Wildlife of Gosport, Hampshire and Beyond!
John Norton's wildlife blog and photo gallery
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The lichen Peltigera horizontalis on mossy tree-trunk.
The organiser of the meeting examines a cliff at Tyfaenor Park.
Ptychomitrium polyphyllum, a cushion moss on acid rocks; identified by crisped leaves when dry and long peristomes (click for close-up).