14 Oct 2018

The Hunchback of Llanymynech

Llanymynech Rocks Nature Reserve, Wednesday 10th October 2018

I thought we were early but we were the last to arrive! Seven of us met in the small reserve car park in Pant. After the usual greetings and discussion of this and that we were kitted up and ready to rumble.

Rather than take the path directly to the rock face we took the track that forks left from the main path about 50 yards from the entrance gate. None of us had ever been down this way so why not?

After passing along this rather nondescript path for a while we found three openings that I assume were lime kilns.

These were checked for the presence of cave spiders but were declared unoccupied, probably as they were quite small and not very dark.


Having clambered up to the kilns to get a look you then have to get down again.


A short distance later the rather dingy path opened out into a small clearing where the sun had broken through the early morning mist that was lingering. It was pleasantly warm here and encouraged us to pause awhile checking out the trees, ivy and dense path-side vegetation.

A red admiral was spotted and photographed.

Photograph: David Williams
And an Aphrophora alni posed on a finger presenting an unmissable photo-opportunity.

Photograph: David Williams
There was a fourth kiln here but it was as void of cave spiders as the first three.

With some reluctance we carried on along the path wondering where it was going to take us.

Then we noticed through the trees on our right a descending slope. Was this a path up to the rock face?

Yes it was. We took it passing a tree that looked rather dirty - the effect of the lichen Opegrapha atra.

Photograph: Bob Kemp
Eventually we emerged into the sunshine that had been denied to us by the trees apart from at the clearing mentioned earlier.

What a lovely October day.


The rock face stood proud before us. We then noticed a climber ascending the face. After watching for a while we got on with what we had come to do and explored the grassland in front of the rocks but keeping well away from the climber.

Lunchtime approached and as we sort somewhere to sit down a green mushroom was spotted. 

Photograph: David Williams
This is the Mousepee pinkgill. So named as it smells of … well you can guess the reason!

Nearby a common groundhopper was noticed and remarkably it hung around long enough to be photographed.

Photograph: David Williams
A last sweep of a tree before lunch dislodged a hunchback.

Photograph: David Williams
This is the nymph of the treehopper Centrotus cornutus. When it grows up it retains its hunchbacked shape but looks much cuter!

Lunch. What a wonderful place to be.

Photograph: David Williams
After lunch we decided to head for Wales. 

Photograph: David Williams
On the way we noticed a few hemiptera. 

First a green shield bug.


Then a bordered shield bug which unfortunately was no longer alive (making it easier to photograph).

Photograph: David Williams
And finally a Spiked shieldbug which had a deformed wing.

Photograph: David Williams
And, for a bit of relief from all these bugs, a 24-spot ladybird.

Photograph: David Williams
Eventually we crossed the border by passing through the kissing-gate that separates the two quarries. We forged deep into this foreign country and headed for the view point and the seat.


Here we relaxed and took in the view trying to pick out the landmarks noted on the display in front of the seat and reminisced about times past. How we got onto Billy Cotton's Band Show I cannot recall, but we did.

"Wakey! Waykeeeeeeeeeee!". They don't make them like that anymore.

Behind us the very high tripod was set up and captured us in our reflective mood.

Photograph: Bob Kemp
It also captured some rather splendid views of the reserve.

Photograph: Bob Kemp

Photograph: Bob Kemp

Photograph: Bob Kemp
What was there left to do?

Go home.

So we did.

My thanks to Shropshire Wildlife Trust for giving us permission to survey on this excellent reserve and to the photographers David Williams and Bob Kemp for providing such excellent photographs.



9 Oct 2018

Just an ordinary day

Bucknell Wood, Wednesday 3rd October 2018

After the faffing around of last week, when we made two false starts after having an impasse on the way to the site, this trip went very smoothly. There were no incidents on the way there or back; everyone arrived more or less on time; we were reasonable in accord with which way to go around the site and the weather was fine if slightly on the side of cool rather than warm.

So all in all not much to report other than to include the pictures that I have been sent.

Bucknell Wood is a large Forestry Commission site where conifers of species unknown to me are grown but there are also smatterings of broadleaf woodland. Thankfully most of the forestry rides we used were bordered by non-conifer species, although I am quite happy to sweep or beat the occasional conifer. 

Here are a couple of photographs taken from our very high tripod. The first shows a swathe of conifers in the foreground with Bucknell in the mid-distance.

