20 Jul 2009

Stoney Hill

When it rains in England - it rains! And so it was on Friday 17th July, 2009 as The Wrekin Forest Volunteers assembled for a bimble around Stoney Hill - a site few of us - indeed very few people at all, it turns out, had been to, but it's certainly an area well worth extra visits.

For me, its charm lay in the fact that although quite a small area, it has largely been left for the flora and fauna to re-establish itself, after many years of industry and land-fill.
The day actually started dry but with ominous dark clouds threatening to get ever closer as we listened to Pete's very helpful intro talk. We were delayed from starting out as we waited for Rhys to arrive - who had turned up on time and dressed ready for action - he just happened to be at Apley Castle instead of Stoney Hill - a mistake, of course, that any of us could make (or could we?).

The wildlife habitat of Stoney Hill, which was the section we were specifically interested in, is part of a larger area all owned by Telford & Wrekin Council. I'm not entirely sure whether this has public access or not but there were small paths that had been forged around the site other than the badger and fox runs. It was certainly a bit of a challenge finding the way in - which was over a very wet, slippery and quite high fence. But we all managed to negotiate it without incident.
It wasn't long before the rains set in which saw most of our insects scurry deep into the undergrowth but we managed to tease a few out to play, including this beautiful Caddis Fly which didn't appear in any of our field guides but a little research on the Internet proved it to be Agrypnia varia

Was it Lis or Liz or someone else that found this beautiful insect?

And then there was Nigel's spider. Did you manage to ID this Nigel?

Pic supplied by Nigel

Pic supplied by Nigel

The rain eased as we settled for lunch by a lovely marsh area visited by many damsels who didn't appear to be in the slightest of distress!

We set off once more and this time the rain really did descend upon us. Just to remind us that no matter what happens, wherever we go, whatever we do; nature is always in charge!

It still didn't stop our dedicated band of recorders from recording. Many plants, insects, shrubs and trees were recorded and we even found a couple of moths.

Light Brocade

The day-flying Shaded Broad-bar

These 2 records were only a few less than the night's moth-trap recording in my Garden for GMS, which the week before produced around 90 moths against just 13 for this week. The rain throughout the day and the high winds through the night kept most of them hiding away. But I did manage this very lovely Burnished Brass;

Les also found on site a Penny Bun fungus, claiming it as a culinary delight and the best of our edible species. Alas, it was merely a single stump with small cap but at least the spot has been marked for future visits.

Last week's Caption Competition.

Only one entry for last week's comp so the 'virtual' prize goes to Nigel for his suggestion of:-


Me saying: "Crucifixion's a doddle."


Ollie saying: "Crucifixion? Good. Line on the left. One cross each."

Well done Nigel and he sends his apologies for 'cribbing' some of the above from Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Moth Trap Nights
Just to reiterate; Les and I have 2 moth nights coming up. There are just 3 places left for TTP but the Apley Castle event has quite a few spaces left. To book your spot for either or both just email me at paulewatts@googlemail.com

Telford Town Park 8:30 pm Tuesday, July 28th STOP PRESS - TTP NOW FULLY BOOKED!

Apley Castle 8:00pm Tuesday, August 18th STOP PRESS - A FEW PLACES LEFT

Both should be excellent opportunities to see some of our Shropshire moths in all their glory and are open to anyone interested (even remotely). Come suitably clothed with a torch plus any moth field guides and specimen pots you may have.

'Where Is it?' Competition
Where is the picture below? Just enter your suggestion in the 'Comments' at the bottom of this post. Can't see 'Comments'? It's because you're reading this in an email or RSS feed; click here to go to main blog and scroll down to the bottom of this post. www.wrekinforestvolunteers.com

Aunty Betty
I won't see most of you now until September as Aunty Betty has arrived here today from Australia and as part of her UK tour will be with us for the week (unless, of course, I get a reprieve and am allowed out early on good behaviour!). This then runs into a 4-week WuFuV break, so if anyone manages to take any pics of The Rookery please upload to the Yahoo Group and I'll pop up a quick post - unless, of course, someone wants to take over and write-up the post itself? If so, just create it in Word and email it to me for a quick edit and format and I'll publish it straightaway.

