24 Nov 2013

Moth Night at Coalmoor

Welcome to the first post by a new contributor and one of the most consistent members of the Wrekin Forest Volunteers in recent years - Margaret Mitchell - who, with husband Stephen, form that formidable couple endearingly known as The Bicker Twins!

So... over to you Marg...

July 5th, 2013

The weather was warm and still with wispy clouds, good conditions for a busy ‘mothing.’

We arrived at the site by 8.30 pm with plenty of time to set up our moth traps.  On previous occasions access had only been to the old coal-washing site of two small lagoons with sunny banks, fringed by surrounding trees.  But this time we were also able to explore the restored landfill site.  It was very atmospheric, if not a little scary to pass the vent where the escaping gas was being burnt, later to be seen as a deep blue plume against the night sky.  As we walked up the stony track it was strange to feel the heat emanating from the ground, warming our cheeks.

The hillside was awash with colour from wild flowers.  These included birds’ foot trefoil, buttercups, self heal, tufted vetch, common spotted orchids and most special of all, bee orchids.

Bee orchid
Photo by David Williams

The night’s catch proved to be the best this year so far.  The daytime temperature had been in the high twenties and did not fall below 14C until midnight.  There were many ‘firsts’ for this season, such as the spectacular Drinker moth. - a rich chestnut brown with a hugely thick body, a very feisty moth doing a whirling Dervish impression at the bottom of the trap.

The Drinker
Photo by Stephen Mitchell

Other highlights were Peach Blossoms with their distinct markings of cream and brown circles.  Many moths have such intriguing names conjuring up delightful mental pictures.  Pale Emerald, Brimstone Moth, Beautiful Hook-tip, Dusky Brocade and Beautiful Golden Y were all caught.

Between 11 and 12 o’clock we had over 40 moths across 30 species in one trap alone (four traps operating in all) and we were reluctant to pack away and leave this very special and remote location, impatient to visit again in what is now proving to be a great summer for British moths.

Margaret Mitchell
Wrekin Forest Volunteers


6 Nov 2013

Death's-head Hawkmoth

It's always exciting when an unusual record of any sort pops up and October 31st saw one of the greatest finds in the Shropshire moth world for many a year! 

A live Death's-head Hawkmoth was discovered at the Telford Ricoh plant and later formally verified by Tony Jacques who recognised it instantly as a female. It now resides at Jacques Towers where it has since given birth to a handful of eggs. Time will shortly tell whether these are fertile or not and whether we will eventually hear the patter of tiny caterpillar feet. I popped over to Tony's yesterday to take a couple of pics - it's a bit of a beast (the moth not Tony!)!

And these are a few of the eggs laid which Tony is nurturing and keeping a very close eye on... 

The Death's-head Hawkmoth is the largest moth to appear in Britain with a wingspan up to 130mm. It's a migrant that can't survive our winter and may have arrived here on the winds heading this way from southern Europe - Tony is doing some research on weather patterns around the date it was found.

The moth is rarely found in Shropshire - the previous record was September 2006 at Ellesmere and according to records I hold, there have only been 84 records since 1895, so it's a bit special.

Well done to the crew at Ricoh!

Paul Watts

1 Nov 2013

Grimpo Nature Notes – November 2013 by Pete Lambert

He had heard the soft whoomp of the impact against the rear window and when I returned I found the stunned victim head down in a crack in the concrete. The wren was still dazed but alive, just.  Its fine clawed feet clung to my fingers and palm and I gently cupped it in my hands to prevent it falling whilst it recovered composure. We had an extended moment to admire the incredibly fine beak which is used to pick off small insects to sustain its eager and busy lifestyle. It stubby, cocked tail was laid crookedly across its chestnut back but steadily straightened as strength returned. We decided to pop the bird on the bird table but by now it seemed to like hanging onto our fingers, then suddenly a flurry of wing-beats and gone. As a child I remember being given a farthing with the image of a wren on the reverse, but why the wren. A little reading reveals that for over 2000 years the wren has featured in myth and legend. St. Stephen’s day [26th December] was and is notably celebrated by a Wren hunt particularly in Ireland and the Isle of Man. Live or dead wrens are the centre of elaborate rituals with songs and costumes. Over the latter part of the twentieth century the wren cult has declined though the plucky, and at times loud, bird has not, being found commonly in deep hedges and shrubs all over the UK. 

Like the most dynamic inch-worm ever the Stoat looped pell-mell across the Rednal Straight. Lithe, quick and aggressive, stoats eat voles and other small mammals. Stoats have slim bodies, chestnut brown above and white beneath, with a characteristic black tip to the tail.  

They nest in burrows or tree root tangles. Stoats remain widespread despite persecution including at times hunting with dogs. Young stoats stick together in playful groups and eventually disperse to take up their own hunting territories. Stoats can catch and kill rabbits despatching the victim with a deadly bite to the neck.  This attractive member of the mustelid family which includes weasels, tracks by scent and once on the trail is relentless and invariably successful. A stoat territory is about 50 acres [20 hectares] and having seen stoat like animals crossing in the same location over the years it is a fair chance that the territory bounds are drawn by the canal and include the mix of fields, hedges and wet woodland to the south.  In the north during the winter the stoats coat will turn white bar the tail which remains white. Less often now this white coat or ermine was used for ceremonial robes. I prefer my ermine alive and looping rapidly for cover. 

A slow seamless lowering of temperatures, shortened sunlight hours and a deciduous downfall of redundant leaves has softly marked the transition of the season. The garden feeding station has gradually grown busier and lights puncture the hedges as the foliage departs ground-ward. Brilliant Autumn light took   us out to take in a stunning view above Trevor taking in the Pontscyllte aqueduct, Dee crossing , north Shropshire plain and there far away on a smudged horizon The Wrekin. A short trek took us across rough upland moor , spikes of seed laden thistle were being raided by a 30 strong flock of goldfinches. Goldfinches have the most striking of colours, a tricolour face of scarlet, white and black, is set off by the golden flash on its wing. The collective noun for a flock of Goldfinches is a ‘charm’, a sixteenth century derivation from the meaning of charm as a ‘blended noise’. Certainly our whirling ‘charm’ was noisy enough. The bold colouring is reflected in some of the Shropshire names given, such as King Harry redcap or Spotted Dick.  Thistle, teasel and other tall seed heavy plants of neglected places are favoured by the goldfinch, a lover then of untidiness and I imagine staying our tidying impulse in garden and wider countryside will bring us with luck our own ‘charm’.

Wrap up now and head out for you own wildlife encounters, best wishes, Pete.

