30 Apr 2017

128 Steps

Hope Valley SWT Reserve - Wednesday, 26th April 2017

We visited this reserve a few years ago and spent two hours in the car park before I dragged the group away to look at the rest of the site.Since then certain members have badgered me to arrange a return. So here we are, back again. And I can tell that those same members are excited at the prospect.

Seven of us gathered on site on a cold but bright day. Yes, we spent another two hours in the car park. 

To be fair it was not the actual spot where the cars were parked but a small meadow to its side

We set about looking for things of interest and were not disappointed, although, from the author's point of view there was a lack of mature bugs.

Bluebells - photographs: David Williams
Common carder bee - photograph: Jim Cresswell
Rhingia campestris - photograph: Jim Cresswell
Opposite leaved yellow saxifrage
Syrphus ribesii - photograph: David Williams
Yellow archangel
Eristalis pertinax - photograph: Jim Cresswell
Orange tip - photograph: David Williams
Neon reticulatus - photograph: David Williams
Red-tailed bumble bee - photograph: Jim Cresswell
Wood spurge - photograph: Jim Cresswell
In the meantime one of the group nipped across the road and took this excellent photograph of the Minsterley Brook which borders the reserve.

Photograph: Bob Kemp
I did it again. Yes. With trepidation I suggested we move out of the car park/meadow. Agreement was reached when I tempted the group with picnic tables for lunch.

Between us and the picnic tables were a few steps.

Up and up we went. 128 steps (approximately). When we reached the top of the steps there was still a bit of a rising path to negotiate, but we all got there. Unfortunately my memory had let me down. There were no picnic tables!! The group took it well. 

Cameras were rested

Lunch was taken. 

Afterwards we explored the top of the hill. The area was very dry and there was very little stirring in the chilly weather so we enjoyed the views of the Stiperstones on the other side of the valley and the plains to the north.

Photograph: Jim Cresswell
Photograph: Jim Cresswell
Someone found a mazegill fungus so called, as my youngest granddaughter has just informed me, because the gills look like a maze.

Photograph: David Williams

Having marched up to the top of the hill we now marched down again. 

Photograph: Jim Cresswell
We dallied in the car park/meadow then made our way home.

My thanks to Shropshire Wildlife Trust for granting us permission to do what we do and to the lens men who provided the excellent photographs that supplement my own.

24 Apr 2017

1897, no sorry! 2013 and all that.

Blackbridge Quarry - Wednesday 19th April 2017

This is a small attractive former limestone quarry, managed by Shropshire Wildlife Trust, to the south Llynclys Common. Eight of us met at the designated meeting point. From here we drove to a parking spot about 200 yards from the quarry, near to Crickheath Meadow. As we were getting ourselves ready one of the group got a telephone call. 

"Where are you?"

Ah! We should have been ten and we (I) had left two "later" arrivals behind at the meet point. 


With suitable apologies the situation was quickly rectified and the two "latecomers" joined us a few minutes later.

We made our way to the quarry quite briskly, not stopping until we got there. 

Photograph: Bob Kemp

One of the aims of the day and first stop was to investigate a small cave near the entrance that contained cave spiders to determine which of the two species they were. We had seen the spiders on a previous visit but they were beyond our reach as the cave was guarded by an iron grill.

After our previous visit we asked the Trust if we could open the grill and enter the cave. They agreed. Unfortunately when I asked for the key a few days before our visit it could not be found. So we had to content ourselves with peering in. The good news is that there were still spiders in the cave. We will try again another day.

This disappointment was but a minor setback as we then set out to explore the delights of this site.

As it was April we did not expect to experience the full floral wonder of the quarry but there were some flowers in bloom. There was plenty of yellow from Dandelions and cowslips; a little pinkish white from Wood anemones and a Cuckopo flower. Up against one of the rockfaces:

was a Stinking hellebore with its drooping green flowers:

One of the plants growing in the loose rocks was the common maidenhair spleenwort:

Asplenium trichomanes - Photograph: David Williams
There were plenty of spiders with the various habitats within the quarry providing their niche species. One excellent find was the BAP species spider Saaristoa firma (sorry, no photograph). But, thanks to my colleagues I do have photographs of the jumping spider Evarcha falcata:

Photograph: Bob Kemp
And one for the aficionados - the underside of Evarcha falcata:

Photograph: David Williams
Another arachnid found was the harvestman Megabundus diadema with rather bizarre structures around its eyes:

Photograph: David Williams
A few other invertebrates caught our eye and camera lens.

A red ant carrying a captured springtail:

Myrmica rubra - Photograph: David Williams
A green shieldbug:

And a pill millipede uncurling:

Glomeris marginata - Photograph: David Williams
We were fortunate to also find a pill woodlouse and could compare the two "pills"; the millipede is on the left and the woodlouse on the right:

Glomeris marginata and Armadillidium vulgare - Photograph: Bob Kemp
On a rock nearby was the local but widespread lichen Placidium squamulosum:

Photograph: Bob Kemp
And so to the title of this piece - "1897, no sorry! 2013 and all that."

