27 Jun 2017

Where's the castle?

A double-header this week - we had two outings.

Ruewood - Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Ruewood Shropshire Wildlife Reserve is just outside the village of Tilley near Wem. There is normally no parking close to the site but the Reserves Officer at SWT arranged for the local farmer to cut the grass on the entrance track to allow us to park there. I start this report, therefore, with our appreciation for this. It made parking and visiting the site very easy.

Do we have an extra member of the group?

No. The frog took a long look at us as we got ready then meandered off into the undergrowth.

Ruewood consists of two wet pastures and is named after a once common plant, now rare in Shropshire, that grows there - Meadow-rue.

An information board by the site entrance informed us that the plant is found on the old parish boundary which is marked by the line of trees on the above photograph.

So you will have to wait for a photograph as it took us some little time to get there. Entomologists and botanists move very slowly.

By the gate we noticed a cranefly resting on bramble

Tipula fascipennis - Photograph: Bob Kemp
The bramble was also been inspected by a hoverfly

Syrphus sp. - Photograph: David Storey
A sweep of the grass near the entrance found this 

Photograph: Bob Kemp
What is it? Our best guess on the day was a tick. Better inspect ourselves and our clothes after this visit.

At this point one of the group handed me a sweep net with his catch from the pasture. It was full of insects. I borrowed a seat and sat down and spent what felt like the next 30 minutes or so going through it. Feeling sorry for me he brought another net full. Sorry, but this was given much shorter attention. After all, grateful as I am for others collecting things for me, I had come to look at the site.

Yellow flowers seem to be very attractive to insects. Often you will find lots of small moths in the head of a buttercup and this one had attracted a male Swollen-thighed beetle.

Photograph: David Storey
I eventually reached the boundary and looked for the "plant". My first attempt was way off the mark but some guidance from others led me to a large clump.

Photograph: Bob Kemp
The flowers look as though they have already gone to seed but I was assured that that is what they should look like.

Photograph: Bob Kemp
Nearby the snipefly Rhagio tringarius was perched on grass stems

Photograph: Bob Kemp
Lunch was taken in the shade of an oak tree. But first the foliage of the tree was inspected. A spider named Paidiscura pallens was found on the underside of a leaf together with its characteristically shaped egg sac.

Photograph: David Williams
And the more robust method of beating dislodged a recently matured Forest bug (or Red-legged shieldbug if you prefer).

Photograph: David Williams

Remarkably, for a small site, we were still in the first of the two pastures.

Up until then the half dozen or so cattle on the site had remained on the other pasture but eventually they came to join us. However, each group kept themselves to themselves.

We made it to the second pasture! 

Photograph: David Storey
This pasture was similar to the first so it was not surprising that on the whole we found similar things. 

One of the extras we did find was a Southern marsh orchid (so I am told)

Photograph: David Williams
And a Common green grasshopper

Photograph: David Williams
Looking through the photographs that I have been sent I have several of spiders which I have not managed to weave into the web of the narrative so here they are. Unfortunately I cannot name them to species, perhaps some helpful reader will oblige!

Xysticus sp.? - Photograph: Bob Kemp
Theridion sp. - Photograph: David Williams

Araniella sp - deflated after laying eggs - Photograph: Bob Kemp

Spiderlings - Photograph: David Storey

Finally an excellent photograph of a hoverfly living up to its name.

Photograph: Bob Kemp
My thanks to SWT for permitting us to do what we enjoy doing and to the photographers David Storey, David Williams and Bob Kemp for providing many shots to supplement my own.

Pentre Wood - Sunday, 25 June 2017

Summer has been and gone. We were back to leaden skies and cooler temperatures. Half a dozen of us met up in the rain to explore this Woodland Trust wood at Bronygarth. The description on the Woodland Trust website informed us that it was situated on a steep hillside opposite Chirk Castle. But where was the castle? I did not see it as I made my way to the entrance, nor as I descended the path through the wood.

The rain had, naturally, had made everything wet which made my decision not to bring a beating tray seem particularly bad. However, sparing use of my net was possible and later there was a short dry spell which allowed us and the vegetation to dry out a bit before it rained again and we made our way back to the cars.

But I get ahead of myself.

The path down through the wood was flanked by wild garlic. Although the plant had gone to seed the smell lingered. Wonderful.

The wet weather caused us to progress through the wood quicker than normal but we still took time to observe.

But the weather did not deter certain animals such as this slug

Photograph: Jim Cresswell
It did not stop us looking at galls

Aceria pseudoplantani on Sycamore - Photograph: Jim Cresswell
This long horned beetle Rutpela maculatus did not seem too concerned

Photograph: Jim Cresswell
At the bottom of the wood we came to a meadow at the side of the River Ceiriog.

