A Sunday morning stroll with my 'fam' in the expectation of seeing some migrant birds but it turned out to be mighty dull on the ornithological front with only Sedge Warbler new for the year. I revised my plant naming expertise instead (Common Twayblade is almost in full flower) and found this disorientated Hornet in one of the Anglo-Saxon huts...
My first trip out this year to see how the Barn Owls are doing and the answer it seems is very well. It looks like a bumper year for voles as they have well stocked larders and some large clutches. 7 eggs is as big as they get and if they parents can rear them all it will equal the project's biggest brood.
This male (the one on the right) was in a box in a barn near Widmerpool.
My first visit to a dumble. I heard about them donkey's years ago and I wasn't disappointed to explore our miniature grand canyons that were formed at the end of the last ice age by the torrent of melting ice eroding the soft overlying rocks. That is a coarse summary of information from the interpretation panels there but I found the internet unhelpful in elaborating the formation of these dumbles - there are others.
This is not a part of Nottinghamshire known to me and it was also a first visit to Gedling country park though this was largely limited to the carpark which constitutes a convenient access to the much more natural countryside nearby as the dumble runs through rich areas of meadow
Our approach to the dumble caught the attention of the local farmer, whose wife and dog came out to see what we were up to and we took the opportunity to ask her about her herd. It consists of a Limousin bull and British Blue and Hereford cows which produce calves that go to slaughter at (I think) around two years old. (I recall that beef cattle were fattened for three years in the 1970s).
My trips out of Rushcliffe with its largely clay soils inevitably find new plants and the first today was Wood SpeedwellVeronica montana which immediately struck me as unfamiliar. Sanicle was another new one for me. Two lifers in one day!
Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage, Hard and Soft Shield-ferns and Woodruff featured in and around the dumble while the meadows had Bugle, Devil's-bit Scabious, Burnet-saxifrage, Tormentil and Pignut.
Insects caused some digression from the target class with many Red and Black Froghoppers and a Small Yellow Underwing moth among those getting named.
Grasses are maturing to an identifiable state and I'll be revising hard. Here's one for starters; Giant FescueSchedonorus gigantea (formerly Festuca gigantea) is big and has impressive auricles.
The garden moth trap is slowly getting worthwhile again after a major lull during last week's horrid weather. Yesterday morning there were just two Light-brown Apple Moths but today saw the year's first Pale Tussock 3rd Waved Umber 5th Double-striped Pug and 50th Shuttle-shaped Dart.
Great Central Railway.
Barnston Cutting south of the A6006 has been managed by Butterfly Conservation and Notts BAP volunteers for the Grizzled Skipper population and I'm pleased to say that their efforts (including mine occasionally) are paying off as I reckon I saw about ten over a 500 metre stretch.
There were also a few Brown Argus and a Treble-bar moth.
There is also a terrific variety of plants to be found here with at least two "species" of Hawkweed, Field Scabious, Rustyback, Common Cornsalad and a Polypody to name a few that spring to mind
I was doing my best to come up with a complete inventory of the flora of the meadow but spotted this chap in a damp hollow. The photos are awful, sorry and I can't be certain of the id. Given the location it is a Slender GroundhopperTetrix subulata but given climate change it could (perhaps) be T. ceperoi which I can't tell apart. I should have potted it up rather than taken (or rather, attempted to have taken) its portrait. I've recorded Common GroundhopperTetrix undulata in the meadow before.
Unlike grasshoppers, groundhoppers overwinter as adults or final instar nymphs, so this one is fully developed even in May. It will die in a month or two after mating and then there will be a range of developing nymphs until the end of the summer when they will be ready to enter dormancy.
I was told that a Little Egret had been in the meadow earlier and I'm happy to accept the record (the first). Tim saw a Muntjac with a fawn in one of the pastures.
In late afternoon from my front door I could just about see a couple of distant Swifts but a scan of the sky through binoculars revealed several along with a few House Martins and a further scan of apparantly empty space showed what has to have been a Hobby at great height and climbing before it coasted north till lost from view. I've eliminated Eleanora's and Red-footed Falcon on the grounds of probability!