Photograph: Bob Kemp

The second shows the extent, looking north west, of the plantation and woodland over the hill top.

Photograph: Bob Kemp
Having gathered in the car park and kitted ourselves out and, no doubt, talked about this and that we headed off on the forestry track that promised sunshine rather than the gloom in the opposite direction.

One of the party was keen to find Platypezid flies from high up on trees and employed a long net to achieve his aim. We watched in admiration as he swished too and fro.

Photograph: David Williams
In all he found three species of this fly family. All three are associated with Armillaria fungi, two of which he had not recorded before. So it was worth the effort (and cost of the extending handle). 

Platypeza fasciata:


Photograph: Nigel Jones
 Platypeza hirticeps:

Photograph: Nigel Jones
We soon tired of watching his attempts and set about looking for our own things of interest.

That was basically what we did as we described a circular route around the site then went home.

So, hurrah, without further ado here are photographs of some of the things we saw throughout the day.

Bucknell Wood is a haven for Wood ants:

Photograph: David Williams
A spider is their victim:

Photograph: David Williams
To redress the balance, here is a spider that was very much alive, unfortunately I do not know the species.

Photograph: Bob Kemp
One of the target groups for this visit was fungi. The long hot summer and lack of significant recent rainfall has led to a dearth of mushrooms but we were able to find a few.

Fly agaric:
Photograph: Bob Kemp
Horn of plenty:
Photograph: Bob Kemp
Magpie inkcap:
Photograph: Bob Kemp
And a lichen Baeomyces rufa growing on an earth bank in full sun.

Photograph: Bob Kemp
There were several species of Orthoptera:

Speckled bush-cricket:
Photograph: David Williams
Oak bush-cricket:
Photograph: David Williams
And Meadow grasshopper.
Photograph: David Williams

We found some shieldbugs, of course.

Gorse shieldbug (nowhere near gorse):

Photograph: David Williams
And a Green shieldbug nymph:

Photograph: David Williams
Coleoptera were represented by ladybirds and a very pale tortoise beetle, Cassida vibex.

Photograph: David Williams
A number of moth larvae were found. Unfortunately our normal source of identification has not responded to our request so some remain unidentified. If you know what they are please let me know.

Photograph: Nigel Cane-Honeysett
Photograph: Nigel Cane-Honeysett
Photograph: Nigel Cane-Honeysett
Photograph: Nigel Cane-Honeysett
It was not all larval ignorance!! This fine specimen is a Pale tussock.

Photograph: David Williams
And for all those that have had the pleasure of reading "The Hungry Caterpillar" to our children and grandchildren umpteen times here is the sort of thing a larva (or caterpillar) may grow into … A beautiful Comma.

Photograph: David Williams
The larva (or caterpillar) may, of course, be eaten by something bigger - but we had better not tell the children that ... well, not until they are older than the target audience for the book.

And our final group were bees and wasps. First two bees for the price of one a Sphecodes (top left) and a Halictus rubicundus (bottom right).

Photograph: David Williams
Our final species is a bee that caused us a bit of a conundrum. It was an Ashy mining bee (Andrena cineraria).

Photograph: David Williams
Why a conundrum?

Because we normally see it early in the year - not October.

The information about this species of bee on the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society's website informs us that it is "Usually univoltine. In southern England males fly from March until May but mainly during April, and females from April until June but mainly during April and May. In northern England the flight period is later, with males from April until June but mainly during May, and females from April until July but mainly during May and June. Rare records of males from July and August and females from August may represent a second brood.".

The website makes no mention of the species being found in October. This was a fresh specimen, so only recently emerged. And we saw more than one.

Was it a late second brood or had the prolonged warm dry weather prompted a third brood?

Any thoughts?

Here is another photograph.

Photograph: Bob Kemp
It remains for me to thank the Forestry Commission for giving us permission to do what we enjoy doing and the photographers Nigel Jones, Nigel Cane-Honeysett, Bob Kemp and David Williams for allowing me to use their photographs.


2 Oct 2018

False starts

Long Mynd, Wednesday 26th October 2018

Our planned destination was the top of the Long Mynd in an area known as High Park. When we got there, although it was dry and sunny, the westerly wind was ferocious. Clearly another day like the previous Wednesday when shelter from the wind was paramount.

