Saturday, 27 April 2013


This area is notable for outcroppings of micro-gabbro so we had hoped to see some good base-rich-dependent plants.  Unfortunately, we were just too early as the weather still hadn't caught up, but we did see Wheatears, Swallows and House Martins - the first ones I had seen this year - so spring must be almost here!
Broadwater on a grey and misty day

We started off from  Llech Llwyd, where Elwyn Roberts, the farmer, had let us park, and walked down across sheep-grazed, improved pasture to a boggy area near the shore of the curious Broadwater, the almost land-locked estuary of the River Dysynni.  There were so many brackish-loving plants to be seen but without flowers so  that even with the indispensible 'Poland' to aid identification, we soon felt we could use our time better and decided to go on to the quarry.

Walking along the lane it seemed we had moved on in time with the hedgebanks full of the first Stitchwort, Stellaria holostea, the first Dog Violets, Viola riviniana and the hillsides ablaze with early-flowering Gorse, Ulex europaeus.

Viola riviniana - Spring is on the way!
Blackthorn winter

Arum maculatum already  in flower 
Smiling in spite of the weather!
We reached the quarry where we had a damp lunch with a low-lying grey  mist. Roadstone is still being extracted here and we found some curious plants in the settling tanks, including a Stonewort, Chara sp. [one of those curious 'honorary' vascular plants],  Typha latifolia, Bulrush, and a great swathe of Equisetum telmateia Great Horsetail.

Some people were almost ready to give up by then but the tougher souls said that we should try the other dolerite outcrop at Foel Fendigaid a couple of miles further north where we found more interest in a small flush and further on a grassy hillside which posed us a couple of challenges.
Foel Fendigaid 
We had been discussing the possibility of finding Upright Chickweed. Moenchia erecta [which has been recorded here in the past], when sharp-eyed Heather L found a different plant of the Caryophyllaceae, which we eventually decided was a Spergularia, tentatively identifying it as S media mainly on the characters of the scarious stipules.  Later, Annie found some strange woody stems over two metres long crawling about in the dead bracken, which stumped us for a while, until we decided they were the over-wintering stems of Solanum dulcamara, Bittersweet, only just beginning to leaf, and not enough to make identification easy!

A Minotaur beetle, with its prominent thoracic 'horns'
The joy of our group outings are the many skills that members bring along.  Expertise in bryology, lichens, and in many classes of invertebrates are just a few of their subjects. I feel so lucky to have these opportunities.
I have passed the burrow exits of the Minotaur Beetle Typhaeus typhaeus so many times without connecting them with this fellow. He lives on rabbit and sheep dung, but lets the female do most of the work of excavating shafts underground where the eggs are laid.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Caerdeon Residential

It is just seven weeks today until the start of the Caerdeon Residential [May 28th - 31st] which proved so enjoyable in July last year. Are we tempting fate by trying a different time of year now? This late spring makes it hard to imagine there may be anything to find, but May in 2012 gave us a heatwave!
We were fortunate last year to discover Caerdeon, formerly a “gentleman’s residence” where Darwin once stayed, which is now an outdoor activities centre for Liverpool Hope University.  It is beautifully situated high above the Mawddach Estuary and overlooking The Cader Idris range, and very central for a number of interesting sites.

 Barmouth Harbour
© Copyright Gordon Hatton
We are almost full but still have space for three or so more people to enjoy botanising around the Mawddach estuary including coastal, river, montane and broad-leaved woodland habitats.As before there will be a choice of habitat and difficulty of terrain arranged for each day, or of course people will be free to choose their own locations.  It will be very much a square-bashing exercise and I will be really grateful for your help.

The cost of staying at the centre for three nights, full board, is around £140 - a modest price when I tell you that the food is ample and tasty, with diets of all varieties catered for.  Sleeping accommodation is basic, but everyone has a room to his/her self although it may mean sleeping in a bunk!  We have plenty of room to work in good lighting and wi-fi is freely available.

Rhinog Fach and Y Llethr
I have added some photos of Merioneth to tempt you to this beautiful part of the world.  If any of this interests you, please contact me via this site or the Merioneth page on the BSBI website
Llyn Caer Euni
Llechwedd Fwyalchen
The slope of the Blackbird
Harlech from Morfa Dyffryn
Copyright Tom McCallister

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Merioneth Nats, 28th March 2013

I wonder if I am just getting impatient in my old age or if this year spring is really late in showing signs of arriving. Last year we had so early a summer that everything was over by August so perhaps that's why I am impatient to get going.

*Narcissus pseudonarcissus: our native daffodil?
Last week, four of us met in Talybont on a bright cold day and walked through holiday chalets and caravans to follow the north side of the River Dalar as it approaches the sea.  We made a good list of ruderals including Erophila verna, Common Whitlow-grass.  This little plant is such an opportunist that it fruits almost as soon as it appears, but these were so tiny and showed no signs of any fruits, so I have recorded them as E verna sensu lato without being able to determine them more precisely. Then we walked through the planted areas, which included many cultivated daffodils: However we were all convinced by the nativeness* of a population of perhaps 100 flowering plants on the river bank as we left 'civilisation' and approached the fields.

Roger Cope, botanist!
After a sunny but chilly lunch we looked at a field with many weedy species but pressed on towards the sea hoping to find more small ephemerals, but it took a careful search by Roger on his hands and knees to find even a tiny bit of Cerastium semidecandrum, Little Mouse-ear!  We recorded predictable dune plants like Ammophila arenaria, Marram Grass and Rosa spinosissima, Burnet Rose but the nicest finds near there on shingle were non-flowering plants of Glaucium flavum, Yellow Horned-poppy.

As we trudged back to the village and our cars we all, I think, wondered when we would be able to start recording in earnest, and when the jet stream causing all these cold winds from the east would move away north and let a typical soft, mild spring begin.

* But now determined by Mick Crawley as "a venerable cultivar, Narcissus 'Princeps' "