Saturday, 21 September 2013

BSBI Recorders' Conference, September 2013

Always a highlight, this year's conference was no exception although the format was different, with all activities taking place at The Gateway in Shrewsbury, and members staying at the Premier Inn instead of the more familiar Field Studies Centre at Preston Montford.

The weekend kicked off after an excellent buffet lunch on Friday afternoon with some challenging talks  - needless to say Fred Rumsey and Richard Bateman both had their audience on the edge of their seats, talking about alien ferns and orchid taxonomy respectively. How delightful to hear of the slimming down of Dactylorhiza classification! Jim McIntosh's talk about his stay on Tristan da Cunha was taxing in a different way with his pictures of botanising in a barren and very difficult terrain. Saturday's talks included Pete Stroh's on a new Red List for England and a delightful vignette by Irina Belyaeva-Chamberlain, our new Salix referee, on her father's interest in Salix cultivars and how it aroused her own deep knowledge of the genus.

Workshops occupied the rest of the weekend's indoor activities:  The Big Database was on the menu at most sessions.  This is constantly evolving so it is well worth updating one's understanding of the immense versatility of its search functions.  Other interests included Conifers by Matt Parratt, Charophytes by Richard Lansdown and Roses with Roger Maskew.  As ever, there was so much enjoyable fare to absorb, what with all the networking to be done as well!

A gaggle of botanists watching Tim Rich at the river's edge
Sunday morning was fine and dry as we walked the "Loop" within the River Severn, trying to update records for the town. I concur with Arthur Chater's remark: "I specially enjoyed the Sunday morning walk with so many good botanists discussing identifications of such a wide range of species." I always feel sad at the end of this event so it was good to have Wendy's company on my way home.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Traeth Glaslyn - 26th August

What a lovely day we had - a super reserve and we were blessed by the lovely late summer sunshine that has been such a wonderful compensation for the long, cold spring. We were 9 members, one of the best turn-outs ever: I've circulated a list of 165 species seen, and there may be more to come. I think we all felt there is more work to be done in this area, and I look forward to a return visit at a different time of year.

Looking north up the Glaslyn river
to the new bridge carrying the A487 
We spent a long time recording in the lane which runs alongside the reserve and perhaps we would have been wiser to get up to the alder carr at the north end first.  However we made an excellent list with several names new to the hectad mostly due to more accurate recording such as Pastinaca sativa subsp sylvestris, Wild Parsnip rather than P. sativa s.l. Non-native species included Red Oak, Quercus rubra, Wilson's Honeysuckle, Lonicera nitida and Lodgepole Pine, Pinus contorta, all planted, and a lot of a Michaelmas Daisy, Aster, provisionally determined as  Aster x salignus.

Persicaria minor

On the reserve itself we were pleased to find Eleocharis parvula, Dwarf Spike-rush, washed up in the more brackish pans to the south of the area we covered, and Persicaria minor, quite abundant in many parts of the northern, less-brackish areas.  It was a pity to see so much Crassula helmsii but it seemed to be well-confined to a single area, perhaps where the vegetation was less robust and it could get established.We got a very good list of other freshwater and brackish marsh plants but didn't find the iconic plant of the reserve, the Welsh Mudwort, Limosella australis. Better luck next time!

Osprey watching at lunchtime

We had an idyllic picnic in the sun on the water's edge and the crowning delight was seeing an Osprey flying over the river.  We set off home in ones and twos, well-contented with the day's work.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

June and July - the summer slipping away

Anglesey -
Burial chamber near Moelfre
Anglesey - Cors Bodeilio:
Dactylorhiza purpurella

I have deserted Merioneth and this blog almost since Caerdeon.  Only a few days after that was over [when it was still very cold and un-summery] we had the BSBI AGM in Anglesey.

Almost straight afterwards we were in France. Martin and Clare Rand arranged a wonderful botanical holiday just south of Auxerre, in the heart of the Burgundy country. We stayed in a gite big enough to take 11 of us in comfort, with a large kitchen and open-plan living room, and its own pool. This was more than welcome as the weather got quite hot as the week went on. 

Botanising in Burgundy
The botanical highlights were numerous including some wonderful arable weeds such as Althaea hirsuta, Hairy Mallow and Legousia speculum-veneris, Venus’ Looking-glass.  Perhaps the highlight for me among so much superb habitat was the woodland with many orchids including my favourite Cephalanthera rubra, Red Helleborine. Martin’s knowledge of the region and its botanical riches was amazing and enabled him to take us straight to the best areas for plants and grand scenery.

Le Buget at nightfall

From there John and I went to Le Buget, our “second home” in Auvergne and we managed some good botany though the grain harvest was well under way and many of the arable weeds had disappeared.  Most of the time, though we were working hard in the garden, clearing heaps of building rubble and laying doorsteps etc.

I returned to Llandrillo in early July to find a garden looking more like a jungle and clearing it really has had to be a priority, but we had a good field meeting during the last week of July.
Yellow Water-lilies [Nuphar lutea] on Llyn Cwmorthin
Five members of Merioneth Nats met in Tan–y-Grisiau, among the extensive slate workings of Ffestiniog.  We recorded in two tetrads, notching up 170 records altogether including updating Andy Jones’ 1997 record of Floating Water-plantain, Luronium natans.  

Luronium natans
Photo: chinch gryniewicz
Coincidentally, I was sent another record of the same special plant with a superb photograph which I’ve put in here – it gives a much better idea of it at its best than my poor efforts!

Disused quarry house by Llyn Cwmorthin

Disused house below Llyn Cwmorthin 
The walk up to Llyn Cwmorthin was interesting with many relics of former quarrying times and showing the uplands so much more populated than nowadays.  What a bleak life it must have been - but giving rise to so much of the richness of Welsh society and culture.