Monday, 18 July 2016

Masham, wedding, orchids and cricket – what a month!

The guidance given by the couple we met the day before was acted on immediately (see last blog) and after a bit of botanical research the 1st day of June’s outing would take us along the River Ure from the bridge at Wensley, hopefully, seeing wood cranesbill plants along the way.  The floods of last winter were very evident at the start with large section of path washed away and debris stuck in lower branches of riverside trees.  A kingfisher was heard by me and seen by Janet.  A wet hollow had tall sedges which had me puzzled but when checked later turned out to be Carex acuta (Slender Tufted-sedge) and debates about cranesbill leaves (wood and meadow leaves are fairly similar with 
Wood cranesbill
Wood cranesbill leaves top and
Meadow cranesbill bottom
the meadow ones being much more deeply divided) were ongoing until we found the wood cranesbill, in flower, right by the path.  Debate over.  Meadow cranesbill plants weren’t yet in flower, and yes the leaves were different but easy to see when the plants were growing side by side and what was meant by ‘deeply divided’ became more obvious.  As I took a few photographs, cocksfoot grass (Dactylis glomerata) crept into my view and, there again, was choke fungus growing on some of the 
Immature choke fungus on cocksfoot grass
stems.  However, when found in the past this fungus was orange but this one white, was it young or something different?  I had recently been sent a paper which had appeared in The Mycologist, Volume 19, in May 2005 (Spooner & Kemp (2005). EpichloĆ« in Britain. P 2-87) which explained that for quite a while this fungus, which had been reported from several different species of grass, had all been identified as EpichloĆ« typhina but this paper explained that there were 7 species in the UK, and that many of these were wrongly identified as this species.  Firstly, my find was in the early stages of development being white and would turn the more familiar orange colour as it matured, the colour of all the ones previously found.  Occurring on cocksfoot, the species would be E. typhina according to the key in the above paper.  I know from memory that all my previous finds of this fungus had been from other grass species but sadly, the grass species at the time wasn’t identified.  I first found this fungus whilst out on a botanical outing with Ian Green and happily named it, in ignorance as E. typhina.  So, more searching will be needed, possibly in the locations where previously found, so the species of grass can be identified and then the correct species of choke fungus.  However, finding the choke fungus and giving it the right name hides an amazing and highly evolved relationship going on in the background.  The first word I learnt related to this fungus was Heterothallic.  “Heterothallic 
Choke fungus on unidentified grass
species have sexes that reside in different individuals.  The term is applied particularly to distinguish heterothallic fungi, which require two compatible partners to produce sexual spores” (Wikipedia).  This relationship involves the host grass and insects.  The infected grass contains toxic substances making it less susceptible to grazing by herbivores and insect attack.  The name "choke" arises from the sterilising or choking of the infected grass where the fungus develops on the stem, stopping the grasses ability to produce seed.  The relationship with insects involves a Botanophila species of fly.  The fly lands on the fungus to feed and to lay eggs which subsequently hatch into larvae which in turn feed on the fungus.  After laying its eggs, the fly visits another grass stem affected by the fungus carrying with it tiny fungus cells called spermatia which it ingested whilst feeding on the first choke affected grass.  These cells are excreted onto the new choke-infected grass whilst the fly is feeding.  Once deposited, the spermatia cross-fertilise with other cells to enable the fungus to reproduce to continue its life cycle.  This cross-fertilisation relies entirely on the fly transporting the spermatia to another site.  Once the cross-fertilisation has taken place the choke fungus can develop spores which, when mature, are ejected enabling the fungus to spread to new sites by infecting seeds on other grasses flowering nearby.  The infected seeds carry the fungus through to the new growing season and when conditions are right the orange fungus will appear on the grass stem to continue the life-cycle.  Amazing.