6 Oct 2013

Grimpo Nature Notes – October 2013 by Pete Lambert

A demented frog was how I looked, the oars of the tiny rubber dinghy wind-milling, making me just spin more wildly and the family laugh more loudly. I tried to recall my rowing skills of years ago but without success, finally getting back out of the boat I missed the bank and plunged my right leg up to the knee into the muddy edge of the pool to leave a brown stain that lasted all weekend. As some compensation my sharp-eyed son spotted a Water stick insect languidly working the shallows. Over two and half inches long [60 mm] including its elongated breathing tube or siphon and gangly legs the Water stick insect is the largest member of the sub-surface aquatic water bugs of the Heteropteran family. This fascinating group includes the backswimmers and Water boatmen, now they know how to row!  Like all bugs it has a fearsome rostrum or piercing mouth part to allow it to suck out the innards of its prey. I think with my obvious land-lubberly incompetence I must have been looking like prey to this odd lanky predator.

I knew we had a community of Bank voles around the yard and back door, having live trapped a few over the years and saved a number from the cat too, but this year was the year of the Common Shrew. Early in the summer I came home to find four shrewy corpses strewn around the yard, later another by the back door and finally a live one running along the bottom of the back step dashing pell-mell for the safety of the flower pots. The Common shrew is the second most common small mammal after the Field vole in the UK. There are three mainland species of red toothed shrew, Common, Pygmy and Water shrew and two island races of white toothed shrews on the Scilly Isles and Channel Islands. They are noisy, squeaky and aggressive. Though mouse –like they are very different in many ways. They walk on the soles of their feet, produce a poisonous secretion from their salivary glands, have a single digestive, urinary and reproductive opening and some can echolocate like bats using high frequency sound.

Shrews are amongst the smallest mammals in Europe and being so small and warm blooded in a cold climate they need to be very active and consume up to their body weight in insects over a 24 hour period. A shrew cannot survive a gap of over three hours without eating, this busy frantic lifestyle sadly is rewarded with a brief lifespan rarely longer than a year. Shrews enjoy a diet of earthworms, beetles, spiders, slugs, snails and other invertebrates such as woodlice. Intensely territorial, they will screech and shrilly call to drive away the intruder. Cats commonly catch shrews but will not eat them, which probably accounts for our Field of the vanquished Shrew. An old superstition recalled by an old man form Ruyton XI Towns is that ‘if you see a shrew-mouse – you must cross your foot or you will suffer from it’, I must bear that in mind the next time I step out of the house.

Another confirmed local territory is a quadrant of canal and wet ditches claimed by a Grey Heron – a long-legged, long-beaked wading bird, which other members of the family include the Bittern and Little Bittern. Once disturbed it will fly in front of you until it reaches the edges of its hunting grounds and then finally wheel around behind you to settle again on home waters. During winter these same iced over waters cause the population of herons to crash though they quickly recover by the following spring. They nest in trees, local heronries exist near Halston and another on the Mere. Until the twentieth century herons were a feature of the table, the fate of the heron was a Royal prerogative and only with permission could they be caught and invariably roasted as part of a spread of fowl for grand occasions, though they must taste very fishy. Herons now enjoy full protection under the law. An old weather predicting belief says that when a heron flies repeatedly up and down then rain is to be expected, looks like I need to pop down the canal to get my next weather report.

Finally I note the swallows have gone, the tired browns of the annual growth are showing through the bottom of the hedges and early morning dews and mists signal a new season arriving.  I do enjoy the autumn, good walking weather and maybe a little wildlife too, happy spotting, Pete.

28 Sep 2013

It’s All Over... by Keith Fowler

Yes, after 6 months and more of weekly Invertebrately Challenged Tetrad perambulations the sequence was brought to an end last Wednesday in the welcoming confines of the Bridges Inn.

I would like to thank Margaret, Stephen, Jim, Nigel, Gwyn, Sue, Amanda, David, Brian, Les, Liz, Godfrey, Yusef and Paul (have I forgotten anyone? – if I have, sorry and thank you!) who have joined me providing their time, spotting abilities, identification skills and petrol to the overall effort. Thank you to all who have provided photographs to provide the main interest. 

And so to catch up on our activities...

Firstly, I understated the results of the trip to Broseley (which I missed). It was a brilliant – 11, was ELEVEN, shieldbugs and allies – easily the record for the series – well done everyone. There were even 8-legged beasts to interest our Arachnologist, who has now added Harvestmen identification to his skill set.

Secondly, an apology to our fitness guru. I stated that we walked a record two miles at Little Wenlock – in fact we walked three!!! I feel fitter just thinking about it.

Chestnut Coppice
Once again we were joined by the County micromoth recorder, so once again our interest in this species family was inflamed. Lots of inspection of leaves for mines, pupae, larva, and lots of head scratching when we found them.

Chestnut Coppice is on the banks of the River Severn above Bridgnorth. Fortunately, although the access road was narrow, there was an area where four or five cars could park close to the bridle path that we intended to follow. As always we inspected the area around the parked cars and lo and behold a Hawthorn shieldbug was found on Hawthorn. Those of you who have searched for these bugs will know many seemed to be named after the plant with which they are associated. But, very frequently they turn up elsewhere and the associated plant is bugless.

We eventually traversed the 200 yards or so to the coppice which not surprisingly contains a lot of Sweet chestnut as well as conifers and other broadleaved trees. There are a couple of paths that lead to the disused Buildwas – Bridgnorth railway line and beyond that to the banks of the River Severn.

After elevenses (and lunch for some) in the coppice we made our way slowly (as always) to the banks of the River Severn and lunch (for those who had not already eaten theirs). We ambled along for a while travelling north admiring the Himalayan Balsam and Japanese knotweed, scaling rickety stiles and trying to avoid losing boots in the mud. We looked for invertebrates but did not find much variety of species. Then time caught up with us so we returned to the cars determinedly but with the occasional tap or sweep just to keep our eye in. It was on one of these late speculative taps that we uncovered an Eighteen-spot ladybird.

Little Hill and White Cottage Coppice
"According to the new hoverfly book Callicera rufa has a second peak in September, so let’s go and see if it’s there.” Suggested one of the group. So we did and it wasn’t. 

It was a bit cloudy and windy so, maybe, it was keeping out of the way, or, more likely it had done its job of producing the next generation and gone the way of most satisfied insects.

