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Friday, January 18, 2019

Making a good start to the year

Choosing the right day for a botanical outing is the number one requirement in January and we managed that. It was cold but dry and sunny - ideal.

The outing was inspired by BIS (Biodiversity Information Service for Powys and the Brecon Beacons National Park) who regularly invite us and others to record a 1km square which, as yet, has no records at all. The square for January happened to be in a area we must focus on for botanical records this year so it was a good excuse for an early survey. But, in the spirit of the request, we also put our heads together to record as many of the non-plant living things that we could, adding a further 26 assorted species to our botanical list of over 100 records.

(These included: Reindeer Lichen, Blushing Bracket, King Arthur's Cake Fungus, Common Mole, Tamarisk Moss and we assume Yellow Meadow Ants deep inside the anthills we sat on for our lunch. Birds ably identified by Alan as the rest of us scrabbled in the mud were:  Buzzard, Raven, Crow, Chaffinch, Red Kite, Stonechat, Starling, Blackbird and Mistle Thrush.)


The lunch spot

The view towards Mynydd Troed and Castel Dinas (with The Dragon's Back just in the far right)

One of the many Hawthorns some of which, like this one, were encrusted with several lichens
Hypogymnia tubulosa

Usnea spp. (a Beard Lichen)

Mistletoe, Uchelwydd or Viscum album on one of the Hawthorns

And, on the way back to the car, the moon was rising over the ridge between Mynnyd Llysiau and Pen Twyn Glas

Thursday, January 03, 2019

BSBI New Year Plant Hunt number five

We went out on our 5th New Year Plant Hunt last Saturday - technically, according to the calendar, in 2018 - but this was the hunt for 2019 as now defined by the BSBI.

I may as well admit that it was our joint worst performance so far but, as always, it was rewarding and provided useful records beyond the tally of those plants actually managing to flower in the rather adverse conditions.

We saw an awful lot of dandelions before we found the one plant just opening its flowers and this was the general case for most common species. Not a single Hazel in the chosen area was shedding pollen (a requirement to count as "flowering") - but, of course, I saw some fully mature catkins on the way back into Hay by the roadside...

But I choose our areas partly because they are places we need to make more records in and we got to know this under-recorded area well, finding a pretty certain Vicia tetrasperma plant right by Pontsticill dam which will make a first record for the area since 2000.

I hope to see something like this in a revisit at flowering time:
Smooth Tare Ffacbysen lefn or Vicia tetrasperma (from the Gwent Levels)

I photographed this from the dam wall base to examine further in the pub at lunch:
Cat's-ear Melynydd or Hypochaeris radicata

We also saw an undoubtedly planted Berberis darwinii or Darwin's Barberry in the reservoir car park - with one flower (which helped identification).

The dam has a spooky "Bell-mouth spillway" - there must be a horror story involving one of these !


I have a video including the sound even a small amount of overflow creates here:

Bell-mouth Spillway video

Our previous hunts:

Builth 2015 (19 flowering)
Llangorse 2016 (19 again)
Ystradgynlais 2017 (18)
Crickhowell 2018 (53 - we will probably never surpass this!)
Pontsticill 2019 (well last days of 2018 really!) - this blog (18)

There have been eight altogether since the event started and "we" have participated in five. (Myself in four.)

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Old Railway and a Tunnel

 A few of us set out with permission (it's private land) to walk from The Byddwn Nature Reserve to the tunnel entrance on the old railway line the reserve occupies part of.

It was a good winter walk and we did record a rare-for-the-county sedge in the wet area near the tunnel so small steps at this time of year towards the Atlas recording project that mainly occupies us.

The tunnel is now a haven for bats and is locked so we obviously didn't go in.

The semi-bridge for the Mill Stream that is part of the reserve. 

I say semi-bridge as it is substantial on this side and just a culvert on the other...

The tunnel on the Hereford, Hay and Brecon Railway

This part of the railway followed the course of the 1816 Hay Railway, a tram-road worked by horses connecting the town of Hay with the Brecknock and Abergavenny Canal at Brecon. This tunnel required widening and deepening for use by standard gauge trains. The original 674-yard long tunnel opened on May 7, 1816 as part of the Brecon to Hay tramway.

A peek inside - remarkable how modern cameras can pick up more than the eye can see,




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And totally unrelated - a trip to Yorkshire via Hayfield has me photographing all around this very patient and still heron on the River Kinder at Hayfield...

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Mission accomplished

There are still useful botanical searches to do at this time of year, as I explained to the landowner when asking permission to go on his land (he wondered why I wasn't interested in his Hay meadow orchids - which I will be next summer).

Our target, Rough Horsetail, is wintergreen and a Rare Plant Register plant for the county. It was last seen at this site in 1992; we have a new site discovered in 2017 below Pen y Fan. There is one more potential site for re-finding it - last seen there in 1985.

It was a lovely day for a walk up Cusop Dingle, just the other side of the Welsh Border, for the walk up to the farm entrance, which immediately crosses the Dulas Brook and thus got us back into Wales.