Having caught up with wood cranesbill we continued on the path by the river passing some amazingly colourful meadows glowing yellow with masses of flowering bulbous buttercups (Ranunculus bulbosus).  The riverbank produced large bittercress (Cardamine amara), the woods 
Bulbous buttercup (Ranunculus bulbosus) in meadow
masses of red campion and the hybrid between primrose and cowslip the false oxlip (Primula x polyantha) and something new by one of the walls turned out to be field madder (Sherardia arvensis).  But, the best was yet to come.  Many of these flower-rich meadows have been designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and are maintained by cutting for hay once the plants have set seeds.  At one farm we asked the farmer if it would be okay to carefully visit one of these 
Burnt orchid (Neotinea ustulata)
Green-winged orchid (Anacamptis morio)
meadows in the hope of seeing a couple of the rarer UK orchids and as we walked through the buttercups and yellow rattle flowers Janet was first to spot our main target burnt orchid (also known as burnt-tip - Neotinea ustulata) a small, creamy white orchid with a distinct dark purple top to the flower spike, hence its name.  In all, eight flowers were seen along with several more of the green-winged orchids (Anacamptis morio) an amazing sight with masses of burnet-saxifrage flowers all around which is oddly named as it is neither a burnet (rose family) nor a saxifrage!  Chuffed to bits we carefully made our way back to the path and back to the riverside path where a kingfisher was heard but not seen. 

When we lived on the Isle of Rum NNR (1973-76) the then Chief Warden left the island to work for the same organisation (then Nature Conservancy Council now Natural England) in the north-east of England, taking on responsibility for a project involving the protection and conservation of the lady’s slipper orchid in the early 1980s.  At that time, and still to this day, there was only one known natural population of this plant, a single clone, in the whole of the UK and due to increasing pressure of folk 
Kilnsey Crag
Climber on Kilnsey Crag
wanting to see it, it was given 24 hour protection during the growing season for a number of years from 1971.  Despite that, part of the plant was dug up in 1975 emphasising the need to try and increase the number of plants at what still remains ‘the’ secret site, and if that was successful, introduce their offspring to receptor sites in the north of England.  Easier said than done.  Initially, the plants were fertilised by hand in addition to what might have taken place naturally by insects, but, being an orchid, results were very slow to manifest themselves.  For long-lived orchids it could take 
Bird's-eye primrose (Primula farinosa)
growing with lady's slipper orchids
Lady's-slipper orchid (Cypripedium calceolus) at
Kilnsey Park
many years to know if this would be successful.  In 1983 Kew Gardens became involved in trying to propagate the orchid under laboratory conditions and it was at this time that Peter Corkhill, ex of Rum, took on responsibility for the conservation of this orchid in the field whilst working with the staff from Kew.  After many trials, seedlings were successfully grown but when transplanted into the wild, despite the plants initially surviving, none survived long-term.  Those initial seedlings seemed to have been planted out too early (2-3 years after germinating) and eventually it was found that they needed to be grown on for 5-7 years before being let loose in the wild.  Initially seedlings were introduced to 12 sites across the plant’s former range and by 2003, 9 of these sites had been successfully established.  By 2010, 16 sites had been established with plants at four of the sites producing seed pods.  Having decided that, without a lot of luck, we were unlikely to ‘come across’ the original site we decided to visit one of the successful introduction sites at Kilnsey Park, close to Kilnsey Crag where the plant used to grow.  We weren’t disappointed and had to wonder what it 
Common twayblades (Neottia ovata)
14-spot ladybird (Propylea 14-punctata)
would have been like over a century ago to have seen this plant, in quantity, at one of its many sites before it was collected, almost, to extinction.  On our way home we called in to an orchid meadow we visited last year the Leyburn Old Glebe Nature Reserve where once again we were amazed by the sheer number of orchids, mainly green-winged but with a big population of twayblades and just a single spike of burnt orchid.  A bonus was a 14-spot ladybird (Propylea 14-punctata) wandering amongst the flowers.  At the top of the slope of the meadow we could see out across the river and 
View from the Leyburn Old Glebe Nature Reserve!
hills whilst down below a field full of heavily fertilised grass was being given one of probably several doses of chemicals!  Despite that, it was good to read that in 2006 the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority in conjunction with many other bodies developed the Hay Time Project aimed at restoring 200 hectares of upland and lowland meadows in and close to the National Park and bringing together farmers and the public to highlight what is amazing about these meadows and the plants and insects they support by organising the annual Flowers of the Dales Festival.  Perhaps a National Park closer to home could take a leaf out of their book and ditch development for conservation?

