Wildlife of Gosport, Hampshire and Beyond!

John Norton's wildlife blog and photo gallery

Text and images © J.A. Norton unless otherwise stated. Please contact me if you would like use any of these images on your web site or purchase for publication/reproduction. Comments and enquiries to: blog at jnecology dot com.

· April 2016 ·

Sunday, 24th April

Emsworth – moss hunt

I headed over to Pook Lane, Emsworth where in December 2013 I had found a small moss, which I suspected was Hennediella macrophylla, new to Hampshire. I had recently sent two specimens collected on this and a subsequent date to the national moss referee, but he returned them saying they were inconclusive (due to the close similarity between this species and H. stanfordensis). So today I went in search of better material, but could only find two patches mostly with small, young rosettes of leaves. The relatively broad leaf shape is more characteristic of M. macrophylla, but the short point at the leaf tip is more like that of H. stanfordensis. I will have to go back again, when hopefully the plants have grown up a bit more, if they survive. Coincidentally, I saw that one of the leading bryophyte experts had been seeing H. macrophylla in nearby Chichester today, according to the South Wales bryophyte blog.

Hennediella

Hennediella

Hennediella

With millimetre scale.

Wednesday, 20th April

Gosport – garden insects

The sun came out today, so I went over to Debbie's garden to spend lunchtime looking at insects. She currently has at least seven species of ladybirds present, of which we saw six: 2-spot, 7-spot, 10-spot, 14-spot, Harlequin and Pine. Most of these were feeding on Tree Mallow. There was also a single Woundwort Shieldbug, another regular here.

10-spot 10-spot

10-spot Ladybird and 12-spot?

10-spot 10-spot

10-spot Ladybird – other variants.

Pine Pine

Pine Ladybird

14-spot

14-spot Ladybird

Woundwort Shieldbug

Woundwort Shieldbug

Browndown Ranges – acid grassland plants and amazing adders

As the sun was still shining brightly we decided to take the rest of the afternoon off for a visit to south Browndown. We walked over to one of our favourite areas of acid grassland, pausing briefly to note Myosotis discolor (Changing Forget-me-not) and Moenchia erecta (Upright Chickweed) now coming into flower, and Teesdalia nudicaulis (Shepherd's Cress) in full flower. This species normally flowers in March, but due to the cold, wet spring it was much later this year.

Teesdalia

Teesdalia

We walked over to one of the main clumps of scrub frequented by Adders and immediately noticed two individuals writhing around together. At the time we had assumed this was a pair engaged in courtship ritual, but only later did we realise that they were both males, having a barney. We watched them for a full 10 minutes, and Debbie also managed to obtain some video (4MB). My best experience ever of Adder! I didn't take any photos myself as I was on dog-restraining duty. In all, we saw 4 or possibly 5 individuals in this small clump of bramble scrub.

adders

Adders (© Debbie Allan)

Sunday, 17th April

Bignor Park, West Sussex – bryophyte meeting

A joint meeting of the BBS Southern and South-east Groups led by Tom Ottley. In largely sunny and dry weather we enjoyed a rich streamside and epiphytic bryophyte flora. I saw three or four species that were new to me and a few that I had only seen once before. Highlights were Leucodon sciuroides on the bases of Ash trees, a couple of nice colonies of Leptodon smithii on Grey Willow and Field Maple, Mnium stellare on a stream bank and the discovery of Platygyrium repens on a fallen Beech (not photographed). A few record shots below, taken on mobile phone.

Leucodon sciuroides

Leucodon sciuroides

Leptodon smithii

Leptodon smithii

Mnium stellare

Mnium stellare

Thursday, 7th April to Tuesday, 12th April

Mid Wales – national bryophyte meeting

I went on the British Bryological Society's spring meeting to VC43, Radnorshire, within the administrative county of Powys in mid Wales. Most of the participants, including myself, stayed at the Glen Usk Hotel in Llandrindod Wells. It was a very enjoyable week.