For those of you wondering what on earth I am writing about – Callicera rufa is a Nationally Scarce hoverfly that is normally found in the Caledonian Pine Forests of northern Scotland. For some reason it has popped up south of the border with single records in Nottinghamshire and Bedfordshire, but it seems to be breeding successfully on top of Little Hill, where it has been present for at least three years, and probably, Haughmond Hill.

As we did not see it on the day here is a picture I took earlier in the year.

Despite the disappointment of our failure to find the hoverfly we had a wonderful time collecting fungus much to the delight of our Mycologist. Normally when he joins us there are none to be found but this day proved highly rewarding as well as providing some food for his table.

As for insects, we had some interesting finds, including a cabbage white larva that had been parasitized by a Braconid wasp and Little Hill was alive with Sloe/Hairy shieldbugs but finding any in our target tetrad for the day (White Cottage Coppice) was more taxing. Eventually we did find a Green shieldbug so we returned home satisfied.

Our last trip was to the north west end of the Long Mynd. We set off in fog and rain but by the time we arrived at Bridges the fog had lifted, the rain had stopped and the clouds were lifting.

We were greeted by the sight of a Dipper in the stream by the car park. This was balanced by a not so good sight in the same stream later – but more of that later.

Our search of the car park yielded a beautifully marked Herald moth but, for once, no shieldbugs – the pressure was on.

We wandered along the Shropshire Way, which at this point is the road, tapping away at the verge and hedge but to no avail. A lady from the YHA chatted to us and gave us permission to check out her garden – no shieldbugs – the pressure was increasing – we could not, must not finish with a blank.

The Shropshire Way left the road and headed across a pasture and wood with a stream running through them but still no shieldbugs. Did I mention pressure?

The sun came out so we found a spot for lunch and, hey presto, the last beat before eating produced a shieldbug, and not just any old shield bug, but a very handsome, shiny Blue shieldbug. No pressure.

After lunch we raced through more woodland which was rather bleak (from an invertebrate point of view but would have been of interest to our Mycologist had he been present.

As the woodland took us into a second shieldbugless tetrad the hunt was on again. Fortunately a Bronze shieldbug turned up quite early. But we found no more despite attacking large numbers of Nettle clumps (ow!) grass tufts, Hawthorn and Gorse bushes.

We returned to the car park at the Bridges Inn which had a sign at the entrance inviting us to park there whilst we walked and suggesting that we may also like to enjoy a pint in the bar afterwards – so we did.

But that is not the end of this tale. Refreshed and with the sun shining we wandered over to the stream. Whilst staring into the water thinking deep thoughts as one does after a pint we noticed movement in the water – crayfish. Unfortunately not our own but the Signal crayfish, introduced from North America in the 1970s to provide an additional source of income for farmers. Unfortunately some escaped and established populations in our rivers and lakes. Even more unfortunately they carry a disease which is having catastrophic effects on our native crayfish.

Apparently they are very tasty.

We returned home. 

---   The End   ---

Keith Fowler

Well not quite...

Next Year
I hope we can do something similar next year. The Shropshire atlases will have been or will be well on their way to completion, so we have no externally determined target species. So we will need a theme (other than just enjoying a day out – but perhaps there is nothing wrong in that as a theme!). Does anyone have any suggestions? Does anyone else want to facilitate the perambulations? Is Wednesday the best day? Etc.? Let me know your thoughts.

And really finally ...

A competition

What is he doing? 

9 Sep 2013

Raining shieldbugs by Keith Fowler

The year is progressing. All the shieldbugs that we could not find earlier in the year have produced offspring which are now maturing and allowing themselves to be found by our intrepid searchers. Soon their thoughts will be turning to overwintering and repeating the cycle next year. Hopefully by then the Shropshire shieldbug atlas will be well on the way to publication.

Since my last posting there have been three further forays into deepest Shropshire continuing our hunt for invertebrates.

The first of the three trips was to Tasley on the north west outskirts of Bridgnorth visiting Trinity Wood, the imaginatively named Brick Kiln plantation and a neighbouring field. This area covered two shieldbugless tetrads. The weather was sunny and hot (in contrast to the weather at the moment which is wet and cold). Trinity Wood is a recent plantation with a mixture of broadleaved trees clearings and wide pathways. Brick Kiln plantation is mature woodland. The field seems to have been left to grow whatever seeds were lying in the soil.

After months of trips finding the odd shieldbug we were overwhelmed. It seemed that every sweep or beat of the vegetation produced at least one shieldbug, perhaps this is where most of the Shropshire bugs had been hiding. We recorded 9, yes nine, species of shieldbug and allies. As this was a remarkable achievement for this group I am going to list them:

Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale
    Hawthorn shieldbug
Coreus marginatus    Dock bug
Corizus hyoscyami   
Dolycoris baccarum    Hairy/Sloe shieldbug
Elasmostethus interstinctus    Birch shieldbug
Elasmucha grisea    Parent shieldbug
Eysarcoris venustissimus    Woundwort shieldbug
Palomena prasina    Green shieldbug
Troilus luridus    Bronze shieldbug

However the find of the day was a beautiful cranefly (yes such things do exist) Pedicia rivosa.

This is one of the largest craneflies we have and it has wonderfully patterned wings and abdomen as I hope you will appreciate from the photograph.

Overall we added 93 invertebrate records to the Shropshire database. All that remained was to pose for the group photograph. Unfortunately the photographer was not quick enough to get into the picture!

I did not go to Broseley as I was on holiday and my wife would have been very upset had I popped back for the day. Shame as by all accounts it continued to rain shield bugs. The site visited was a patch of private land that had been turned into a nature reserve and was now looked after by a Friends Group. I had visited the site earlier in the year and found... you guessed it, NO shieldbugs. But in my absence the group did a wonderful job, perhaps I should go away more often.

I was on my best behaviour whilst away, no pots, no nets, no reference books but insects had a way of finding me. This turned up on my fleece in the middle of a busy pedestrian area in Vienna. I am not familiar with species found on the continent but it looks a bit like a Western conifer seed bug.

And joining us on a car we hired was what looked like a Pied shieldbug but is probably Rambur’s pied shieldbug which has only recently appeared in Britain in Kent.

So as I have no more to say about Broseley here are a few more pictures of as yet unidentified insects in Austria and the Czech Republic.

Wenlock Edge
Our latest trip was a return to Wenlock Edge where on our first trip we found a Hawthorn shieldbug within a few minutes of leaving the car park but no more. Unfortunately this record was not in our target tetrad so we returned for a further try.

The weather was fine but being on top of the Edge a little breezy. However our optimism was raised as we found three species of shieldbugs on the way to the recordless tetrad. But was our optimism going to be dashed?