It was Saturday, a market day in Masham and something we just had see.  Along with stalls selling s/h books, tools and postcards there were others selling local produce giving us lots of choices for our evening meal.  On the way back to the house we wandered via the bowling green, tennis courts and cricket pitch, the latter very busy with youngsters and teenagers practicing cricket.  Quite an enjoyable half hour was spent, cups of tea in hand, watching all this activity whilst in the ‘middle’ a couple of folk were preparing the pitch for a league cricket match due to start early in the afternoon.  However, this was the day we had planned a visit to a bit of moorland above a place called 
"I don't believe it!"
Colsterdale where there were some interesting looking rock outcrops and broadleaved woodland and with lunch packed, off we went.  As we wandered up Birk Gill the sun disappeared and we realised that we were back in typical blaeberry/heather moorland, just like home, all being managed for red grouse production.  A bee with a reddish ‘bum’ turned out to be the blaeberry/mountain bumblebee (Bombus monticola), one to check later re its UK distribution.  Amazingly, this location was the only site locally where it had previously been seen!  As the heather moor turned to boggy heath we started to disappear into the cloud and mist and then realised we had followed the wrong track.  This wasn’t surprising as the one we should have followed had disappeared under the heather obviously not regularly used.  We were back at the house by later afternoon so just time to nip to the White Bear pub for drinks before being tempted back to the cricket pitch to see the cricketer teams in action.  Overhead a pair of parent 
One of several avocets at Nosterfield Reserve
Wall butterfly (Lasiommata megerasix)
curlews were chasing around after a buzzard, whilst on the pitch a ball which had been knocked for a six was lost in deep grass behind the score-board building!  We thought we could get used to this sort of summer living – but never did find out if the Masham team won.  Avocets, several, were again spotted at the Nosterfield Nature Reserve along with a wall butterfly.  However it was the next day that proved quite an interesting day out, a visit to Malham Cove, the biggest test being full sun, 250C heat, and little shelter as we did the circular walk around the famous cove.  We didn’t need to worry about taking the wrong path today as there were probably hundreds of people doing various bits of 
Malham Cove
House martin nests at the Cove
the same walk.  At the Cove the RSPB were manning the peregrine-watch stand and as we got to the base of the Cove one of the birds was seen flying overhead.  By the path we were pleased to see clumps of Jacob's-ladder flowers (Polemonium caeruleum) whilst screaming overhead were swifts and house martins, both of which nested on the rocky overhang of the limestone cove.  The path we wanted took us up and over the top of the Cove and on to an area of limestone pavement: an amazing geological feature that I know very little about.  However, I was aware that some unusual plants grow there and I just hoped the many sheep wandering about hadn’t eaten them all!  The big blocks of 
Jacob's-ladder flowers
limestone popping up from the surrounding grasslands are known as ‘clints’ and, due to the effect of erosion, big gaps running deep into the clints are known as ‘grykes’ and it was in these grykes that many plants live, out of reach of grazing animals.  More salad burnet was all around and amongst the limestone as we climbed the slope were hart’s tongue fern, wall rue (fern), herb robert and quaking grass.  The two ferns were in many of the grykes that I visited but the one I was seeking, green spleenwort (Asplenium viride) managed to evade me.  However, in reading about this rocky habitat I noted that there was another fern worth keeping an eye open for – the appropriately named limestone fern (Gymnocarpium robertianum) and, as some of the limestone blocks protruded upwards enough 
Limestone fern (Gymnocarpium robertianum)
Glands found on limestone fern
to create small ‘cliffs’ I saw Janet wandering off into the distance as I spent a little time checking a couple of these outcrops, particularly the ones that were north-facing hence avoiding the full sun.  Was the fern I was looking at the oak fern or the limestone fern?  Both look very similar and, thankfully, there was enough of the fern to allow me to take just one frond to check once home.  If I had been familiar with the fern my hand-lens would have told me that I had indeed found the limestone fern, the backs of the fronds and the stems of the fern are covered in ‘glandular hairs’, the tips of these hairs have tiny blobs of a liquid secreted by the plant, something the oak fern doesn’t have.  You live and learn.  As we descended from the Cove towards the road at Janet’s Foss I noticed a couple of ice-lolly sticks by the path and said to Janet “that’s a bit unusual all the way out here”.  As we reached the road, still a mile or so out of Malham village the lolly stick mystery was solved: there was a mobile catering van – selling ice creams, a perfect spot to stop, get a bit of shelter from the sun, and enjoy a couple of 99’s before following the Gordale Beck back to the village.

