Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Nature Notes 2020

 

Natural wild rose arch, Severnside...

I live in Filton, north Bristol. I regularly visit the Severn Estuary coast, particularly New Passage, Pilning Wetlands and Aust just north of Severn Beach; Oldbury Power Station and Shepperdine further up the estuary; and the Marshfield area of the Cotswolds north of Bath.

 January

Brand new Group: For sixteen years I’d been a member of a wonderful private Yahoo Group called ‘Bristol Wildlife’- somewhere I could post poetic natural descriptions as well as interesting science, wildlife questions, and jokey banter. Sadly Yahoo withdrew its support of its Groups, so I and another loyal member moved us to Facebook to create a ‘Bristol Wildlife-plus’ group called ‘Bristol & Surrounding Areas Wildlife’ (BRISAW) - a private group with a wider remit covering Bristol and the counties round it. It launched a few days ago, and with much trepidation I joined Facebook for the first time and became a BRISAW member. And how great it is – with many of our original BW members but lots of new and often younger members, the ability to post pictures and videos - we can feel the new energy!

Whose Poo?

Whose Poo? We saw this poo balanced on a large pipe running along the sea embankment from the Oldbury decommissioned nuclear power station. I thought it would be otter spraint marking territory but our otter experts said no. So what animal balanced precariously on this smooth curve to deposit its signature? – a fox? – it conjures a rather risible picture…

Crows in the Frome: Where the small River Frome cuts its way through north Bristol woodland - a bunch of Crows were splashing and washing in the flow – a funny sight!

New Passage – Winter into Spring: In one house’s low-lying orchard, a Fieldfare was enjoying fallen apples with a group of  Blackbirds… On the salt marsh some Black-headed Gulls’ heads were just starting to be tinted grey – the forerunner of their full black breeding Spring plumage…

Driftwood

Driftwood: Extra-high tides have washed large driftwood logs onto the sides of the embankment all 
the way from New Passage to Aust - they look like rows of mighty beached creatures…

Jackdaws to roost: Over Filton at dusk, about two hundred Jackdaws wheeling but steadily making their way north-east to their secretive roosts…

Magpies
PeterTrimming
    Counting Magpies: I just counted eighteen Magpies clustered in two adjacent  trees  in the park opposite our house. Our bird recorder commented, ‘Not sure that the rhyme goes that far?!’ (‘One for sorrow, Two for joy, Three for a girl, Four for a boy, Five for silver, Six for gold, Seven for a secret never to be told.’) No indeed – that’s a whole lotta Magpies!

 Ratchets: On Severnside we heard a Fieldfare making a call that sounded more like the coarse grinding of ratchet gears than its more usual chak-chak… so much so that we thought it was nearby workmen!

Chessell Pill
Lewis Clarke

Shimmering reeds: At New Passage a southerly wind was blowing and making the reeds along the Chessell Pill rhythmically shimmy and shimmer – mesmerising…

Where do the birds go? At this time of year some bird species seem to abruptly disappear: Lapwings were seen in their hundreds till the 7 Jan and now – none; Black-tailed Godwits disappear in January and February – where to?

Winter / Spring: - At Pilning Wetlands it was warm enough for gnatty insects to be flying in the side lane… Chiffchaffs were flitting about the vegetation on the banks... And a Goldcrest danced round the dense shrubs overhanging the small Pill sluice…

- An expert birding friend said he might have seen four Twite earlier – he could see their yellowish bills, buff throats and very streaky backs, though not their pink rumps as the wings were folded…

Frosty Marshfield: - A bird walk on a lovely frosty, still, cloudless day, with Stock Doves, Winter Thrushes, Skylarks, Linnets, Corn Buntings, Yellowhammers, Stonechats, Kestrels, Buzzard, Common Gulls, Golden Plovers high in the sky…

Cup Fungus

- We found some Cup fungi on a large dung heap (Pezizaceae – ‘The cup shape typically serves to focus raindrops into splashing spores out of the cup.’). As always I was surprised when fungi thrive in sub-zero temperatures - there was a deep frost last night and it was still freezing in the shade today, but these specimens looked box-fresh with many new ones just peeking out...

Snipe
Smudge900
    Frost, fog & Snipe: At New Passage the lakes were half frozen. It was another lovely still clear frosty day – but pearlescent grey fog on the estuary gradually encroached, forming a secretive circle around my world… There were so many Snipe! – I watched one from behind as it probed deep into soft soil with that extraordinarily long straight bill – and its rear shook gently in rhythm with its probing…


Afterlife… An old friend had died on Sunday night down in Cornwall - I was travelling to visit him that following Friday, and was very cut up not to see him one last time. But when I was enclosed in that 'secretive circle' of pearlescent fog at New Passage, a sense of fun and optimism started flowing through me – his fun and optimism – and much of the sadness lifted…

Down's Bakery

Tea at Down’s Bakery, Severn Beach: This wonderful local bakery/café functions almost as a sociable living room. As I sat there having tea, a stooped-looking older man came in and asked for bread. The assistant said they had white, wholemeal and granary, pointing at the fresh loaves… He looked utterly bewildered and indecisive before saying that ‘he’d leave it for now’! What other choices might he have been expecting?? We wanted to know!

Cornwall at the end of January

- St Erth: A beautiful quiet Cornish village with the River Hayle flowing through it and down to the Hayle Estuary a couple of miles away. The village was full of Rooks and Song Thrushes – every few trees there was another thrush in full song! Walking upriver there were Mistle Thrushes, Greenfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker… everything singing, calling, hammering…

Above Zennor
- Zennor car park: as I opened the car door and got out – the world’s cheekiest Robin jumped into the footwell and started investigating for crumbs (of which there were plenty I must say) - I had to chivvy him out again!!!

- Seal song: Walking the coast path north of Zennor, I saw a pair of seals and heard them singing together in the sea below the cliffs – that strange beautiful mournful sound that I’ve only heard once before, in West Wales…

 

February

Even more Magpies… In the car park of the riding centre where I currently do my Pilates, in the gloaming of dusk last night – was a group of thirty-four Magpies, all fussing about in the trees and on the ground… a record number for me!

Youngest birdwatcher: Local friends (who aren’t at all birdy themselves) have a small child who’s only just two years’ old. He’s been given a vintage bird book and is memorising all the names and some of the information as it’s read to him: ‘Gannet! Bittern! – they make a booming noise!’ Isn’t it amazing – will he be Bristol’s youngest birdwatcher?

Pheasants in the reeds: In the overgrown upper lagoon of Oldbury Power Station nature reserve, I briefly saw what looked like a female Pheasant flying out of the reeds and back again. This seemed an unusual habitat for Pheasants, but the local birdwatcher said, ‘Yes, pheasants are living in the reeds on Lagoon 3 – there are patches in the middle where shorter sedges grow. I found a female with a brood of well-grown chicks there last year.' Apparently this was new information to our Bristol bird recorders…

Stock Dove
Natural England
    Birds at New Passage: - I saw twelve Stock Doves at New Passage - the first time I have successfully IDd them in flight on my own. They were low enough and near enough that the unblemished grey plumage was unmistakeable, with a flash of iridescent neck patch… Jolly Turnstones were back on the foreshore, busily rummaging… the Chiffchaff was still busy down the side lane… a large group of Starlings were forming the dancing clouds of a murmuration down by the pools… and the Grey Wagtail and Goldcrest were busy above the small sluice. A local birdwatcher showed me a phone video he’d taken of a Water Rail that also hangs out there, pottering along the sluice…

- On the embankment, the low sun caught the pale down and spines of Spear Thistle rosettes and turned them as rimed-looking as a real frost would have…

Where do our Jackdaws roost? I went walking round the small village of Gaunts Earthcott, north of

Jackdaw roost
Muffinn
Bristol and saw my first flowering celandines… but I also found my best contender for the mystery of where our local Jackdaws fly to roost in the evenings, always to the north-east of us. There was a large wood just below the village, and very prominent when one is near it, that’s directly on that line of flight and the only wood of that size for miles around…. Now if I was like Mark Cocker, the author of 'Crow Country', I'd be stationing myself there at dusk to track if great flocks of corvids were swooping down to roost (‘One night Mark Cocker followed the roiling, deafening flock of rooks and jackdaws which regularly passed over his Norfolk home on their way to roost in the Yare valley. From the moment he watched the multitudes blossom as a mysterious dark flower above the night woods, these gloriously commonplace birds were unsheathed entirely from their ordinariness. They became for Cocker a fixation and a way of life. Cocker goes in search of them, journeying from the cavernous, deadened heartland of South England to the hills of Dumfriesshire, experiencing spectacular failures alongside magical successes and epiphanies…’) - but I don't think I have that sort of stamina any more - though I wish I did!


Short-eared Owl:
At Pilning Wetlands a Short-eared Owl was hunting low between the pools – my first and by now probably my last of this winter…

Line of birds: At New Passage after Storm Dennis had blown through, it was still strongly blustery

Over village
and showery… and there was a continuous almost mile-long line offshore, of Black-headed Gulls and Wigeon riding the waves – a strange phenomenon I have yet to hear explained!

    Over: I went walking through the little village of Over, below Almondsbury. For a while my work took me there regularly and I would hum a little song about it: ‘Is that Over as in Rover, or is it Over as in Hover? Is that Over as in Mover or is it Over as in Plover?’ It always amused me! (it is Over as in Rover…) Honestly, the English language, how do foreigners cope!

Scarlet Elfcups
Des Bowring

    Scarlet Elfcups: We had some beautiful photos of Scarlet Elfcups on our wildlife site, and I commented, ‘I do love a Scarlet Elfcup – such incredibly vivid things secreted away at ones feet (often in moss like these pictures) at this sometimes drabbest part of the year; and with a name that so poetically describes them...’

Counting birds: At New Passage in the teeth of a storm, trying to roughly count birds with rain, wind and poor visibility – but with only us there, how exhilarating it was! Surprisingly, through it all we could still hear the gentle chiming of Teal calls… When I’d submitted my bird list, the on-duty recorder said, ‘Out in this morning's weather? Mad! But some decent bird numbers though.’ But I had to admit that I was ‘Knackered afterwards...’

Leigh Woods:  

Field Studies Council
'Winter Trees'
- Winter twigs: In a botany walk in Leigh Woods just south of Bristol, we IDd winter twigs with the help of books and lenses. I took a twig home from a small tree that I and another botanist had been scrutinising, and suggested, ‘I'm pretty sure our twig with pairs of reddish-green terminal buds, is Guelder Rose, Viburnum Opulus’. Our leader confirmed it, which pleased me as I am still very new to identifying trees this way…

- Mackaw: In the woodland car park, a man had a tame large red, blue and green mackaw. While the owner drove his car up and down the long car park drive, the bird flew alongside to accompany him! Apparently the owner had adopted this bird thirty-three years ago, spent six months bonding with it, and since then had committed to taking it out for a fly here every day! When not flying free, it sat on his arm in the car, or on the car roof. None of us had encountered owner or bird before – yet they must surely be a local legend?

- Sapsuckers:  We saw that a woodland tree had been methodically scored with small shallow pits in rings round its trunk. People guessed woodpecker, insects and snails, but the real perpetrator turned out to be Sap Suckers - almost certainly Great Spotted Woodpecker(s) making sap holes! In North America three sapsucker woodpecker species regularly make and maintain such holes in trees like maples which have sweet sap, moving methodically round the tree. In Europe the main species is the

Great Spotted Woodpecker
J M Gallery
- Great Spot,  whose holes are regularly seen on a variety of tree trunks that don’t necessarily produce sweet sap – the reason still unclear; and apparently the birds can maintain and continue hole-making on the same tree over years… Like our example, larger holes are often old and will have enlarged naturally from a small original beak strike as the tree grows…

- In Britain this phenomenon has mainly been recorded in the south, and always carried out by Great Spots. It appears to be an unusual event, with actual sightings even rarer. There was a 1933 paper describing the phenomenon on a lime in Leigh Woods (lime trees seem to be the favoured tree), another one covering recordings from the 1950s through to 70s, a 1980s paper hoping the phenomenon would be followed up further, and one of long-term observations in the Forest of Dean. 

More Toddler news: I reported a while ago about the child of friends who is precociously learning bird information. He’s now two years and a month and was just in a park with his mother. She said,
‘Look, Ash – a pigeon!’ He replied, ‘No, Mummy – Wood Pigeon.’!

A Spring carpet of flowers...

