Thursday, 24 October 2013

Moel Fferna 24 October 2013

A pause among the heather
How can we be so lucky?  After a week of very heavy downpours we set off in bright sunshine which stayed with us most of the day.  It was not the most productive botanical excursion but a really nice walk in lovely country.  We drove as far as the open moorland and then connected with the North Berwyn Way towards the summit of Moel Fferna.

On the North Berwyn Way

We left the path when David spotted a patch of bright yellow vegetation which looked promisingly different, and proved to be a dense stand of Narthecium ossifragum, Bog Asphodel, with Cranberry, Vaccinium oxycoccus but there were few other bog plants to be seen.  We then paid the price for leaving the path as we had to struggle through rank heather for much of the last part of the journey, so, of course we made that the excuse for a lunch stop.  Then off again through more difficult walking conditions - but at last the summit was reached!

Some of us did reach the summit!
We decided that as time was getting short and the terrain not very appealing we should return more or less by the route that we had come out - so we failed to botanise the small river which runs through the valley.  But there is always another day, and we were well ready for a cup of tea back in Llandrillo!

Records for the day were few, but it was good to find that we added 28 new hectad records in our score of 42 new species for the tetrad.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Cofnod conference

Cofnod [Welsh for a record] is our North Wales Local Records Centre and yesterday was their annual conference - a chance to meet recorders and ecologists from all over North Wales.

There was a good presence from BSBI - four Vice-county Recorders, including our retiring President Ian Bonner, who gave an interesting presentation on his progress towards an Anglesey [VC52] flora
Ian Bonner at Abermenai
Photo:Louise Marsh

I took a poster highlighting our local groups in North Wales [where every county now has one]


BSBI Local Groups
There are ongoing programmes of field trips in all the North Wales vice-counties.
Everyone is welcome and it is a brilliant opportunity for people interested in plants to enjoy days in the field with like-minded people and there is always something new to learn!
Anglesey Flora Group 
A field day with the Anglesey Flora Group
Merioneth Naturalists/Grwp Natur Meirionydd
Dolgoch Falls near Tywyn, Merioneth
Caernarfon Group VC49
Teaching in the field
FlintshireRecording VC51
Orchis mascula, Early Purple Orchid,
in Flintshire woods
Denbighshire Group VC50
Epipactis phyllanthes, Green-flowered Helleborine,
at Alyn Waters

Nigel Brown, who is Curator-Manager of Treborth Botanic Gardens,  University of Bangor, gave a fascinating talk on his twenty years of moth-trapping in the Gardens. One of his students talked about his work on the polymorphism of the Common Marbled Carpet  as an example of the practical uses of this work  - apart from the continuing fascination of these beautiful insects.

Other talks on mammal, amphibian, reptile and bird recording showed the versatility of Cofnod's database and online recording facility. The Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Trust, in particular, uses Cofnod to produce distributional maps of their records.  The BSBI of course deals with a larger number of species/ records than many of the groups currently using Cofnod's database and we have our own Distributional Database, but I left the conference feeling confident that for botanists in North Wales anyway, the promise of reaching an overall data exchange agreement is now closer than before.

Cofnod put on another great day of networking and learning about the work of recorders of other biological groups.  Their hospitality was as ever generous and I am sure I am not alone in taking away ideas of ongoing benefit.  Many thanks to Roy Tapping, Aisling Carrick and all the team, for such a good show.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Roses Workshop, September 2013

Kate Thorne offered this taxonomic training workshop as part of the BSBI's annual programme of meetings, which are advertised nationally. Members of the Society are welcome to attend free and learn from experts at events which would be quite expensive if they were run, for example, by the Field Studies Council.  They are designed for all levels from complete beginners to vice-county recorders [VCRs]. Last year a Sedge training day was attended by at least four VCRs - and another meeting was designed to introduce people newly interested in botany to the important plant families of Britain

Ruth's amazing rose-petal cake
Kate has cultivated a wide variety of native roses in her garden in rural Shropshire, so we were able to see them "in captivity" before we went out to see them in the wild.  The day started with a small group - just six of us - enjoying coffee in Kate's farmhouse kitchen before we got down to work, with remarkable cakes, appropriately decorated by the creative Ruth Dawes with rose-petal icing!

Roses in Kate's garden

We looked at the three main groups within the genus, Dog Roses, Downy Roses and Sweet Briars, and the characters which separated them.  That made it so much easier to assign them to species - as with many groups it is much easier to recognise the salient features when all the extraneous information is cut away. We also discussed the complex, asymmetric reproduction of hybrid roses, in which the seed parent often provides four-fifths of the genetic material as against the pollen parent.

Rose identification near the Stiperstones
After seeing the plants in Kate's garden we went off to look at roses in several sites near the Stiperstones, and were able to practise our new knowledge. It's such a lovely area - and we finished off with a splendid tea at The Bog Visitor Centre, which is "a gas-lit Victorian former school..... one of the few remaining buildings of a lost lead and barytes-mining village." Their cakes were superb and sent us home well-satisfied with our day.

Thanks to Ruth Dawes for all the photographs