30 May 2011

Blitzing Blists Hill

Blist's Hill 270511 002

Friday, May 27 saw The Wrekin Forest Volunteers descend on Blists Hill Victorian Town Museum to survey the area of woodland, ponds and canal around the site and what a great day out it was too!

We were somewhat distracted from our task as a policeman collared a bike-thief which was very entertaining. Was that Alistair’s bike?

Blist's Hill 270511 003

Jim’s obviously just left the Victorian sweet shop with a huge bag of goodies and Pete looks ready to thwack the thief around the head with his clipboard!

Onwards!  We spent a very interesting day bimbling and fossicking around and found a plethora of interesting plants and invertebrates. Although the day was mainly cloudy, the rain kept off and many of our flying friends came out to play.

Cerajocera ceratocera Picture-winged Fly Blist's Hill 270511 032

I’ve only recently started to  spot picture-winged flies and this one (Cerajocera ceratocera) was a beauty:-

And then there was this excellent shot from Nigel of a Longhorn Beetle:-

Longhorn Beetle

Did anyone get a firm ID? I don’t see it in Chinery and  I had a quick look on the net but couldn’t nail it. If anyone has a name please drop me an email and I’ll update this blog post.

The pond-dipping team were out in force today surveying the quality of ponds and canal. Engrossed as I was in inverts I didn’t hear the outcome of that but there was at least one very pungent pond I almost slipped into!

On the ‘leps’ front Lizze and I found many Common Blue butterflies along with a lone Burnet Companion moth and a few of us caught a lovely selection of micro-moth species - a couple of them I’m still trying to ID. But here’s one I did - was it Keith who caught this? It was one of a pair and they go by the fabulous name of Pseudargyrotoza conwagana - trips off the tongue nicely that one!

Pseudargyrotoza conwagana Blist's Hill Micro's 270511 006

In a large wooded area of Common Nettle we found 50 or more Common Green Capsids, lots of colourful spiders were presented to Nigel, and Lizze came across an Eyed Ladybird

Eyed Ladybird Blist's Hill 270511 033

Lunch for some was a Cottage Pie in the restaurant but many of us couldn’t resist the prospect of savouring beef-dripping fried fish and chips. Fabulous!

Blist's Hill 270511 023

The larva found on nettle was indeed as someone suggested (Les?) a Comma butterfly

Comma Butterfly Larva Blist's Hill 270511 021

I managed to find 3 species of shield bugs;- Birch, Green and a final instar Forest which I have here at home to bring through to adult.

Final instar Forest Shieldbug Blist's Hill 270511 042

I think between us we built up quite a list of flora and fauna and look forward to seeing the full tally once we’ve completed our final  ID’s.

All-in-all an excellent day out and thanks must go to the management of Blists Hill and for Pete of course for arranging the event.

4 May 2011

May Nature Notes from Pete Lambert

Nature Notes - May 2011 

I had not gone far, two fields in fact, from the house when the first pair of Snipe fired themselves skyward. Looking like some swept back ninja weapon they took off, shortly followed by a second pair. The pools were joined by a widened water filled ditch and edged with rushes and reeds, partially inundated trees lent safe cover to the other wetland fowl.

Less than twenty feet ahead  I disturbed another member of the uneasy bankside community, a  mature rusty-brown Fox which cantered away contouring the water and then off, using the folds of the land to hide its route. I met the fox later that same afternoon; further away this time but still looking straight at me before confidently moving off. Hiding in the slowly dying branches a pair of Teal called to each other, a coot and a moorhen fidgeted in and around the vegetation and out across the surface. Behind me on the dryer rise of the ploughed field a skylark rose, its call clarion clear, though with a murky sky I could not see the rising chorister at all.

Friends out on the canal in the closing dusk enjoyed the to and fro call of the Tawny owl, and a treat,  a much different sound that of a Short eared owl which has been known to breed in the North Shropshire meres and mosses. Lapwings added their bubbling spooky call as they settled to their night-time roost and earlier in the day Great spotted woodpeckers added their rhythmic woodwork tapping to the blanket of airborne sound.

I had wanted to visit Mitchells Fold stone circle for years and finally guided by our walking buddies we arrived at the parking spot on the edge of Stapley Common. A lumpen low cloud added atmosphere as we tried to imagine the circle intact and fully proud of the windswept moor. We had a panoramic view later from the summit of Corndon Hill which balanced our senses as we recovered form finding our most unusual find of the year. Fuligo septica is a slime mould; this is an organism which undergoes a remarkable series of transformations, appearing at first looking like expanded yellow foam, then an oozing crust, a browned granular patch and finally a pile of loose brown spores. This slime-moulds common name is Dog vomit slime-mould which I am afraid describes it exactly! To top a splendid day in unfamiliar hills we caught a flash of a purposeful Merlin on the hunt and tearing away uphill, a Hare.

My young companion spotted them first, in a rutted track, deeply puddled lying just below The Lawley. Frog spawn, and in the next sludgy pool, tiny tadpoles. The tractor and quad tracks were fresh, the prospects for this amphibian generation were bleak and we pondered such a poor choice for a nursery location. His eyes also picked up our next colony, honey bees commuting in and out of their tree hole hive. He wisely skirted the dangerous hum by clambering higher up the slope, I carelessly walked straight on and confirmed they were Honey bees because one flew straight into my face, and then dropped onto the grass, giving me time to recover and get an identification!

A short notice trip took us to the coast, Bluebells, Spring squill, oystercatchers, Pied wagtails on the shingle, beadlet anemones, crabs, barnacles, jackdaws clinging on the salt sprinkled turf, loose spikes of dark blue milkwort hiding in the grass and spiders webs slung artfully between scorched skeletal gorse branches. A seaside snapshot. I always feel that spring barrels past too quickly but a few idle rambles have yielded such pleasant memories, just got to make sure I get out the door, that’s all.

Pete Lambert, Grimpo, 2011

If you would like to share your wildlife spotting adventures please contact me on petewoodman@thewoods12.fsnet.co.uk , happy wildlife spotting.