March

Green Woodpecker
Shelley&Dave

Early Spring at New Passage: - A Green Woodpecker was feeding on the sheep’s meadow, displaying its pristine khaki-green and red feathers – its yellow-green rump showing shining bright when it flew into a tree…

- A Buzzard was making a Sparrowhawk-type stealth swoop into the side lane – but was startled as it almost flew into me and had to do a complete about-face back over the hedge…

- A few Dandelions flowering, and Wrens starting to sing…

Below Clevedon Harbour: A rush of two hundred Dunlin flying upstream low over the sea with a Peregrine on their tail… Still a few Redwing in a battered old orchard… But my first singing Blackbird of the year…

Kestrel
Gidzy
    First Kestrel: At seven this morning a Kestrel was hunting above the park by our house. We’ve been here over twenty five years and I’ve often seen Sparrowhawks, much more rarely a Buzzard - but never before a Kestrel…

 


Hebrew Character
Schmeegan

Moth names: Two lovely moth photos were posted on our wildlife site – Hebrew Character & Common Quaker. I said, ‘Aren't they exquisite in their modest way. I love these moth names that reek of fusty scholarly Victorian gents' studies...’

Rookeries & Storms? Earlier this year I and a friend with whom I do rookery surveys, drove past the two rookery sites lying between Easter Compton and Pilning and noticed how very early the Rooks seemed to be working on their nests. Then more recently I noticed with dismay that most of the nests seemed to have disappeared. But driving past in the last few days, suddenly a mass of nests has reappeared! I asked - was it storm damage that caused this sudden reversal? A local expert said, ‘Sounds likely - the site is near the coast and two or three big storms passed through in February. I suppose they just picked the sticks off the ground and rebuilt! I've been watching our local pair of ravens flying into their nest with large sticks in their beaks…’

Botany by Pamela Forey
    Favourite Botany books: An thread started on the Bristol Naturalists Society’s online site, asking people for their favourite botany books. Mine is an older one from the1990s: ‘Wild Flowers of the British Isles and Northern Europe’ by Pamela Forey. It’s big – room for lots of handwritten notes in gaps and margins! It includes contextual facts and medicinal uses. It includes grasses, rushes, sedges, reeds and water plants. And more importantly for someone who has started from a very low level of botanical knowledge - she describes the plants in layperson's language so I can visualise what she means; whereas the more technical guides often leave me floundering...

Extra-extra-high tide: I went to an extra-extra-high tide at Aust this early morning. The  tidal waters came over the salt marshes and flooded deep across the road, pouring down the lane to the old ferry point - the highest I've ever seen it. There were Kestrels and Short-eared Owl, but not the usual feeding frenzy with Crows and Black-headed Gulls; and the escaping small mammals swimming for their lives as the water engulfs the sea marsh were hardly visible today - probably already flushed by previous high tides and waiting it out on the fields at higher ground…

…a subtle phenomenon: An extraordinary subtle phenomenon was visible: watch as the water goes up and up the road surface - then within literally a few seconds it gently stops - then drops a tiny bit - you have witnessed that mighty event, the turning of the tide...

Turnstones on a wall...

…at New Passage: Then I drove on to the extra-extra-high tide at New Passage two miles down the coast. The sea came almost to the top of the embankments (and apparently had overtopped it last night in a couple of places) and across the base of the footpath gate closest to the Pill. Sixty Turnstones were sitting on an old stone wall above the Pill that became more and more engulfed…. waves intermittently washing over them but the waders jumping through the water with typical insouciance...

Flood...
...Photo: A photo I took of the flood with a rainbow at one end, old Severn Bridge at the other and Turnstones in between, was used in that day’s Avon Birds blogsite – the first and only time so far I have had this honour!

---Severn Beach: At Severn Beach, the waves and spray were punching through the promenade railings…

 

Drying: A Cormorant was spreading its wings high atop the tall support of a pedestrian suspension bridge near our local ringroad

Black Redstart
matthehiddenhouse

Lucky at OPS: - Black Redstart: At long last, I saw a Black Redstart that was sitting on a chain-link fence then flying a few metres. It's been many a long year since I last saw one here - though not for the want of trying... As it flew, its tail opened against the sun and lit up with that lovely orange-red colour…

- Peregrine: And I saw a Peregrine – again it seems a long time since I last saw one here, though I know they are always around. So a lucky day for me!

- Synchronous: Some of the concrete sea embankment was patterned strangely like a sparrowhawk’s barred plumage.

Froth...

    Walking Lansdowne: On the Cotswold heights above Bath, fifty Golden Plovers were quietly pottering on stubble field, many with their black summer bellies...  In the woods, one ash tree only had a strange froth foaming down its trunk – I still have no explanation for it though it is probably fungal?

 Covid: This was the start of a full lockdown in Britain lasting until May. We   were allowed out to shop and to exercise within limited parameters…

Walking the lagoon: - It was sunny and lovely walking round Oldbury Power Station’s overgrown lagoon, the edges trimmed with cowslips. Multiple Chiffchaffs called constantly, a Cetti’s, a muted Pheasant’s ‘clock’.  A Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Brimstone butterflies… Coming onto the estuary embankment, I found a beached plastic chair and sat in the warm sun to view the Severn…

Small Tortoiseshell
Julie

- Blue: My very favourite parts of a Small Tortoiseshell are the ‘domes’, of an intense blue, in the elaborate borders to the wing edges...

Sparrowhawk kill: I walked out early to find a Pigeon freshly killed on our front lawn, breast meat neatly removed - presumed by a Sparrowhawk. I compared this with a picture of a Pigeon killed at Oldbury Power Station a couple of days previously – presumed by a Peregrine and a different style...

Some garden weeds: I’ve been in our current garden for over twenty-five years, and it was wondering about the identity of the ‘weeds’

Cinquefoil running
rampant...
therein that probably got me back into botany. There have been a couple of plants in particular which I didn’t identify till relatively recently – for two reasons I think. One is that I keep them in check and don’t let them grow tall or flower; the other, that their growing habits somehow contradict the impression they give me in the wild.   The first is Wood Avens, that growing in a wood gives an impression of modest delicacy; but in my garden trying to take over the soft fruit beds, seems a shocking thug whose roots even when tiny are scarily strong and whose leaves look uber-robust…   The second is Creeping Cinquefoil –
...and the dreaded Wood
Avens in the raspberries!

again an adorable, dainty plant in the wild with lovely flowers. But endlessly trying to take over my lawn and the flowerbed edges abutting, dainty in appearance but with ferociously strong retentive roots and invasive runners – another thug!   
Our wildlife group members gave enthusiastic responses: ‘Creeping Cinquefoil is my DEVIL weed - we get it all over our Allotment site - deep roots, huge numbers of runners and before you know it an impossible mat all over everywhere!’ ‘Wood Avens is a thug with me as well which is annoying as I seem unable to grow cultivated Geums - they obviously have more sophisticated requirements!’

A new Filton rookery: Filton Golf Club has become my main daily exercise area – it’s close enough to walk from home, and golf is currently banned so we have the 18 holes to ourselves! Exploring the area, I serendipitously found what I’ve been seeking for years – the source of the Rooks to be seen in adjacent Charlton village and maybe as far away as Henbury… In a patch of woodland on the edge of Filton Airfield below the mighty Brabazon hangars – about 28 Rooks in 14 nests.   I sent the information to our Avon bird survey recorder who replied: ‘Thank you very much for that  - it is indeed  a new Rookery - or at least one not previously recorded!  I've looked right back through the records and the only one anywhere near there was a small one recorded in the 1930's and noted as being 'built on' prior to 1939.  Well done!  I wonder how long it has been there.’ Thrilling for me!

First Bluebells: Filton Golf Club end of March - my first Bluebells…

Shore Lark
matthehiddenhouse
    Sick with envy: From late November I’d cancelled some geology and bird trips as I’d started a no-starch diet to cure some chronic stomach issues (Obviously swiftly followed by the cancellation of ALL trips because of Covid…) I wrote to the Norfolk bird trip’s leader about her trip: ‘I finally got round to reading your trip report... and though you had to endure some extreme weather conditions, I admit to feeling quite sick with envy at the Twites, and the Velvet Scoters, and the Shore Larks that I missed!’

Jackdaw Roosts continued...  As I’ve described before, I’m curious about where our local Jackdaws go to roost at night – but also about when they stop roosting elsewhere, and start to stay with their nests? Helped by information from a friend who also recommended an excellent BBC radio programme (https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/b01b8yxm about field research on Cambridgeshire roosts) I learnt that Rooks and Jackdaws can form huge roosts from November to March, usually in fairly inaccessible woodland. Breeding birds return from their nesting sites to roost in lesser numbers from August, while non-breeding birds will use the same roost all year. Evocatively, the lives of these corvids are still seen as mysterious – so much happening out of sight of humans…

April

Brash at Wetlands
Spring at Pilning Wetlands: There are heaps of brash & driftwood along the embankment from recent high tides… Nearly two hundred Black-tailed Godwits, most in lovely summer plumage, almost filling two lakes with their enthusiastic feeding… and three Lapwings low in the air, calling, fighting & displaying…

Gulls in lockdown: People are commenting on the decrease of gulls in towns, and surmising it’s related to the closing of takeaways… I contacted our local expert about this and asked, ‘So is this actually an historic opportunity allowing the chance of unprecedented observations of urban gulls in new circumstances?’ He suggested that, looking higher, in the sky and atop tall buildings, gulls still seem to be maintaining their numbers; and to remember that it’s ‘nothing to do with take-away outlets - the gulls are not dependent upon junk food!’ Gulls’ attraction to cities continues to be more to do with safe nesting sites on man-made structures…

Goldfinch
Natural England

Goldfinch song: Sometimes, like a Reed or Sedge Warbler’s multi-layered song, one Goldfinch’s song can sound like a multitude – a complexity of trills, rasps and churrs, whistles, buzzes and chingles…

Dead Fox: Walking Filton Golf Course I came upon a dead Fox – but so recently deceased that I thought it was merely sleeping…

Grrr – changing lists! Those of us who submit bird records are asked to list the species in taxonomic order. Particularly in this age of DNA, that list keeps changing, and the latest one defies common sense even more than usual. I moaned that ‘it’s as though they have torn up the older list and thrown the bits in the air... Are we SURE the powers that be aren't taking the pee (or inflicting a drunken night out) with this new list? To break off in the middle of the water birds to slip in Nightjar, Swift & Cuckoo, and then the Pigeons, before resuming water birds again - surely this is madness?’ – the recording team agreed…

Calm Jackdaw: A Jackdaw sitting on a front garden fence just a few feet from me, calmly continued

Grey Poplar, Muller Road
shredding some man-made nesting material into finer pieces…

Beautiful Poplars: A local naturalist wrote that ‘I came across this marvelous Grey Poplar on Purdown south, hard by the Muller Road. Bristol City Council had it down as an Aspen, but that cannot be right. If it is a Grey Poplar, it is the only one we have mapped in the city, so a champion!’ I know this stately tree well, as it stands prominent and graceful above my route into town, and replied that it has been a favourite of mine since we moved nearby nearly thirty years ago – though I had no idea it was one of the only Greys in Bristol! I had similar emotions when I lived in the middle of Bath in the 70s and 80s. Another stately Grey Poplar dominated the Pulteney Bridge area nearby and lit up my daily commutes - I felt bereft when it was cut down in the late 80s. Big graceful poplars, cottonwoods in America, their equivalents in India, central Asia - so lovely and so underrated!

     A Holly Blue is back - in our rear garden ivy, the spot where it annually   reappears…

Field Mouse
David Short

Field Mouse: There was a cute little Field Mouse on our front lawn this morning – I thought it might be injured or very young as it didn’t flee at my approach but shuffled under a few grass blades. But when I tried to get a photo, it finally gathered itself and ran off into the flower beds…

 Above Aust Cliffs: Ploughed fields which only four days ago had just bare earth, now have a green mist of newly-sprouted leaves across them; hawthorne is suddenly out, oxeye and ragwort… For four days it has been perfect warm-to-hot still Spring weather…

Spring at Shepperdine: A pair of Buzzards were performing one of those exquisite pairing-and -mirroring aerial dances… A big bushy fox was fossicking in meadow grass… It was a perfect still, sunny day and I couldn’t believe that I didn’t hear a Cuckoo – I was willing one to call!

Boom boom boom – from one day to the next – rapeseed fields and horse chestnut, pear, apple, hawthorn and lilac trees – are in full flower…

Lesser Celandine
joysaphine

Going over: There’s a tricky time in the garden, when the shining yellow Lesser Celandine flowers which have formed exuberant ground cover for weeks, transition into frail beige litter…

Marking nest sites: Another Jackdaw fact I have learnt is that pairs will mark out and protect more than one nest site in case another one fails or is taken over by a stronger pair. I’ve observed this behaviour on our local roofs for years without understanding it, wondering why couples seem to be nesting in so many spots with no results! This year they were marking one of our own house chimneys but didn’t nest there in the end… They lay their eggs in the middle of April – so that’s right now…

Hawthorne blossom
    Hawthorne blossom: There’s been a stunning sudden eruption of hawthorne blossom, as thick as clotted cream… (photos from Filton Golf Course…)

   Three Mallard hatches: At the lake in Old Sneed Park today were three different Mallard hatches – one of five ducklings quite mature, and two larger broods with the babies still tiny…

     New Rookeries in Tickenham: My rookery friend has discovered two new rookeries, both likely replacing older nearby sites:

1) Eight nests in woods below Cadbury Camp overlooking the golf course. We think this has replaced the failing rookery in the woods on the other side of the golf course, which was down to just three nests five years ago (and doesn't exist now), and where locals reported some persecution by the golf club.

