Five people met for a beautiful hot afternoon at Purton on the south bank of the Severn. We followed the towpath of the canal towards Sharpness, then went out onto the saltmarsh and shore, examining the barge hulks beached there, distant views of Gatcombe where Sir Francis Drake kept a mistress and more recently Railtrack cut down the rare Service Tree (Sorbus domestica), and the site of the Severn Rail Bridge disaster which fell into the river one foggy night in 1960. This was very much a recording meeting, with highlights including finding of a rare Notaris weevil, refinding the canal spider (Larinioides scopetarius), the bug Podops inuncta, the ants Lasius nylanderi and L brunneus, and the pseudoscorpion Roncus lubricus. We counted six Little Egrets on the river, and heard Reed Bunting and Cetti’s Warbler from the timber ponds. Botanically there was a very fine show of English Scurvy Grass (Cochlearia anglica). We discussed the implications of the proposed barrage on the natural history of the area.
Under the leadership of the county bryologist Peter Martin, a select band of members enjoyed the mosses and liverworts of Cooper’s Hill Wood, recording some 50 species including the local speciality Oxyrrhynchium schleicheri (Eurhynchium schleicheri) seen here in the foreground with the much commoner Eurhynchium striatum behind.
A group met at Keynes Country Park for a walk around a number of gravel pits at various stages of development. Working, recently worked out, almost restored and flooded pits were visited to see the lifecycle of gravel extraction. The trip included visits to areas usually inaccessible to the general public.
A highlight was the vigorous discussion on the processes of restoration, contradictory habitat demands for different species and the impact of a pit’s final use on habitat regeneration. The effect of a gravel pit’s lifecycle on the movement of Sand Martin colonies was discussed as the group watched c.250 pairs on a temporary sand cliff face in a working quarry.
The best technique for creating the profile of a restored gravel pit’s floor was described along with the effect the profile has on sedimentation and aquatic plant development. For most present this raised a new and interesting point that we could see was clearly important for plant diversity.
Observations made during the trip included:
Immature Hobby that perched on a bank about 100m metres from the group and gave all a chance to examine the raptor in detail and at leisure. Common Terns including a nest with chicks; Little Egret; Sand Martin colony; Stock Dove; Grey Herons; Roosts of Black Headed Gulls in the gravel quarry floor; Lapwings; and singing Skylark.
This was a very interesting and informative trip that included usually inaccessible reaches of the water park.
One of the highlights of this meeting were 4 Painted Lady butterflies, presumably newly arrived migrants, on the banks of the Severn near Guscar Rocks. Among the birds seen were: Whimbrel, Lapwing, Cormorant, Dunlin, and Shelduck. There were some spectacular drifts of English Scurvy Grass (Cochlearia anglica) in the saltmarsh channels. The meeting was cut short by a thunder storm.
English Scurvy Grass (Cochlearia anglica), May 2005 (J Bailey)
This was a very productive meeting in terms of species recorded. Birds included, Wood Warbler, Blackcap, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Goldcrest and many other woodland birds. Also Tree Pipit and Mandarin. There were beautiful displays of bluebell and wood spurge. Hundreds of violet ground beetles were to be seen along the forest track, most of them dead, and there was a bird pellet (possibly that of a crow) shiny with elytra. A few St Mark’s Fly appeared when the sun eventually came through. Finally, the group saw two fallow deer.
This is the time of year to see the rare wild flower Mousetail (Myosurus minimus) a diminutive annual member of the buttercup family, where the centre of the flower bears a passing resemblance to a mouse’s tail. It likes heavily trodden places such as gateways and round cattle troughs and all four Gloucestershire colonies are in the Severn Vale where there is occasional winter flooding. A new site for Mousetail was discovered on today’s GNS walk.
Birds recorded included: Green Sandpiper, Curlew, Lapwing, Snipe heard calling but not drumming. There was a good variety of warblers – Lesser Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff. The group also encountered Reed Bunting, Shelduck, Mute Swan, Cuckoo and Barn Owl. There were some Smooth Newts present and masses of Cuckooflowers in the meadows.
Some of the highlights of the meeting were:
2 female Wheatears, one in each of two different ploughed fields east of the horse paddocks, near the Golf Club House.
On Postlip Warren, i.e. the slope above the Washpool, there were 4 Ring Ouzels of which the group had excellent views.
Other birds noted were: 2 Red-legged Partridges; several Yellowhammers and Sky Larks singing; one Swallow was seen by a group member just before we were assembled at the car park; male Kestrel; female Sparrowhawk and at least 2 Buzzards.
Some of the highlights of the meeting were:
Lake 68c from the new hide:
Great Crested Grebes, Shelduck, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Redshank, Snipe, Cetti’s Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Long-tailed tits, Bullfinch, Reed Buntings.
