trunk, and a spectacular troop of around fifty trumpet-shaped fruit bodies of the shiny brown polypore, Polyporus badius on another log. Yet another ash trunk, more recently fallen across the path, gave us a chance to examine closely the rich variety of mosses inhabiting its bark – including ‘Bruch’s pincushion’, Ulota bruchii, and ‘Lateral Cryphaea’, Cryphaea heteromalla – and liverworts – including ‘Dilated Scalewort’, Frullania dilatata and ‘Forked Veilwort’, Metzgeria furcata.

Eventually we emerged back into the dull light of day on Bathampton Down and made our way across the golf course, noticing amongst other plants of calcareous grassland, a patch of ‘Upright spurge’, Euphorbia serrulata, which Rob Randall identified for us. Then as we walked along the ‘woodland trail’ and perimeter path of Bath University some of the day’s biggest surprises were still awaiting us. First, as Alan encountered a prolific outgrowth of ‘Conical Brittlestem’, Psathyrella conopilus on some wood chippings,
 Marion shouted urgently ‘look what you’re treading on!’. He looked down onto a carpet, around 4 m2  of densely packed fruit bodies of  Fluted Bird’s nest fungus’,‘Cyathus striatus. As if that wasn’t enough, a little further on we came across a beautiful young specimen of ‘Stubble Rosegill’, Volvariella gloiocephala, which resembles a death cap, except for its pink gills and absence of ring on its stem, then at the base of a large oak tree, large brackets, up to 40-50 cm across, of Inonotus dryadeus. Along a line of young oak trees, Rob Randall helped identify a variety of leaf and stem galls, including common and silk button spangle galls, cola nut galls, knopper galls and ram’s horn galls. Finally, at the base of two large beech trees we observed young outgrowths of the ‘Giant Polypore’, Meripilus giganteus.

Volvariella
Ulota bruchii
                 Thanks to Paul Wilkins for Photos
Marion and Alan Rayner

Monday, 16 September 2013

Trip Report Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve

Visit to Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve, 10th September 2013
AM
A select team of four gathered (fully equipped with three canes, a dog lead and gps ) to assess the biodiversity of some of the site using either fungi or bryophytes as indicator organisms. It rapidly became apparent that the dry weather had stopped any possibility of macrofungi fruiting and indeed we had great trouble getting our canes into the ground.
Whilst waiting at the entrance to start we realised that this site is a dog-walkers favourite and this did not bode well for high biodiversity. The pathway to the site was littered with “signs” of dogs and giant plantain plants (leaves >40cm long and flower stalks >60cm high!) confirmed this site was subject to eutrophication on a grand scale.
We did three sites and only five plots on each site as it rapidly became apparent that further plots would add nothing more. No fungi were found on any plot and bryophytes alone were surveyed.
Site 1.  A meadow with course grasses and plentiful signs of cattle grazing. In the sample five plots we recorded  four specimens of two species  (Kindbergia praelongum and Brachythecium rutabulum) of bryophyte (sometime just a tiny thread was found). The species are indicators of eutrophication.
Site 2.  A similar meadow to site 1 but with a trackway running across it. In the five sample plots we recorded  eight specimens of four species namely the two species as in Site 1 and two species on the trackway (Pseudocrossidium hornschuchianum and Barbula unguiculata) indicating bare areas.
Site 3. Was a dried up pond where we felt we were more likely to find bryophytes and indeed this was the case and the ground was carpeted with moss albeit a single species (Kindbergia praelongum) we had already recorded.
From this survey we could tell that the fields were eutrophicated and we have set baselines for further visits and hope that the weather will be kinder to us next time.
Whilst we had our heads down we did see several common butterflies and a less common one (Small Copper), heard a Cetti’s Warbler and saw a Wheatear. In a rhyne we saw some interesting plants, including Gypsywort, Water Parsnip and Everlasting Pea, and perhaps most notably Sweet Galingale (Cyperus longus), which has been associated with the Gordano Valley since the eighteenth century, but now only remains at Portbury. We took some pictures of a spectacularly bright chestnut coloured spider (Araneaus quadratus) consuming a crane fly, and the leafhopper, Macrosteles af. sexnotatus (identified by Rob) was extremely abundant (in thousands!) hopping off the grass as we walked through.
Click photos to enlarge
Araneus quadratus
Macrosteles cf sexnotatus 