2) Eight nests in tall trees in the back garden of a house south side Tickenham High Street. We think this has replaced a small new but temporary rookery established in a eucalyptus overhanging the main road about three years ago, but since disappeared.

Looking for early Odonata... On a beautiful day we walked Moor Lane and along the Land Yeo beyond, where my friend had previously seen two Lapwings looking like a nesting pair near to four Canada Goose on river edge - looking for early Odonata. We saw a frog, two Roe Deer, Orange Tip, Small Tortoiseshell, Small White, Brimstone, Speckled Wood and my first Red Admiral butterflies - but no dragonflies today!

Wood Warbler
Sussex Birder
Frustration! A couple of weeks back, Willow Warblers were reported everywhere locally – but
wherever I visited I didn’t hear them… Now it’s Wood Warblers being seen locally, which is such a rare occurrence for our area - but they are in places I’m not allowed to visit! The frustration!

Large Red Damselflies




    Large Red Damsleflies:
My friends who live in central Bristol have an enclosed back garden with old ponds, always fruitful for frogs - and 
now they have a whole crowd of Large Red Damsleflies hatching out…


Newborn cygnet


Intimate views: A London-based family member living near Hampton Park, sent me a series of extraordinary photos taken by a London Parks volunteer. They include pictures of a swan’s egg hatching – I have never felt so close to a newborn cygnet. And pictures where you can see the parent's webbed foot actually resting on the eggs - they must understand so exactly what weight they can bring to bear on these precious items...

Brabazon hangars
Arpington
    Brabazon gulls: From the top north end of Filton Golf Course you get a good view of the back of the vast and impressive Brabazon hangars (built in the 1940s to house the construction of the then largest plane in the world). Nestled in the shelter of the massive curved synclines of the roofs, gulls look most contented and may be nesting…


    May

Biting Stonecrop


Biting Stonecrop: A lovely display of Biting Stonecrop, along the edge of the busy A38 dual carriageway…  I put it to a taste-test it – and it was indeed mustard-biting!

 Avian Pavarotti: Look closely and everywhere in nature you can find creatures who stand out from their peers. Today on the golf course I listened to a Song Thrush whose song was so exceptionally tuneful, imaginative and varied that he could have been an avian Pavarotti…

Austrian
yellow-cress
    Mystery Mustard: During lockdown I was able to find a few plants unusual enough to earn a place in local records. My first was a patch of plants resembling one of the mustard tribe but with a scrambling habit, in just one area of the golf course amongst brambles bordering a fairway. Our botanist said: ‘The plant is Rorippa austriaca, Austrian yellow-cress. As you may guess from the name, it is an alien which originally settled around Avonmouth. It seeds very poorly and is spread by root fragments - mostly I imagine when people attempt to clear it away.’ A distribution map shows it spreading just slightly above and inland of Avonmouth and the Severn since its initial sightings…
Cracked mud...

      Aust cracked mud: there’s something elementally satisfying          about the patterns of cracked mud…


First Swifts: I saw my first Swifts today the 5th of May - bang on  schedule!

More new Rookeries: My friend sent me details of yet another rookery, new within the last couple of years, in adjacent trees on Nailsea Moor inland of Clevedon.

Water Violet
Jeremy Halls
    Nailsea Moor: A beautiful walk along the rhines of Nailsea Moor. I enjoyed hearing and seeing Reed and Sedge Warblers nesting adjacent to each other – more commonly they seem to separate themselves into different habitats. The rhines were full of tadpoles and water beetles, Frogbit and the lovely and quite unusual Water Violet, Hottonia palustris of the Primrose family, which has a stronghold here…

 

Falling tree: As I sat with a friend in their woodland, there was a huge unexpected sound – the crash of a falling tree. It’s the first time I’ve ever heard a tree falling naturally and close by – about a hundred metres away - and it was an awe-inspiring noise. The tree was one of their ageing ninety-foot-high Corsican Pines, weighed down with dense honeysuckle climbers that had helped to bring it down…

Starling
Mike Hazledine

Starling plumage: I’ve spent too many years vaguely seeing that Starlings’ plumage differs at different ages and different times of year, but I’ve finally been given a more rational understanding. Starlings moult post-breeding and their new feathers come up white-tipped, giving them their winter ‘silver-spotted’ appearance. Also their yellow ‘breeding’ bills and reddish legs give way to darker or duller winter tones. However over winter the white tips get worn away to reveal the inky iridescent feathers we see as their breeding Springtime colour, and their bills turn yellow again and legs go redder… clever!

Marsh Harrier at Oldbury Power Station? - Walking the OPS lagoon I had a brief glimpse of a large, dark, long-winged raptor flying low over the reeds, so I asked the patch birder if Marsh Harriers hunted there - or might it have been one of the Red Kites that were seen just a few miles south a couple of days ago? He thought it was most likely a female Marsh Harrier as one was seen here that same day, and four have been seen this year. I find this quite thrilling, as Marsh Harriers are birds I’m used to seeing much further east (East Anglia), south (Somerset Levels) or west (Wales) but to have these magnificent birds so close to home is amazing!

Water Rail feathers
Water Rail at Oldbury Power Station: - On a path by the power station on to the shore, were feathers and carcass remains of what appeared to be a raptor bird attack. I picked up two of the small prettily barred feathers and had them IDd as Water Rail (the barring is from a relatively small area beneath wing and rump). I wondered if this meant there were Water Rail present, possibly breeding? Or perhaps a bird flying over had fallen victim to a Peregrine attack? The patch birder replied: Amazing news on the Water Rail! I last heard one on 9th April, and ‘Birds of Western Palearctic’ says, “migration virtually ceased by end April”. However, from where you found it, my guess would be a Peregrine night attack on a migrant. (I would expect a Marsh Harrier – who do target Water Rails – to eat it in the reeds.)’ Another expert suggested it could be a Peregrine kill stored up on the power station towers and blown off in a storm; or predation by mink or other animals… Whatever, an exciting and unusual find...
Ragged Robin

- The ‘real’ Ragged Robin: There’s a small pool north of the main OPS buildings, that is rich in interesting plants including Ragged Robin and Bogbean. It also highlighted a botany trap I often fall into – when plant identifications given by adults in my childhood turn out to be wrong! Thus all Campions were said to be Ragged Robin, while in actuality I’ve barely seen the real – and rare -  Ragged Robin, let alone 

Crepis Biennis

understood its habitat… I didn’t realise it’s a marsh plant, thin and dainty, capable as here of growing directly from water, and very different from its more robust cousins – so I thought it must be some sort of lily! Our botanist put me right (to my metaphorical blushes…)

    Flowers: Crepis Biennis (Rough Hawksbeard) are wonderful this this year... Elsewhere – my first poppies and dog roses.

     Stoke Park Odonata: There’s a large Bristol park west of the M32 motorway which has a series of lakes known for their great Odonata (dragon- and damselflies) and that I have never previously visited.  Inspired by the end of recent lockdown restrictions I went and serendipitously met the local expert, who showed me what is around now and what was seen last year (a total tally of 21 species…). I saw Azure, Large Red, White-legged, Blue-tailed & Red-eyed damselflies; and others have already seen Hairy, Broad-bodied & Four-spot Chaser dragonflies and Emerald damsels.That small area down to the River Frome is apparently also a wonderful place to see rare butterflies including Purple Hairstreak, White-letter Hairstreak and Silverwashed Fritillary!

White-legged Damsel
Berniedup

Complex configurations: It is a marvel how two Odonata conjoined when mating swiftly on the wing, can fly so perfectly together, and in so many different and complex configurations…

Back to New Passage: I’m back! After the longest gap in 17 years of once- or twice-weekly visits – I was able to legally revisit New Passage and Pilning Wetlands at the end of full lockdown! Family bird life was much in evidence, with a Mallard family with young, about fifty Starling families with young being fed, and four Dunnock young in the side lane.

Avocet
Dave Hamster
    Avocet hopping: We now have Avocets on the Pilning Wetlands pools, and two of four were standing on just one of their (tremendously long) legs, flamingo-style… One moved – by hopping on just that one leg! - I’ve never seen this interesting display of agility before...

    Morning Fox: A Fox in our back lane at 9am

    Chirring Starlings: The ‘new crop’ of young starlings are chirring loudly in the back garden trees…

    Strawberry Line, Yatton to Sandford: Lovely birds and so many warblers – Cetti’s, Chiffchaffs, Sedge Warblers (including fine close views of one singing…), Reed Warblers and Whitethroats...

Our Lianas: It’s been a great Spring for climbing, scrambling and twining plants. At Sharpness

Old Man's Beard at
Sharpness Docks
Docks, Old Man's Beard swamped the landscape... At Oldbury Power Station the Woody Nightshade has engulfed some small hawthorn bushes... And in a friend’s woodland there’s a ninety foot Corsican Pine that Old Man’s Beard has ascended to about seventy foot – it’s not an efficient climber as it scrambles up, hooking itself onto protrusions and frequently falling again in big loops – but it gets there in the end! The mature stems achieve a surprising thickness, and as a child they were our jungle lianas suitable for swinging on for Mowgli-esque adventures… And the small slimmer lengths with their pith centres – were our cigarettes! Ah, different days...

Garden centre re-opens! Our very good local garden centre re-opened after eight weeks of lockdown through the busiest time of the growing year… and one hundred people (including me) queued for one and a half hours to get in - but what a good-humoured crowd!  And the joy of finally being allowed in to browse through the Spring flowers was amazing...! 

Hornet

Hornet: My friend found the impressive dead body of this Hornet in her woodland chalet - it must have emerged during their recent absence and been unable to escape…

A full bird list from New Passage/Pilning Wetlands: I very rarely include my full ‘of note’ bird lists in this Blog. To me, they bring back the beauty of the original experience – but to others they’d just be boring! But I include one here to give a flavour, and because it's an interesting example of how, while there were really very few numbers of birds at NP/PW this day, the species numbers built up steadily if one was patient… It also includes one of the standout sightings of the year – a Collared Pratincole…   2 Canada Goose,1 Mute Swan, 16 Shelduck, 6 Gadwall, 10 Tufted Duck, 2 Swift, 5 Moorhen, 12 Coot, 2 Little Grebe, 11 Oystercatcher, 4 Avocet, 3 Lapwing, 1 LR Plover (by its nest on bare earth by pool), 2 Black-tailed Godwit (summer plumage but presumed non-breeders), 1 Collared Pratincole  (later properly IDd from photos showing white trailing edge and chestnut armpits) hawking over the pools, 2 Grey Heron, 1 Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, 10 House Martin, 2 Chiffchaff, 2 Sedge Warbler (one singing on the wing!), 1 Reed Warbler, 1 Whitethroat, c.60 Starling, 1 Song Thrush, 1 Pied Wagtail, 2 Greenfinch, 1 Reed Bunting.

Pratincole
Jonathan Bull, Dean Reeves
    Pratincoles… Three years ago birdwatching in wetlands in Herzegovina, I was following a bird high in the sky, flying near to but not identical to gulls and terns… When I attracted our leader’s attention she shouted ‘PRATINCOLE!’ – a bird I hadn’t even heard of! I read up on it – a rare bird and a strange fusion of Swift and Wader - but that brief glimpse gave me very little field experience.   Now for an hour at Pilning Wetlands I had been watching a slim pointed-winged bird hunting low over the pools. It looked like a wader though the hunting style was untypical, and I wasn’t able to pick out identifying features. I got chatting with a good local birder – then the bird reappeared and he shouted ‘PRATINCOLE!’ Even then as we followed it I couldn’t make out the pretty throat patch, the forked tail, the chestnut underwings that were diagnostic… There was a flurry as we alerted other local birdwatchers…  This was a VERY rare find for the UK (it’s found in the warmer parts of Europe, southwest Asia and Africa, is migratory, wintering in tropical Africa, and is rare north of the breeding range.) Local experts said, ‘The bird will have been pushed over to us from Continent by the strong easterlies we have had… Its distribution, scattered around the Med (Spain or even France), would make it a relatively simple overshooting migrant. I saw one (as did many other people) at Ham Wall, Somerset Levels, a few springs ago…’  Maybe NEXT time I’ll know what the hell I’m looking at!