Keeping up the Content
On the subject of writing posts; do you have an article of interest concerning Shropshire wildlife, plants etcetera that you could put together? If so, again just create it in Word, include a couple of pics or so, email it to me and I'll post it some time over the 'gap-month'. Come on all you budding writers - I've sent out a challenge here!

16 Jul 2009


Pic supplied by Nigel

The 10th of July 2009 saw The Wrekin Forest Volunteers meeting at Lilleshall School Car Park for a foray, survey, lunchtime picnic, discussion and walk - not forgetting the occasional but inevitable silly banter!

This was actually the biggest turn-out for the group in its history with 18 of us assembling for the day's bimbling and fossicking! The bus is starting to burst at the seams so it's just as well some of us opted to make our own way there. Incidentally, this is a timely reminder on behalf of Pete to make sure your name is down for a pick-up from either Telford or Wellington if you do need a lift to the site.

This was the Wrekin Forest Volunteers first visit to Lilleshall and a fascinating area it proved to be for flora, fauna, history and fabulous views from the monument on the top.

Pic supplied by Rhys

One of the many interesting insects discovered here was found by Rhys; a small grasshopper with clubbed antenna which foxed us all as far as ID was concerned. We took a number of pics and then released it back into the grasses. Rhys later ID'd it as a Mottled Grasshopper. Not rare by any means but not the most common - note to Pete; please add this to the species list for Lilleshall - Mottled Grasshopper-Myrmeleotettix maculatus.

As Rhys points out after some diligent research
'There seems to be only one other grasshopper species with clubbed antenna and that's the rare Rufous'. Therefore, in the likely absence of the Rufous (found very locally in South England and South Wales) we can safely say that the Mottled Grasshopper is the only clubbed-antenna grasshopper in Shropshire.

There doesn't seem to be a shortage of butterflies this year which is very encouraging, with Ringlets, Meadow Browns, Large, Small and Green-veined Whites particularly in profusion. We also spotted a small scattering of Gatekeepers on the hill:
Pic supplied by Nigel
Lunch and open discussion took place on the steps including a presentation to Olly for being the first to send in his answer to the 'Where Is It' competition by stating that last week's pic was of the gate at the top of the steps leading into Granville NR. Two prizes emerged from my Little Box of Giveaways; a book by David Hunter - The Shropshire Hills, and a copy of the latest album from American rock band Greenday.

Pete could so easily have won, but the technology at the last and crucial minute prevented him from entering! Well - that was Pete's excuse anyway! Better luck perhaps with this week's Caption Competition Pete?

Another scoop from Rhys was this Ladybird which caused quite a stir as no-one could ID it - a spotless ladybird just doesn't feature in any of our various field guides! What was it? Had we stumbled across a rare immigrant, perhaps never seen before in the UK? Or could it be a new species not even recorded? After some deliberation Pete offered the theory that maybe - just maybe - it was a freshly emerged adult and not yet fully-coloured.
Rhys took it home and later confirmed that after a few hours the spots did indeed slowly develop producing - you guessed it - a common 7-spot!

We just learn something new every day!
We then headed off for a spot of Formation Foraging or maybe Synchronised Surveying?
A pair of mating Forest Bugs (Pentatoma rufipes) provided a delightful photo opportunity although I'm sure that if they knew their activities would be zapped around the world they would have been a little more covert!

And that just leaves this week's Caption Competition which comes courtesy of Les and features moi (thanks Les!).

What is it that I'm I saying?
Answers below under comments (if you don't see Comments please click here to go to the main blog).

Two Diary Dates
There are just so many wildlife events and courses to get involved in aren't there? I find myself having to pull back on the reins to prevent my long-suffering partner Pam from saying things like 'What did you say your name was?' or singing a few bars of 'When Will I See You Again'!

So with that in mind (?!) Les and I have organised 2 moth nights!

Telford Town Park 8:30 pm Tuesday, July 28th
Thanks to Graham for organising the venue for us. We're only allowed 8 people so it's first come-first-served on this one I'm afraid email me at paulewatts@googlemail.com if interested.

Apley Castle 8:00pm Tuesday, August 18th
Thanks to Sean and Olly for organising the venue for this one. No restriction at the moment as to numbers but please drop me a quick email if you'd like to come along to so we can get an idea of how many will be turning up.

