Wednesday, 2 August 2017

End of July Report

I've been busy with the DWT Botany group, helping with surveys etc as well as checking my square . Last week I did the write up of the final compartments at Blackhall Rocks on the Durham coast, so as I wrote it, I've  copied it verbatim here.

Five intrepid members of the DWT Botany group met in the car park at Blackhall Rocks to survey the final six wet flushes on the slopes of this wonderful site. The weather forecast was showers, some heavy, but we bravely carried on, and as it happens on this coast it decided to have its own weather system, a bit breezy but dry throughout. There were two members of the group on their first outing with us so we all introduced ourselves, ran through the Health & Safety checks and off we set. The cliff slopes where we were surveying at the southern end are quite steep and care had to be taken. Often the easiest way was to slide down on your bottom!
The first of the six areas to be checked was just south of the car park. Initially it did not look very good with considerable encroachment from Great Horsetail, Bramble and Creeping Thistle throughout and a large, spreading patch of Ground-elder at the top. However, when we got to work we discovered it held a good population of Saw-wort. This plant initially looks like a spineless thistle but has saw-toothed leaves from where it gets its name. Though nearly all had finished flowering there were many Common Twayblade on these slopes too and Tom found on a little outcrop, the only Small Scabious of the day.
The second area was wet on the lower slopes as shown by the patch of Common Reed and Great Willow-herb but rather dry nearer the top allowing the grasses to be quite rank. Much of this was False Oat-grass but a number of other species were present both here and at the other spots, allowing us to test our grass and sedge identification skills throughout the day. Our first Fragrant Orchids, again many having finished flowering, were found, some still giving off a strong sweet orangey perfume. Notable here was the amount of Agrimony, which was scattered throughout the survey area. The yellow spikes smell of apricots and it is a member of the rose family, unlike Hemp Agrimony, also present here but not being a thug like in the northern part of the reserve. 

Agrimonia eupatoria (Agrimony)

Gymnadenia conopsea (Chalk Fragrant-orchid)
The third area was very dry and dominated with False Brome (we all had our eye in now for this species with its hairy yellow-green leaves and drooping inflorences) and Field Horsetail. The latter was scattered throughout but not creating thickets like its relative Great Horsetail to the north. More, and the last, the Saw-wort plants were seen and the only Kidney Vetch of the day.
We had completed half by 12:30 so it was time for our lunch which we ate on the slopes out of the wind, before we carried on with number four or Flush Compartment #38 on our map. Here more Common Reed but half way up the slope this time. At the top the water seeps out and trickles to the depression where the stand of reed is but the nature of the geology here means bits of the slope are always slipping down leaving bare wet areas. This creates ideal habitat for Common Butterwort with 20 plants here, together with Flea Sedge and some Wild Thyme on the dry area just above. There were also some tiny Common Centuary plants here that were scrutinised in case they were something rarer but unfortunately were not. 

Leontodon hispidus (Rough Hawkbit)

We were here to examine slippages and the next was near the steps to the beach known locally as Green Stairs. When we arrived there was a slippage and it had carried away some of the stairs and the steps were closed off for safety. This is a new slippage and should go on the map. We however using the 10-figure grid reference were to survey the one slightly to the south and the lack of steps wasn't going to stop us, none of the others had steps anyway.  There were 50 more Butterwort here and the largest patch of Common Rock-rose of the day. With there being steps to the beach,  the adjacent path had been well used and it was interesting to note the number of ruderals (plant species that are first to colonize disturbed ground) that were here compared to the other areas.
With our final survey area in sight we moved on to number 6 of the day (or 40 on the map). This was a rather small area in the middle of the slope but there was evidence of recent slippage. A large population of 80+ Common Butterwort were seen together with the only population of Common Milkwort in these southern sections and a large area dominated by Zigzag Clover. This latter species was looking particularly showy with its reddish-purple flowers and easily identified from its Red Clover cousin by its 'zig-zag' stems, and thin, narrow leaves.

Trifolium medium (Zigzag Clover)

We were all rather pleased when we had finished as the climbing up and down the slopes is very tiring on the old legs. 110 species were recorded with the populations of Common Butterwort probably being the highlight. No Bird's-eye Primrose could be found again despite some very suitable spots and lots of diligent searching but there were many other interesting sightings instead. Hard work but enjoyed by all.

Of course I'm still progressing with the square, now up to 870 though still relying heavily on the moth trap and moths in general. Amongst these since last time were two new for the garden (and the square) Hypsopygia glaucinalis, a  distinctive micro moth and Clay Triple-Lines.

Clay Triple-Lines.

Hypsopygia glaucinalis

 In addition to these a few more plants were found, most of them beginning with 'E', two Willowherbs, 1, Hoary Willowherb,  in Wanister Bog together with Common Spike-rush and a few Marsh Horsetail well away from the big patch of Water Horsetail, and the other Willowherb, American, an increasing species, found as a pavement weed. The latter I've had in the garden before but not this year. The other plant is another increasing alien, Cut or Fern leaved Bramble (Rubus laciniatus)

Rubus laciniatus (Cut-leaved Bramble)

Throw in a fungus fly and thats my lot for July.

The new ones
854. Autographa bractea (Gold Spangle)
855. Mythimna impura (Smoky Wainscot)
856. Macaria liturata (Tawny-barred Angle)
857. Cyclophora linearia (Clay Triple-lines)
858. Gymnoscelis rufifasciata (Double-striped Pug)
859. Mesoligia furuncula (Cloaked Minor)
860. Rubus laciniatus(Cut-leaved Bramble)
861. Sciara hemerobioides (a fungus Fly)
862. Mesapamea didyma (Lesser Common Rustic)
863. Hypsopygia glaucinalis (a micro-moth)
864. Argyresthia goedartella (a -micro-moth)
865. Spilonota ocellana (Bud Moth) 
866. Litoligia literosa (Rosy Minor)
867. Hoplodrina blanda (Rustic)
868. Noctua interjecta (Least Yellow Underwing)
869. Cosmia trapezina (Dun-bar)
870. Cydia fagiglandana (a micro-moth)
871. Epilobium ciliatum (American Willowherb)
872. Epilobium parviflorum (Hoary Willowherb)
873. Equisetum palustre (Marsh Horsetail)
874. Eleocharis palustris (Common Spike-rush)

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