A sea watch at a stormy Severn Beach: While others saw Auks, Gannets and Fulmars I only saw a mixed flock of Dunlin and Sanderling  - part of the same lovely annual Dunlin-Sanderling-Little Ringed Plover movement that had charmed me as we watched them on the beach in May last year… And Lesser Black Backed Gulls moved as steeply and agilely over the waves as a Gannet would…

Ruby tailed Wasp
Wayne Tucker

Ruby-tailed Wasp: A BRISAW member posted this picture of the almost unbelievably beautiful Ruby-tailed Wasp. They are kleptoparasites and ‘have metallic, armored bodies, and can roll up into balls to protect themselves from harm when infiltrating the nests of host bees and wasps...'

Latticed Heath Moth
    Latticed Heath         Moth: A BRISAW member posted this picture of a Latticed Heath Moth - extraordinarily beautiful, like a Japanese fan perhaps, or Art Deco fabric...

     Swifts: Five Swifts were here late yesterday evening and this morning – they come so rarely now I feel the need to record them…

 

Cinnabar Moth: A Cinnabar Moth in our Filton back garden just now. We seem to get one or two 

Cinnabar Moth
C J Sharp

most years - I think so many of the back gardens and lanes here are neglected, with ragwort and other ‘weeds’, that they constitute the suitable 'waste ground' habitat that these moths prefer...

Early Fox: Early morning, a Fox in our front road and gardens…

Early Squirrel: 5am – a Grey Squirrel running down our front road…

Marshfield: - Another list to capture the atmosphere: 6 Pheasant, 1 Swift, 1 Red Kite (scavenging over fields with Lesser Black Backed and Herring Gulls & Crows where a farmer was turning hay…), 3 Buzzard, 6 Skylark, 1 Swallow, 3 Chiffchaff, 2 Whitethroat, 12 scattered Chaffinch, 2 Yellowhammer. Lots of young bird calls heard but not seen… Small White, Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies, and...

Chimney Sweeper
Mike Sway

- Chimney Sweeper: ...I also found a black-and-charcoal-grey moth with white wingtips that was identified as a Chimney Sweeper (those evocative moth names!) Our expert said, ‘It occurs in meadows where the plant Pignut grows.’ And a BRISAW member had found them on hills above Bath…

Honey garlic
wallygrom
    Honey garlic: I found an alium-like ‘mystery’ flower at Marshfield. Our botanist said: ‘It is Honey garlic, Allium siculum. It regularly comes to people’s attention as an established outcast and creates a bit of a puzzle because it doesn’t quite look right for an onion and it doesn’t smell either.’ Though none were visible here, it should have a basal rosette of interestingly twisted strap-like leaves…

    June

Pasque flower
Clive Lovatt

Pasque Flower: A botanist friend sent me this photo of a gone-over Pasque Flower, saying: ‘You might like this photo which looks like something out of Midsummer Night’s Dream… I went up to Rodborough Common (near Stroud) where it grows in small quantity on a few places…’

Self-seeded: Here is the current total of ornamental wild plants that have made their own way into my back garden and that I welcome: This year – Cat’s-ear. Last year – Greater Plantain (but slugs liked it too much!), Tutsan. Recently – Feverfew, Common Vetch, both still going. Some years’ ago – Purple Loosestrife (not invasive here and makes a lovely display each year). And always Self-heal in my lawns…

Red-eyed Damselfly
ClifB
    Swimming at Saltford: Hot weather, and I had my first wild swim of the year, in the River Avon at Saltford. I swam up to the weir where a Grey Wagtail bobbed, and back – about a kilometre. There were many Azure or Common damselsflies, Banded Demoiselles, a Southern Hawker dragonfly, and a Red-eyed damselfly alighting right under my nose as I swam… One of the great pleasures of swimming in rivers is becoming just another water creature to the other inhabitants – inspected by kingfishers, settled on by insects, ignored by ducks, as one passes under willows and alders, through weed and water lilies…

Between Yatton & the M5: We picked out an obscure and lonely place to walk, where the little River

River Yeo wiggles...
Yeo does a series of big wiggles through the moors west of Yatton, before going under the M5 motorway and out to sea… Receiving my bird list the recorder said, ‘Lois -a  typically off-piste report - well done and thank you!’ I replied, ‘I can get no higher praise than being told I am off-piste...’

Avocets and Emperors: At Pilning Wetlands today I watched three adult Avocets with a brood of three delightful youngsters… There were lots of Emperor dragonflies – the males fighting over the water and females oviposting…

Shelduck chicks
Keith Marshall

Shelduck young: At Oldbury Power Station I watched fourteen adult Shelduck, two with families of five and six  ducklings respectively - my first view of their young this year…

Early evening Fox: A fox in our back garden at 6pm…

A Gull’s lucky escape: Driving down the busy dual-carriageway road near home, I saw a large lump of something obviously tasty on the road, with Herring Gulls hovering over it... One bird got its beak round the food and didn’t let go even as my car was upon it – I braked as much as was safe, but the gull still got caught up in the front of the car and was dragged over the windscreen and roof… However I heard no horrid thump, and I think it must have escaped unscathed – with the food! My gull friend responded, ‘Tough as old boots is the conclusion!’

Little Ringed Plover chick
coniferconifer
    It’s all about the babbas! It was family time at New Passage and Pilning Wetlands today, including: four Canada Geese - one pair with 3 goslings; two Mute Swan with a cygnet; eight Moorhen with two broods two young each; six Avocet – one seen mobbing a Grey Heron that had got too close - very David & Goliath!; two Little Ringed Plover with two chicks; about forty House Martins collecting mud on the lakes and two starting a nest under nearby house eaves; a Chiffchaff feeding a youngster at the small sluice; two adult and two young Pied Wagtails; and one very young Goldfinch being fed by a parent down the side lane... it’s all about the babbas!
E. philadel.

Sharpness Canal: - We walked the Sharpness Canal from Sharpness Docks on the Severn estuary up to Purton, passing beautiful lush spreads of Yellow Waterlilies in the water… -  I found another intriguing ‘mystery’ plant, a large single patch in wasteland by the path. This turned out to be Erigeron philadelphicus, Philadelphian Fleabane or Robin’s Plantain – showier than other conyza/fleabanes and not so common?

Sharpness Docks
marinetank0
    More nesting Gulls: Sharpness Docks, where the Sharpness Canal from Gloucester enters the Severn Estuary, is one of those strange almost-forgotten-feeling industrial sites quite common in Britain… yet it is still a working port. On a large area of dockside corrugated industrial roofs, scores of Gulls are breeding- some on nests, others with chicks of various sizes. Many favour sitting or nesting atop the square vent boxes built onto the roof ridges, with a fluffy spotty chick sitting in the shade just below - very cute.

Another dead Gull: I saw another gull dead on a road edge. Combined with the close encounter described above (‘A  Gull’s lucky escape’), I wondered – is this a hungry time for gulls when they have to feed themselves and their young? So might they take more risks on roads? Our gull expert replied: ‘Road casualties are not uncommon, I’m afraid, and once the young start fledging in town we see a decided increase in ‘flat earth’ (his phrase for road-kill!) gulls … Accidents like those you’ve described are more likely to do with inexperience - i.e. not paying enough attention.’

Morning Fox: A fox in our back garden at 8am…

At New Passage - a big raft of nearly a hundred Mallards were strung out along the tideline… A Kestrel flew low over the shallow pool – and the nesting Little Ringed Plover immediately dashed out from cover and mobbed it… Big flocks of Starlings were emerging from the hedgerow tops… A Meadow Pipit was parachuting & singing loudly… And two skinny young stripy Linnets sat on the hedge top…

King’s Sedgemoor Drain
Derek Harper
    King’s Sedgemoor Drain: I walked upstream along this large river that flows across the Somerset Levels east of Bridgewater. Broad-bodied and Four-spotted Chaser dragonflies crisscrossed the water full of Yellow Waterlilies. Marbled White, Small Tortoiseshell, Meadow Brown & Ringlet butterflies played over the bordering meadows spotted with pretty Pyramidal orchids and with dainty pink Field Bindweed sprawling through the grasses…  Alone away from buildings, walkers and anglers, I swam with Swifts hunting low round me…  I’ve not swum this river before…

Reed Bunting Song: I’d been puzzled by a clear

Reed Bunting singing
WildlifeBoy1
strong song from reeds with something of a Yellowhammer’s metallic timbre – then watched a Reed Bunting singing this same song from a tree, head thrown back in classic Bunting style. At home I listened to recordings of Reed Bunting song - but found they were all of the more basic tunes that must be considered more ‘typical’. This made me wonder if many bird call examples might be self-censoring, by not including more complex or unusual versions because they are seen as too ‘atypical’…

Adjacent Warblers: At Oldbury Power Station, as along the Strawberry Line and Nailsea Moor this year, Reed & Sedge Warblers are singing and breeding next to or near to each other – though usually I have only found them on separate sites…

Marsh Harrier
Natural England
    Marsh Harrier: Yesterday, walking the tidal River Parrett downstream from the north edge of Bridgewater - a Marsh Harrier was hunting along the opposite bank. Immediately behind are new office and industrial buildings that themselves are just off the busy A38 road. I imagined what it was like to work in such an office where you could look out the window and see a wild Marsh Harrier flying past...

    Emperors on the Parrett: Along the Parrett we saw a number of Emperor dragonflies patrolling the banks of this muddy, presumably brackish, tidal river, which has steep muddy banks, grassy mown embankments, and some reedy patches. I told our invertebrate expert that I didn't expect this to be their sort of environment - can he shed some light on the issue? He replied, ‘There are some Odonata which can breed in brackish and estuarine habitats, even saltmarsh, but not species found in the UK.  I would suspect you have witnessed that Emperors will visit places where there is abundant food which may be some distance from suitable breeding locations. Teneral (juvenile) Hawkers (the dragonfly group to which the Emperor belongs) of course do this routinely after emergence before returning to breeding habitats.  Emperors are a species which can be found in newly created ponds and so are probably pretty mobile and able to travel distances to find new habitat. So a combination of seeking food and dispersal would be my guess.’

Flowering Rush
Nigel Jones

Swimming the River Yeo: This was an exceptionally hot day so I drove to the River Yeo on the outskirts of Congresbury. Running through the Somerset levels but hidden by tall embankments each side, this small lively river was full of Flowering Rush, Banded Demoiselles and Black-tailed Skimmers - amongst which I swam… I’m building up ‘new’ river swims this summer – the Yeo was another first after King Sedgemoor’s Drain! There’s a special pleasure in swimming up or down rivers, however large or small – a sense of exploration, of travel…

Whitethroat fledgling
Kentish Plumber
    Early Summer at Pilning Wetlands: - A tiny fledgling bird, still gapey and with a stub of a tail, was on the embankment, squeaking quite loudly and hopping towards me – it almost stood on my foot! I saw its pretty brown back and white throat – yes, it was a Whitethroat! Luckily it was sensible enough to make its way safely into the hedgerow…   - At the back pool – two charming Lapwing youngsters with a parent close by… similar to the charms of Shelduck young, with their spotted fluff and sturdy legs…   - On the far front pool – a Little Grebe with two minute youngsters…   - And a Meadow Pipit, parachuting & singing…
Field Madder

Fooled by Field Madder: Growing from cracks in the New Passage esplanade concrete were small mounds of a plant I couldn’t identify - quite fleshy-looking tiny bright leaves with tiny pale blue four-petalled flowers. Our botanist said: ‘It is Sherardia arvensis, Field madder. If you look how the leaves join in a ring you can tell it is in the bedstraw family. It seems to flower throughout the year, more so in the Spring and late summer than at this time of year, I think. It likes over-cut grass by roadsides as well as arable and waste ground in general.’ I’ve been fooled by this plant before – I need to widen my idea of what a bedstraw looks like!

Arrowhead
    Clevedon Moor along the rhines:
Black-tailed Skimmers amongst flowering Fringed Waterlilies with Pink Water Speedwell and Arrowhead… beautiful!