In a shady area of the quarry close to a log pile several large fungi were found. These were identified as Morchella semilibera. As I am spoilt for choice I include two photographs:

Photograph: David Williams
Photograph: Bob Kemp
A little while after the event a "miscommunication" occurred when this fungus was reported as Morchella elata. One enterprising member of the group checked this species on the NBN Atlas and discovered that it had not been recorded in Shropshire since 1897. Now that is pretty good - a first record for 124 years. So a good way to title this. 

Fortunately the error was spotted and the name and title corrected. It is still a rare find but its last record for Shropshire on the NBN Atlas was 2013 a mere 120 years later. That's life!

We departed the quarry and made our way back to the cars, but like our visit to Harton Hollow we did not go home. Instead we walked a few yards down the road to Crickheath Meadow (I hope I have remembered the name correctly), part of Llynclys Common to see if it would be worth visiting in future. The answer was yes.

And in the gateway to the meadow were a couple more morels - this time the Common morel, with its rather spectacular head:

Morchella esculenta - Photograph: Bob Kemp
Then we went home.

Thank you to Shropshire Wildlife Trust for allowing us to visit this site and to Bob Kemp and David Williams for providing their excellent photographs to supplement my more humble efforts.

18 Apr 2017

How now brown cow

Harton Hollow SWT Reserve - Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Grey skies and a rather chill wind greeted us as we assembled in the car park of this Shropshire Wildlife Reserve. Without much ado we set off and did not stop until we came to a clearing that had been made recently.

This had been created to encourage the ground flora to flourish and young hazel to develop; the latter for the benefit of dormice which are resident in this wood.

It was very dry, contrary to the advice I had been given ("it is very muddy") which prompted me to wear wellington boots. Too dry, really, and there were very few insects or spiders about. Although there was good floral and lichen interest.

In the above picture you will notice a small group had gathered. Intrigued I wandered over. "What is it?"; "Hornet". 

My mind flashed back a couple of years to a moth night in Kinlet when my moth trap was overrun by hornets. Whilst emptying it at the end of the evening I failed to notice one hornet tucked up in an egg box and it stung me. My pain was doubled when a well-meaning onlooker head-butted me as he bent down to find out what was wrong whilst I recoiled from the trap.

Back to this hornet. Two excellent photographs for you to view - one with a finger placed bravely nearby to give a sense of scale and the other a close up of the head.

Hornet - photograph (and finger): David Williams
Hornet - photograph: Bob Kemp
Nearby was a Herb paris in flower

Herb paris - photograph: Bob Kemp
I meandered around and found the following warning notice

Unfortunately you had to be about 14 feet tall in order to see it at eye level as the tree had grown considerably since it was attached.

At the side of the tree was some newly laid hedging that my wife had contributed to a few weeks before our visit.

It was a bit sparse but, all being well, the new trees planted in front of the hedge will soon grow and can be included in the hedge to give it more substance.

We moved on. After a short distance the vegetation by the path changed so Moth-vac was brought into action to do some sampling. This attracted not only a few of the group to inspect the catch but an inquisitive brown cow.

The rest of the herd were some distance away, as can be seen in the photograph, so what had attracted her, and only her to our activities?

We moved on. A couple of ancient woodland indicator lichens were found on a hazel trunk:

Thelotrema lepadinum (top right) and Graphis scripta (left) - photograph: Bob Kemp
Lunch was taken, then we wandered slightly off the path into the woodland to investigate some conifers.The wind was whipping through and the temperature could not be described as warm or anything better. A chilled bee-fly settled on a bag. I pounced and was able to get a decent photograph.

However, so content was it to rest that one of our photographers was able to get very close and take this spectacular shot of its head. Not only that, but it then climbed onto his finger and accepted a lift to a tree trunk nearby where it was deemed to be safer from accidental squishing.

Bee fly - photograph: David Williams
We moved on. We passed into a beech woodland. Here there was no ground flora but the covering of leaf-litter yielded several ground beetles which, unfortunately were beyond our capabilities of identification.

And, of course, you never know what you may find on a stick. 

We moved on. In fact we returned to the cars passing on the way a huge stand of Herb paris.

Herb paris - photograph: Bob Kemp
And amongst the Herb paris was the parasitic plant Toothwort

Toothwort and Herb paris - photograph: David Williams
We got back to the car park but rather than return home we made use of the nearby picnic area to have a chat about cameras and other such essential topics. Eventually we went home.

My thanks to Shropshire Wildlife Trust for permission to visit the site and to the various wielders of cameras for providing the excellent additional photographs.