The last day of our holiday saw us being tempted back into ‘orchid territory’ doing a circular walk from a small village near to Leyburn, down to the River Ure and back again.  Near the river strange mounds in the fields were possible yellow meadow ant nests but despite stopping to check several, no ants were seen.  Sadly, without seeing any ants it’s not possible to say whether they were Lasius 
Ant nest mounds?
flavus, so can’t forward as a record.  A calling green woodpecker nearby, known to feed on these ants, was probably happier to dig into the mounds than me to see if ants were present.  At this stage we were quite close to the river and once again I shouted to Janet that there was a kingfisher calling nearby and as I searched for it through my binoculars she saw it fly behind use, following a dried up section of old riverbed!  Janet therefore won the ’spot the kingfisher’ contest 2-0!  On this outing two 
Cramp balls or King Alfred's cakes fungus
more burnt orchids were found and as we headed back along a path towards the car several black, bun-shaped fungi on a dead section of ash turned out to be cramp balls or King Alfred’s cakes (Daldinia concentrica) something I’d not knowingly seen before.  The next day it was back on the road heading north arriving home just 9 days before daughter Ruth’s wedding – help!

Those nine days went by in a blur, the first of those days saw Janet cracking on with food preparations for the Friday night family gathering and for the ‘afternoon tea’ following the marriage ceremony and me visiting the local builders merchant for wood for the plinth on which the bride, groom and vicar would stand for the actual marriage.  In between times I caught up with the last of my evening wader counts and the second and last of the BTO breeding bird surveys.  The wood 
A typical timber harvester
arrived on the Monday for the plinth and construction started, whilst in the evening I set off for the last of the evening woodcock surveys near Carrbridge.  I was in for a surprise!  As I left the car and headed down to the River Dulnain I could hear, in the distance, the sound of some sort of vehicle and the further I walked I realised there was a timber harvester working – right in the bit of plantation where I normally stand to do the survey.  My survey started at 10pm, and here I was, with twenty minutes to go, faced with a huge machine felling and processing trees.  To undertake the survey is a three hour commitment, and, with little chance to re-visit in the next couple of weeks, I decided to get as near to my normal survey location (about 70 metres away) and do the count from there.  The beauty of this decision was that I was out of the dense plantation, was in more open, birch woodland, and I could see a lot more of the surrounding woodland, though not quite as important as most contacts are made via the birds calling as they are roding overhead.  As I settled down the midges arrived in their hundreds but thankfully I had some spray with me, stopping the bites but not the annoyance.  Almost immediately the first bird flew by overhead.  At 10.15pm the timber harvester 
Laura preparing wedding flower displays
stopped but too late for me to move.  In all, twelve roding contacts were made by the end time of 11.15pm, a great result compared to the two earlier visits and with the good news that the BTO would be happy to accept the count and that all future counts could be done from the same spot.  Walking back to the car was pretty amazing with a red glow in the north, enough light to see all around despite the midnight hour approaching.  The next day wasn’t too good with heavy rain and a forecast for the run-up to wedding day looked equally wet.  The plinth was made and installed and help was given with installing the large marquees with everyone getting quite damp in the process.  Looking ahead the BBC Weather website showed that the rain should ease and that the wedding day could be cloudy 
Bride and bridesmaid preparations
but dry from midday on.  Fingers-crossed.  Family started to arrive on the Thursday and the gathering of 30 folk on Friday went well thanks to Janet’s amazing preparation and planning.  Delivering food for the afternoon tea mid-morning on wedding day found the garden venue resplendent thanks to Louise and Hugh’s efforts and driving back home to get ready I was sure I spotted a break in the dark clouds.  As bride and bridesmaid prepared themselves in our front room I popped upstairs to go through my ‘father of the bride’ speech one last time and, with the weather website showing 
Congratulations Ruth and Lewis
improving weather by 2pm we planned our drive over, chauffeured by brother Peter, a little later than we should have (brides prerogative!) arriving on site just as the skies cleared and the sun came out, a weather window that stayed with us for the rest of the day.  Perfect, and not too sure who was watching over us that day.  The Sunday evening dance went well and wee Harry, who was staying with us played his part by sleeping on until 8.30am both mornings.  By Tuesday we said cheerio to 
All too much for grandad and Harry!
the last of the departing family and by lunch-time the plinth in the wedding garden was dismantled, the last bit of evidence that something major had taken place in the garden just a few days earlier.  In the afternoon I popped into the local ironmongers to buy some canes, and by late afternoon, with red and white tape tied on, the first were installed as the next major event of the summer was upon us.