     July

    Dancing Swifts: Somehow I felt sure the weather last night was Swift-like (having not seen our local group for days), and I was wishing they’d fly over my rooflight which they rarely do. Lo and behold - they appeared from ‘nowhere’ and flew exquisitely above: Swifts flying in the daytime when catching prey move very differently from their evening parties when they dance together…

Melilot

Wild wind: Just eager to be out, I went birdwatching along the sea embankment south of Clevedon and back inland along the Blind Yeo river. It was VERY VERY windy – I couldn’t keep my peaked visor or sunglasses on walking along the sea wall… and not surprisingly, barely any birds except gulls and corvids were visible or able to fly! But masses of Sea Lavender along the embankment, and yellow Melilot along the Yeo…

Sea Watches: Going for an early-morning stormy sea watch at Severn Beach, I saw nothing pelagic (of open ocean). A more experienced birder responded: ‘I have to admit that majority of my attempts at sea-watching at Severn Beach also turn up 'nothing pelagic.’' And another – whose father was a trawlerman - said: ‘I always get too cold doing seawatches - never last more than an hour. How (names two dedicated local birders who sea-watch from a high exposed headland) spend 4 of 5 hours from first light at Sand Point I'll never know.’ I replied, ‘I don't think of you - son of a trawlerman, wearer of shorts before anyone else - as feeling the cold!’ But the truth is - I am just get exhilarated by being out in the elements, the wind lashing sea spray over me, the sense of wildness and freedom... the birds are an extra

Lapwing chicks
Rob Emery
Lapwing chicks: A BRISAW member posted some delightful photos of the Lapwing chicks that are an exciting new addition at Pilning Wetlands. I said, ‘I've seen them too, they're adorable - but sturdy-looking and self-sufficient, the parents letting them get on with their own foraging while just watching from quite a distance! I do hope they survive and we carry on having more and more successful broods, here after the losses this species has experienced elsewhere. And the increasing popularity of Pilning Wetlands with the bird community should make it increasingly safer for nesters of any species, as everyone is on guard for predators...’

A botany walk at Lower Woods, Gloucestershire: Lower Woods is a 700 acre expanse consisting of 23 small, named woodlands separated by grassy tracks, or trenches, in use for many centuries. The woods lie on heavy, clayish, poorly-draining lias soils. Most trees in the woods are oak, mixed with some conifers, and other deciduous species including ash, alder, hazel and field maple. Over 70 wildflower species grow here, more than at any other southwestern wooded site

- Plants: The wide grassy rides separating some forest areas may date back to Roman times or before,

Helleborine
J Oliver
and are filled with magical mixtures of mostly marsh- or damp-loving plants. The ones we found  included creeping jenny & yellow pimpernel, marsh ragwort with extra-big flowers, lesser spearwort, marsh figwort, fool’s watercress, water plantain, zigzag clover, betony, wood small-reed, common & marsh valerian, saw-wort, dyers greenwood, devils bit scabious, corn mint, water pepper, water purslane, red bartsia, yellow rattle, smooth tare, vervain… and rushes and sedges galore. An exceptionally rare plant was the pure violet variant of Violet Helleborine - Epipactis purpurata var. rosea…

- Flies: On a small area of water in the damp woods – these small faintly iridescent flies (about 1cm or less long) kept landing and flying off – but somehow left 

Semaphore Fly

the water surface completely unmarked with not a ripple. How?! Our insect expert said: ‘It’s Poecilobothrus nobilitatus (Semaphore fly), using the surface tension of the water to land on, and no doubt flicking their wings in display at each other.’ ‘This is an attractive fly with a lime green thorax. The male has conspicuous white wing tips and is easy to identify, the female lacks these white wing tips.'

- Butterflies: Meadow Browns, Gatekeeper, Speckled Woods, Ringlets, Commas, Silver-washed Fritillary, Marbled White, Red Admiral… but sadly not the White Admiral which can be seen here (as can Purple Hairstreak…).

Long Winged Cone-head
Yan Brilland

- Grasshopper: We saw some grasshopper-type insects with browny backs but green stomachs: an expert suggested Long Winged Cone-head, Conocephalus fuscus which looked right… He said, ‘I've seen a few this year, which means there must be a lot of them, because they are quite elusive. You often hear them in long grass, they have a distinctive quiet stridulation, just sort of tick, tick, tick.’

Skipper


    Confiding Skipper: At my friend’s chalet, a confiding Small or Essex Skipper butterfly landed on my arm and stayed there for some time…! This was the first time that I wondered if my insect repellent is actually ATTRACTING some insects!

    Young Foxes: Two young-looking foxes were chasing and fighting each other furiously in our back gardens and lane this evening. We regularly see foxes here all year round, and quite often in twos when they will forage amicably together, but this is the first time I've seen them fighting – more like cats with lots of hissy squealing!

Birds, insects, animals and plants at Oldbury Power Station:

- Birds A Blue Tit and a young Reed Bunting were bathing with abandon in the spongy water plants fringing the small pond – the Bunting in up to its neck!

Female Southern Hawker
oviposting

Frankprinceiles

- Dragonfly: A female Southern Hawker was oviposting on the pond: she landed on a thick chunk of floating reed, and with her abdomen underwater and her wings vibrating strongly, she and her reed ‘boat’ were pushed forward through the water! – a mixture of wings beating but also  catching the wind…

- Lepidoptera: A beautiful Latticed Heath Moth, and Peacock, Red Admiral, Gatekeeper and Holly Blue butterflies.

Dead Shrew
- Mammals: Two Roe Deer, and a dead Shrew: the local expert said: ‘Dead Shrews are seen quite a lot. Apparently they are dead from fighting amongst themselves.’ !

- Plants: Wild Parsnip, Hoary Ragwort, and a lovely Wild Carrot cup…

Carrot cup
Granite tramway
Derek Harper

Haytor: We drove into the eastern edge of Dartmoor to visit dramatic Haytor national park with its granite  peaks and granite tramway! The latter was built in 1820 to carry quarried construction granite the ten miles and 1300-foot vertical drop to the Stover Canal, and on to the Teign estuary for transport out to sea. What’s unusual is the tram tracks are themselves made of granite – the only ones in the world! You can follow them, half-restored, as they drop gently down the gradients through the moorland gorses and rushes… where lots of young Whinchats, Stonechats and Yellowhammers perched… Sadly by 1858 the works closed, undercut by cheaper Cornish granite…

East Cornwall: Friends used to camp  with their children on this most easterly length of the Cornish coast between Looe and Plymouth. I thought I’d visit too, and car-camp… it’s a length of coast I didn’t know. 

Comet Neowise
Andrew Birch

- Comet Neowise: I walked, swam, and camped above the cliffs east of Portwrinkle. Waking in the middle of the night, I got out to look at the brilliant clear night sky. And behold – there was Comet Neowise prominent to the west, low in the sky below Orion, faint and fuzzy yet majestic and noticeable with its tail streaming straight down – an unforgettable sight…

- Rame Head: I walked the coast path east onto the great Rame Head headland that separates Plymouth in Devon from Cornwall by mighty estuaries – also famous to me for its part in the sea shanty ‘Spanish Ladies’ where eighteenth-century British sailors ordered to leave Spain for home, list the coastal landmarks back to Plymouth… I was assaulted by a most persistent Rosechafer - the second time I’ve wondered if my insect repellent is actually ATTRACTING some   

Rosechafer
George Chernilevsky

                                                          insects!

Blind Yeo above Clevedon Harbour: Hot again – we drove to the Blind Yeo river inland from Clevedon Harbour, to swim. 

Black-tailed Skimmer
Frank Vessen
The river is easily accessible, wide, deep, clear and full of life, with mown banks and shading willows, flowering Arrowhead water plants along the edges… There were many prunescent (blue bodies with a bloom like a plum) Black-tailed Skimmers – one sat placidly on my hand! (and this was the third time it seems my insect repellent is actually attracting insects…)

Swifts on 25 July: Our Swifts were still flying here this evening – but I see them so erratically now that that each time may be the last before they migrate back to Africa…

Leopard Moth
Steve Curtis

    Leopard Moth: A BRISAW member posted this regal photo of a Leopard        Moth.

Bar-headed Goose
Loco Steve

    Bar-headed Goose: There was a Bar-headed Goose amongst a flock of Canada Geese at New Passage today. The wild birds breed in central Asia and winter in south Asia, but the ones in Europe are all escapes who have formed feral breeding communities in places like the Netherlands;  individuals will then sometimes travel here. They are beautiful decorative birds, and famed for their specialist physique that give them the high-altitude endurance to migrate over the Himalayas at heights of 21,000 feet or more…

Avocet chick
Andreas Trepte

    Breeding Waders:
A friend had to show me the newest young Little Ringed Plovers along the edge of the Wetlands front pool – so well camouflaged that they are virtually invisible until they move.  like Turnstones, though bright and noticeable in movement, when the LRPs stand still they blend in surprisingly well to a muddy stony background! Apparently the Avocets, Lapwings and Little Ringed Plovers here this year have all had multiple goes at breeding, having all suffered badly from predation of their young…

Screaming Swifts: There was a screaming group of Swifts flying west over our garden today… Their song has such a harsh name, but is actually a beautiful silvery shrilling, so evocative of summer days and evenings, but that sadly we hear less and less…

August

Porlock Bay car camping:

- I went car-camping for three days in and around Porlock Bay. Porlock Bay is a 5km long curved shingle-ridge beach facing due north, between Minehead and Lynmouth, formed of steep steps of grey pebbles (from the Devonian rocks of Exmoor incorporated into post-glacial ‘head’ sediments). This natural defensive wall, gradually weakening as the natural supply of fresh pebbles has lessened, was badly breached by a hurricane in 1996, and subsequently finally left unrepaired so that seawater has been flooding the freshwater marsh and lakes behind to form salt marshes. Beyond is Porlock village, and rearing up behind again are the massive hills and sloping cliffs running from Minehead and forming the edge of Exmoor down past Lynmouth – the highest cliffs in England and Wales, though most people don’t realise this as these cliffs aren’t vertical. Looking at the east end of the bay, the hills that hide Minehead could be mountains from the Brecon Beacons, so grand is their scale coming straight up from sea level. If you take the toll road west out of Porlock, it chicanes up through beautiful woods as steeply as an Italian road up the Alps, with jaw-dropping, vertiginously squeak-inducing views, ascending over 1400 feet (436m) in barely any distance inland… The view from the top is extraordinary – you can see 70 miles up the Severn Estuary past Oldbury Power Station, and 45 miles across the estuary past Swansea Bay to the Gower.

- To complement these hills are beautiful steep and narrow wooded valley combes, like Hawkcombe which I walked, cutting from the heather-and -bracken moorland top of Exmoor through ancient oak woodland full of beautiful plants, birds and animals, down to Porlock. And just inland is the highest point on Exmoor – Dunkery Beacon at 519m. It was extraordinary to drop down from the wide-viewed exposed moorland top, into the start of the Hawkcombe valley. Utter stillness and privacy – not a manmade sound, steeply enclosed by heather and bracken, the little stream just starting and dropping ever lower below the path. Then into the lush oak woods, home to great rarities of fern and lichen… I met one other person in five hours of walking... 
Hard Fern

- Nettle smoke: Where Nettles were growing tall and flowering by a stream in the woods, I saw a phenomenon I’ve only seen once before (by the Brecon Canal): I thought there must be someone smoking, lurking in the weeds – but no, it was the Nettle flowers releasing puffs of pollen ‘smoke’ every few seconds… a phenomenon quite unrelated to the wind, but probably related to hot weather…

Common Cow-wheat

- Plants:
From the cliffs – a lovely darker pink Yarrow flower. Bravely on the pebble shingle – Toadflax. Porlock Weir saltmarsh: Sea Plantain and Sea Blite. Above the saltmarsh – a fine Greater Plantain with its tough, scaly flower spikes like rats’ tails! In a deep wooded comb plunging from the moors to near sea level: drifts of delicate Common Cow-wheat, here showing a pretty white and yellow variant (apparently different colours depend on rock types…); Hard Fern; Common Valerian. Where woodland ends and bracken and heather starts – almost impossibly tiny mats of Heath Bedstraw – sunglasses give the scale!

Heath Bedstraw

- Birds: Peregrine and Ravens on top with Whinchat, Wheatear and Stonechats on the moors; and  Nuthatches and Spotted Flycatchers in the woods. 

- Butterflies: Silver-washed Fritillaries, Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper and Common Blue.

Pebble face
- Faces in the pebbles: As I did a circle of the salt marsh and the beach, I saw that because of the structure of the rock, the pebbles constantly weathered into faces of all sorts - like this chubby smiling example! Some had wonderful lips, even coloured in red!... There’s a fun game to be played here if you can gather a few keen people – children or adults…

Car Camping update: A friend asked how I camped in my car. I said, ‘I sleep in my Fiesta - a benefit of being short. I make it very comfy with thick sofa cushions. I can park very inconspicuously, stay a night and then be away leaving no traces. Wash in a bowl, eat cold food, drink water - 3 days is usually my limit, but getting up at 5pm and off and out not much later, each day holds a huge amount... It's that un-fakeable feeling of being off the radar and on my own... Pilates has kept me supple enough to keep on doing this (though with much awkward squirming in the car to reach and do things), but each year I wonder - is this the last time I will manage?’

Magpie feather

Magpie feather… The inky oil-slick rainbow of a found magpie tail feather…

Botany at Marshfield: We wandered through the village itself, identifying Willowherbs and Comfrey; and then into the Cotswold upland arable field to the north.