Despite a forecast high of around 11°C the sun, when it shone, brought out a good range of butterflies including our first Small Copper of 2019.
The others were more predictable but here they are anyway: Speckled Wood, Orange-tip, Green-veined White, Small Tortoiseshell, Brimstone and Holly Blue.
The churchyard of St. Mary and All Saints eventually revealed a decent but not spectacular list of plants including the almost inevitable Field Wood-rushLuzula campestris but it's very disappointing to see how much they loathe Swallows there. How lovely would it be to have a pair of busy parents swooping in and out, oblivious of the passing congregation. Tear down the mesh I say.
Various piles of dumped material in the square, create risks to life and limb (well limb anyway) in discovering the diverse range of garden throw-outs. They included cultivated Wood SpurgeEuphorbia amygdaloides ssp. robbiaePeach-leaved BellflowerCampanula persicifolia and Perennial CornflowerCentaurea montana.
Despite pressure to keep up with my mentor, I did manage to look at the occasional insect and bagged another cranefly Tipula vernalis.
A misty, moisty morning but then we had the sunniest day for a week and the insects responded accordingly. The objective though was the flora and we managed a good list without any great rarities or surprises for Dave, though I wasn't anticipating MoschatelAdoxa moschatellina.
Plants with tiny flowers feature in my selection of plant images on the day with these two; Field MadderSherardia arvensis and Swine CressLepidium coronopus.... being the chosen ones.
...being the chosen ones.
Harlequin Ladybirds were frequent, with these two forms being present.
Form spectabilis seems to be the most common and the new Bloomsbury guide on Ladybirds confirms this as the norm but it does not mention the form that I found at Radcliffe on Trent last summer and repeated here which I decided was an orange variation of form conspicua.
This hoverfly, Syrphus ribesii joined me for lunch...
---this Giant CraneflyTipula maxima (apparently Britain's largest fly) was in a damp ditch, which is right where it should be and, for something completely different, this is the second week running that I've spotted a Victorian letter box though this one is still actually in use. The one on the wall of The Unicorn's Head at Langar is retained as a curiosity with a modern replacement nearby.
For such an early season botanical, a list of over 200 species is testimony to Dave's handle on jizz and the richness of the churchyard and one particularly diverse but very narrow verge which held the RPR species Knotted Hedge-parsleyTorilis nodosa with also-rans of Henbit Dead-nettleLamium amplexicaule and Cut-leaved Dead-nettleLamium hybridum
Planted natives in the vicinity of the wildflower farm included Wayfaring TreeViburnum lantana and Wild Service TreeSorbus torminalis.
If you want to see Spotted MedickMedicago arabica, Langar is the place to head for as it is abundant thereabouts but incredibly scarce in the rest of Rushcliffe.
Along one pavement near the church Spring BeautyClaytonia perfoliata is well established....
Other notable plants on the day, plucked at random are Yellow-juiced PoppyPapaver lecoqii (again!), several Manchester PoplarsPopulus nigra betulifolia (which are clones of a native black poplar and shows all the characters including the large bosses and the upturned branches) and Few-flowered GarlicAllium paradoxum.
There is another plant in the neighbourhood that we found to be well established at two locations but I don't know what it is ... yet, but Dave is working on it.
Another unsuccessful go for the Green Hairstreaks was preceded by a circuit of Blotts where I fortuitously got two Linnets for the price of one....
....and a lark ascending.
In searching for the elusive butterfly, I was distracted by a few flowers: I suppose this ranks as Wild PansyViola tricolor but mmmm - only two colours so not the genuine article which is apparantly rather rare.
With wifey looking for the elusive Orange Underwing moth but it eluded us. Hoping for an early Green Hairstreak but hopes were dashed. However a Common Tern was on Blotts and a Reed Warbler sang from its margins. A Holly Blue obliged, and a Willow Warbler was full of the joys of spring.