PM
A party of seven were guided by the reserve warden (Bernie) around the reserve with a full explanation of why it is there and what the aims are.  The whole site is a Biodiversity compensation scheme resulting from the housing development (2,700 houses) adjacent to the site. The main intention is to provide wetland sites and high tide roosting sites for ducks and wading birds on the estuary and the houses are subject to a levy to support this.  Several hides have been built with views over the shallow “scrapes”, of which there are six, and a larger open water area. The scrapes seemed to be mostly populated with Gadwall. Adjacent to one hide we found a good strong specimen of Conyza sumatrensis looking like a strange Canadian Fleabane.  Rob said that this is a recent colonizer from South America (despite its name!). How did it get there?
We wandered onto the salt marsh and found a good growth of Sea Spurrey, Sea Aster and Spartina; the latter of which was infected with ergot producing long sclerotia (the fruit bodies of the fungus  Claviceps purpurea and the source of the poison ergotamine). On the mud close by were feeding Redshank , Curlew and Black-tailed Godwits (the latter in summer plumage).  On the pathway to the coast Alan found Coltsfoot infected with two fungi (Puccinia poarum and Coleosporium tussilaginis) sometimes both on a single leaf and earlier on in our walk we noticed a fine specimen of the bracket fungus, Inonotus hispidus, growing from the trunk of a large ash tree.
Finally we visited the non-public access area which was a series of scrubby areas and clearings.  This was botanically much richer although recent mowing removed most of the flowers .  Particularly strong plants of Red Bartsia (Odontites verna) were seen but perhaps the most spectacular site to see was the dozens of Southern Hawkers flying over our heads (and even landing on someone’s head).
Clearly this is a site in development and it bodes well for the bird populations being at the entrance of the Gordano Valley and adjacent to the estuary. 
Click photos to enlarge

Galingale (Cyperus longus)
Shaggy Bracket (Inonotus hispidus)

Alan Feest

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Natural Neighbourhood Watch Tuesday, 10 September 2013


Dear All,
You can view a recording of my presentation with Mike Collins to Bath Natural History Society on tuesday 3rd September on link below. 
Thanks very much to Jack Whitehead for providing the video camera and downloading to YouTube. And thanks to Paul Wilkins for manning the camera.
Warmest
Alan

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Devil’s Coach Horse

Monday 2 September, Claverton. A Devil’s Coach Horse Beetle, also known as a Cock-tail. We did see it doing exactly that, cocking its tail like a scorpion. Carole Catling.

Click to enlarge



Thanks to Carole Catling

Monday, 2 September 2013

Trip Report Savernake Forest

Bath Nats with Wiltshire Botanical Society in Savernake Forest, Saturday 31st August 2013