We took elevenses before we had entered our target area; and as I was still on Central European Time I had lunch. This proved to be catching as I noticed one other person tucking into his sandwiches.

Refreshed we quickly entered the shieldbugly challenged tetrad. Beat, sweep, look, sweep, search, beat ... were we to be denied again? Of course not. Although we did not find a lot of bugs we did locate five species.

At the end of the day our resident keep-fit expert told us that we had walked a record 2 miles in the 5 hours we were out. So, shieldbugs, over one hundred invertebrate records and improved fitness, what more could we want? Well we did not find any longhorn beetles and micromoths were few and far between – ah well, you can’t have everything.

Keith Fowler

31 Aug 2013

Grimpo Nature Notes – September 2013 by Pete Lambert

Now that’s better, sun, occasional showers and a full month of moths. For the last month I have been recording the night time flutterers who have bumbled through the kitchen window to crash against the ceiling lights. A creamy, large, Swallowtailed moth, a member of the Geometer family of Lepidoptera order was my first confidently named visitor.  Geometer moths are rather flimsy and settle with their wings held flat, which helped me get a good view of the distinctive wing shape that gives the moth its common name. Moths and butterflies are an artificial separation of a large group of winged invertebrates, of which approximately 2500 species can be found in the UK, composed of numerous family groups.  Identifying moths and butterflies can in many cases be quite straightforward when tackling larger and more colourful individuals, though many of the smaller micro-moths are quite, if not very, challenging.  We live in an area that includes a network of hedgerows, damp grasslands, rough vegetated corners and not so many miles away, open country. My moth list reflected these habitat preferences and helped me understand more about the various families energised by the warm damp evenings.

Accompanying the Swallowtailed moth a further two Geometer moths were encountered in the kitchen, the Shaded Broad Bar, a lover of grassy places and a Bloodvein, the vein running across both upper wings, in this case more purple than pink.  A single Hawkmoth let itself into our middle son’s bedroom, was adopted and christened Reginald, but sadly expired before the week was out. Hawkmoths are stout and generally fast flying; our Reginald was an Elephant Hawkmoth, so called because the caterpillar has a trunk like snout, which if alarmed it sways menacingly to and fro. Reginald like the other members of his family was brightly coloured and large, though not the largest of his kind, this honour is reserved for the Deaths Head Hawkmoth, a summer visitor mainly to the south.  Numerous Footman moths busied themselves in the downstairs rooms, Common and Dingy Footman, the first a denizen of our local hedgerows and the second favouring wet woodland. Neat powder grey with pale yellow trim, I like the Common Footman, rescuing one from the bath last night I had a closer look at this tidy moth, admiring the way its elliptical wings lay flat over its back.

By far the largest family to send representatives to the house were the Noctuid moths, stout, cryptically coloured, wings held roof wise, and busy. The Antler, Great Brocade, Silver Y seem to be off piste from their favoured open country, though the Snout, Dot and Grey Dagger are more comfortably in reach of nettles, cultivation and hawthorn hedges.  Moths acquire their common names occasionally through obvious markings, antler shapes on the Antler moth, dagger patterns on the Grey Dagger and a silver Y on the Silver Y. How the Clay moth derived its name is obscure but I was pleased to be able to work out that it was a male from the dark, triangular patch of hairs on its underside. A couple of Underwing members of the Noctuids also turned up, the Large Yellow Underwing and the Lesser Broad Bordered Yellow Underwing.  Both have a fast erratic flight, flashing the bright yellow under-wing and then dropping to the ground to confuse and evade predators.

As the mothing month drew to a close I recorded a single Swift, this being a pretty little Orange Swift and the only Eggar moth of the period, a Drinker. The Drinker is so called because its larvae have the habit of drinking from water droplets on leaves. And finally of the eight families associated with the butterflies, a sunny day brought me Meadow Browns, Ringlets, Gatekeepers, a Red Admiral, Large and Small Whites and finally three pristine Commas, all gorgeous!

Happy wildlife watching, Pete.

19 Aug 2013

Rain, rain, go away - Keith Fowler

It is nearly two months since I last wrote about out Wednesday jaunts to try and find Shieldbugs and other invertebrates of interest. I apologise for this but I have been just a little bit busy. Fortunately a day off and a wet day have allowed me to catch up with my identifications and spend some time writing this.

I am sure you will be relieved to know that none of us seem to have suffered any long term ill-effects from the numerous mosquito bites suffered for the cause on our previous outing to the Hem.

Abbey Wood 26th June

Abbey Wood is near Lilleshall in the neighbourhood of, not surprisingly, Lilleshall Abbey; it also borders the National Sports Centre. I was chatting to an attendee at an Hemipterists’ Day and it somehow emerged that he was part owner of this wood. He agreed to try to arrange access for us to visit, which he duly did.

The first challenge was access. There is very limited parking space at the entrance to the wood. We met in Lilleshall village, transferred to a couple of cars then made our way to the wood. The first part of the journey was along a tarmacked lane but this soon petered out into a rough track. Unfortunately one of the cars became the victim of a large stone.

Having arrived we inspected the damage, kitted ourselves out for the day and tackled the next challenge – getting into the wood. In our way was a locked five-bar gate. We overcame this barrier rather well and no injuries were sustained. Hold on a minute ... one of the party has decided to return to the cars ... on his return ... oh no! he has fallen victim to the gate.

The search started well with a long-horn beetle (Stenocorus meridianus), Red-headed and Black-headed cardinal beetles in the first 20 minutes. The path was clothed in orchids. By the time lunch was taken we had found a shieldbug (hooray!), three long-horn beetles, several micro-moths and craneflies and many other insects.

After lunch we ventured further into the woods. This took us through a rather bleak section of conifer plantation before it returned to a more open broadleaved section. Unfortunately the ground flora had taken advantage of the more open aspect and chest-head high nettles forced us to retreat. On our return through the conifers we chanced upon a Red-necked footman which caused our moth experts some consternation before it adopted the classic footman pose.

At the end of the day we scaled the gate with ease and returned home very carefully.

Shawbury Heath 3rd July

We sneaked our way into the Invertebrate Challenge Bee Group’s trip. As it turned out, apart from all parking in the same place, we split up and went our separate ways only meeting once, appropriately, halfway around. For the first part of the day we were in the illustrious company of the County micro-moth recorder who decided to join us for the morning. I have never seen our group find so many micro-moths.

Shawbury Heath is a plantation with a few wide rides and a couple of large areas that have been harvested and are turning to birch scrub. It was in one of these areas that we found the star of the day, possibly the year, a Blue shieldbug nymph.

