22 Aug 2016

Freedom to explore

Lea Quarry -  Wednesday 17th Augusr 2016

Half dozen of us gathered in the car park at Lea Quarry for our latest visit. But there was one notable absentee - the person who arranges access to the site. He had to prepare for a stint at Bird Fair so was unable to join us.

As the absentee is normally the one who sets the agenda for our visits we took advantage of his absence by deciding to explore areas of the quarry that we do not normally get to. So on leaving the car park after a cursory look around that found three species of shieldbugs we turned right instead of left and wandered along the path that follows the north west face of the quarry, underneath the public footpath on top of Wenlock Edge.

One of the car park shieldbugs was a sloe bug.

As it was being admired it dropped to the ground. All our attempts to pick it up and place it on some vegetation failed so, I am afraid, we left it to walk.

Not far up the path to the right we found a female common darter posing on a bramble leaf. We had to photograph it.

A little further along the path the hoverfly Chrysotoxum bicinctum was spotted.

This hoverfly is easy to recognise with its pair of yellow bands and long antennae (for a hoverfly).

We were missing a couple of photographers today so I thought we would be free of camera talk. 

But I was wrong.

I was getting very frustrated with my camera as the autofocus stoically refused to pick up the target species even when in the middle of the frame at a reasonable size. On one occasion I was trying to take a picture of a hawthorn shieldbug in my net and the camera insisted on focussing through the net on the ground underneath. Never one to miss a trick one helpful colleague gave me lots of advice on how to do it differently. Thank you. After that camera talk was minimal!

Following the helpful advice I managed a reasonable shot of the spider Misumena vatia on a knapweed head.

In the meantime our eagle-eyed botanists were spotting interesting plants.

Including Ploughman's spikenard


Sharp-leaved fluellen

And, to our great surprise, dog violets in flower.

By now the sun was beating down and it was rather warm so we lunched.

Rested and refreshed we pressed on, spotting a southern hawker at rest.

With our freedom to explore we pushed on and on passing a small raised grassy area where we spotted a Wall butterfly.

And by the entrance to this small area were carline thistles.

Was ancient man walking along an area of scree one day and looked down and got inspired to invent the wheel with spokes when he saw some Herb Robert.

We reached the far end of the site - not quite but near enough. So we celebrated by having a sit down before making our way back to the cars and home.

My thanks to Jim Cresswell and Stephen Mitchell for providing additional photographs.

Grinshill - Sunday 21st August 2016

No cars were to be seen in Clive when we arrived, so parking on the roadside was not an issue. Fortunately there was not a service at the church otherwise parking may have been difficult.

We had a quick look in the churchyard and saw this rather splendid noticeboard.

We were invited to have a look for insects (the middle notice above the FSC fold-out chart) - so we did!

As we wandered around the churchyard we came across a sign at the side of a grave that said it was interesting. It was ... can you see why?

It is there - but it is not easy to see. Here it is in more detail.

Unfortunately the sign did not elaborate on how this had happened; it is left to our imagination.

We worked our way methodically around the churchyard looking at the trees and some areas of rough vegetation then we came across one of this year's Strictly Come Dancing contestants:

Arion (Arion) ater - the slug that dances! If you give the slug a gentle tap, then wait a little while, it starts to rock, sending (slow) waves down its body.

We moved from the churchyard up the hill to a very pleasant area of heathland. 

The sun came out and the vegetation came alive with insects, especially noticeable were the hoverflies. 

Tucked into a curled birch leaf were two Bronze sheildbug instars. One had the traditional markings. (The photograph is one we found later.)

The second had markings that I had not seen before with a red ring on the green abdomen.

The heathland was enhanced by a bench on which we could sit and enjoy lunch.

After lunch we pottered around the heathland area for a while then took the path to the summit of the hill. The path through the woodland was not particularly interesting but it suddenly opened out at the top to provide an excellent views of South and West Shropshire.

There to greet us was a Green shieldbug instar enjoying the afternoon sun.

We made our way down the hill and back to our starting point to conclude another excellent day.

16 Aug 2016

Holes in the ground


Two errors on my part that I need to correct with thanks to the readers that pointed them out.

In "Bridge of Delights" I included a photograph of Flowering rush. Unfortunately I misinterpreted this as a rush in flower, not quite the same thing. Flowering rush (Butomus umbellatus), despite its common name, is not a member of the rush family.

In "A baker's dozen of butterfly species" in the report of our visit to Dothill I misidentified the photograph of a Meadow brown as a Gatekeeper.

Both blogs have been updated to correct these errors.

Blackbridge Quarry, Wednesday 10th August 2016

Shropshire Wildlife Trust kindly gave us permission to visit this quarry which is sandwiched between Pant and Llynclys Hill. You are unlikely to stumble across it as it is no more than a hole in the ground in woodland, shielded from unsuspecting eyes on the lane that passes it by the trees. The entrance is easy to miss being a narrow descent into the gloom.

When you do find the entrance you have to negotiate a wire fence, a steep, sometimes slippy, descent down some soil steps and then the gate.

The gate is locked.

Fortunately we had a key.

And it worked.

For the sake of accuracy I must point out that the photograph of the gate was taken from the other side after we had passed through it.

The quarry is in two parts and the flora is different in the two with a marked change as you pass from one to the other.

The first part which opens out in front of you when you have finally managed to get in is more rocky and sparsely vegetated in the open area with a dark and dingy section at the far side in the shadow of the quarry face.

Marjoram was common sight in this area

The second part was more of a grassland but still with scrubby areas against the quarry face.

We spent our day wandering around these two areas looking at whatever caught our interest. 

That was it.

There is not much more to relate really other than we gathered around a convenient rocky ledge for lunch. Nothing of note happened that is worth reporting and there was the usual chatter about cameras.

There was high excitement at the end of the day, which I will get to later.

But what did we see?

Once again my colleagues have come to my rescue and provided lots of photographs which my camera failed to take. So a picture section follows to give you a flavour of our observations.

Six-spot burnet.

Common earwig.


Ploughman's spikenard.

Epistophe grossulariae.

Eristalis interruptus (also known as Eristalis nemorum). An excellent photograph capturing the courtship behaviour of a male as it hovers over a female trying to attract her attention and mate.

Helophilus pendulus.

Homo sapiens.

More Homo sapiens.


Honey bee.

A teneral (freshly emerged) Sloe bug also know as a Hairy shieldbug.

An older Sloe bug.

Leucozona glaucia.

Meadow brown.

Pardosa species, probably Pardosa saltans.

So after we spent several happy hours exploring this wonderful site we prepared to leave. But someone had noticed another hole in the ground by the gate. This was actually a hole in the quarry face. A man-made cave? If it was a cave would there be cave spiders present?

Unfortunately the entrance to the "cave" was covered by a grill and it was locked so we could not get in.

This did not stop us. A powerful torch was produced and its beam caught sight of a cave spider which promptly scuttled off to hide from the light that was intruding into its life. However the characteristic egg sacs suspended from the roof remained and were duly photographed.

So high excitement at the end of the day. 

Thank you to Stephen Mitchell, Jim Cresswell and Bob Kemp for supplying many of the photographs in this report. Thank you to Shropshire Wildlife Trust for giving us access. An excellent site. An excellent day.