Around 30 members of Bath Nats and Wiltshire Botanical Society met on a sparkling late summer morning with Joan Davies and me for what was to prove a fascinating and varied day steeped in the extraordinary ancient and modern forest that covers 1100 hectares of the landscape just east of Marlborough, Wilts. After an introduction to the history of the forest from Joan and a call from me to imagine its inhabitant trees and fungi as living and dying fountains, we set off down one of the paths that had been specially cleared for our visit with the help of Tom Blythe of the Forestry Commission. It wasn’t long before our attention was diverted by one of the profuse outgrowths of sulphur polypore, Laetiporus sulphureus, which we were to see frequently on decaying logs and tree trunks during the day. I demonstrated the brown rot decay that this fungus produces in the heartwood of large oak trees. Soon we came across some more specimens on a log that also supported luxuriant growths of the mosses Dicranum scoparium, with its scythe-shaped leaves, and Tetraphis pellucida, which forms ‘gemma cups’, like tiny bowls of fruit at the tips of its shoots. Nestling amongst these was a tiny fruit body of the fungus, Galerina hypnorum, and on the path nearby a much larger fruit body of Tricholomopsis (=Megacollybia) platyphylla. I excavated the surface soil and leaf litter around this to reveal the spreading network of mycelial cords by means of which this fungus interconnects pieces of decaying wood over distances of many – perhaps even ultimately hundreds of metres in forests and woodlands. These cords form the communication channels from which the fruit bodies emerge as fountain-like outgrowths. At this point Joan reminded us that we had already been ‘walking’ for an hour, and had got less than a quarter of the way round our planned itinerary before lunch! So our pace had to quicken – which was difficult when there was so much to see and enjoy.
Eventually we reached the replacement King Oak. Joan explained that by the early 1900 the King Oak had completely died and in 1945 it was decided to replace it with a tree grown from an acorn from the original Savernake Cluster Oak. Unfortunately the leaves of the replacement oak show very little sign of clustering and the tree has grown poorly.  Both the replacement King Oak and the oak next to it have recently been pollarded in the hope of encouraging them to become the ancient trees of the future.

The replacement King Oak was the start of a parade of ancient oak trees that in all their decrepit, broken-hearted, heavy limbed, epiphyte-strewn, ridged, grooved and gnarled magnificence were our primary focus for the morning. Most impressive, for me, was one called the ‘Spider Oak’. We noticed how the distribution of epiphytic ferns, mosses and lichens on these trees followed the drainage patterns of rainwater down their trunks and branches, and reflected on the relationship between processes of growth, dysfunction, death and decay that contributed to their evocative appearance. We were concerned also by the luxuriant growth of bracken, bramble, young trees and other understory that blocked our access to them. This exemplifies one of the great difficulties facing managers of our forests in these times when the expectations of the public for access and recreation have been increased but their ability or willingness to contribute to what needs to be done has decreased. The increased growth of understory is due to the thinning out and removal  of trees around the ancient ones, which has allowed more sunlight to penetrate to ground level. To remove this growth without voluntary effort from the public is very expensive.

Eventually, we made our way out onto the ‘Charcoal Burners Road’ where we met Dr Jack Oliver, who informed us helpfully and in some detail how to recognise the two native species of oak and their hybrids and varieties that can be found in the forest – as well as the non-native ‘Turkey Oak’. We returned through the forest back to our starting point for a latish lunch, which some of us ate sitting around Thornhill Pond, where water soldier and fringed water lilies were seen, amongst other pond life. We then drove on to our afternoon destination and were led hastily along a cleared forest path to the base of one of the oldest oak trees in the forest, perhaps dating back to Saxon times and with a circumference at 1.5 m of 10.8 metres – the ‘Big Bellied Oak’. Amongst other things we admired on this old pollard was an outcrop of ‘beefsteak fungus’, Fistulina hepatica, on its flanks. We wandered more slowly back through the forest to our cars, admiring more magnificent oak trees and a specimen of the blusher, Amanita rubescens, along the way. But this wasn’t quite the end of the day for a group of about 15 of us, who walked on to Cadley Church, now a private home, where we were met by Rosemary Davies. Rosemary showed us around the graveyard and her garden, where over 120 species of colourful wax caps and other fungi have been recorded over the last 25 years or so since I last met her (but that is another story). We saw several red, yellow and blackening wax caps and some ‘white spindles’ (Clavaria vermicularis) as well as a little yellow brittle-gill, which my faltering memory eventually decided was Russula solaris, quite a rare species. Hence an already very enjoyable day ended on a high note.  Click Photos to enlarge
Exposing network
Spider Oak

getting logged


Alan Rayner
Photographs by Tom Cairns:



Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Bank Holiday Monday walk Bathampton Down and Claverton.


"Phillip and I enjoyed a lovely local walk on Bank Holiday Monday 26th August, including Bathampton Down and Claverton.  Highlights were three Spotted Flycatchers, in three different locations, and 16 species of butterfly including a Clouded Yellow and Brown Argus in the "quarry" area of the golf course, and a Painted Lady.