In the afternoon I visited Stanton Golf Club for a look at the excellent work their ecology group is now achieving. I was particularly impressed by the potential this newly cleared pond has for becoming a really marvellous wildlife pond; especially as they have found a way of controlling the water level. It should develop a really diverse flora and be brilliant for amphibians and invertebrates.
Our first 'square bash' of the season to fill in some squares with missed early-season plants for the forthcoming national atlas. We succeeded in that and added a few nice surprises as well in the form of Greater StitchwortStellaria holostea and Rue-leaved SaxifrageSaxifrags tridactylites, this time in flower. There were lots of these on a pavement in the village.
The churchyard has a massive old poplar with the biggest looking girth I think I've ever seen on a tree. Sadly despite some surgery to its upperparts, it looks to be nearing the end as it also had the biggest bracket fungus I've definitely ever seen at its base.
The sun shone and the butterflies were busy. Lots of Small Tortoiseshells and Orange-tips several Brimstones and singles of Holly Blue, Green-veined White and Speckled Wood.
These flies are Face FliesMuscari autumnalis or at least I'm fairly confident that they are. Hickling is a dairy village with next to nothing in the way of arable but several fields of rye-grass leys for sileage. Face Flies pester cattle by feeding on secretions from around the eyes though these were just enjoying the warm sunshine after a long hibernation.
These friendly and inquisitive heiffers accompanied us for a spell.
A wander along Lings Lane to the meadow that I manage but don't visit often enough nowadays with the thought that a migrant Wheatear or Ring Ousel might come my way but the nearest I got was Tim the farmer describing a Wheatear he'd seen the previous day. I did get my first Swallow though and there were three Buzzards wheeling around and a Chiffchaff was chiff-chaffing away in the meadow.
This little plume moth has been in the kitchen for a couple of days and although I could see that it wasn't the common one - Emmelina monodactyla I didn't have a proper look at it until this morning and it seems to be Brown PlumeStenoptilia pterodactyla although the flight time is given as late May to early August. I suppose it could have been accidentally brought in and the warmth has hastened its emergence but it seems unlikely as its food plant is Germander Speedwell and it overwinters in a stem. I can't see what else it can be. Brown Plume is nationally common but it's a first for me.
Early mistiness melted into blue sky and a very bracing NE wind that kept us wrapped up and hatted for most of the day. It turned out to be generally disappointing in terms of bird interest, the highlights being lots of Avocet and Ruff with a bonus Wheatear.
It was also disappointing that I hadn't checked the charge on my camera and it 'died' after four shots; this was its swansong.
I think I saw the Long-billed Dowitcher. It was an odd-shaped blur with a long bill and a supercilium, lumbering about on the edge of a distant island and the telescope was being buffeted by the near gale and it soon disappeared. We had another look later with no luck.
We had seen two Little Ringed Plovers together near the path and briefly befriended a fellow birdwatcher who accompanied us as we passed the spot. We pointed them out. Two Ringed Plovers pottered about and we felt rather embarassed. Thankfully, after a few moments an LRP wandered into view and we regained our credibility.
I remembered I had a mobile phone camera for this one.
English ScurvygrassCochlearia anglica is bigger than the Danish one that is in flower all along the roadsides at present.
With a much improved weather forecast since Sunday we wandered the western side of Netherfield Lagoons once again with the tape lure for Willow Tit and once again, no response was found. The sunshine was enough to bring out a Small Tortoiseshell and we spotted two more at Gunthorpe before a dark cloud blotted the sun out and the chill of the 6°C set in.
More Marsh-marigoldCaltha palustris near Gunthorpe Bridge, but this one looked more like the garden cultivar with bigger leaves and flowers than the wild plant. Later, we spotted some on an island that looked more like the native form.
A new location for Greater ChickweedStellaria neglecta followed. This is a scarce and overlooked plant and quite rare in Notts.