Whorled Clary
Clive Lovatt
- Traditional arable weeds: Our leader was looking for traditional arable/cornfield ‘weeds’, and we saw Yellow-juiced Poppy, Black Bindweed, Black Nightshade, Fat Hen, Small Nettle, Field Pennycress, Small Toadflax, Small Spurge, Field Madder, Field Speedwell, Field Pansy, Fig-leaved and Many-seeded Goosefoot, Lesser Thyme-leaved Sandwort, and Round-leaved Fluellen. Many of these are charming-looking little plants, but were great pests before herbicides… and now are rare.

Ringed Field Bindweed
. - Our leader searched for and almost found a full house of Field Bindweed flower patterns: in white and pink - the plain, striped, half-striped, by five, by ten, and including the much less common varieties with a ring round the centre…

.-  A sign of old grassland was - Red Fescue

. - Other interesting species included Whorled Clary, Shining Cranesbill, Black Mullein, Broomrape in a clover field (which it parasitises), and Upright Brome Grass.

Tall Mint: Tall Mint is a cross between Corn, Water & Spearmints, and there is a large clump growing on the banks of Chessell Pill 

Tall Mint

inland from New Passage, which I sought out. It is quite tall! - the biggest spike I measured was over a metre high… It was first found by distinguished naturalist John Martin in about 2007, who showed it to a local birdwatcher who's been following its fortunes ever since. It is intriguing that a three-way cross seems so stable but as it spreads by rhizomes, perhaps that is inevitable? It flowers quite late – July to early October, and is ‘widespread but occasional, probably under-recorded’. Our botanist wrote: ‘It had not been found anywhere in the Bristol Region Flora survey 2000, and the last record was given as 1973.’

Grasshopper info
    Crickets & Grasshoppers (Orthoptera): My wildlife friend kicked off an Orthoptera thread when he jokily posted: ‘Cricket, lovely cricket! Speckled Bush-cricket and Long-winged Conehead could really bowl a maiden over at Old Sneed Park nature reserve today.’ A colleague replied that he (the colleague) must learn his common crickets and grasshoppers, and I echoed those feelings... Our friend said: ‘Fear not! There's a useful free download PDF if you click on the 'Grasshoppers and Crickets' link on this page: http://www.orthoptera.org.uk/node/1035’ I responded, ‘I've just printed off that PDF- it's only two sides of A4 but crams in a mass of information including songs, habitats and national locations. Thanks so much, what a great addition to my small, but I hope select, wildlife library.’ With a final flourish our friend posted a photo of his wonderfully over-stuffed bookcase, saying ‘I wish mywildlife library were a bit smaller and more select...’

Wildlife library...

Wasps: A friend in an inner-city top-floor flat wrote: ‘Common Wasps are nesting above my kitchen dormer window and it's great to watch them coming and going in little 'flocks'. They seem oblivious of weather conditions, flying around even in the teeth of yesterday's storm. Rain seems just a minor inconvenience to them. They fly late into the evening in little murmurations and through the night when my moth trap is on, so much so I have had to stop trapping. Indomitable beasts!’

Rose-coloured Starling

Rose-coloured Starling: At New Passage today we got caught up in the hunt for a young Rose- coloured Starling amongst hundreds of ordinary Starlings flying between the hedgerows and the salt marsh… Serendipitously we saw it sitting and then conspicuously pale in flight – my efforts in previous years having always been foiled!

 Swift Vesper Flights: I thought I was reasonably up to date with Swift science, but have been left behind on knowledge of their vesper flights – simplistically, their ascents at morning and evening nautical twilight up to 6,000 feet. At these times they can use their navigational systems of magnetic compass and star orientation to best effect; and here above the convective boundary layer they can see and sense large-scale weather systems, to accurately forecast the weather and decide what and where they should be doing/going. They are probably also able to indulge in full sleep at these altitudes. Writer-naturalist Helen MacDonald has written a new book on the subject, ‘Vesper Flights’.

Conyzas: Conyzas have sprung up along my local pavement edges. I initially ignorantly assumed they

Conyzas
would all be Canadensis (Candian Fleabane) but our botanist put me right. So I have just spent considerable effort trying to identify the three different species (Canadensis, Floribunda and Sumatrensis) from each other, making many mistakes along the way… Best clues include inflorescence and involucre shape, and hair types along leaf edges

Identifications: When I thanked our botanist for his patience in helping me with the Conyza IDs, he said at least I had a go and was trying to be systematic -  ‘I'm not so good with people who drop images on me without much attempt to work them out.’ Interestingly our wildlife group is currently having exactly this discussion, and one friend is currently 'Grrr-ing' because on his wildflower Facebook group members keep posting pictures of Himalayan Balsam and asking, 'What is this lovely flower?' But at the opposite end of the spectrum he also wrote: ‘I'm in a 'Botanical Keys' Facebook group and when people post things like 'I've reached couplet 46 (in the famous botanical keying guide by Stace) but feel I may have gone astray on couplet 29' I just think thank God for Rose (a more accessible guide) and the nice pictures...’

September

Badger poo

Spaniorum Hill: - We walked Spaniorum Hill on the west edge of Bristol – a strange name with unknown but probably ancient roots… We saw Buzzards, a Kestrel, Green and Great Spotted  Woodpeckers, Rooks on a line, House Martins & Swallows, Chiffchaffs, and a Blackcap making its  idiosyncratic tapping alarm call…

- Poo: Who knows their poo? – we found this sample full of blackberry and larger round seeds – probably hawthorn. Wondering if it was fox, I said: ‘I know foxes like their fruit (I saw one in my garden once, pinching my strawberries…), but not sure about hawthorn – the berries are quite tasteless! I tried my new ‘Seek’ phone ID app on the photo and it bravely came back: ‘We think this is Animal’… marvellous!’ But the general consensus was: Badger.

Light Emerald Moth
    Moth: A faded but still lovely Light Emerald moth…

Rupert Bear
oddsock





The eeriness of Rupert Bear: My jokey friend’s punning comment on the poo discussion above was: ‘I agree with Badger (as Rupert Bear often said).' (Rupert Bear with his scarf and natty checked trousers, went on many strange cartoon adventures with his friend Badger – all beautifully illustrated and described in rhyming couplets. Unbelievably, though it started in 1920, the strip continues in the Daily Express newspaper to the present day, with annuals still published…) I replied: ‘How strangely evocative - it was only a short while ago that I was leafing through an original Rupert Bear annual. They were a staple of my childhood but I hadn't laid hands on one for maybe fifty years or more? They still had that very eery quality I remember well. And the rhymes so neat…’ He said, ‘Amazing! I was only just talking to someone else about the 'eeriness' of the Rupert stories a few weeks ago - and they didn't get that at all so I thought it was just me!’

Buzzard primary

    Buzzard feathers: A friend gave me this large Buzzard primary feather where you can see the distinctive ‘finger’ displayed at the end, as you can see them in flight at the ends of a soaring Buzzard’s wings… I did a little research on ‘The influence of flight style on the aerodynamic properties of avian wings: Wing shape evolution is driven by a combination of aerodynamic and ecological selection pressures, modified by the constraints of phylogeny. Flapping flight involves complex conformational changes in the wing, in which pitch and span are continuously varying and the wing tip travels faster than the root. The different kinematic and aerodynamic demands of flapping and gliding mean that wings cannot be optimised for both. Wings may therefore be ‘tuned’ towards optimal performance in one flight style or the other. ‘Slotting’ is associated with primary feathers that are separated both horizontally and vertically in flight, spreading vorticity and reducing induced drag.’ (J J Lees                                          2016) So now you know!

Sparrow dust bath
Andrew_ww

Dust bath: Eight Sparrows were enjoying a dust bath in the Aust Motorway Services car park. I always envy them – they make this ‘spa                                        experience’ look so enjoyable!

Ragworts and Conyzas at Aust Services: I toured the areas above Aust Services off the M48 motorway (where you can look out across the old Severn Bridge) - I was hoping to identify some ragworts and conyzas. Our botanist confirmed that I’d correctly IDd Oxford Ragwort, saying, ‘Oxford Ragwort, Senecio squalidus, comes as a hybrid from Mount Etna, Sicily, and its rough volcanic origins means it favours wasteland-type sites (hence 'squalidus' I suppose). There's something distinctively elegant about its leaves and general form, its foliage colour is brighter than most ragworts, and it has diagnostic black tips to the flower bracts.’ I also managed to see the ‘eyelash’ hairs along the leaf edges of what was therefore, Conyza canadensis…

Oviposting in tandem
Hugh Venable
    ‘Discordia’: I just saw an artic lorry displaying the massive logo: ‘Discordia’. I found it very amusing – it sounds like one of the invented European countries from a Marx Brothers film… In actuality it’s a Bulgarian logistics company…

    Oviposting ‘in tandem’: At the small pool at Oldbury Power Station, I watched a pair of Common Darter dragonflies oviposting ‘in tandem’: hovering stretched out one behind the other, the end of the redder male’s abdomen gripped the head of the yellower female behind, and rhythmically ‘dunked’ her so her abdomen tip entered the water… 

Purple Loosestrife
'plus'

 

Purple Loosestrife-plus:  I sent our botanist a photo of Purple Loosestrife we saw at Oldbury Sailing Club. It was scattered through a close-mown meadow and adjacent hedgerow, flower heads very full, fat and brilliant, and it took us a long time to decide what it was. I’m more used to seeing it in thinner spikes tangled in with thick waterside vegetation, but here it looked strangely like an overgrown Self-heal or a Willowherb...  Of course the Loosestrife has 6 petals which I should have checked straight away – but I am only belatedly starting to check such things early when identifying, instead of so lazily going by a general impression of size and shape! I added that I probably shouldn't admit these sort of faux pas to him, and he graciously admittedd: ‘Well yesterday I saw some leaves  as you describe on a bank of a brook, and put it on my card (as Purple Loosestrife), and then I saw the purple flowers were Marsh Woundwort.  It happens to us all!’

Common Storksbill
PeteLovesPurple
Common Storksbill: A friend found the fascinating and striking-looking little geranium, Common Storksbill. I wondered if it was one of the many things that are called ‘Common’ but are actually rather unusual?! – I have only been shown it locally near Weston s Mare and Clevedon, and found it on the North Norfolk coast last year (it does like coastal areas…). A botanist said,  ‘You get it on  chalk downs etc, usually in bare, disturbed places. My guess is that it is much less common than it used to be.’
Common Storksbill seed
MacleayGrassMan
I was also reminded that it has the most extraordinary seeds: the ‘bill’ explosively divides into five seeds, with the long ‘beak’ section coiling into a spiral that expands or retracts with humidity. This can then drill the seed into any small crevice in the ground, with backward-pointing hairs preventing the seed from undrilling itself – look online for some crazy videos! As my French great-aunt used to say, ‘Nature! You can’t beat it!’


Musk Storksbill
Arthur Chapman

Musk Storksbill: A friend found another striking Geranium in inner Bristol – the Musk Storksbill. I realised that though I've been shown this little plant at least four times before – though mostly small and 'trampled' specimens, and two at least in winter time - it obviously didn't made the impression on me it that should have! It has small purple flowers, very long seed pods, and very 'un-geranium-like' leaves. It is indeed meant to have a scent so I said I’d be getting down on my hands and knees to have a sniff next time... my friend riposted: ‘I will have to resist that temptation - I had enough funny looks just photographing it…

The Poldens

- I recently went to explore the Polden Hills, are a ridge of Jurassic hills running south of the Carboniferous Mendips. They run west - east from Bridgewater towards Glastonbury before turning south below Street; the latter steep and heavily wooded seven kilometer section having something of the majesty and mystery of the South Downs... Two ‘mighty rivers’ run each side through the Somerset levels –the Brue and the Huntspill to the north, and King Sedgemoor’s Drain and the Parrett to the south.

Dundon Beacon
- The isolated hill of Dundon Beacon nature reserve forms part of the southerly Polden section. The top of the Beacon, like other open tops along the adjacent Poldens, was dominated by calcareous-loving Woolly Thistle and damp-loving Stinking Iris (if you plunge your hand into the thistle ‘wool’, though soft it is also rough and oily and feels just like petting a shaggy dog…) Presumably a bed of more impermeable rock lies under the top of the Jurassic limestone and clays that form these hills, and holds the wet - along the tops of the main
Anthills

south Poldens are big drifts of Devil’s-bit Scabious, another wet-lover… and along the sides are spectacular rows of anthills 
which are now home to the beautiful internationally rare Large Blue butterfly. (The Large Blue’s extraordinary relationship is with the Red Ant which has a small nest-hill – I don’t know which species these nests are but am told in a recent report on this ecology that 'There are only a handful of people in Britain who can accurately identify ants in the field'…!)

