30 Days Wild, part 1

The Wildlife Trusts have been running a campaign to encourage everyone to get out in nature during June, so it’s been fun to record what I’ve been doing each day. Of course, with a dog you tend to get out in nature every day, but there’s always something new emerging and new things to see, and there have been quite a few things I’ve done in nature this month that haven’t involved walking the dog.

Monday 1 June

After yesterday’s National Garden BioBlitz, today involved a bit of time keying out some sedges, one of which was Carex ovalis, and the other one is still puzzling me.

Picture of Carex ovalis

Oval Sedge (Carex ovalis)

Tuesday 2 June

As if keying our sedges wasn’t enough, I finally got round to doing the same to some mosses.

Wednesday 3 June

Having a dog does certainly get you out, and since we live on the fringe of Ashdown Forest there are plenty of interesting places to go. This morning took us across a chalybeate stream which has a nice bryophyte and fern flora. As you might expect, there is loads of the common liverwort Pellia epiphylla by the side of the stream, but there is also Chiloscyphus polyanthus and Scapania undulata there too. Though not rare in the forest, they are less common in the south east. A little further downstream is the moss Hyocomium armoricum which has a particularly northern and western distribution, so is nice to see it here. We found about 80 different bryophyte species in this area a couple of years ago.

Thursday 4 June

Working in London gives a different opportunity to explore wild life, and today I finally got round to having a closer look at the mosses growing on the walls of Buckingham Palace gardens without getting arrested. Unsurprisingly, they were Tortula muralis and Bryum argenteum.

Buckingham Palace bryoflora

Buckingham Palace bryoflora

Friday 5 June

A heavy dose of wildlife with the excellent Introduction to Beetles course at Sussex Wildlife Trust at Wood’s Mill, taught by Graeme Lyons. Lots of things to see, and not limited to beetles either, with a Cetti’s Warbler, Turtle Dove and assorted bugs too.

Saturday 6 June

About eighteen months ago a few of us started an informal natural history group in the village, which has an active Facebook page and a steady, if fluctuating turnout when we do walks. Throughout the year we’ve been collecting records of anything we see in the kilometre square TQ4335, which is only a short walk from the centre of the village and includes an organic farm, the river Medway, several patches of ancient woodland, and a fantastic meadow. I had a walk there today and picked up Marsh Snipefly (Rhagio tringarius), Floating Sweet-grass (Glyceria fluitans), the hoverfly Eupeodes luniger, the fungus Taphrina populina on Black Poplar (Populus nigra), and then a Black-tailed skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) in the meadow. And, thanks to the key to cantharid beetles by Keith Alexander/Martin Harvey on Mark Telfer’s website which Graeme pointed us to yesterday, I’ve managed to easily key out a few of those too.

Sunday 7 June

I’m a member of the Sussex Botanical Recording Society (SBRS) and today was a field meeting to Little England Farm over in Hadlow Down. These events are the best way to learn botany; being out with really experienced botanists you get shown tiny plants that would have otherwise passed you by, and learn useful field characters for telling apart closely-related species. You can read a little more about it in another blog post.

Monday 8 June

After an intensive bit of work I needed a walk, so had a short visit to Pixton meadow, which is in the kilometre square TQ4335, and which the local group will be visiting at the weekend. I’ve been reading about meadows and the National Vegetation Classification, so wanted to check for typical species I might have missed before, and also found the Burnet Companion moth (Euclidia glyphica), which (amazingly) was a first record for the hectad.

Tuesday 9 June

The morning dog walk is pretty wonderful. Within a mile of the house we can either go along the old railway line along the course of the Medway, or be in an almost deserted corner of Ashdown Forest. The higher ground above the Kid brook is somewhat boggy, with loads of different species of Sphagnum moss and other nice bog specialists, and a fringe of birch trying to encroach. Funnily enough, I never meet anyone else crossing the bog.

Wednesday 10 June

Out for the morning dog walk and found what I presume is a fungus on Beech leaves. Is it Apiognomonia errabunda?

Apiognomonia errabunda

Fungi on Beech

Thursday 11 June

There is something about this plant. No matter how often I see it, I can never quite believe that it is just common old Nipplewort. So again in Woburn Square gardens in Bloomsbury I ended up in the bushes to check what it was, and then realised. I really should know by now.

Picture of Nipplewort (Lapsana communis)

Lapsana communis

Friday 12 June

The dog wasn’t that keen to go for a long walk this morning, so we had a gentle walk in the woods just south of the village. It’s a route we do quite frequently, but today saw Cyperus Sedge (Carex pseudocyperus) there for the first time. It’s not a great picture because I only had my phone with me. It looks like it is a new species for the tetrad (TQ43B), so I’d better submit the record…

Saturday 13 June

The usual Saturday morning routine of getting the paper and walking up to Tablehurst Farm, which is also the route of my Bee Walk. It was a bit cool and early though, so there only a couple of bumbles about. Interestingly, there was some Papaver somniferum growing in the cracks in the pavement outside the village hall.

Sunday 14 June

This afternoon was a meeting of our natural history group, so we went up to the local meadow that we’ve been checking out in recent weeks; I gave a quick intro to grasses, sedges and rushes, and then we spent a couple of hours netting insects. It is such a nice spot, and today resulted in finding White-legged Damselfly, and the Yellow Shell moth was rather lovely, as were the hoverflies and the ichneumon wasp Amblyteles armatorius. There’s a fuller account on the other blog.

Monday 15 June 2015

So, half way through June and the meadow keeps drawing me back. After a busy session crunching data I needed a walk, so took the net and had a short sweep through the grasses again. Dactylorhiza x grandis, the hybrid between Southern Marsh-orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermissa) and Early-purple Orchid (D. fuchsii) has popped up now,[a] plus more bugs and beetles, including a 16-spot Ladybird (Tytthaspis sedecimpunctata) which I’d not seen before. Also a couple of very pretty flies, which the guys on Dipterists Forum kindly identified as Urophora jaceana (pictured) and Urophora quadrifasciata, the larvae of both of which feed on Knapweed, so they’re in the right place.

See also the short film of the meadow in another blog post.

Read about the second half of 30 Days Wild.

a. 18 September 2015: Thanks to Arthur Hoare and Paul Harmes of SBRS for determining this species.

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