On our return we chanced across several long-horn beetles feeding on Hogweed and we were treated to a demonstration of the latest piece of essential equipment – the Sprung Tea Egg. Not just any Sprung Tea Egg but an outsize one from Dunbar. Clearly they like very strong tea in Dunbar. As the picture shows – it works.

To cap the day we met a member of the bee group who pointed out Woundwort and Parent shieldbugs to us.

Little Wenlock 10th July
It was hot. That is my abiding memory of the day. Unrelenting heat. It was even too hot for the invertebrates to come out and play. So hot that it drove us from the field and into the pub.

We followed the route of the “Benches Walk” (see http://www.littlewenlock.org/j_benchwalks/benchmap.html) from the Village Hall down to Swan Farm Pool then returned to the village via Buildwas Lane.

Most of the walk is, unfortunately, fenced in so there was very little opportunity to look for invertebrates other than along the path and lane edges. Even so we managed a reasonable collection of records and there were a couple of more open areas that were explored.

We lunched by the pool where we met an angler who was so overwhelmed by our party that he packed up and left. Whilst lunching some of the locals sneaked up on us and barred our exit. Fortunately they got bored before we did and moved on allowing us to escape to the higher ground.

Did I mention the heat? No? It was very, very, very hot. We had to walk uphill to return to the village so every opportunity to stop and sit down to admire the outstanding views was taken. On regaining the village we had a quick look around the churchyard then sought refuge from the heat in the local hostelry.

Beckbury 17th July
We said goodbye to one of our regular members to-day as she departed Shropshire for more  southern climes. Tears should have been falling from the sky but it was HOT, possibly hotter than Little Wenlock the previous week.

We had our first shieldbug within five minutes of starting. A speculative tap of some White dead-nettle producing several distinctive nymphs. We even had a longhorn beetle and micro-moth within 10 minutes. Target species achieved, another tetrad ticked off, we could have gone home, but we pressed on.

The first part of the walk took us through tall rough grassland close to the River Worfe and it provided a rich harvest of insects for us to chase, catch or miss. Two more shieldbug species quickly followed.

The grassland gave way to a field margin which provided little shelter from the sun. We made hastily for the woodland at the end of the field. We lunched. This was a mistake as the entire mosquito population of the area sensed our presence and descended upon us.

Lunch over for ourselves and uninvited guests we searched the woodland. The path through the wood brought us to a road. We had a choice – return the way we came or follow the road back to Beckbury? We chose the road – wrong choice the enclosed tarmacked road just magnified the heat. We trudged back looking forward to refreshments in the pub opposite where we had parked. Exhausted and parched we returned to the cars only to find the pub was closed. Disaster.

Plan B was implemented and we drove to Norton and wished Amanda all the best in the comfort of the Hundred House.

Granville 24th July
It was a huge surprise to find that there are no shieldbug records for the northern part of Granville so we attempted to redress the situation. This was achieved more quickly than normal as a Hawthorn shieldbug nymph was found before we left the car park.

This was to be a split visit with the first part in the northern end of the country park then to the tetrad to the south along Grange Lane.

We spent a lot of time in the clearing/picnic area between the Pump and Winding Houses. This was abuzz with insects and it had picnic tables so we could sit down to identify what we had caught – always a bonus! We spent a lot of time watching the activities of a dragonfly. Could we identify it? No. We tried looking, creeping up on it, binoculars and finally a camera. The photograph was sent to the County Recorder who identified it as a Common darter. Thank you Sue.

We transferred to the main car park and made our way to Grange Lane which runs from the country park towards Redhill. Although we found lots of insects in this area we failed to any shieldbugs.

We returned over the Western stockpile and were treated to the sight of Purple hairstreaks in the lower branches of the oaks that border the mound.

By the way it was hot.

Sutton Wood 31st July
It rained – so we stayed at home.

The Lawley 7th August

An away day to The Lawley and a three tetrad walk was our next outing. Parking at the north end of the Lawley and walking along the path at the foot of its western slope takes you through three tetrads none of which have any Shieldbug records. So the challenge was on.

Tetrad 1 – Green shieldbug nymph found in the car park. One down two to go. We also found a Mother of Pearl so that’s micro-moths done for this tetrad. We eventually left the tetrad and with nets for sweeping and trays for beating made our way into the second tetrad.

Tetrad 2 – Green shieldbug nymph located, micro-moth caught and identified: we even managed to identify a spider in the absence of our expert who was looking after his grandson (Araneus diadematus – the spider not the grandson). We lunched.

Tetrad 3 – Yet another Green shieldbug nymph was found. So we had a hat-trick of shieldbugs but were lacking species diversity – still better than none.

We returned to the car park content that we had achieved our objective, sad that we had not seen any longhorn beetles but rejoicing in the number of butterflies that were on the wing.

Sutton Wood 14th August
The Severn Gorge Countryside Trust very kindly opened up there car park for us so we were saved the long trek from the public car park in Coalport or negotiating spaces in the pub just across the bridge who were not very welcoming when approached for our previous (and abandoned) assault on Sutton Wood.

As seems to be the norm the car park provided rich pickings. Birch and Parent shieldbugs were found as well as several ladybirds and bugs. There were a mixture of shieldbug nymphs and adults, so the lifecycle is progressing. We eventually tore ourselves away from the car park and made our way along the lane at the top of the woods soon coming across a Green shieldbug nymph. So three species in the first 100 yards of our trip (or 90 minutes if you prefer).

A hornet was found chewing wood in the hedgerow. It was so engrossed in its task that it allowed us to get very close to photograph it.

We continued to explore the woodland some of which was rather dark and dingy – not good for insects but great for fungi – until it started raining, when we gave up.

So you and I are now up to date with our activities, until next week when I shall be behind again.

Keith Fowler

28 Jul 2013

Mottey Meadows and Prees Heath - WFV Summer Excursion 28 June 2013 - Margaret Mitchell

We arrived early and parked in the school car park.  Shortly afterwards the Trust Land Rover sped by driven by Matt.  We set off in hot pursuit only to meet him coming back the other way.  After at little to-ing and fro-ing we all arrived at the entrance to Mottey Meadows

The weather was warm but overcast with occasional gentle showers, which never the less were quite drenching.  Our guide was the site warden, Melanie Brown of English Nature, who was both informative and enthusiastic and we spent the morning walking in the extensive wild flower rich floodplain.