Grey Herons in the heronry, Mallard, Gadwall, Wigeon, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye.
5 Little Egrets, Mute Swan, 5 or 6 Shelducks, numerous of Shoveler and Teal, Peregrine Falcon, many displaying Lapwing and Redshank, many Reed Buntings.
New frogspawn at Waterhay Car Park.
As luck would have it, there were many Sand Martins and Swallows moving through on the following day!
Many GNS members will have visited the new developments at the GWT Coombe Hill reserve in the last year. The creation of areas of open water and a network of ditches have done much to further enhance the biodiversity of this already rich area. Over the weekend of 29/30 October the visitor facilities, including a new hide, were introduced to the public and the pictures on this page record the event. Many thanks to Juliet Bailey for the photos taken at the official opening on 29 October.
Chris Beardsmore about to cut the withy arch with the representative of site sponsor Grundon.
Guests enjoying their guided tour of the new facilities.
Gordon McClone of GWT and Brian Smith of Severn and Avon Vales Wetland Partnership using unconvention transport to return from the hide.
Birds over the reserve – mainly Canada Geese.
The Moss Group – Peter Martin (county bryophyte recorder), with Juliet Bailey, Cathy Beeching, Libby Houston, Claire and Mark Kitchen, and Richard Lansdown – visited Ban-y-Gor wood (ST536967) on 1 November 2003. Ban-y-Gor is a Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust reserve of steep woodland and shaded cliff on the banks of the Wye near Chepstow.
In total, 49 species of moss and 12 species of liverwort were recorded.
The outstanding plant found was the very local Marchesinia mackaii, which in places covered areas as large as 1 sq m. At times this was the only bryophyte on the rock faces and was clearly a pioneer in areas of relatively new rock fall.
In the first quarry (old tractor) the bryophytes on the boulders were luxuriant. A Ctenidium was found that looked different from the normal Ctenidium to the extent that those who knew Ctenidium could not recognise the plant. I thought that this was the variety fastigatum and I sent the specimen to Gordon Rothero (BBS recorder of mosses). He was not that convinced. He said he had just received a specimen very similar from Cliff Townsend (once of Gloucestershire) which Cliff had named var. condensatum, which Gordon also rejected. I am not convinced about our plant and hope to have a look at more specimens of C. molluscum some time.
Near the bottom of the path there was the very slender Amblystegium confervoides (formerly Platydictya). This was on the top surface of a stone and it made Amblystegium look robust by comparison! This has not been seen for about 60 years in Gloucestershire and is therefore officially re-recorded. A specimen has been lodged with the BBS herbarium.
In the first quarry there was Hylocomium brevirostre on the boulders along with the local Eurhynchium striatulum (formerly Isothecium). On the rock faces above was the minute liverwort Cololejeunea calcarea. The red carpet of liverwort on a decaying log was Nowellia curvifolia. Scapania nemorea was quite common on the more sheltered rock faces, a liverwort I have not seen further to the east in the Cotswolds.
Plenty of commoner bryophytes were found. Trichostomum brachydontium was extremely common on cracks in the rock face or ledges often growing with Eucladium verticillatum – which is unique in the moss flora in having rounded teeth only at the base of the leaf. These are visible with the hand lens (x20). It is always a pleasure to see Schistidium ! We found 2 species – most of the plants seen were S. crassipilum with a few scraps of S. apocarpum. Unusually, there was a tuft of S. crassipilum on a tree next to the river. The tuft was about 2m. above the ground. I have seen in the past some strange assemblages of bryophtes on trees close to active quarries. Here the dust settles on the trees and odd things are found on them such as Tortella, Didymodon etc.. The tree here did not seem like that. I do not know whether dried dust from the riverbank might get blown onto the trees to produce a similar situation.
This visit was part of series of visits to survey the bryophyte flora of Gloucestershire nature reserves. Anyone is welcome to attend the meetings, no experience necessary. Contact Peter Martin ([email protected]) for details of future meetings.
Ban-y-Gor Wood is a Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust reserve, and is open at all times. Casual visitors are requested to keep to the main path.
This list covers what in the end was a short walk into the reserve, starting at the old quarry at ST540968, then proceeding along the lower rock faces at ST541968 then finally briefly down the path to the river at ST542970.
Amblystegium serpens var. serpens
Bryum capillare var. capillare
Ctenidium molluscum var. molluscum
Fissidens taxifolius var. taxifolius
Hypnum cupressiforme var cupressiforme
Isothecium myosuroides var. myosuroides
Tortula muralis var. muralis
Zygodon viridissimus var. viridissimus