- In a glade a pair of Speckled Wood were circling high up. A Large White flew close by – and instantly one of the Woods gave fierce chase and drove it from the area. It always seems surprising that invertebrates exhibit complex territorial behaviour…

'Neolithic'
- At one edge of the top of Dundon Beacon was this endearing miniture ‘Neolithic site’ that someone had created, about five foot across... I sent the photo to a friend who said, 'Love the mini-Neolithic site. I think it should be on English Heritage's list of essential visitor attractions. They should do lots of publicity shots giving the impression it's absolutely massive. Coach-loads of eager tourists would arrive to see the site only to be totally underwhelmed.'

- The west sides of the hills have been strongly and smoothly  eroded in places to look from a distance like Arizona red-and-white-banded sandstone formations - something I’d been much struck by years ago when driving through this area. This time I had the chance to actually climb those slopes – revealing only soft pale Lias rocks and iron staining…

- Twice I swam in the River Brue just a couple of miles from my hotel…

- On the high street opposite my hotel was a proper traditional bag lady – older, dressed in layer after layer of long clothes and a woolly hat though the weather was so hot, trolley full of bags… but as she stood there looking down, I realised she was consulting her mobile phone!

Shapwick Heath: Shapwick Heath nature reserve lies just north-west of the Poldens in the Somerset

Hobby
matthehiddenhouse
levels. It was created quite recently from peat workings, and transformed into a landscape of lakes, reed-beds, fens and woodland, rich in wildlife with over sixty bird species nesting there.   This was my first visit: I got there early and had the place to myself, wandering through the ‘carr’ wet woodland, reedy lakes and wild flower meadows. So many dragonflies were active so early!  Over one meadow in just a few minutes were two Hobbies, a Buzzard, a Sparrowhawk and two Ravens… I loved seeing the Hobbies again, as I often go for long periods without seeing this beautiful species at all…
Ruff
matthehiddenhouse

    An unexpected high tide: At New Passage and Pilning Wetlands an unexpectedly high tide with strong winds flooded the salt marsh. A young Teal hiding its green flash with its wing feathers, let us think it was the young Garganey that has been spotted here… Ringed Plover and Dunlin were settled on the salt marsh with a pretty Sanderling, and Wheatears, Meadow Pipits, Pied Wagtails and large flocks of Linnets... Five elegant Ruffs stood together in the first pool, showing the size difference between males and females… a Kestrel hunted above… and the whole area hummed with life and excitement…

Breeding Rock Pipits & other rarities: At Clevedon Harbour we saw two Rock Pipits, which I

Wall Brown
Pickersgill Reef
assumed were migrants arriving early for their winter stay. However our leader said they must be the much rarer local birds which stay all year and breed…   We also saw two really unusual butterflies: a beautiful Wall Brown & a Small Copper…

Jay feather
Jay feather: A friend gave me a beautiful small jay’s feather, fallen from its blue wing patch.

Adders: - A friend found a young adder on Cadbury Camp. I told the tale of how a few years ago I was walking the coast path on the Welsh Gower peninsular towards Caswell Bay, when I met a runner who said he'd literally just jumped over an adder on the path! I 

Adder
Steve Slater
asked where and went to look but it was gone - I felt very frustrated as I hadn’t and still haven't seen an adder in this country! As a child in the 1950s, my father would take us walking in the bracken-covered Mendips and always ensured we stomped and made lots of noise to 
scare them away – he obviously did too good a job!

- It was also on the Gower coast some years ago there was a report of a young boy being bitten - then it transpired his father had been encouraging the boy to poke at the adder with a stick!

Early Prunus
    Early flowering: At Aust, wild prunus were flowering all along the roadside hedgerow – I wonder what species does this? Our botanist said there could be all sorts of non-native forms and species along this stretch…

    October

    More early flowering: I was just at Aust Warth again, walking the new footpath diversion behind the new embankment works. I passed a small area where sloes were flowering… Our botanist said he just saw hawthorn flowering on the Clifton Down the other day…   He added, ‘I’ve always wondered if plants exhaust themselves by flowering early so there are no baby buds left for next year.’ I answered, ‘I realise I have a semantic problem: I was considering these prunus as 'late' flowering, in the same way that birds will go on to have second and even third broods if circumstances allow. But obviously what we are looking at is ‘early’ flowering!’

HRT: I saw another striking artic lorry this one with ‘HRT’ writ huge on its side. This stood for Howel Richards Transport of South Wales – but to us ladies it’s Hormone Replacement Therapy that keep post-menopausal women’s symptoms at bay! Though the hauliers are a long-established family firm and their acronym probably much predates medical HRT and all its controversies…

 Tickenham Ridge: - At Tickenham Ridge (just inland from Clevedon) yesterday: Harebells, Musk Thistle and Common Calamint still brightly flowering. A patch of Peeling Oysterling fungus in moss on a stump with a patch of Tripe Fungus adjacent . 

Pumpkin patch

- Lots of Common Darters on the moors below, many still coupling in flight. A Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail on the Land Yeo which was in full spate, and around 350 mixed Gulls on flooded fields. Still plenty of Swallows and House Martins hunting the abundant insect life. And a seasonal touch - a pumpkin patch...

Mackerel sky


    Beautiful sky…
Look at this beautiful mackerel sky, seen from my skylight today…


Moth, Fungus, Herb: On Walton Common – a Yellow Shell Moth, an Artist's Bracket Fungus - you

Artist's Bracket Fungus
can draw on the white underside! And the commons covered with Wild Marjoram…

Hidden hollows: A walk between Easton-in-Gordano & Failand village (inland from Portishead) goes through lovely hidden hollow fields, woods, and a deeply-cut and richly-ferned stream… Buzzards being mobbed by Ravens, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatch, Grey Wagtail, Chaffinch, Bullfinch and Greenfinches... Speckled Wood and Red Admirals butterflies and Common Darter dragonflies… (our insect expert commented  ‘A few brave Lepidoptera still struggling on, then…’)

Eel Grass
b l murch
    Eel Grass on Severnside: A botanist friend had written a lovely article about his search for Eel Grass along the Severnside coast at Aust and Severn Beach... I replied, ‘I very much enjoyed your lyrical Eel Grass article in latest Bristol Naturalists Society magazine. I hadn't heard of it being found along the Severn Estuary - my experience of it is from the shallow Fleet Lagoons inside the high outer bank of Chesil Beach, west of Weymouth. I walked the length of that great bank / beach a few years ago and learnt how the grass provides nourishing food for a host of unusual creatures - including the Abbotsbury Swannery swans…’  He replied, ‘There are certainly more treasures to be uncovered in the estuary! I've still never seen eelgrass growing (would love to see it in the Fleet Lagoons) but I did follow another botanists’s lead and sought out some of the washed-up stuff in Sand Bay - masses there tangled up in the tidewrack so it's clearly got a
    
Bristly Ox-tongue

big population somewhere in the Severn…'

    Autumn life: Along the side lane at Pilning Wetland, insects were enjoying the brilliant almost-lemon flowers of Bristly Ox-tongue. A Ruddy Darter, with its red waisted abdomen, black legs, red pterostigma and pink ‘nose’, persistently inspected me just inches from my face… A Cherry Plum prunus (Prunus cerasifera) was flowering with new leaf shoots…

Ruddy Darter

More early flowering: A wildlife member posted: 'I noticed that one of the spindle trees at Blaise was simultaneously flowering whilst it had berries on it. I’ve never seen spindle flowering at this time of year. Has anyone else? ' Our botanist replied that Spindle had been seen flowering near Taunton in the middle of this September. ‘It seems to be quite a year for autumn flowering in the hedgerows, and it is the native or old ones as well as the new ‘foreign look-alikes’.’ 

High tide: I went down early to New Passage for an extra-high tide, and joined in with a friend doing a migration watch - including Chaffinches and scattered Linnets, Bramblings, Greenfinches, Siskins and Long-tailed Tits. The tidal waters were up to the embankment and everything was incredibly still…

Weld seedheads
    Botany at Lamplighters: This is an interesting urban reserve, a reclaimed  old port industrial site running from the Shirehampton sailing club to beneath the M5 as it crosses the River Avon. Its chequered history and habitats of gravel, concrete, dense thickets, and esturine river banks means many unusual plants grow there - those we found including: Black Nightshade, Weld, Small-flowered Crane’s-bill, Moth Mullein, Pale Toadflax, Black Horehound, Narrow-leaved Everlasting Pea, Hemlock, Penny Cress, Blue Fleabane, Long-bracted Sedge, and Wood Small-reed.

     Failand again: - We walked Easton in Gordano to Lower Failand again. We saw these lovely fungi: - Pleated Inkcap: almost transparent with black streaks of spore ‘ink’ on the underside, this small ephemeral meadowland fungus lasts less than 24 hours… - Snowy Waxcap: a white version of the lovely Waxcaps that come in many bright colours… - Candlesnuff fungus: this tiny fungus looks like a wax taper that 

Pleated Inkcap

has just been snuffed… -Ascomycete Purple Jellydisc (in its anamorphic stage): where fallen timber is allowed to rot away naturally.

- There's an apparently unnamed stream that starts as a spring near the Lower Failand church and flows north through woodland, forming a deep and dramatic ferny gorge till it disappears at the main A369 road. There's a house right before the path along it, which has a lot of feeders attracting interesting birds - and yesterday included (besides the many Great and Blue Tits) - Coal Tits, a Marsh Tit and a Nuthatch...

Hawthorne flower/fruit
    Flower hunt: Our botanist  took us on a flower hunt at Aust Wharf – we got over seventy species around this rather unpromising site! And saw a Hawthorne flowering with berries…

     Beautiful clouds: Beautiful clouds like I’ve only seen once before - also in October in Devon two years ago - towering anvils with flattened tops, yet made of the softest most diaphanous mist, rosily side-lit by the                                                   Autumn sun…

Sand Point: - On this big rocky headland north of Weston-s-Mare - a Bar-tailed Godwit on the sea

Sand Point
mattbuck4950

rocks... Redwings, Goldcrests, Stonechats and Meadow Pipits in the thickets... On big areas of flooded fields looking like rice paddies below the headland – hundreds of gulls & two Egyptian Geese…

- As I’d promised my botanist friend, I searched for Eel Grass on the beaches but without success…

Older learning: I had been thinking a lot on this subject: why bother learning new stuff when you are older or  old? What good is it going to do you? Taking classes in your seventies - is it just an indulgence or done for the company? I think these negative thoughts come partly from the era of Bristol’s first mayor,  when I was first taking art lessons at a Bristol City Council-run centre. He wanted to close us down, do away with all that middle class nonsense, and more or less just teach computing to people on benefits... as though creative activity and socialising was a bad thing, especially for older people often on their own! But what I decided was this: It doesn't matter if I'm old: everything new that I learn I will have with me for the rest of my life, deepening my understanding and outlook. There cannot be a better reason, can there?

Waders Talk: Our bird club put out a very thought-provoking online talk on waders by ecologist Matt Collis. The two things that struck me most were:

Wader bill
Alan Vernon

- Waders’ bills: not only can they be hinged and flexible, but they are so sensitive they could best be imagined as our tongues made firm – as sensitive to temperature, texture, taste and movement, as the waders probe and skim water, mud or sand…

- Waders’ mating strategies: a number of wader species practice variations on female-‘dominant’ behaviour like polyandry – for instance, females mating with successive males and laying eggs in successive nests before moving on, leaving the male to rear the chicks. But would you know this from the literature or field guides? A lot of the time – no, it’s rather well disguised or subtly glossed over…

Pears & Wasp: I went scrumping for semi-wild pears near Bristol – the pears still sound where they lay in a grass verge - and host to a Common Wasp still enjoying its fruit while out and about…

November

Common Wasp
Michael Brace
    Common Wasps: My friend has been following the fortunes of a colony of Common Wasps just above his attic flat window, whose members are still out and active. He sent us a useful online link about the lives of bees and wasps, ‘Buzz about Bees’ which I just used to brush up on my wasp knowledge. I responded: ‘Very often now, we barely see a wasp during tree fruit season, so I treasure any sightings like yours! Your link says: 'It is when all the eggs have been fed and developed that the foraging wasps begin to be a nuisance to us, as their job in life is now done and they retain the food they collect themselves, and often get a little drunk on the fermented fruit they gorge on.' But good luck to them I say - and that is as someone who has been stung quite often, and very painful it is! However I didn't realise that ALL the wasps in a colony except the queen, die at some point over the winter - males and workers. So I hope a year of existence for them feels like a long and fulfilling lifetime...’