The next three days were spent walking fairly accurate ‘lines’ back and forth across the famous Flowerfield orchid meadow, counting the number of lesser butterfly orchids (LBOs).  Whilst on holiday a message had arrived that this year looked like a bumper one for the orchids – something of 
Lesser butterfly orchids
Small white orchid (centre) with fragrant and
heath spotted orchids
an understatement.  As I walked, hand-tally counter clicking away, the numbers started to build and by the Friday the last click showed that there were 5600 LBOs flowering this year, a thousand more than the last highest count!  Amazing.  As far as we can determine, this is the highest count to date for this orchid in the UK, putting the site into the highest category of importance despite the meadow having no official designation or protection.  I returned to the meadow for one last count the next day – the small white orchids.  Most of these flower spikes occupy quite a small area within the bigger meadow, making the count a little more difficult when walking the lines, trying not to squash any flowers whilst clicking away to make as accurate a count as possible.  2600 orchids were counted, 
probably as high a count of small whites anywhere in the UK adding hugely to the overall importance of the site.  As was happening last year, the orchid is spreading out from its original area with about a dozen plants seen in new areas this year.  David, who lives opposite the meadow can remember when there were less than a dozen plants all told, making the current count and the build up over the last few years all the more remarkable.  A hybrid orchid, which was first seen a couple of years ago, was 
The hybrid x Pseudorhiza bruniana orchid
flowering again (2 flower spikes) so photos were taken showing flower sizes and plant height and sent off to expert Richard at Kew to try and get a definitive name, and confirmation of the two parents and his reply contained a pleasant surprise.  “You have found two plants of the hybrid between Pseudorchis albida [small white] and Dactylorhiza maculate [heath spotted].  To the best of my knowledge, this intergeneric hybrid has only previously been found twice in the British Isles: in Skye and Orkney, and has been named x Pseudorhiza bruniana”.  Another great record for Jane and Jeremy, the owners of the meadow, who have been brilliant custodians since the importance of the site was mentioned to them many years ago. 

So, a brilliant month, with lots of excitement and good finds and with two families still in recovery mode!

Enjoy the read
Stewart and Janet

Comparison Wood and Meadow cranesbills, at bottom of photos click on “Leaves not as deeply cut as those of Meadow cranesbill” to see that species.
Isle of Rum NNR
Leyburn Old Glebe Nature Reserve
Limestone pavement (click on name at bottom of web-page)
NBN Gateway
Fungal Records Database of Britain and Ireland (FRDBI)
BSBI – Botanical Society of the British Isles
Highland Biological Recording Group (HBRG)
and how to join HBRG

Orchid beetle (Dascillus cervinus) on
small white orchid
Northern brown argus butterfly seen during orchid count
A perfect end to Ruth and Lewis's wedding day - thank you

Photos © Stewart Taylor

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Still stumped – but numbers increase

Goodness, where did May, and for that matter, June go?  The 1st May saw Janet and her craft tent at the Nethybridge Spring Gathering, another successful day for all those organising and attending.  In 
between helping put up and take down the tent, I sneaked off to return to stumps where the stump lichen (Cladonia botrytes) had been found in the previous week to carry out stump size measurements.  More about this bonny wee lichen a little later.  The next day it was off to the damaged Spey Bridge aspen wood near Grantown on Spey to try and help Gus from the Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group with photographing areas showing some of the most damage to fallen aspens, felled hazels and general lopping off chunks of trees because they looked ‘untidy’!  At the site where the ancient aspen supporting a big population of aspen hoverflies in 2015 it was very difficult to show the damage done because the tidying up had been so efficient.  However, I noticed a 
Glisrochilus quadripunctatus beetle
small red and black beetle in the depression created by where the trunk of the fallen aspen had lain and when expert Stephen saw the photo back came the name Glisrochilus quadripunctatus, a beetle with just a few old records in our area.  We continued to be amazed by the lengths the contractors had gone to where they hacked off bits of live trees and in a few locations we noticed that what had been 
A section through an aspen bracket fungus (right) and
showing penetration into branch
UK distribution Phellinus tremulae

cut off was the aspen bracket fungus Phellinus tremulae, a fungus new to the UK as recently as 2000, and with a current distribution mostly in the aspens stands along our section of the River Spey.  However, it is not rare!  At a couple of these locations the cut section through the fungus showed clearly its link to the living section of the aspen tree.   A more remarkable record the same day was that Leicester City had been crowned Premiership Champions on a budget a fraction of the teams below them in the league!  A breath of fresh air!  A morning was also spent sorting out maps for this summer’s BSBI/CNPA plant survey, targeting again under-recorded 2x2 km squares (tetrads) in the Cairngorms National Park, a commitment to five of which will keep me occupied for the rest of the summer.

