Sunday, 29 April 2012

Goddington Park and Lilly's Wood

Beech, Fagus sylvatica, with fused trunks.  Lilly's Wood, 28 April 2012.
Beech, Fagus sylvatica, with fused trunks.  Lilly's Wood, 28 April 2012.
Another drizzly and overcast day for this walk with the Orpington Field Club, which was well attended despite the weather.  I only took my Ixus 100 camera with me because of the rain, and I only got reasonable photos of a very few of the things we saw.

This, at the top, was one of two trees (or groups of trees, perhaps) with odd shapes and, apparently, fused trunks. It wasn't always clear whether these trees had split from a single base or whether different individuals had joined together.  This specimen seems to have some of both.

But we started in the park, a well-used recreational area which nevertheless had many plants in the grass and at the edged and hedgerows.  The grass was mown and trampled, but even so had lots of Bulbous Buttercups and even one lonely Cowslip.  On a fallen treetrunk were some fungi, King Alfred's Cakes (Daldinia concentrica) and some of these:

Coprinus species.  Fungus.  Goddington Park, 28 April 2012.
Coprinus species.  Fungus.  Goddington Park, 28 April 2012.
This is an Ink Cap, though I don't know what species.  Some of these specimens were breaking down and dripping their typical black inky fluid.  I got some good shots of a similar species, the Magpie Ink Cap, last October. 

On the way out of the park I saw this fly, not looking very active, which let me pick it up.

St. Mark's Fly, Bibio marci.  Goddington Park, 28 April 2012.
St. Mark's Fly, Bibio marci.  Goddington Park, 28 April 2012.
It's called a St. Mark's Fly because it comes out, often in swarms, around St. Mark's Day (25th April) and disappears soon afterwards.  This one seems to have got something sticky on its hairy eyes and thorax.

The first part of the wood was full of a rather pretty grass, light green, growing in clumps.

Wood Melick, Melica uniflora.  Lilly's Wood, 28 April 2012.
Wood Melick, Melica uniflora.  Lilly's Wood, 28 April 2012.
This is a typical woodland grass, and as you can see, here it is surrounded by bluebells, which carpeted this area.

Also among the bluebells was a lonely Wood Spurge.

Wood Spurge, Euphorbia amygdaloides, among Bluebells, Hyacynthoides non-scripta. Lilly's Wood, 28 April 2012.
Wood Spurge, Euphorbia amygdaloides, among Bluebells, Hyacynthoides non-scripta. Lilly's Wood, 28 April 2012.
This often grows in groups, but not here. 

My last photo for this trip was another Buttercup, much scarcer than the Bulbous Buttercup we had seen earlier, this one with the picturesque name Goldilocks. 

Goldilocks Buttercup, Ranunculus auricomus.  Lilly's Wood, 28 April 2012.
Goldilocks Buttercup, Ranunculus auricomus.  Lilly's Wood, 28 April 2012.
The Latin name also means "Golden Hair."  The flowers are in good shape, which is not always true of this species.  Often some of the petals are small or missing. But the typical deeply divided leaves are clear enough.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Just The Leaves

Leaf rosette of Weld, Reseda luteola.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Leaf rosette of Weld, Reseda luteola.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Another post from Nashenden Down, showing a few plants that were only present as leaves, with the flowers to follow later in the year.  Even the leaves can be quite distinctive, like this Weld, and its close relative the Wild Mignonette.

Wild Mignonette, Reseda lutea.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
These next undistinguished clumps, scattered liberally through the wood, will produce the greenish flowers of Stinking Iris, whose leaves are said to smell of fresh meat when crushed - if I had known that on the day I would have tried it.  Perhaps I'll see some more soon.

Stinking Iris, Iris foetidissima.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
I thought at first that this last plant was a Foxglove, but it would have been completely out of place; not in a shady wood with acid soil, but out in the open, in a dry calcareous soil.  So it has to be Ploughman's Spikenard, which will have arrays of yellow flowers that hardly seem to open, so short are the rays of its florets.

Ploughman's-spikenard, Inula conyzae.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Ploughman's-spikenard, Inula conyzae.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
There is a very rich flora here that will certainly be worth another visit later in the summer.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Nashenden Down Mosses

Bryum capillare.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Bryum capillare.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
At first there were no mosses so be seen on Nashenden Down, but when we walked through a section of woodland, that changed.  This one is distinguishable by the way its leaves twist spirally around the stem and dry out into little curls.

I am no moss expert and I am following the lead of our moss expert and the British Bryological Society's field guide, which says of this next one that it lacks striking distinguishing characteristics.  Which is not helpful.  But there is a detailed description and a photo.