On the other side of the river is a fish farm which, I assume, is used to stock the river with trout for fishermen to catch and remove. 

We lunched by the river during the dry spell I mentioned earlier.

Photograph: David Williams
A caddisfly posed on a grass stem.

Photograph: David Williams
A nearby tree was beaten and one of the group noticed a small beetle in the tray (not mine - it was at home). We were able to identify it (subject to approval by the beetle recorder) as a male Fan-bearing wood-borer (Ptilinus pectinicornis) - females do not have the fanned antennae.

Photograph: David Williams
We walked on through the field by the side of the river periodically inspecting the trees. On one I found a beautifully marked mirid bug - Deraeocoris flavilinea

The rain started again. It got heavier. We decided to return, but not too quickly. On the way we noticed some leaves of burdock that had become the home of a fly larva - Pegomya laticornis. The evidence of the flies presence is easy to see!

Photograph: Nigel Jones
And this is one of the larvae that created the leaf mine.

Photograph: Nigel Jones
Then we saw it.

The castle.

Just peeping over the horizon.

Just down the road from where we had parked the cars we had a better view.

My thanks to The Woodland Trust for giving us permission to survey, to the photographers Jim Cresswell, Nigel Jones and David Williams and to everyone who attended on the day for their perseverance. A good site well worth visiting again on a sunny day.

23 Jun 2017

From our correspondent

Lower Butchers Quarry - Wednesday 14th June

I was unavailable for this outing.

In my absence our correspondent filed a report and I have received lots of photographs which make me really jealous of what I missed. Not too jealous though; I was having an equally excellent time in Wiltshire and Gloucestershire (apart from one footpath where the stiles were overgrown and a kissing gate barred and screwed shut).

On with the story ...

The party that assembled on a beautiful day (it was in Wiltshire anyway) in the car park of the Port-y-wean Silver Band hall numbered 11. They set off fairly promptly, walking back along the main road to the track leading to Lower Butchers Quarry, one of the many quarries that litter the Llynclys Hill.

The track passes through some woodland then opens out into the quarry. 

Photograph: Bob Kemp
Here it was warm and humid.

Photograph: Bob Kemp
Within this quarry there were a variety of orchids: 

Photograph: Richard Burkmar

Photograph: Bob Kemp
Photograph: Bob Kemp
Greater Butterfly 
Photograph: Richard Burklmar

Photograph: Bob Kemp
Common spotted
Photograph: Richard Burkmar
There was an abundance of nectar sources on which three species of the delightful Cryptocephalus beetles were found

Cryptocephalus bipunctatus - Photograph: Jim Cresswell

A "treat" was a beautifully marked Deer Fly which was biting one of our snappers. 

"What beautiful eyes you've got!" - Photograph: Bob Kemp
Unfortunately at the wrong angle for him to take a photograph enabling it's identification to species!

Of course there were also other things of interest.

Spiders, which gives me another opportunity to show the lengths our snappers go to to get that perfect shot (whilst others watch on).

Photograph: Richard Burkmar
 Evarcha falcata(?) - Photograph: Bob Kemp

Female Nursery Web Spider - Photograph: Richard Burkmar

Eristalis - Photograph: Jim Cresswell
And butterflies

Large skipper - Photograph: Richard Burkmar
Lunch was taken in the quarry and although more time could have been spent there the party moved on quickly through Upper Butchers Quarry, through the woodland and on to Llynclys Common. 

First, to the area cleared a few years ago to almost reveal limestone pavement, then onto the Common and finally, following a conversation with a group of walkers, finding the pool.

Eyebright - Photograph: Richard Burkmar
Common twayblade - Photograph: Bob Kemp
Common twayblade - Photograph: Richard Burkmar
"Mini" spider vac in action - Photograph: Richard Burkmar
The pool - Photograph: Richard Burkmar
A male Broad-bodied Chaser was patrolling the pool.

Photograph: Bob Kemp
It was soon joined by a female; very brief in flight mating was followed by her egg laying then flying away. The male returned to patrolling. 

An azure damsel fly rested on a leaf

Photograph: Jim Cresswell
Large numbers of toad tadpoles were schooling with small groups feeding on floating fishing bait which had been thrown in. 

Photograph: Bob Kemp
Palmate newts occasionally came into view. Sorry no photograph.

By now it was 4pm and the group had not been to their final target for the day, cave spiders, possibly in the caves or limekilns on the other side of the road by the car park. Not enough time had been allowed for this and the map was not detailed enough so the party returned to the car park for 5pm.

My thanks to Shropshire Wildlife Trust for giving us permission to do what we enjoy doing; to the snappers Richard Burkmar, Bob Kemp and Jim Cresswell for providing the splendid photographs and to Jim Cresswell for the source of the narrative. For those present I hope my attempt to merge the photographs with the narrative is not too far from what actually happened!