The first meadow was dotted extensively with the red flower heads of great burnet, interspersed with devil’s-bit scabious and buttercups.  Later in the summer/early autumn the hay will be cut and grazed by cattle, ensuring that the diversity of plants remains high.

The site has several ancient black poplar trees whose size and girth are very impressive.

A second meadow revealed a sea of meadow thistle, their lilac flowers in full bloom. Meadow Brown butterflies and a Yellow Shell moth were spotted enjoying the flowers and a curlew’s cry alerted us all to glance skywards as it flew overhead towards the line of trees and hedgerow on the horizon.

Crossing the meadow amongst ox-eye daisies, we saw small stands of saw-wort still in bud, whilst creamy flower heads of pepper saxifrage were in full bloom.  Large tufts of soft rush formed yet a different habitat in another compartment.

In all 24 fields comprise this National Nature Reserve that contains more than 200 species of flowers, grasses and sedges.  Snake’s head fritillary is present in profusion in May and Mottey Meadows is the most northerly site where it grows in its truly wild form.

We all took photographs, both close-ups and panoramic vistas, trying to capture the essence of this special place.  Flowers as far as the eye could see.

We then all journeyed to Prees Heath where, after lunch, we met the reserve officer, Stephen Lewis of Butterfly Conservation, who guided us round the site.  Here we saw several Silver-studded Blue butterflies landing on the heather.  Their emergence had been delayed this year by the cold spring.  Normally there would have been literally hundreds on the wing at this time.

The former airfield remains common land and there is open access.  It is now being managed by Butterfly Conservation to provide a suitable habitat for this rare butterfly.

After the war part of the site was farmed and consequently the nature of the soil was enriched.  By deep ploughing the sandy subsoil has been brought to the surface and the reserve returned to heath once more.  Heather brash from Cannock Chase has been scattered across the site and the acid conditions have also encouraged wild flowers to grow.  For example, birds’ foot trefoil, weld, mayweed, heath speedwell and the lemon petals of mouse-eared hawkweed, tinged with pink rays behind the inflorescence.

The Silver-studded Blues are dependent on the black ants for their development.  The ants take the tiny caterpillars into their nests where they feed on a sugary liquid exuding from the caterpillars.  The ants protect the caterpillars throughout the pupae stage and when the butterfly emerges to dry its wings they continue to feed from the adult butterflies until they are ready to fly.  These exquisite, small butterflies live only a few days and do not travel far, often roosting in large numbers on shrubs.

The area is also ideal for other species, and during the afternoon we spotted Small Heath and Small Blue butterflies.  A tiger beetle scurried across the sandy soil and a beautiful velvet oil beetle joined us to read the information board.

The afternoon ended with another drenching but our spirits were not dampened.  We had seen the Silver-studded blue and so much more, a great day out for the Wrekin Forest Volunteers Summer Excursion.

And finally a big thank you to our guides, Melanie Brown and Stephen Lewis, and to Matt Marston for organising the day.

Margaret Mitchell

13 Jul 2013

Nature Notes – July 2013 by Pete Lambert

The dark steel-blue back flexed easily holding the Rainbow trout head first into the flow. The water-fall just downstream generated enough force to make it difficult for even a strong adult to stand in the waters for long without giving away the enormous effort required. Each successive weir had created a pool in which groups of the introduced game fish moved powerfully about. We had encountered the first of the weirs about a mile up Lathkilldale, all part of a large local estates efforts to generate income. We intended to follow the river upwards to its source, though as it begins it journey underground this was a fools errand. We did however find the cave mouth from which the river, when in spate, pours out and fills its rocky bed. Below this point the river does delightful things as it tilts over gravelly shoals, bends around roots and over  tiny cascades. A Dipper and Grey wagtail exploited the aquatic insect life either along the shore or in the Dippers case swimming along the stream bed tipping over stones  and eating the nymphs and larvae hiding beneath.

We had begun our walk in Youlgreave heading out of the village to find the mouth of the Lath. The valley begins gently enough but gradually the walls close in looming higher and higher, blocky crags of limestone leering out over us whilst we trod quietly upstream.  Ash woods grew out from the jagged tumble of limestone boulders  and cliffs, just coming into leaf, gentle lime green hues added to the strong sunlight penetrating the ancient trees. We enjoyed the clusters of Early Purple orchids, but were far too early for the native blue floral display of Jacobs Ladder.  The colonies in the White Peak area of Derbyshire are truly native and quite scarce. The plant gets its name from the ladder like arrangement of its leaves. Finally our trek took us into the upper dry valley of Lathkilldale, the unique combination of limestone scenery, ash woods and rich grasslands concealed in an awe-inspiring gorge had sated our need for intoxicating landscapes, well at least for this week!

The lads were at their usual spot waiting hangdog-like for the school coach when a real dog seemed to be bounding through the knee high crop, as it drew close this was no dog. The deer realising that the way was barred by school boys dug in its hooves and steered a sharp left to disappear shortly thereafter. Not your usual start to the school day. A cycle trip that week also brought in an unusual total of 12 buzzards in the same segment of sky, why they should gather in this way I don’t know maybe they too were simply enjoying the heat and the thermal lift it brings. 

Getting into the canoes was the only way to explore the far bank of the Monts canal away from the mown grass and dog walked disturbance of the tow path. Otter spraints on the bridge piers were our reward and a half-finished fishy meal laid out on a flattened area of weed was the otters. The otter is the only mammal who is able to peel back the skin of a fish, so it can neatly consume the white flesh. The purpose of our journey that day was to assess the habitat suitability of the canal for Water vole, sadly so much of the canal is heavily engineered that it was generally unsuitable. Though here and there sections held promise but this has to be tempered with the fact we did find evidence of predatory mink. Banded and Beautiful  demoiselles  flew up to us at a few places, we spied a pike and the hairy caterpillar of a Drinker moth. The air was alive with May, Stone and Caddis flies, and various snails floated by or slowly moved across weed or parapet. The marginal plants such as Water dock and the Greater tussock sedge were in top form, grand and stately.  Walking, paddling or cycling, however you do it, just get out there and enjoy the wild places, there may even be some sun!

Happy Wildlife watching,


30 Jun 2013

The Hem - Keith Fowler

After a week off ICT meanders, moonlighting on Long Mynd, with the usual results – no Shieldbugs, normal service was resumed when we visited an ancient woodland in Telford called the Hem. The wood, situated on the edge of Halesfield, is owned by the council but they have recently agreed to it being managed by our friend and occasional colleague Mark Ecclestone.