Brachythecium rutabulum.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Brachythecium rutabulum.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Next is another moss from the woods, with regularly branched shoots, though that is not so easy to spot in a jumble like this.  The stem leaves clasp the stem, but those on the branches do not.

Kindbergia praelonga (ex. Eurhynchium praelongum).  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Kindbergia praelonga (ex. Eurhynchium praelongum).  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Moving out into the open, we found patches of this one, which is a typical find on calcareous soils.  It's a pretty sight, making a bright gold-tinged cushion in the sunshine.

Homalothecium lutescens.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Homalothecium lutescens.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
And later on, on a lower path through fields, we found this last one.  It's the only moss we saw that has a common name that hasn't been made up in recent years.

Bonfire-moss, Funaria hygrometrica.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Bonfire-moss, Funaria hygrometrica.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
The leaves are hardly visible, but the setae and capsules are very distinctive.  It grows where there has been a fire, though we saw no sign so the fire does not have to be recent.  Those twisted setae curl and uncurl according to how damp they are, which gives it a scientific name which means water-measurer.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Darrick Wood Invertebrates


Hoverfly, Melanostoma scalare, female, on Cow Parsley, Anthriscus sylvestris.
Orpington Field Club outing to Darrick Wood on 21 April 2012.
The Darrick Wood trip was supposed to be partly about butterflies, but it was too cold for them and only one was spotted, apparently one of the Whites.  One of us did see one larger creature, a rat, and at one point we passed a large badger sett.  But there weren't many invertebrates.  I saw a bumblebee, some Wolf Spiders, and at one point a whole swarm of small black flies which looked to be a Bibio species.  This fly, above, I managed to photograph; it's a small early Hoverfly.  This photo also shows some nice detail of Cow Parsley flowers.

I also got a quick snap of this, a close relative of the true Craneflies:

Limonid Cranefly, Limonia nubeculosa.  Darrick Wood, 21 April 2012.
I caught its movement from the corner of my eye as it flew past, and was able to spot where it landed.  The true Craneflies, the Tipulidae, sit with their wings outspread.

So, not much of a haul this time!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Darrick Wood, 21 April 2012.

Some of the group on a seat at the top of the meadow.  Darrick Wood, 21 April 2012.
Some of the group on a seat at the top of the meadow.  Darrick Wood, 21 April 2012.
Another day with some bright and often sunny weather, much appreciated amid a particularly rainy month!  This time the Orpington Field Club were looking around Darrick Wood and its adjoining meadow areas.  I have been to these meadows twice before; once on an invertebrates study day, and once to look for butterflies.  This time we spent most of the time in the woods.

Near the start of the walk, we passed a small open area which had been the site of an airplane crash and had been saturated with aviation fuel.  We suspect that when this site was recovered, it must have been seeded with wild flowers, because there were specimens here that did not appear anywhere else in the area.  For example:

False Oxlip, Primula x polyantha, a hybrid of Primrose and Cowslip. Darrick Wood, 21 April 2012.
False Oxlip, Primula x polyantha, a hybrid of Primrose and Cowslip. Darrick Wood, 21 April 2012.
This is rather pretty, but also large and showy.  Also unusually large is this:

Salad Burnet, Sanguisorba minor.  Darrick Wood, 21 April 2012.
Salad Burnet, Sanguisorba minor.  Darrick Wood, 21 April 2012.
Whenever I have seen Salad Burnet before, it has been a few scrappy leaves at ground level on a chalk bank.  Some of these were a couple of feet high.  The normal plant is the subspecies minor, but this does not seem at all minor.   There were other, smaller wildflowers on this patch too, but looking at these suggests that someone has sown showy versions of the usual chalk flora.

Some parts of the wood were full of Cuckooflower, sometimes called Lady's-smock.

Cuckooflower, Cardamine pratensis.  Darrick Wood, 21 April 2012.
Cuckooflower, Cardamine pratensis.  Darrick Wood, 21 April 2012.

Delicate pink-tipped buds and clusters of white flowers.  Also in the woods, this Male Fern was unfolding fresh green fronds:

Male Fern, Dryopteris filix-mas.  Darrick Wood, 21 April 2012.
Male Fern, Dryopteris filix-mas.  Darrick Wood, 21 April 2012.
And there were two or three specimens of Early Purple Orchid.  One had a feeble flower head; this one looked much more healthy, but is still in bud.