On the 5th, daughter Laura popped over for a few days with the Saturday evening outing being the start of a run up to a big family event – daughter Ruth’s hen party ahead of her June wedding.  Through May a rather ‘posh’ wedding dress had been residing in one of our bedrooms and had 
Laura and Harry out for a walk
accompanied Ruth on a few of her college days in Elgin for up to the day fittings.  Janet has been busy on her sewing machine preparing napkins, tablecloths and table decorations for the wedding meal and Lewis’s (husband to be) mum and partner have been extremely busy re-designing their house garden for the fingers crossed, open-air wedding booked for the 18 June.  Just to complicate things a little Janet and myself would disappear off for a holiday at the end of May, booked ahead of the wedding date, only getting back home nine days before the big event.  Watch this space…

Early in the month the first BTO evening woodcock survey was completed, a survey which is developing into an annual event because of the serious decline in UK woodcock numbers identified by other BTO breeding and atlas surveys.  This first outing saw me making my way back to the forest plantation near the River Dulnain in time for the count to start at 9.15pm.  As I crossed over the 
Primrose display
Sluggan Bridge I could see in the distance an amazing sight of a yellow hillside created by a huge population of primroses, a place I had promised myself to visit when I saw it the previous year.  However, I didn’t make it then but, having seen it again I planned a return visit, in the daytime.  Nothing had changed along my route from bridge to count location but as I emerged from the dense stand of Norway spruces and birches onto the forestry track I noticed something moving a little way ahead of me – a mountain hare – in the forest!  As it stopped on the track to look back at me a second one appeared and both sat for a minute or so, watching me, just enough time to get their photograph.  The count period of 75 minutes produced just 3 roding woodcock contacts so to keep me alert I made 
Sluggan Bridge in the heat and the sun
notes of the last bird singing as darkness started to fall.  Once again it was a robin, out-singing the song thrush by about 15 minutes, and last heard at 9.57pm.  The last fly-past by a woodcock was at 10.35pm.  The second of three counts took place about a week later and this one – 9.30 to 10.50pm – didn’t produce any woodcock at all.  The last singing bird though was a much closer call with the last song thrush at 10pm and the last robin five minutes later.  Overhead, as the clouds parted, the half-sized moon shone clearly in the sky with the planet Jupiter almost by its side.  The third visit would have to await our return from holiday and the wedding.

A couple of days after the first woodcock count I was back at the primrose hillside to admire the sheer number of plants, a rarish sight in this area, and to keep an eye open for a rare weevil that might occur.  At my first find, a group of heath dog violets (Viola canina) I realised that I had left my GPS behind so was unable to make a note of the exact location, but finding more of the violet, I didn’t need the 10-figure grid reference.  The blaeberry/mountain bumble bee (Bombus monticola) was 
Brown silver-line moth (Petrophora chlorosata)

feeding on the primroses and a green-veined white butterfly was enjoying the sun and 230C of heat.  A moth at rest had me a bit puzzled but a photo let me see that it was a brown silver-line (Petrophora chlorosata) once home.  Similarly, a shieldbug resting on a juniper branch was also happy to have its photo taken and by visiting the gallery on the British Bugs website I identified the parent bug (Elasmucha grisea) one of the scarcer bugs in this area.  An old sap-run on an ancient birch had both of the scarce pinhead lichens Sclerophora pallida and peronella and in the wetter flushed ground tussock sedge (Carex paniculata) and fen bedstraw (Galium uliginosum) were both found.  Too many good records so this involved a return visit the next day to attach grid references to all the finds but 
Parent bug (Elasmucha grisea)
with even more heat with the thermometer reaching 260C!  At about this time a message had arrived from Murdo via the Highland Biological Recording Group to keep an eye open for the rare cranefly Prionocera pubescens, the one found a couple of summers ago whilst walking the Loch Garten butterfly transect.  In the back of my mind was an amazing bit of bog woodland brought to light by the January chalet planning application close to the Flowerfield orchid site so thought this might be a 
Prionocera pubescens cranefly
good place to start.  A similar looking beastie Tipula subnodicornis was the first cranefly to be caught in my net but the one I was looking for had ‘saw-like’ antennae, something the Tipula didn’t have.  Persistence paid off and about half an hour later and after the capture and release of probably a dozen more Tipula’s the one in my tube had the antennae I was hoping for.  ID was later confirmed by Murdo.  Hopefully, more visits to this wooded bog will produce other good records particularly in the butterfly group.