Thank you Lucy Delve

Monday, 26 August 2013

Moth light trap

We ran a light trap on 22/23 Aug Thursday/ Friday night at Bathwick.Here are some of the moths attracted to the light.       Click Photos to enlarge
Barred Hook-tip



Centre-barred Sallow


Pale Prominent


Thank you Phillip & Lucy
Beautiful Plume


Old Lady


Willow Beauty

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Clouded Yellow

A Friday visitor to the garden, the first Clouded Yellow ever. Not a very good pic but at least a record of an unusual event.

Thanks to Gordon Rich




Click to enlarge

Friday, 23 August 2013

Clouded Yellow

Clouded Yellow has been seen regularly at Hazelbury Common in recent weeks and probably at other sites in the Bath Nats area as well. I was therefore glad to come across one on Bannerdown Common while conducting the regular butterfly transect there on 21st August. It was flying around in the area known commonly as the ' slope ' at the southern end of the Common, occasionally pausing to nectar. The attached photo shows one of these brief  'pit stops'.
Thanks to Geoff Hiscocks

Monday, 19 August 2013

Elm Farm


Saturday Night and Sunday Morning at Elm Farm, 17th, 18th August 2013

The four Bath Nats who joined John Paget and Ian Stapp, on a cool but mostly dry summer evening after a rainy afternoon, were in for a treat. Having watched a sparrowhawk cruising amidst the swallows and house martins gathering in the dusk, we were led across to watch the moth trap being set up and then to the barn in which the colony of around 35 Natterer’s bats were said to be roosting. We looked up to the ridge beam but could not see any activity, although the plentiful droppings on the floor beneath provided clear evidence of the bats’ presence. The coolness of the evening allowed the bats to stay well hidden, we were led to believe. We then walked out along the main path from the farm, past a small pond, to a gateway where we looked towards woodland across a grassy field, with a border of melilot, scorpion weed and quinoa, planted to encourage winter birds. While John told us about the history of the farm and its management, we watched roe deer and a brown hare. We then walked back to the main barn and were shown a superb short video film of the Natterer’s bats, which prepared us for what was to come. As the evening light faded, we returned to wait beside the Rothko-like rectangle of blackness at the entrance of the barn, which was lit from below by a red light. We listened to the crackling on the bat detectors, which Ian told us was the bats having a natter about whether the weather was good enough, but not yet ready to take flight. Just as we began to wonder whether they would do any more than just chat about it, their tone changed to a more rapid, deliberate code and we saw the first red-lit flutterers emerge and swirl around us before disappearing off into the night sky. More soon followed, the bats both exiting from and returning into the void in rapid succession, a vibrant, living firework display that lasted around 35 minutes until the last bat had left and the detectors fell silent.

Next morning, in bright sunshine, a much larger group of 18 gathered at the entrance of the farm to watch Richard Pooley examine and identify around 35 species of moths that had gathered overnight in and around the trap. Amongst the most abundant were ‘Flame Shoulder’ (Ochropleura plecta) and ‘Lesser Broad Bordered Yellow Underwing’ and amongst the most striking in appearance were ‘Spectacle’ (Abrostola triplasia), ‘Magpie’ (Abraxus grossulariata) and ‘Blood-vein’ (Timandra comae). Pride of place went to ‘Dark Barred Twin-spot Carpet’ (Xanthorhoe ferrugata). We then took a walk around the farm, appreciating the wide variety of flora, fauna and fungi to be found in its diversity of hedgerow, wetland, woodland and grassland habitats. Among the more unusual finds was ‘Choke’ or Epichloe typhina, growing on ‘Wood false-brome’ (Brachypodium sylvaticum). This fungus grows ‘endophytically’ within living grass stems, but prior to fruiting produces a tight collar of mycelium around the flowering culms, which appears to ‘choke’ them. Although it inhibits flowering, the grass responds by producing more  vegetative growth. Last but not least was a fine specimen of ‘Vapourer’ moth (Orgyia antiqua) in the hedgerow along the main path from the farm.