Early Purple Orchid, Orchis mascula.  Darrick Wood, 21 April 2012.
Early Purple Orchid, Orchis mascula.  Darrick Wood, 21 April 2012.
Out of the wood, there was a large specimen of Alexanders in a hedgerow.  This was an unusual sight.  It's common enough in Kent, but only by the coast and along roadsides, where it will get some salt.

Alexanders, Smyrnium olusatrum.  Darrick Wood, 21 April 2012.
Alexanders, Smyrnium olusatrum.  Darrick Wood, 21 April 2012.
Alexanders is quite edible.  The book says the leaves smell of celery when crushed, but this one had a much sweeter scent.

Moving back towards the start, there were some Field Maples in flower.

Field Maple, Acer campestre.  Darrick Wood, 21 April 2012.
Field Maple, Acer campestre.  Darrick Wood, 21 April 2012.
This is a medium-sized tree with delicate leaves.  I posted some Field Maple flowers at a later stage of development in May last year.

The last photo for today is a bracket fungus, Dryad's Saddle.  This looks fresh and alive.  I saw older specimens towards the end of last year that looked quite different; they had lost their scales and were spongy and weak in rainy conditions.

Dryad's Saddle, Polyporus squamosus.  Darrick Wood, 21 April 2012.
Dryad's Saddle, Polyporus squamosus.  Darrick Wood, 21 April 2012.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

A Fasciated Dandelion

Fasciated (cristate) Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Fasciated (cristate) Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
This odd-looking flower is a Dandelion flower whose growing point has been attacked by something, perhaps a virus or a gall wasp, so that instead of growing as a round single stem it has spread out like a fan.  The general term for plants affected this way is fasciated, which means formed into a bundle.  This fan-like formation is called cristate, meaning crested.  It is quite common in cultivated cacti, but I don't see it very often in the wild.

Here is the whole plant, and if you compare this to a normal Dandelion rosette, you can see from this rather confused mass of growth why a name meaning "bundled" was applied.

Fasciated Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Nashenden Down, April, part 2.

The M2 over a field of Oilseed Rape, Brassica napus.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
The M2 over a field of Oilseed Rape, Brassica napus.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
This is what you see if you turn round and look away from the Nature Reserve.  Athough it is so close to major roads and a couple of towns, we saw very few people out there; just a couple of dog walkers, probably locals.

Greater Stitchwort, Stellaria holostea.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Greater Stitchwort, Stellaria holostea.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
This fresh-looking flower grows abundantly in the hedgerows.  It's common all around this area.  It's a close relative of a garden weed, Common Chickweed, but bigger and more showy.

Sun Spurge, Euphorbia helioscopia.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Sun Spurge, Euphorbia helioscopia.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
I like Euphorbias, with their understated yellow or green flowers and unusual symmetries.  This one grows abundantly in the grass at the edge of the field you can see in the top photo.

On the inner side of the hedgerow, the path borders the main fields of the reserve, which are severely fenced off.  It would be interesting to look at some of this grassland later in the year, and apparently there are spots where you are allowed in.

Remains of Mullein from last year.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Remains of Mullein from last year.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Several plants were made noticeable by the remains of last year's growth.  These are Mulleins; I don't know which Mullein.  This year's growth is only at the leaf rosette stage:

Rosette of Mullein leaves.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Rosette of Mullein leaves.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
There were bluebells in the woods; not many, but much more mature than those I have seen up to now.

English Bluebell, Hyacinthoides non-scripta.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Along the path at the bottom of the main field were some inconspicuous, but rather beautiful, Field Pansies.  This is an annual plant, so it has come up from seed to flowering quite fast and early.

Field Pansy, Viola arvensis.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Field Pansy, Viola arvensis.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
The views were taken with my Ixus 100; the closeups with my EOS 60D with 100mm lens and ring flash.

Some of the group walking up a hill; this is where the Field Pansies grow.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Some of the group walking up a hill; this is where the Field Pansies grow.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Nashenden Invertebrates

Black spider with striped legs.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Black spider with striped legs.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
At Nashenden Down there was enough warmth for a few invertebrates to be around. There were no butterflies, which was disappointing. I expect there will be many later on. But I did see three spiders, only one of which I have managed to identify. It's not the first one, which I rather like, with its smart black body and striped legs with dangerous-looking hairs; it's the second one.

Wolf spider, Pardosa lugubris.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Wolf spider, Pardosa lugubris.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Unlike the other two, this one was in the woods and was easily spotted as a Wolf Spider, with strong legs for running after its prey.  In fact even though I used a fast exposure, this spider is .

