21 Jul 2010

Last of the Summer Wine - Coalmoor

 Or maybe that should be ‘Last of the Summer Rain’. Our visit to Coalmoor last Friday (July 16, 2010) ended in a sudden downpour just as we arrived back at the mini-bus after a day’s surveying this Veolia owned site.

Traveller's Joy
Traveller’s Joy   Pic: Keith Fowler

I call this post ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ because, sadly, it is the last of our organised summer excursions onto the green spaces of Telford & Wrekin with the Wrekin Forest Volunteers. We still have our summer BBQ on the Top of The World, however, this coming Friday so let’s hope the rain stays off for then - it’s raining as I write.

So we now await the Autumn/Winter programme that I guess Pete at SWT is already working on and simultaneously grappling, no doubt, with the funding for it and other projects.
Seems odd I know to be talking about winter in the middle of summer but then it doesn’t seem to bother Selfridges - I’ve just heard they’re already selling Christmas baubles! Now that’s got to be so wrong on so many levels. There should be a law against it championed by perhaps The Christmas Police or maybe The Crackers & Bauble Bobbies.

Here I go drifting off on a massive tangent again, so steep we all have to dig our finger nails in!

Coalmoor 160710 001

So… yes… the Coalmoor site is owned and run by Veolia the waste and recycling experts, part of which is being turned into a natural habitat with pools and woodland mainly interspersed around its perimeter. Which is what we were there for, of course, to see what flora & fauna were colonising this charming little spot.

There’s still a lot of work to be done and much of the central part had seen recent and necessary activity and is at the moment what I’d call ‘brown’. But around the edges we saw many promising signs including a fine Fallow Deer who poked his head over the hill-top to see what the commotion was about and then he was gone! Buzzards circled majestically overhead whilst Magpies squabbled endlessly and lots of little things were on the wing too.

Small Skipper, Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Green-veined White and Comma were amongst the butterflies recorded. And I managed to pot a rather worn moth - the Shaded Broad-bar.

Shaded Broad-bar Coalmoor 160710 023

A few weird and wonderful creatures were also enjoying life at Coalmoor such as these small larvae feeding on Alder.

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It was Tony who led me in the right direction when he said he felt sure they were a species of Sawfly, prompting me to investigate further using that magnificent resource; the interweb.

Oh, by-the-way; not wishing to run too far behind the times my long-standing friend (I do wish she’d sit down) Vera Wayfrommer recently bought a laptop. I called round the other day to see how she was getting on. Confused would have been the nicest way of putting it. The terminology had sent her into a right tizz. She was just placing a small piece of cheese at the side of the keyboard mumbling almost incoherently about feeds and mice and complaining she didn’t realise she had to do this! There’s no hope. I left quietly.

Ooops! Have I digressed again?

Anyway, little white fluffy caterpillars. Yes... turns out they’re White Alder Sawfly larvae - Eriocampa ovata - confirmed by the fact they were feeding on alder. The white fluffy stuff that covers them is something I haven’t come across before - it’s apparently called ‘flocculence’ and is a form of camouflage - makes them look like bird droppings. As they get bigger and closer to pupation the flocullence is shed and left dangling from the leaf. So there you go, every site we go to I find out something new, like how to use Graham’s monocular.

Coalmoor 160710 003

Actually that’s not me using Graham’s monocular, it’s Graham and he’s using his camera.

I didn’t realise we were so close to the power station but there it is with the cooling towers just poking above the tree-line.

Our foray brought many interesting flowering plants and grasses. Bristly Ox-Tongue and Ribbed Melilot to name but two.

 Bristly ox-tongue     Ribbed melilot 
Pic: Keith Fowler                         Pic: Keith Fowler

And more caterpillars… these are the very common Cinnabar moth larvae on Ragwort.

Cinnabar caterpillars
Pic: Keith Fowler

And a 10-spot Ladybird.

10-spot ladybird
Pic: Keith Fowler

Tea-break ran into lunch-break and then the dark clouds descended and we headed back to the bus.

Coalmoor is a very interesting site with lots of plant & creature potential over the coming years. Worthy of another trip next spring/summer.

Coalmoor 160710 015


Did you know that Shropshire Wildlife Trust has its own Facebook page? Neither did I till Pete phoned me yesterday to ask if I could make a connection with our blog and forum. So I’ve done that and wondered if you’d like to join the group too? If you don’t have a Facebook page yourself you’ll need to set one up in order to connect but it’s free, quick, simple and painless. And if you already have an account then you just need to log in. This link will send you straight to the SWT group. Leave a message to say hello from the WuFuV's, etc.

Here’s the direct link:-
SWT Facebook Group (opens in a new window)

I will also place a link on the blog and the forum.

That’s all for now folks. Catch you all soon.


8 Jul 2010

Grimpo Nature Notes from Pete Lambert

Grimpo Nature Notes July 2010

Recently my young family encouraged me to join them in a Canadian canoe trip down the Montgomeryshire Union Canal. Leaving the main waterway we diverted down a shady arm to fetch up in a long deserted basin and wharfage. The children called it the Rat Pool, I believe there was a bone factory there at one time, the rotting stumps of the docking stages the only evidence left of busier times. Hanging my hand over the side of the boat I could trail it through the warming water and more fun still scoop up tadpoles who were browsing on the broad water lily leaves that floated just below the surface.

Beneath the surface we could see water boatmen powerfully swimming to and fro. They have an adapted pair of legs with broadened ends like oars, to breathe some carry bubbles of air and some swim upside down surfacing occasionally to capture a breath. Busy above them cleverly skimming across the surface tension we spied Pond Skaters, Water Crickets and Measurers.

The real treat of this new water level perspective was the Mayflies, not only did they fill the sky in their adult flying form but there on the emerging vegetation we found the discarded skins of the aquatic larvae. Mayfly adults live so briefly, their ditched forms beloved of fish and painstakingly copied by anglers. Mayflies enjoy a long life span beneath the waters but above the un-feeding adults flourish so briefly earning the scientific name of Ephemeroptera. Amongst the emergent Mayflies we encountered Common Blue damselflies, many already joined in a romantic s-shaped breeding embrace clumsily still flying while guaranteeing the next generation’s place in the waterside calvalcade.

Earlier that day we had flushed a Heron lazily into the sky and on the more fly filled stretches were grateful for the work being done by the swooping feeding flight of swallows. A pair of swans hissed protectively as we gave them a wide berth and that evening whilst cycling at Rednal I stopped to take in the rising song of some very loud skylarks. The most exciting bird report over the last month was a Dipper at Weston Rhyn. This delightful chocolate brown and cream bird lives by rivers, foraging up and down it’s home reach. The Dipper has a unique ability to move about, even ‘fly’ underwater while looking for the aquatic invertebrates it feeds on. Dippers have declined in numbers in the UK due to declines in water quality affecting the range of river life available to eat, I do hope that these trends can be reversed. If you would like to set out to see your own Dipper a good start is the bridge parapet at Chirk and the clear waters of the Ceirog.

I am still getting reports of birds in houses, a lucky Blue Tit was carried to safety after entering one local home. Other features of the warmer lighter evenings include good views of feeding bats. We have Pipistrelles and Brown Long eared bats feeding outside the back door and an evening walk around Tedsmore lanes will also be accompanied by bats. Bats can be attracted to the back door by a low light which brings in insect prey and of course a well stocked wildlife friendly garden will also make a welcome feeding station for our most endangered British mammals.

I do hope you too find time to enjoy the summer buzz ,

Happy Wildlife Spotting, yours Pete.