The format for each night will be;-

Time: Meet 8pm (8:30 TTP) for short talk, with moths arriving around 9pm. Expected finish midnight.
Event: Introduction to moths. Set-up and run 2 Skinner type moth-traps supplied by Les and myself.
ID moths as we go along and at the end of the session.

Bring any field guides, specimen pots etcetera that you may have and a net or two would be useful so we can also do a spot of sweeping.

Neither Les nor I can be called expert moth-ers by any stretch of the imagination but we do find the subject immensely fascinating and if you think all moths are a boring brown colour please join us and you'll hopefully discover the true beauty of these fabulous insects. Here's a couple from Les's recent trapping - taken from the WFV Yahoo Group;-

Beautiful Golden Y

Large Elephant Hawkmoth

Catch you all next week...

7 Jul 2009


Friday July 3rd 2009 and the Wrekin Forest Volunteers assemble for a wet-start for a day's foray around Beanhill.
This is an area that most of us didn't realise existed. Rich in wildlife and like many of our precious green and brown spaces is under threat from developers. It would be a real pity if this was to disappear under brick and mortar.

The various meadows are abundant with insects with the surrounding areas awash with interesting plants.

Small woodlands also offer an interesting foray

Once the rain started to abate and the temperature warmed a little the butterfly life awoke and within minutes scores of Ringlets and Meadow Browns took to the air dancing and flitting over the tall grasses, the males searching for mates and the females laying their eggs.

Small and Large Skippers soon joined in. Both Nigel and I managed to click a pair of mating Small Skippers

There were many other invertebrates as well, of course;

2-spot Ladybird preparing for lunch!

Talking of Ladybirds did everyone notice the abundance of little orange and black 'diddly things'? They seemed to be everywhere.

I was pretty sure they were insect pupae as the discarded larval skin could be seen attached to one end and glued to a leaf. I can confirm (as Nigel's pic here informs) that these were indeed 7-spot Ladybird pupa. The other pic (again from Nigel) is a larva of the same.

As mentioned in an earlier post just about every Friday someone manages to finish up up in a somewhat ungainly heap on the ground. This week it was Lis's turn...

I think she's saying; "I'll be fine if Keith could just take his foot off my ankle", but I could be wrong of course! Hope you're OK Lis after your skid and tumble!

So as another great WuFuV day comes to an end we all hope that this fascinating area is saved and preserved for many generations to come

The more I learn about the fascinating lives of moths the more I want to know! I think we all have a thirst for absorbing as much as we can about everything wildlife, and insects - particularly Lepidoptera - are my particular passion.

Although we're by no means experts Les and I are going to be running 2 moth nights in the near future - dates to be announced. One at Apley Castle and the other at Telford Town Park. As soon as we have everything finalised I'll let Pete know so that he can contact the network. Open to everyone no matter what level of interest.

Garden Moth Scheme
Moth traps the country over are seeing ever-increasing visits from ever-increasing species as the season's weeks go by. My own count last Friday was a total of 90 moths across 26 species - my highest so far. I've uploaded 9 months to the Yahoo Group (Moths Album).

On the run-up to a Moth-training day held by Dave Grundy at Alveley I was convinced we'd be actually learning how to train moths to perform all sorts of tricks and inspired by this somewhat misguided notion I set up the world's first Moth Display Team. This is the first picture released from the recent photo-shoot:-

I'd obviously got the wrong end of the stick again as it turned out we were there to learn how to ID moths, where to find certain species and to be generally over-awed by Dave's knowledge of the subject which is immense. Oh well, maybe someone somewhere can make use of my new-found talent. Trouble is - I just don't know how long I can keep the team together!

Location Competition
One final picture. Where is this? First with the correct answer wins yet another of my fab prizes from my little box of give-aways. Just drop a comment below. Can't see the comments? You need to go to the main blog www.wrekinforestvolunteers.com

Nigel has uploaded some more great pics from the day at Beanhill to the Wrekin Forest Volunteers Yahoo Group (Beanhill Album) http://groups.yahoo.com/group/wfv/photos/album/1482490430/pic/list

Here's my selection