More Conyza: I walked along our local railway where many fresh-looking plants of Conyza

Conyza
sumatrensis
sumatrensis (Guernsey Fleabane) were growing – one group nearly five foot tall with those kite-shaped inflorescences (flower clusters). Under a lens I could also see that the leaf edges were indeed an untidy mix of bristles and irregular bent hairs,' confirming they were sumatresis. Pretty flowering Chicory and seeding Pennycress were also growing along the roads and paths…

Beautiful Portbury Wharf: We did a walk round Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve (just upstream of Portishead). The abandoned railway line viewed from its bridge near the M5, was abuzz with birds – winter thrushes, migrating chaffinches and other small birds, kestrel, buzzard, sparrowhawk…

- We found a Velvet Shank fungus, and I was able to stroke the stalk - both in feel and colour (the cream deepening into purple-brown) so very velvety!

Tiny fungus
- We found a twig with the tiniest white fungi: can’t have been more that 3 or 4mm long but with dainty stalk and cap perfect in every respect…

- A Grey Squirrel overhead leapt across the path – ALMOST missing its next handhold yet making an insouciant recovery…

Wader tracks
- The muddy path down towards water’s edge on the saltmarsh was covered with the tracks of small waders…

- A Pussy Willow was flowering…

- In the South Pool hide, wasps were buzzing round the open windows with one mining the frame for wood: so - like the plants, do the wasps also think it’s Spring already?

- Across the field, a fine fox sat facing us relaxed and aglow in the bright sun – a smile on its face…


Gnawed Nuts: A friend gave me two gnawed hazel nuts to identify: the left looks like Wood Mouse (chiselled inner edge and gnaw marks to surface); the right like Hazel Dormouse (smooth, scraped-out inner edge to circular hole, gnaw marks on surface, hole passing through nut scar)…

Gnawed Hazel nuts

November Poem: A friend posted this beautiful poem by Edward Thomas:

‘November’

Few care for the mixture of earth and water,
Twig, leaf, flint, thorn,
Straw, feather, all that men scorn,
Pounded up and sodden by flood,
Condemned as mud.

Edward Thomas extracts a passion, majesty, grandeur from minutiae…

Viz: Continuing the poetic theme - in the latest edition of Viz (a scurrilous comic magazine that is still funny after forty years) was this epistle from their ‘Letters’ page:

' 'April is the cruellest month...' writes T S Eliot in his epic poem The Waste Land. Well, I actually quite like April. The weather gets warmer and that's when my birthday is too. Do any readers have other suggestions as to what they think the cruellest month is, because these 'so-called' poets don't have a clue'. Hear hear I say!!!

 (photo: Norbet 1)

Common Poppies

Unusual Pheasant: On a grass verge at our large local retail centre – a Pheasant!

Remembrance: In fields round Kington Down Farm – Common Poppies flowering brightly, touching somehow in this Remembrance week…

Long-tailed Tits: There was a flock twelve Long-tailed Tits passing through our back garden today - my first and only sightings of this species here in nearly thirty years! I do like the way there's always a rear guard that waits to follow after all the others have flown...

Clapton Moor: - A large rhine crosses this moor – un-named yet as spacious as the broad and deep Blind Yeo nearby, that flows into Clevedon harbour…

Waxcaps
J Oliver

- In a field sloping up to Tickenham Ridge lay a bright red bloody ribcage (the remnants of a deer?), being picked over by a group of magpies… They could have been vultures and the meadow the Serengeti!

- In the woods on the Ridge, a fungus under beech trees formed a fairy ring about four metres across -  Clitocybe nebularis, Cloud Funnel mushroom…

Birds’ nests revealed: I am fascinated by this time of year when trees lose all their leaves to reveal birds' nests - often in places extremely close to human activity but that would have been quite hidden when the leaves were on...

Beautiful Waxcaps: A friend found this beautiful collection of Waxcap fungi at Stoke Park in Bristol...

Chingling: One of the loveliest phenomena - about twenty Linnets sitting high in a huge ash in woods above the Broadmead Brook and making a constant gentle chingling – initially invisible to my eyes by ‘hiding in plain sight’ and singing without moving so their little bodies just merged with the twigs… I’ve experienced something similar twice before, both also in wintertime and in full sunshine: years ago on the Wiltshire Downs – a single tree packed to bursting with Corn Buntings ‘chingling’ in unison. And a few years ago just round the corner from me on a busy, harshly urban main road, in a small pink-berried Rowan in a small front garden – a flock of Waxwings (my first ever!) ‘chingling’. I expect there’s a proper ornithological word for that gentle sound of many birds all softly singing in unison, but that’s my word for it…
Spear Thistle rosette


Rosette: On a quiet lane - this massive fresh Spear Thistle rosette… (my glasses give the scale…)

Marshfield Triangle: About three hundred Fieldfare with Starlings. Redwings, Chaffinches, Bullfinches... Two Roe Deer lurked shyly at the top of a field…

Gossamer
    Gossamer: I posted photos of fields covered with gossamer with requests for understanding: ‘I have yet to find a source actually showing what must be the thousands or millions of spiderlings caught in the act of laying their silk down to form this phenomenon... It seems to be 'ballooning' behaviour, and some say money spiders are responsible - does anyone know more?’ I got some fascinating replies, including recent research from Bristol University showing how spiderlings use the natural electric forces in the atmosphere to elevate their silk ‘parachutes’ - answering the question, ‘how do they balloon in still air?’.


Wasp update! Our wasp-watcher reported on the wasp nest above his flat: ‘I counted them all out and I counted them all back in again and there are at least half a dozen wasps still around the nest. I'm hoping they can last into December, only days away, so hang on in there guys!

To roost… Over our local park at dusk - about 130 Jackdaws flying north-east to their mystery roosts…

December

Golden Plover
matthehiddenhouse

Marshfield: - In the Marshfield Shire Valley yesterday where the Broadmead Brook flows through, we saw a 'kill' scattering of large, raggy, dark grey and black feathers with some bones. They were heron feathers and we think it looked like a fox kill – bones and feathers bitten clean through. I imagined a fox attacking a live heron – but was reminded that most likely it would have attacked an ailing or already dead bird…

- Seven Golden Plover in an upland field looked like Partridge from a distance – because they were sitting down close together and snoozing! I’ve never seen them not ‘on the go’ before…

Back-lane Ducks: Where I live, the roads have wide but unpaved back lanes behind the houses, mostly gated nowadays. Looking up one just now - was a small flock of ducks, splashing about in the puddles!

Alder
    Winter walk below Bristol: A female Blackcap and a Fieldfare enjoying the fruit in an apple tree… A Kingfisher along a river… Alder trees are beautiful this winter, arrayed in an abundance of dull purple catkins… Yellow Brain fungus, Tremella mesenterica, ‘a parasitic fungus that feeds on the wood-
rotting fungi of the Peniophora genus.’

    Ingst: On my first of this winter’s bird survey at Ingst below Almondsbury - a flock of fifteen Common Gulls in a meadow, showing their greenish bills and legs and gentle eyes…

    Dogwood: On the footpath to the old Severn bridge, I spotted a very red-stemmed  Dogwood flowering. Knowing no better I assumed it would be the common Cornus sanguinea, but our botanist gave this complex response:Your dogwood is making quite a show. With all the red bark on the twigs I thought it might have been Cornus sericea which has big leaves. It is planted with the yellow bark form on the motorway interchanges just north of Avonmouth, and creeps underground to form a dense thicket. But yours is clearly a bush and with the dense flower heads and the situation where it is probably planted a few decades ago, it is likely to be the introduced subspecies australis, which has flat hairs under the leaf, joined to the leaf in the middle of the hairs.’ Plants so often aren’t straightforward!

Beautiful Plume moth
on kitchen cupboard

Plume Moths: Recently I’ve been finding different varieties of Plume Moths sitting on walls, cupboards and mirrors in our house. (I understand they have a second hatching in September and can be active or hibernating inside…) This one was identified as the Beautiful Plume moth, Amblyptilia acanthodactyla…

Uphill
rc0
    Uphill rarities: Uphill sits at the far southern end of the Weston -s-Mare beach where the river Axe debouches with a marina, dramatic quarried cliffs and hills behind, and views across the sea and salt marsh to lofty Brean Down. Our leader took us onto the beach where she carries out her WEBS (Wetland & Estuarine Bird Survey), and amidst the gulls, ducks and waders with great clouds of Lapwing rising up behind, found a rarity for this site – a single elegant Brent Goose on the river.. Walking further south along the sea embankment, I spotted what I thought was a Snipe with a long bill - flushed from hiding and flying horizontally away from us. But our leader with great excitement corrected me: it was a Woodcock which she has never seen before on this site… and which I have never seen before ever! In twitcher’s language – a Patch tick for her and a Life tick for me!
Woodcock
Jerryoldenettle

Yet more diaphanous Clouds… Take the finest flossy yarn with a natural wave in pearlescent colours – tease it up – up – up into the sky, up and out – higher than the cumuli – then that’s the dramatically beautiful cloud formations this morning…   My flying friend suggests it is icy cirrus teased up by ascending currents round the cumuli. But is climate change somehow creating new weather conditions that are forming these type of clouds?

Knowing Gulls: A friend sent me a card with a funny drawing of a very crafty-looking gull, and asked if I thought it knew something we didn’t? I said I definitely thought Gulls know things we don't - they spend such a high proportion of their lives cruising over their extensive 'patches' and marking absolutely everything of use or interest to them!

Swans: On a narrow rhine running beside the road to the coast, a fine family of Swans with parents and four youngsters was squashed into that narrow width of water, yet still sailing along regally as they do!

Merlin
Sergei Pisarevskiy

    Raptors: At New Passage a large flock of about 400 Lapwing were repeatedly put up by at least some of four raptors - a Buzzard, a Kestrel and a Peregrine, and a Merlin putting on a breathtaking horizontal chase and catch of a small bird…

 


Old man's beard


Marshfield: - Old Man’s Beard clambering along upland walls and backlit by the sun...


Cloud circle...
- A mysterious  ‘circle in a cloud’ – probably an unusual phenomeon called a fallstreak circle, of complex physical origin and the source of many UFO sightings…

 


Wasp on jam
D Bowring
    December Wasp update: Our wasp-watcher updated: ‘My wasps have been diminishing in number in recent days. This evening one turned up in the kitchen. It appreciated some jam, but I'm a bit worried as the forecast is very wintry for the rest of 2020 and releasing it will not be an option. Will sleep on it (but not literally as that might prove rather painful)’This morning, after a night of gratuitous jam-eating, my wasp was fit and feisty. I placed the open tube beneath the nest hole and he or she flew strongly away, so hopefully will survive a little longer…’
Mossy tree

     Snuff Mills: On a bird walk round Snuff Mills today (along the River Frome in Bristol): golden Velvet Shank fungi on a log (a fungus which is capable of being frozen solid!); a Ladybird; and a tree on the river bank whose branches were entirely moss-covered down to the smallest twig...

Frost & mud… A very frozen, sparkly yet muddy six-mile tramp from Oldbury to Littleton-on-Severn and back, gave us some Common Gulls flying with Black-headed, 24 Lapwings in a field, 250-plus Dunlin flashing along the foreshore, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Blackcap, about 40 Rooks, hundreds of Fieldfare, dozens of Redwing, a Mistle Thrush, lots of Blue Tits and Robins – but no finches except for three Goldfinch...

Squadron: At the base of the steep way down the end of Aust cliffs towards Littleton embankment, the corner field was flooded. Suddenly a squadron of small black and white birds flew in – I thought for a second they were waders, but no – it was a flock of Pied Wagtail settling on the edge of the water…

Moth names: I’ve been collecting the common names of the moths mentioned on our new wildlife group and I list them here - all local and recent – just because they are so lovely!

Iron Prominent, Hebrew Character, Clouded Drab, Nut-tree Tussock, Brindled Beauty, Streamer, Buttoned Snout, Least Black Arches, Red Chestnut, Pale Tussock, Chocolate-tip, Flame Shoulder, White Ermine, Swallow Prominent, Broad-barred White,  Freyer's Pug, Latticed Heath, Common Marbled Carpet, Grey-pine Carpet, Spruce Carpets, Willow Beauty, Muslin Moth, Lime Hawk, Coronet, Heart & Dart, Water Carpet, Devon Carpet, Sharp-angled Peacock, Large Nutmeg, Knot Grass, Yellow Shell, Currant Clearwing, Old Lady, Small Magpie, Large Tabby, Small Yellow Wave, Common Footman, Leopard, Four-spotted Footman, Dark Turnip, Orange Swift, Oak Eggar, Maiden's Blush, Iron Prominent, Dagger, Checkered Fruit-tree Tortrix, Black Arches, Square-spot Rustic, Magpie, Light Emerald, Rosy Rustic, Grass Rivulet, Scalloped Oak, Feathered Thorn…

Winter at Aust

THE END FOR THIS YEAR!