Whilst having breakfast on the first morning it occurred to me that it was 35 years to the day that I started my first job in mid Wales after graduating from Southampton University in June 1980. In April 1981 I started a one-year bird survey contract with the RSPB under a Manpower Services Commission scheme. Although I was based just south of Tregaron at Llanddewi Brefi, I visited the Radnorshire area on many occasions, including enjoying a week's stay in Rhayader after our survey car got stuck in a snow drift on a mountain road just west of the town.

I didn't take a camera with me on this meeting as I wanted to concentrate on recording and collecting reference specimens of species I hadn't seen before, and was expecting rainy weather, not conducive to taking photos. As it turned out the weather was not too bad, even though rather cold, and I managed to take a few scenics and one or two mosses with my my phone camera.

Upper Teme group

'Upper Teme' group on afternoon of 7th April.

Upper Teme gorge

Gorge with bryophyte-rich rich rocks, visible in shot above.

The Bower group

Struggling with Racomitriums at the Bower, 8th April.

mountain road

Mossy, oak-birch woodland, Elan Valley reservoirs, 9th April.

mountain road

Lunch curtailed by snow at Nant Methan during Elan Valley day.

white-out

White-out!

sheepwalk

The snow quickly abates and sunshine livens up the sheepwalk.

white-out

Scenic view of Penygarreg Reservoir.

Baeomyces rufus

Fruiting Baeomyces rufus (I didn't take any moss shots).

On 10th I joined a group which explored part of the Glascwm area. Unfortunately I didn't get a photo of the Hamatocaulis vernicosus which was found at the end of the day. Glad I saw it, as it is something I need to refind in Hampshire, where there is only one old record. The mire pictured below held some Calliergon giganteum.

Glascwm

A mire at head of Nant Sychcwm.

I spent the next day (11th April) in the lab at Llysdinam Field Centre at Newbridge-on-Wye looking at specimens. It rained all day and I was quite glad to be in the dry and warm.

The final day was spent at Tyfaenor Park after a short stop at Cwm-hir Abbey. The rain cleared out overnight and we had a day of glorious sunshine, even though it was still a bit cold at times. I counted at least eight newly arrived Redstarts singing from oak trees, but surprisingly no Pied Flycatchers had made it in yet.

Cwm-hir Abbey

Cwm-hir Abbey. Cirriphyllum crassinervium was a nice find on the walls.

mossy dog

Brachythecium wooftabulum

The highlight of the day and probably the whole week was finding the legendary 'Goblin's Gold' a moss which has the peculiar property of apparently glowing in the dark. It is something to do with lens-shaped structures in the cells of the protonemal stage. Although it was on the radar during our visit to Tyfaenor Park, as it had been recorded at a nearby site, I had completely forgotten about as soon as we were in the field. It grows in caves and other strongly shaded dry places where there is little competition from other plants; however, one of its well-known habitats is old rabbit burrows. After spending the latter part of the morning following a wooded stream we ascended a steep hillside, weaving between a plantation of young trees. Below me, someone shouted Did you look into the rabbit burrow? Not wishing to descend I looked around and saw another burrow just above me. I looked inside and there at the back was a yellow glow, just as the books had described! One side of the burrow also had plentiful fronds of the moss hanging down from the crumbling soil. Unfortunately, my photos don't quite do it justice.

Goblin's Gold Goblin's Gold

Schistostega pennata (glowing protonema on left).

Peltigera horizontalis

The lichen Peltigera horizontalis on mossy tree-trunk.

cliff at Tyfaenor

The organiser of the meeting examines a cliff at Tyfaenor Park.

Bartramia

Bartramia pomiformis, an attractive, mainly upland species of dry crevices which I have yet to see in Hampshire.

Ptychomitrium polyphyllum

Ptychomitrium polyphyllum, a cushion moss on acid rocks; identified by crisped leaves when dry and long peristomes (click for close-up).

view

The last view before we departed Tyfaenor Park on the final day. I missed the Red Kite which drifted past in front of me seconds before.