Richard Pooley &

Alan Rayner




Click Photos to enlarge
Blood Vein 
Common Blue
Photos by Paul Wilkins

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Moth Help Tuesday, 13 August 2013

I recently found a dead moth which appears to be unharmed, but with a lens you can see a small perfectly round hole on the back of its head.  Is this the cause of death, perhaps a parasite ?  I don't know the species of moth - it looks like the common quaker in my reference book, but a bit larger and the antennae are finer and longer.
Any information would be of interest !
Trish Tassis

Friday, 9 August 2013

Hazelbury Common trip report

Wednesday 7th August 2013:

  Chalk-hill Blue 
A party of 20 met on a mild morning of light cloud and hazy sunshine that was ideal for the main purpose of the day, which was to see and enjoy the varied insect life of this small oasis set in the middle of well-farmed fields.  Within minutes the group had fragmented into interest groups as various butterflies and moths were being discovered.  After a dismal early start to the year, the last month has seen a great improvement in not only the variety but also the numbers of butterflies, and none more so than the “whites”. During the course of the two hour walk we saw hundreds of white butterflies, the bulk of which were Small & Green-veined, then later some Large Whites.  Of especial interest to most of the group were the Chalk-hill Blues where we saw both the showy males and the more subtly camouflaged females. Other delights were the Common Blues, Small Copper, and both Small and Essex Skippers.  A very dilapidated and heavily worn Dark-green Fritillary was admired despite its rather woebegone appearance, but it is right at the end of the flight period for this species.
Moths were also in evidence with the cryptically coloured Dusky Sallow nectaring on the heads of Knapweed, Field Scabious or Woolly Thistle.  Others recorded were Six-spot Burnet, Shaded Broad Bar and many Silver Y. A particularly colourful and pleasing micro moth called Pyrausta purpuralis was present in numbers on the Marjoram that grows abundantly on the lower part of the slope.  The depredations by the tiny Horse-chestnut leaf miner micro moth were discussed, as the Horse-chestnut trees at the entrance to the site were heavily infested.
Other forms of wildlife were not ignored as Chiffchaff, Bullfinch and Nuthatch were heard, comment was made concerning the parasitic nature of both Yellow Rattle and Red Bartsia, which are helping to combat the spread of coarse grasses that are having a detrimental effect on the traditional downland plant communities.  Dr Alan Rayner identified and expanded on the tiny fungus Bolbitius vitellinus, which is brilliant yellow in its early stages, before the cap expands, and also pointed out the very smart male Red-tailed Bumble bees with their yellow faces.  One very small and very nervous Common Lizard was seen on an old ant-hill but did not linger to allow more that two people to see it.
By the end of the walk we had seen 16 species of butterfly, 6 macro & 5 micro moth species, and a very pleasing variety of other insect forms plus other wildlife.   Finally a bonus of a non natural history nature came when the old  Plaister “pilgrims chapel was opened especially to allow  members to view it.
Small Copper 

Female Chalkhill Blue

Dusky Sallow    

Photos by Paul Wilkins

Thanks to Richard Pooley & Elisabeth Allen  

Friday, 2 August 2013

Otter at Newbridge 2nd Aug 2013

Hi i thought you would like to know about a otter i seen yesterday at newbridge below the pump house i was fishing and we had a lovely 10 seconds staring at each other the first one i have seen in the wild what a privelige .


Many thanks to Colin Carey

Saturday, 27 July 2013

 I was thrilled this afternoon while showing a Somerset BC member around Bannerdown Common - she had never been there before- to come across four Purple Hairstreaks flying in the usual oaks near the entrance. On Tuesday while doing the transect I had looked hard for some but without success. I never saw any there last year either.
In the end we both managed just a couple of shots of this female (I think) when she briefly came into camera range. I've also attached the photo of a Painted Lady on the Common that I saw on Tuesday, my first up there this year.

Geoff Hiscocks (fritman23)


Thanks Geoff