Promoting observation, free range exploration, sense of place and citizen science, through the field notes of a naturalist.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Fencepost season

We are now entering that time of year when fenceposts are ideal stepping stone features for passage birds. There's a super place on the margins of Waun afon bog just north of Blaenavon that is a combination of concrete and wooden posts that often support whinchat, stonechat and wheatear. However yesterday's stroll didn't really produce much, what birds were present kept mainly to the cover of developing willow scrub. At this altitute willow warbler, bullfinch and blue tit tend not to be present during the breeding season but all were calling frequently suggesting a local movement at least. A flyover peregrine got the meadow pipits up but the only skylark seemed just intent on moving south. A couple of scruffy looking stonechat were out numbered by around four reed bunting.

The former railway cutting was still notable for flowering plants. Widespread were eyebright, pale and common toadflax, blue fleabane and Aarons rod; creeping willow is still doing well. A small patch of what seems to be apple mint was new for the locality. The small day flying moth Pyrausta purpuralis was noteworthy.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

The day I found Alpine Clubmoss

It was an excursion to the post industrial features of Blaenavon that was in the mould of all other rambles in this area. Through steep valleys of coal and sandstone spoil where water accumulates in shallow and some not so shallow ponds. Scrambling to the top of tips with boyish enthusiasm to enjoy the three hundred and sixty degree vistas, looking for that fragment of hitherto unrecorded biology. A flag thrust into the sparsely vegetated terrain proclaiming my achievement seemed fitting. A muddy pond caught my eye as an overhead swift battled southwards. Down the slope I slipped past the pond following a track through tips that framed distant Abergavenny like a glittering necklace on the bronzed silicon enhanced chest of a maturing film star. 

I emerged from the confines of this tight fitting landscape to view rural Monmouthshire in all its agricultural glory. I paused, before turning southwards into a brisk wind. I was on a mission for a cup of tea when a couple of medium sized birds took to the wing from the summit of an adjacent heather covered tip. Were they red grouse? I had never really seen a grouse on a spoil tip before. Could they have left a pile of characteristic pellets for me to confirm? I decided to investigate. Following a track through the heather cut conveniently by the actions of young bikers I ascended when my eye caught sight of a large sprawling patch of alpine clubmoss, snaking through the herbage like a sort of vegetational osmosis, its dead mans fingers pushing skywards. Although I had not seen this species before I was familiar with both fir and stags horn that also inhabit this landscape, so its identification wasn't a challenge at all and therefore instant, no need to deploy tedious keys. I sank to my knees in pseudo religious style but only to reach for my camera to collect the evidence that surely I would need for potential questioning verifiers.

An email to joint botanical recorders Steph Tyler and Elsa Wood and a Twitter post generated some interest as this record was thought to be the most southerly for Wales. I was therefore pleased to arrange for a small group of local botanists to twitch my unexpected find some days later.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...