During much of the day, dozens of Black-headed Gulls were hawking over the pits for what appeared to be an emergence of chironomids. These are non-biting midges and, needless to say, small, so the energy expenditure in picking off such morsels seems high. Perhaps slow gliding flight is so efficient that a nutritious midge now and again is worth it.
At the pit nearest the village, BogbeanMenyanthes trifoliata was waking up for the spring. It is another scarce plant in Notts but which has been present here for many years.
My first Sand Martins and Willow Warbler and a Cetti's Warbler were at Netherfield and Blackcap and Chiffchaff song accompanied us throughout the day. Dave heard a Golden Plover at Gunthorpe.
I nabbed the only day of the week, if the weather forecast proves to be correct when a butterfly might be active though with a maximum temperature of about 12°C, I wasn't optimistic. This is the first day of the first week of the Butterfly Conservation transect season and the sunshine brought out two Commas and ten Small Tortoiseshells making it worthwhile.
Meanwhile, the garden moth trap has had a steady trickle of early season moths during the latter part of March with the month attracting totals of 23 Hebrew Character 54 Common Quaker 40 Small Quaker 3 Early Grey 15 Clouded Drab 5 Early Moth 16 Emmelina monodactyla 2 Twenty Plume 1 Brindled Beauty 1 Epiphyas postvittana and 1 Pine Beauty
A day around the "healh or valley of Cot(ta)" once again centred around the Willow Tit survey and once again with negative results. We started along the canal and finished with an extensive look at the woodland to the south of the settlement. A few Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were singing and we found a single plant of Marsh MarigoldCaltha palustris (at the second attempt).
At least part of the plantation woodland is known as Cotgrave Gorse and is shown as such on the 1824-1839 Cassini reprint but other bits have developed naturally from abandoned fields into maturing woodland with some botanical interest in the way of Hard-shield and Soft-shield FernPolystichum aculeatum and Polystichum setiferum, SanicleSanicula europaea and a "scold" of Jays. Also, in addition to the extensive patches of Garden Yellow ArchangelLamiastrum galeobdelon ssp. argentatum there was a small patch of what is presumably ssp. montanum, the native variety.
Next to the old Fosse Way, is an area which has been graced with dumped bales of waste plastic bags and somewhat less disgraceful garden plants including Great Forget-me-notBrunnera macrophylla.
To the west of the Owthorpe road is some more recent woodland, one of which has emerged from an abandoned quarry. Here Dave picked out a single Nonesuch DaffodilNarcissus x incomparabilis ...
... and a soon to be flowering European LarchLarix decidua.
Part of the nature reserve is within the tetrad for the Willow Tit survey so we incorporated this with a general nose around without much in the way of new stuff to show for it but there were quite a lot of calling Water Rails. Needless to say, there were no Willow Tits. The area to the west of Blotts is very rich in bryophytes which Dave points out and usually names but so far they have not sunk in. This photo turned out nice but the others can remain on file.
A Little Egret was unusually confiding and the Polypody is still there. Dave says is is Intermediate PolypodyPolypodium interjectum but the circular sori and parallel sides to the leaves point me to Common Polypody.
A new plant for me was Lesser ChickweedStellaria pallida. It is tiny and prostrate, has no petals on its tiny inconspicuous flowers and disappears after its early spring flourish so is understandably thought to be under-recorded. If you can find an open flower they (usually!) only have two stamens which is the only certain way of distinguishing it from Common Chickweed (which occasionally also lacks petals!)
Two Mistle Thrushes stood motionless on a grassy sward, allowing me to approach one of them for a picture.
Mags Crittenden, the county bryophyte recorder held a training session for a handful of people today and here are some of the photos that I
took and that I am reasonably confident of the id. I can't really say anything of interest about them so I'm not going to try.
However, Mags has taken a look and commented thus; The photo of Kindbergia may not be Kindbergia - it's a real mix of things - typically it's a little finer - some parts of the moss mixture certainly are Kindbergia but others may be Brachythecium and/or Rhynchostegium??