They say ‘Good things come in small packages’ and you couldn’t get much smaller than these tiny packages, the eggs of the Gorse shieldbug (Piezodorus lituratus) sitting on a gorse flower in Lavernock Reserve. I’ll be heading back soon to try to find the hatchlings.
Daedaleopsis confragosa, fungi enthusiasts, fungi foray, Glamorgan Fungus Group, Kuehneola uredinis, Melampsora epita var epitea, Melampsora populnea, Merthyr Mawr National Nature Reserve, Microbotryum silenes-dioicae, Mollisia, Phellinus hippophaeicola, Phylloporia ribis, rust fungi, Synchytrium taraxaci
Saturday dawned fine and mostly sunny, good news for most but not such good news for fungi enthusiasts, who are already bemoaning the recent lack of rain. Still, keen-eyed fungi fans can always find something and our Glamorgan Fungus Group has some of the keenest in ‘Eagle-eyes’ Emma. Though we were just a small group of six and a half, we enjoyed a splendid day searching the woodland areas of Merthyr Mawr National Nature Reserve, and our limited numbers were, in fact, a bonus, as we had amongst us the county recorder for Orthoptera (grasshoppers and related insects) and an experienced botanist, so we were able to enjoy, discuss and identify a broad range of flora and fauna. As expected, our fungi finds were limited but we finished the day with a very respectable total of 21 species and had a great time along the way.
Here are some of our finds: the rust Melampsora populnea on Dog’s mercury; another rust Kuehneola uredinis, on Bramble; Microbotryum silenes-dioicae, a smut that occurs on the anthers of Red campion flowers; another rust Melampsora epita var. epitea on Spindle; fungi enthusiasts inspecting the one group of cap fungi (‘real mushrooms’) found this day; the ‘real mushrooms’ that must remain unidentified as they were much eaten and turning gloopy; likely one of the Mollisia species of Disco fungi; Phellinus hippophaeicola on Sea buckthorn; Phylloporia ribis on Spindle; a rather old and faded Blushing bracket Daedaleopsis confragosa; a Puccinia species of rust on Common ragwort – this needs microscope work to positively ID; and the pimple-like growths of Dandelion wart Synchytrium taraxaci on one of the gazillions of Dandelion species, so Taraxacum officinale agg.
> Hawthorn’s scientific name is Crataegus monogyna. Crataegus comes from the Greek kratos, meaning strength, and akis, meaning sharp, and monogyna is derived from mono, meaning one or single, and gyna, meaning seed or ovary.
> Hawthorn is also known as the May-tree, Mayblossom and Maythorn, not surprisingly because it usually flowers during May. It is the only British plant named after the month in which it blooms.
> The Hawthorn’s white flowers can be either male or female. You can tell the male flowers by their pink-tipped stamens.
> Hawthorn’s red berries, the haws, not only serve as food for birds, particularly the thrushes, they can also be used to make jams and jellies and wine.
> The Hawthorn provides food for more than 150 different species of insect, like the hawthorn shield bug, the common earwig and common flower bug, bumblebees and cockchafers, to name just a few.
> Due to its dense growth and long thorns, Hawthorn has served as the perfect impenetrable hedge for thousands of years. Individual trees can live for 400 years or more.
> In years gone by, the wood of the Hawthorn, because it has a very fine grain and is very hard, was used for making things like tool handles and engravers’ blocks. The root wood was also used to make combs and small boxes.
Yesterday I told you about my chilly but super exciting birdwatching morning on Saturday and showcased two of the highlights, the Whimbrel and the Bar-tailed Godwit. Today, we have the Sanderlings and the Dunlins, both so well camouflaged against the stones on the seashore that, if they hadn’t been almost constantly moving about in their search for insects, they would’ve been very hard to spot.
Like yesterday’s birds, the Sanderling (Calidris alba) is a passage migrant, seen in parts of coastal Britain during the spring as it heads to its breeding grounds in the Arctic and in the autumn as it heads south to tropical beaches around the world, a journey that can be as long as 6000 miles. During the breeding season, the birds’ grey plumage takes on a much redder hue on the head, neck and back, which you can clearly see on one of these birds (particularly in the photo top left).