Mark has started a coppicing cycle and is removing the wood for firewood and the other items that he likes to produce. And as Mark extended his hospitality to us I think it only fair that I give his website a plug – www.picsandsticks.co.uk.

Anyone who has visited Halesfield will know that it is a bit of a rabbit warren so we met Mark at one of the landmarks – the Recycling Centre. He gave us instructions of how to get to the car park. The instructions seemed straightforward – “follow the road left then right then take the third left into the car park” ... or so it seemed. We were in three cars and each of the cars ended up in a different car park. Eventually we all met up at the correct spot and headed for the wood.

Our host has built a woodman’s camp and the comforts it provided made us act like children in a sweet shop, we could not keep away. Any excuse and we were there lounging on the seats and logs. We had elevenses, lunch, early afternoon tea and somehow we were unable to identify any insect without resorting to its comforts.

We did explore the wood and found no shieldbugs but we did find lots of other things including three species of long-horn beetles, several micro-moths and lots of craneflies in addition to macro moths, beetles, spiders and bugs. On the downside we also suffered attacks by insect repellent resistant mosquitos.

We did explore the wood and found no shieldbugs but we did find lots of other things including three species of long-horn beetles, several micro-moths and lots of craneflies in addition to macro moths, beetles, spiders and bugs. On the downside we also suffered attacks by insect repellent resistant mosquitos.

Our star find was a huge long-horn beetle Stenocorus meridianus which had us staring at identification books for a while. Eventually, with some outside help, we were able to settle on what it was. The other long-horn beetles were the distinctively and aptly named Wasp beetle (Clytus arietus) and the commoner Gramoptera ruficornis, which can usually, but not always, be dislodged from Hawthorn.

Stencorus meridianus 

We eventually tore ourselves away from the comforts of the Hem, thanked our host for allowing us to visit and went home.

Keith Fowler

5 Jun 2013

Nature Notes – June 2013 by Pete Lambert

Most peculiar, I had hoped to enjoy the blousy froth of the blackthorn in flower but the usual patterns of spring had been disrupted. Before I knew it the sparrow colony had invaded the broken peg -mouthed brickwork of the barn, swallows were swooping up into the purlins and rafters of the open stable [the washing moved to avoid the pelting droppings!] and a raucous wren had set up a protective perimeter by the back steps.  In the field next door a skylark, as if filled with helium, rose and sprayed out its joyous song.  Weeks of dry days had slowed the breaking of the buds but the recent blustery days triggered the final arrival of the soft foliage of early summer.

The rocky amphitheatre captured the strange cry and had my head turning in all directions as I sought out its source. Directly above me one of the pair of Peregrines headed into toward the rocky ledge, another adult wheeled slowly out above the treeline. I could not make out whether they had chicks, but possibly it was too early. Peregrine falcons have been making a slow return to the West Midlands, at a rate of about a pair every two years. These high speed raptors favour craggy ledges and in our region these tend to be disused quarries. Sadly this iconic bird is still persecuted and I must be circumspect in my description and just share my pleasure and surprise in the encounter.

In search of an unusual tea and bun stop we cycled out of Wem and circled alongside the Sleap Brook towards the Aerodrome control tower cafĂ©.  The loping gait and dark tipped ears of the hare are so distinctive; this one had just crossed the lane ahead of us. The bulging staring eyes of the hare are set on the sides of its head so its field of vision is nearly 360 degrees, it ran straight down a furrow, pausing occasionally to size us up, but given the hare can run at up to 35 mph we were no real threat. The once common Brown hare has been in steady decline for many years, intensified farming leaves little food, pesticides poison leverets and some are killed during mowing for silage. The adult hare can elude and out run nearly all predators, so it sounds like it’s up to us to do the rest to conserve this king of the open country.

Aren’t the young vulnerable, loose limbed, uncertain and skittish. The Fox cub had been running up the lane and we had expected that they would veer away and take cover in the woods alongside the lane. Instead of this the youngster kept just ahead of the car, stopping occasionally to look at us and then run on, finally we found a driveway and we could pass this callow youth. We met him again on the way home and repeated the chase, this time downhill; we hoped their road safety skills improved rapidly. A short while later we spotted an adult fox, more assured, cannier and gone to cover in moments.  For some, parents are close by and periods of anxiety have a happy ending. The four ducklings were strung out in convoy, the lead chick making a piping call to keep the pace up and signal the clutches discomfort. I watched as they paddled past, the steady metronome call keeping the group steady, the tail-end Charlie seemed to lose steam and the little flotilla whirled in disarray, at this point the alarm call was finally answered. A female mallard splashed onto the canal surface and with a few nudges corralled her charges to safety.

Finally, a few woodland walks were well timed to capture the peak of the dog violet flowering, the glades and open paths at Llanmynech being particularly rewarding. Climbing higher on a trip to the Brieddens I stumbled into the breeding territory of a summer visitor. The open oak woodlands just below the heathland clad summit are the favoured spot for the Pied flycatcher, the male met me on the path and then again as I left their patch. This striking black and white bird has flown from Saharan Africa to nest in our steep western oaklands, its breeding season is short, it relies on the abundant insect life on the bark, leaves and stems of the trees, let’s hope the peculiar timing of our Spring will be in this nomadic  birds favour.

Happy wildlife spotting,

Pete Lambert

28 May 2013

Netted and Potted by Keith Fowler

“Shieldbug!” was the cry as we were tooling up shortly after arriving at Grindleforge. We duly trotted over to where the cry had originated and there was a Dock bug. A quick search of the area revealed a few more. Was this early find a curse or a sign of good things to come?

The day was overcast with a wind straight out of the Arctic – was snow forecast? It seemed a possibility. We wrapped up well and set off, for once ignoring the car parking area. The plan, yes, we did have a plan, was to follow the footpath alongside the Wesley Brook to Kemberton Mill and then through King Charles’ Wood to Evelith Mill before returning by the same route or an alternative path.

We crossed the brook using the elongate Oldforge Bridge then followed the course of the brook using the footpath through the very pleasant wood. On emerging from the wood we crossed into a sheep field and had lunch. We were still in sight of where we had parked the cars about 400yards away!

The verge of the bridge and the wood provided plenty of entertainment : craneflies and weevils  doing what most animals do in the spring; plants for identification and lots of other wee beasties most of which were in families that we could not identify, unfortunately – but we did manage to name a few. No shieldbugs – were we cursed?

It was in this wood that one of our group managed for the first time to “net” and “pot” a cranefly successfully, a feat that he was keen that the rest of world should be aware off.