The third one is quite hairy, and has been described as "interesting" but not identifiable without a different view. I caught it in motion. It had just abseiled down onto this leaf and it ran off in a flash, so I was lucky to get this one shot.  The large palps show that this is a male.

Spider that has just descended onto a nettle leaf.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
All the spiders were on the move, so I didn't have time to arrange for better angles.

As well as these spiders I managed to photograph an inconspicuous small fly on a leaf, which I suspected, correctly, of being a hoverfly.

Hoverfly, Melanostoma scalare. Male.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Hoverfly, Melanostoma scalare.  Male.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
The eyes of most male hoverflies adjoin each other at the top; there is a gap between the eyes of females. So this is a male, which is useful to know because there is a difference in the markings, and there are quite a few similar species. At least I now have a hoverfly book, which turns out to be a good one. (British Hoverflies, by Alan E. Stubbs and Stephen J. Falk.)

On the last section of the walk, along the bottom edge of a field, there were los of dandelions which were being explored by solitary bees, which I think are mining bees, Andrena species.  These are tricky to identify to species level, so I will stick with Andrena.

Solitary bees, Andrena species, on a Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale.   Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Solitary bees, Andrena species, on a Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale.   Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.

ALl these photos were taken with my EOS 60D and 100mm macro lens, with ring flash.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Nashenden Down, April, Part 1


Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus.  Nashenden Down Kent Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Kestrel hovering by  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
I was expecting another overcast and drizzly field trip, but this time we had lots of sun!  Though it was cold.  I took my SLR this time. This Nature Reserve has a very rich flora and I was able to take lots of interesting photos. Because it is still early in the year, many of them are of immature plants; for example, leaf rosettes without any flower heads. This is excellent learning material, because of course the flowers are only there for part of the year.

The Reserve is close to the River Medway, near the towns of Rochester and Strood, and is right next to the M2 and the High Speed Rail Link. So it is never quiet, but on Saturday we were the only people there.

Right on the lane where we parked were some Coltsfoots, a nice little plant that I used to see a lot in County Durham but which I see very rarely down here.

Coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara.  Nashenden Farm Lane, 14 April 2012.
Coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara.  Nashenden Farm Lane, 14 April 2012.
The flower is about the same colour as a Dandelion, but the florets are packed more densely and the stem is scaly. The flowers come up before the leaves, and among the grass I could see some of each, but never together.

Coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara.  Nashenden Farm Lane, 14 April 2012.
Coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara.  Nashenden Farm Lane, 14 April 2012.
The leaves come up covered with a whitish down, and as the leaf grows and the down stretches it takes on the appearance of a mesh. It rubs off easily, and I have rubbed it off part of this leaf, exposing the shiny new leaf surface below. I used to love doing this as a child.

The path goes round the field that forms the main part of the reserve, following a hedgerow to begin with. Part of the path is on the far side of the hedgerow from the main reserve, next to agricultural land. Here are some of the group in a huddle discussing the small plant to their left.

The group in a huddle next to a Charlock, Sinapis arvensis, at the edge of a field of Rape, Brassica napus.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
The group in a huddle next to a Charlock, Sinapis arvensis.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
It's a common weed of turnips and related crops. The spread of yellow-flowered plants is a field of Oilseed Rape, Brassica rapus. This crop produces rapeseed oil in the UK, and canola oil in America. (The name Rape is derived from the Latin for turnip.) Here is the Charlock flower:

Flower of Charlock, Sinapis arvensis.  Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Flower of Charlock, Sinapis arvensis. Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Next, a pleasant plant of chalky soils; Crosswort. It forms low clumps, and here it is growing vigorously by the side of the path.

Crosswort, Cruciata laevipes. Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Crosswort, Cruciata laevipes. Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
In the absence of flowers we were undecided about this, though really it is distinctively four-sided. But then one of the group came back down the path with a flowering specimen she had spotted further on.

Crosswort, Cruciata laevipes. Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Crosswort, Cruciata laevipes. Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
This is unmistakeable. It is a close relation of the Bedstraws, and there was also a young Hedge Bedstraw plant nearby.

Hedge Bedstraw, Galium album. Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Hedge Bedstraw, Galium album. Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
A much more robust plant, and more upright when mature.

Today's last flower photo is an Early Purple Orchid which was flowering in a small patch of woodland.

Early Purple Orchid, Orchis mascula. Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
Early Purple Orchid, Orchis mascula. Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
In this post, the photo of the group, and the scene below, were taken with my Ixus 100, and the other photos were taken with my EOS 60D and 100mm macro lens.

A track over the field. Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.
A track over the field. Nashenden Down Nature Reserve, 14 April 2012.