The Dunlin (Calidris alpina) – like the Sanderling, a member of the Sandpiper family – is a very common sight on Britain’s coast throughout the year, though breeding birds head to the upland areas of Wales, Scotland and England to nest between April and July. The Dunlin also becomes a more rufous colour during the breeding season and acquires the dark tummy feathers you can see on these birds. I’m guessing they’ll be heading for the hills shortly to find a mate.
I was in my element yesterday morning, stealthily stalking along the stony coastal path at Sully in a shiver-inducing chilly wind, trying to observe and photograph a wonderful variety of seabirds. And I got lucky, really really lucky, as by the time I decided I needed to get walking to ward off hypothermia, I had seen noisy fly-pasts of Oystercatchers; Dunlins and Turnstones and, an unexpected bonus, two Sanderlings foraging along the tide-deposited seaweed; several rather skittish Whimbrels; and a fleeting glimpse of one also unexpected but rather beautiful Bar-tailed Godwit.
Both the Whimbrels and the Bar-tailed godwit are passage migrants. The Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) (the bird with the curved beak) can be seen around Britain’s coastline during spring as it flies north to Shetland and Orkney to breed and again in autumn when it heads back to South Africa to enjoy a warmer winter. The Bar-tailed Godwit (affectionately abbreviated amongst birders to Barwit) (Limosa lapponica) passes through Britain on its way to its breeding grounds in the Scandinavian and Siberian Arctic, though does sometimes over-winter in Britain.
p.s. See tomorrow’s post for the Sanderlings and the Dunlins.
I can’t believe it’s almost a year since I visited Cwm George. Luckily, I now live much nearer to this magnificent woodland so I’ll definitely be going back more often. I had a long walk here on Thursday with my friend Hilary, chatting and botanising and soaking in the beauty of the wild garlic and the bluebells and so much more.
This walk, called Salmon Leaps, is one of eight in the Vale of Glamorgan for which there are downloadable pamphlets available (see here for this one). Locals say there haven’t been salmon in these streams for years but don’t let that put you off. Ours was a variation of the routes in the brochure but with much of the same picturesque scenery. Let me show you me some of the highlights …
Crossing the Cadoxton River (well, stream, really)
The beeches of Cwm George, carpeted with swathes of wild garlic
Looking across farmland to the village of Michaelston-le-Pit
A weir, with a small lake behind, on the upper Cadoxton River near Cwrt-Yr-Ala (where the salmon are supposed to leap)
Heading in to another woodland, Cwm Penllwynog, and, below, some of its beautiful bluebells
Wildflowers lined the hedgerows as we headed back towards Dinas Powys along Beauville Lane
More woodland – this is Coed Twyncyn
Yesterday I was celebrating the return of the Sand Martins, today it’s the turn of the butterflies. We’ve had 4 days of wall-to-wall sunshine and daily high temperatures in the mid teens which has encouraged all the small critters we share our world with to emerge and get active. And it’s a wondrous sight to behold!
These two, a Peacock (Aglais io) (top) and a Small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) (below) were in one of my local parks. They flew in together and sat very close like this for at least ten minutes, after which time I walked on. It’s unusual to see them like this and one of my knowledgeable friends speculated that the Small tortoiseshell might me a confused male, showing an ‘interest’ in the Peacock.
I saw these three, plus another Peacock and some Small whites that were too fast to photograph, on a walk along the local coastal path on Friday. They’re a Comma (Polygonia c-album) on the left, a Speckled wood (Pararge aegeria) in the centre – one of eight I saw on this walk, and a Painted lady (Vanessa cardui) on the right. The Painted Lady is a long-distance migrant, flying back to Britain at this time of year from the desert fringes of North Africa, the Middle East, and central Asia so it’s no wonder it’s looking rather battered.