Once again, looking for one species produces another.  An email from fungus expert Liz alerted me to the possibility of a rare aphid, Cinara smolandiae being associated with the common juniper rust fungus (Gymnosporangium clavariiforme).  The aphid had been found recently at Dundreggan in Glen Moriston near Loch Ness on juniper stems where the fungus had fruited earlier in the year and there was a chance it could be in local woodland like Abernethy.  In early May the fungus was still visible on juniper bushes so I thought it worth a quick peek.  One way of finding aphids is to look for wood ants wandering up and down juniper stems to feed on sugary honeydew left behind by aphids 
Aphids (to be identified) on juniper
and, sure enough, by following the ants I found some aphids, some quite close to the fruiting fungus.  However, there is also a commoner aphid on juniper stems (Cinara juniper) so the ones I found have gone off to the expert to be identified, though nothing has been heard back as yet.  As I wandered homewards along the Speyside Way I continued to check the juniper bushes but also wandered into an area where lodgepole pines had been felled about 15 years ago, lots of stumps so I just had to have a look if there might be a tiny Cladonia botrytes lichen present.  Because of their age, the majority of these stumps were in an advanced state of decay with many starting to disintegrate, so I didn’t hold 
Stump lichen (Cladonia botrytes)
out much hope.  How wrong I was.  A tiny remaining bit of a heavily decayed stump, produced the first stump lichen, and further along the old plough-line another one turned up.  Help, this could be quite an important site, so I called a halt and planned to return another day equipped with my hand tally counter, measuring tape, red and white marker tape and better quality camera to see what might be present.  So, the next day I returned and walking the old plough-lines visited 370 stumps and managed to find 9 stump lichens.  A couple of days later I was back again and the 221 stumps checked revealed another 5 lichen sites and the next day 309 stumps added 1 more.  A start was then made replacing the roadside fence at the house, raising its height to try and stop roe deer jumping over to eat Janet’s flowers and my veg., so the day before we headed south on our holiday (25th) I made one last visit and the 172 stumps added another 6 sites which, if my maths are correct gives a total of 23 stump lichens in this one area of clearfell.  The biggest population at one site previously was at the Kindrogan Field Studies Centre near Pitlochry where 19 stumps held populations of the 
One of the smallest stumps yet with the lichen?
Same stump, 2 clumps of Cladonia botrytes
Close up of lower lichen
lichen.  Add to this the 7 sites found in April Abernethy is, once again, proving to be quite an important site for rare species.  At each site a GPS grid reference was noted as well as the stump and GPS photographed in location.  A pencil was used to show roughly were the lichen was on the stump and photographed firstly from a distance and then close up before a good quality photo was taken of the lichen in situ.  Finally, the diameter of the stump was measured along with the height of the lichen on the stump from the ground.  Previous studies on Deeside and within Strathspey showed that stumps where the lichen had been found previously were between 15 and 90 cm in diameter (mean = 58 cm) and that the height from the ground was between 10 and 80 cm (mean 36 cm).  I have yet to analyse all my data but with the search still ongoing this will be something for the future.  Also, all the previous finds were on Scots pine stumps whereas mine so far have been all from lodgepole pine 
Just 300 more stumps to check!
with one from a Norway spruce.  Other features that are also developing show that the stump lichen isn’t always growing on the flat surface of the stump, some have been on the side, a couple towards the base of the stump as though the section of the stump supporting the lichen has detached and taken the lichen with it.  A couple of sites have also been sections of branch or log and at several sites the lichen has been growing deep in other lichens, in competition with other Cladonia lichens and on stumps where vegetation is also present.  An interesting research paper is starting to develop, re-writing quite a bit about the sites the lichen was previously known to occupy.  Interestingly, there is  quite a large area of stump habitat, created at the time of the EU Wet Woods Project still to check!