A Plan B was needed. A map was consulted to find a suitable spot on the east which ought to be sheltered from the gale. Ashes Hollow was selected as the replacement.

This required us to retrace our steps to All Stretton along a single track road where earlier I had a minor "incident" with the driver of a white Audi.

I was driving up the single track road when the white Audi was coming down. As we could not pass on the road we both stopped. The driver of the white Audi waved at me to get out of the way. To my left was a small ditch and then a bank covered in bracken. So I shrugged and gestured to the other driver to pull onto the leveller grassland to the Audi's left.

The response of the other driver was to start coming forward clearly with no intention of moving onto the grass. The only option for me, other than not moving, was to go onto the grass on my right and go round the advancing car.

Forgive me for being old-fashioned but I thought that a person coming down a hill gave way to one coming up and we pass on the left!

Rant over.

We made it to the road leading to Ashes Hollow with only one more incident when the three cars we were travelling in met a car coming up the hill from All Stretton. We dutifully pulled in but confusion reigned as the other car also pulled in and waited. We took the hint and drove past. Clearly I am old-fashioned.

Unfortunately when we got to Ashes Hollow there was nowhere to park.

Plan C was initiated and we went to Cardingmill Valley where there is lots of parking.

As we drove up the road to the car park we passed several coaches which should have warned us about what we going to see.

There is a stream that runs down Cardingmill Valley. In and around this stream along most of the length of it that we passed there were hundreds of school children with tape measures and survey poles recording things on clipboards.

Fortunately most of the photographs we took did not capture the children's activities just our own.

Photograph: Bob Kemp
An early find was the micro-moth Agonopterix umbellana. How well it would be camouflaged in an area of late summer grassland.

Photograph: Nigel Cane-Honeysett

I used the term "early find" very loosely in the above statement. Our false starts meant that it was almost lunchtime when we started. 

Lunch was soon taken.

After lunch two spiders of abundance at the opposite ends of the scale were photographed. The abundant Araneus diadematus which you may well find in your garden:

Photograph: Nigel Cane-Honeysett
And the relatively scarce wolf spider Alopecosa barbipes

Photograph: Nigel Cane-Honeysett
Continuing on the spidery theme we watched as a Green shieldbug which had fallen victim to a spider being wrapped up by its killer.

Photograph: David Williams
Even more spiders! A jumping spider Salticus (I am not sure of the species):

Photograph: David Williams
What big eyes it's got! All the better for spotting and catching flies.

Photograph: David Williams
To redress the balance here is a Spiked shieldbug that was very much alive.

Photograph: David Williams
The long Mynd is the only site in England where the lichen Umbilicaria hirsuta is found. And we found it today.

Photograph: Bob Kemp
It is in the bottom right hand corner of the photograph above. Here it is in close up.

Photograph: Bob Kemp
For those of you who understand such things it is found on silicious rocks in boreal zone, mostly on steeply inclined surfaces which regularly have seeping water.

The trouble with steeply inclined surfaces is that you need to be able to clamber up to them.


And then you need to get down again. Not so easy at our age. Sometimes you need to revert to childhood and slide down.


But once down you can smile with relief and pose for the camera.

Photograph: Bob Kemp
It was a day for lepidopteran larvae. Among those found were:

True lover's knot (what a splendid name);

Photograph: Nigel Cane-Honeysett
Knotgrass;

Photograph: David Williams
and a Bright-line brown-eye.

Photograph: Nigel Cane-Honeysett
At long last our wandering brought us to a split in the path. We decided to take the path to Little spout waterfall.

It started well.


But we soon had to step aside as a party of children were coming down the path. We were very patient. After waiting and waiting as they all passed we set off again on the ascent. Eventually we got within sight of the waterfall but it was like Trafalgar Square on a busy day of demonstrations.

We took one look then turned back.

On the way down a speculative beating of a gorse bush dislodged a Heather ladybird.

Photograph: David Williams
This was a rare find. I do not know how many records there are of it in Shropshire but I am sure it is not many.

As we walked back to the cars the sun was getting lower in the sky bathing the hills in a wonderful golden light.

Photograph: David Williams
A splendid way to end an excellent day after a stuttering start.

My thanks to the National Trust for giving us permission to survey, although, technically, they thought we would be around High Park! My thanks also to the photographers David Williams, Bob Kemp and Nigel Cane-Honeysett for allowing me to use the efforts of their labours in this report.