We shivered through lunch, even our bare-legged colleague who had goose-bumps on his goose-bumps was forced to wrap up. But what was that in the sky – BLUE – yes, the threat of snow was receding and there was a chance that we might get some sunshine. However the wind still blew and we discussed the merits of Centigrade and Fahrenheit for judging how warm or cold it was.

After lunch we made our way slowly up the field to a small area of long grass and other tall plants. The sun came out and when we found areas that were sheltered from the wind there was plenty of wildlife to observe. And the curse was broken as we found two more species of shieldbug – Green and Forest/Red-legged. I was overwhelmed by hoverflies and craneflies which the other members of the group kept catching for me.

Time flies when you are enjoying yourself. We had “walked” about half a mile in nearly 5 hours. The first objective – Kemberton Mill  - was still half a mile away, so the plan was abandoned and we headed for home. As these events are advertised as Invertebrately Challenged Tetrad Walks I hope no one will sue me under the Trades Descriptions Act. Getting back to the cars was much quicker!

Did we miss the opportunity to scour the car park? Don’t be silly, we spent the next 45 minutes or so inspecting the small but active sandstone cliff face which was now bathed in warm sunshine. Many bees were using holes in the rock and lurking nearby was a Jewel wasp.

It was here that we found the fourth shieldbug of the day, a Hairy/Sloe bug.

It had been a good day.

Keith Fowler

15 May 2013

Mink and Un-Open Access Land - Keith Fowler

Eight of us gathered for the next instalment of “Hunt the Shieldbug” in a small car park off a narrow lane at the start of the path to the Forestry Commission land at Lodge Hill. Three momentous events took place before we left the car park:

1.    An omission was pointed out in my piece about Beckbury;
2.    We attempted to charm the earthworms present;
3.    A slow worm put in an appearance.

As we were dealing with the first two events a slow worm was found in the verge at the side of the car park. Fortunately the paparazzi that hound our every movement were there to capture the moment!

This young lady (we think) was clearly used to the limelight and made no attempt to escape. After signing autographs and smiling for the camera, she slowly made her way back into the undergrowth.

Next, my omission from the report on Beckbury: American Mink.

A mink was spotted whilst on our walk. It was observed twice before noticing the waiting camera and, being camera-shy, disappearing. American mink are a very unwelcome addition to our fauna. It is a fearsome predator and is thought to be one of the factors behind the decline of the Water vole.

My fear of worms is now pretty well publicised. As therapy I attended a Bio.fell Earthworms course and I wish it to be known that I handled three live wriggling worms.

As part of the course we were shown how to charm worms to the surface by vibrating a fork in the ground. One of our group today was also present on the course and proved to be a champion charmer.

The challenge was on. I brought the fork and our champion got to work and proved that there are no worms in the car park.

Eventually we left the car park and made our way up the path to Lodge Hill which is a mixed deciduous/conifer woodland. The walk was pleasant but apart from a small quarry it was not very interesting although we did find a range of species including a Common Lizard. After a while we decided to call it a day and try the Open Access land across the road from the car park. So we returned.

What looks straightforward on a map, i.e. the Open Access land is next to the road, turned out to be anything but on the ground. There was a barbed wire fence between the “Open Access” land and the road making access impossible to all except those equipped with wire-cutters. After a fruitless search for an entry point we gave up and “Plan B” was invoked. Always good to have a Plan B. We moved on to The Lawley.

We lunched in the car park and like most car parks it proved a major source of invertebrate records, especially the verges which were attracting many bees, hoverflies and butterflies, including this Nationally Scarce Andrena labiata. (The bee was released unharmed after being identified and photographed.)

Refreshed and refuelled we made our way up the path on the Lawley. This started with a small wooded area and then opened up into grassland with lots of gorse on the slopes.

In the woodland a longhorn beetle Rhagium mordax found us. It landed on a Sycamore leaf and said “Photograph me”, so we did.

As we ascended the slope the wind grew stronger and colder, so finding a bit of shelter seemed wise. And there was gorse on the lower slopes. And Gorse means – Gorse shieldbugs. Needless to say no Gorse shieldbugs were found but we got plenty of exercise.

Another Invertebrately Challenged Tetrad Day drew to a close. We had not perhaps made the number of records that we would have liked but none the less it was a good day out.

I leave you with a photograph of the view from The Lawley with one of our group in the bottom right hand corner totally engrossed in checking what was in his net rather than enjoying the excellent scenery.

Keith Fowler

8 May 2013

Mayday! Mayday! - Keith Fowler

The latest instalment of “Hunt the Shieldbug” took place on Mayday (Wednesday, 1st May). Eight of us gathered outside the Seven Stars inn, Beckbury for a stroll along the banks of the River Worfe.

Resisting the temptation of the Inn we strolled down the road to find the footpath. On the way we passed a gentleman tinkering with his white car, and when I say white, it was WHITE. He must wash it in 1% detergent and 99% optical brighteners. If you have seen my car you will understand why I could never own a car like that.

The footpath started at a rather unpromising style (at least there was a FP sign and style) and took us initially along the side of a steep slope and through a Blackthorn thicket. Trying to keep upright whilst wielding a sweep net and avoiding the thorns was extremely tricky. We soldiered on and espied several Gorse bushes in full flower. The problem was getting to them. They were at the bottom of the 50% slope. A couple of brave folk descended to the bushes and searched and searched but found no Gorse shieldbugs. We moved on.

The path eventually descended to the side of the river passing a small conifer plantation where we found a longhorn beetle Pogonocherus hispidus and a couple of micro-moths 6 Eriocrania subpurpurella and 345 Phyllonorycter rajella. A refreshments break was in order.

After drinks we moved on about 200 yds and had lunch.

That 200 yards had brought us to a sheltered area of grassy vegetation with the river on one side and trees on the other with a small sandstone rock-face thrown in. Despite there being few obvious nectar sources the area was a-buzz with activity. We spent a long time exploring before lunching.

It was here that a shield bug found us. A Bronze shieldbug Troilus luridus landed on one of the group’s hand. Needless to say it was admired and photographed before being  returned (with reluctance on its part) to the vegetation. It was the only shieldbug we saw all day.

As we were about to move on another longhorn beetle was spotted sunning itself on a fallen tree trunk – Rhagium mordax.

We continued to follow the river until we found a path that returned us to our starting point.

This turned out to be a delightful meander after the rather unpromising start and is worthy of a revisit later in the year. Its sheltered areas provided us with plenty of entertainment. We made about 80 records, many of which will be first records for the two tetrads we traversed.

Thank you to all who came.

Keith Fowler