On the 26th we headed south initially to stay with Janet’s mum for a few days before heading ‘over the border’ to Masham in Yorkshire for the bulk of our holiday.  Whilst with her mum we managed a brief outing to the Salthills Quarry Local Nature Reserve near Clitheroe managed by the Lancashire Wildlife Trust.  Here we found that the round-leaved wintergreen (Pyrola rotundifolia) was still present (found September 2015) and a new species for both of us was spindle tree (Euonymus europaea), a single tree along the way-marked walk.  Whilst driving south on the M6 to Lancashire, just after Carlisle, there were lots of signs saying ‘slow moving caravans on A66’, little did we know 
Spindle tree (Euonymus europaea)
we would see the reason for this the evening we arrived in Masham.  En route to Masham we stopped off in Grassington to stretch our legs and once again visited Grass Wood on the outskirts of the village.  The leisurely walk turned up a couple of speckled wood butterflies but star of the walk was a group of four herb Paris plants, right by the track, just missed by one of the winter bonfires where brash from exotic conifer removal had been burnt.  On the road walking back towards the car we 
Herb Paris (Paris quadrifolia)
found a nice population of lily of the valley, a perfect introduction to the riches of this part of the world.  In Masham the owners of the property were on site to welcome us and once settled in we had a quick bite to eat before heading out to see the travelling folk with their horses and caravans parked up just across the road.  The rapid clip,clop, clip clop of metal horse-shoes on tarmac had us staring in wonder as a young lad with friend seated next to him came galloping along the road, horse, a simple buggy attached and the two lads smiling their heads off.  The effort taken to slow the horse 
down was interesting to see but along the road, around the field where a dozen or so families were parked up for the night, the young lad seemed to be quite an expert in controlling his horse and buggy.  There were several of the highly decorated ‘Romany’ type horse-drawn caravans, open two-seater carts, lots of horses many with foals at foot and vans, wagons and towing caravans all on their way to the annual Appleby horse fair, the event the signs on the M6 were warning us about.  Over the next couple of days the field emptied as the travellers headed north-west to Appleby.  Monday saw us leave the car at the house and walk up the road, along the River Ure to the Marfield Wetlands Nature 
Masses of flowers on the hawthorn bushes
Reserve.  The amount of blossom on the hawthorn bushes was incredible with most trees looking like they couldn’t possibly support any more flowers.  Cowslips galore and the cranesbill plants started to test our ID abilities with some requiring time with the flower books once back at the house.  Meadow cranesbill were everywhere but small-flowered and cut-leaved cranesbill plant were much rarer and only found on the nature reserve.  We also were re-acquainted with the red-and-black froghopper (Ceropis vulnerata) one of the largest members of the froghopper family.  The outing the next day was to prove quite beneficial for later in the holiday.  We parked up near Jervaulx Abbey and walked along a different section of the River Ure heading towards an area we visited last year.  However, the first mile or so was very poor plant-wise and it was only when we reached a gate which was the boundary between heavily managed farmland and SSSI farmland that everything changed.  Through 
Froghopper (Ceropis vulnerata)
the gate we were into masses of cowslips and primroses, crosswort and red campion.  Field garlic (Allium oleraceum) was just coming into flower unlike the ramsons which were in flower everywhere and some well past their best.  Something on the stem of cocksfoot grass looked familiar but was the wrong colour, one of the choke (Epichloe) fungi, but which one?  It would be later in the holiday before this query was resolved.  As we turned to walk back to the car a couple with their dog stopped to ask what I was photographing (field garlic).  For some reason we got onto talking about the meadow cranesbill and the lady said we should visit a site near to Leyburn to see the wood cranesbill which should be in flower.  In checking out were this was and what other flowers might be nearby a few interesting orchid locations emerged, something that will be covered in the next blog.

Enjoy the read, sorry about the delay
Stewart and Janet

Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group
Tetrad definition
BSBI/CNPA plant survey 2015
BTO Woodcock Survey
British Bugs
Salthills Quarry Local Nature Reserve
Firwood blog October 2015
NBN Gateway
Fungal Records Database of Britain and Ireland (FRDBI)
BSBI – Botanical Society of the British Isles
Highland Biological Recording Group (HBRG)
and how to join HBRG

Always beautiful
The bedroom window view Masham!
Black-headed gulls hawking insects - Masham

Bird survey done for another day.  Night,night.

Photos © Stewart Taylor