We enjoyed discussing and recognising some of the varied leaves on the banks alongside the farm track - plenty more to record when we return in the summer! The woodland around a tributary of the Dulas was easy to access and not too bad to get through. We found what we were looking for after a few hundred yards of roughish woodland dingle walk along the stream:
Our new BSBI Welsh Officer, Barbara, photographing the Rough Horsetail after crossing the stream to see it closer. We soon found other clumps on the side we had started on.

This picture of the Dulas Brook in Cusop Dingle was taken some time go:

It was nice to see this flowering in November under the trees.
Wild Angelica, Llysiau’r angel or Angelica sylvestris

And here is the target plant:
Rough Horsetail, Marchrawnen y gaeaf or Equisetum hyemale

We returned via Offa's Dyke Path and noted more Hawthorns on that route with mistletoe than I had seen before.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

A great day out

It's not too late to be recording botany at all as we proved on the last day of October.
Joan views a Brecon Mountain Railway train with the Brecon Beacons to the left. (Picture by Sue)

The walk up to the common had been rewarding - here is another view of Corn Du, Pen y Fan and Cribyn.

And the Mountain Railway Train again!

The botany was good as well with a fairly long list for the time of year.

A couple of highlights:
Parsley-piert, Troed y dryw or Aphanes arvensis

Common Whitlowgrass (probably), Llysiau’r-bystwn ar or Erophila verna agg.


None of us photographed this - but we did see it in flower:
Mouse-ear-hawkweed, Clust y llygoden or Pilosella officinarum (Was known as Hieracium pilosella)

Always a welcome sight.

But it was cold a lot of the time (new wooly hat)
Sue's picture again

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Recent Highlights

I've been slow to update this recently so here is a mainly pictorial summary of the highlights from the last few months.
Wild Angelica, Llysiau’r angel or Angelica sylvestris from a wet woodland near Brecon.

Good hunting on the Epynt finding many plants not seen elsewhere in the 10km square.
Including this spotted very late in the season by Steph:
Flea Sedge or Carex pulicaris

And who knew what gems lay in wait alongside the apparently featureless road from the Beacons reservoir towards Penderyn. We need to explore in the middle of the year in future years.
Mossy Saxifrage and Hawkweeds on a ledge in an abandoned limestone quarry.


With great views as well...
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Creeping Willow, Corhelygen or Salix repens high up above Aber flowering "out of time".

My break in Ireland

Sika Deer - common near Glengarriff in West Cork I am told (but still rarely seen).

Western Gorse, Eithinen fân or Ulex gallii which is common with us but seems to have much finer needles in West Cork.

And of course
Fuchsia, Ffiwsia or Fuchsia magellanica adorning the West Cork hedgerows.

Variegated Chestnut
I'm assuming this is a variety of Sweet Chestnut, Castanwydden bêr or Castanea sativa. In any case the warden we spoke to at the John F Kennedy Arboretum was very proud of this tree and wanted us especially to seek it out. The collection there is magnificent and this is very worthwhile place to visit in County Wexford. We have passed by for over 40 years! We also saw a Red Squirrel there.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Round up

Two of us made the climb up to Llyn Cwm Lwch under Corn Ddu - well worth it for the lake itself.


The views were great as we climbed and we saw many birches - some if which I am sure are the Iberian Birch that has only been realised to be common in Wales in the last few decades.
Iberian White Birch or Betula celtiberica

The lake had some interesting species growing around it and masses of this growing in it.
Delicate Stonewort or Chara virgata

I thought Chara vulgaris - Common Stonewort but I was wrong - thanks referee Nick Stewart for putting me right and explaining you wouldn't get that in this sort of lake. [update 3/1/19]

We collected samples of Blinks which was common and this one flowered on my windowsill. Its seeds look to be Montia fontana subs. fontana. The tiny flowers are hardly ever this well open in the wild.
Blinks, Porpin y ffynnon or Montia fontana

The next outing was to the riverside and woodland at Abercraf, yielding a long list with many ferns. eg
Borrer's Male-fern or Dryopteris borreri (Dryopteris affinis subsp. borreri)

Then by the New River in Cheshunt, north of London I noticed a population of this which is also spreading along the Brecon Canal - obviously a favoured environment for the plant.
Bristly Oxtongue, Tafod-y-llew gwrychog or Helminthotheca echioides (Picris echioides) 

Several of spent a day helping Steph survey some fields near Allt Rhongyr that are of interest and we found a long list of plants including this which isn't seen at all often in Brecknock:
Small Toadflax, Trwyn-y-llo bach or Chaenorhinum minus 

The fungi were abundant andChris, who was with us, was able to name most of them.
Blusher or Amanita rubescens

I called in at Cae Egwys reserve on my way to an area near Upper Chapel and this new species for the reserve was flowering. This is the agricultural species of Flax and probably derives from that source but may establish at the reserve, you never know.
Flax, Llin or Linum usitatissimum

My recording near Upper Chapel included a stint on this old byway - now a bridle path.

Not a lot seems to be known about this, obviously once important, route. It starts at Sarnau near Llandefaelog and ends at the border of the Epynt Army Range. But old maps from before the range was there also show it going up to the uplands and stopping so the Range isn't the reason for the ending. In the distance can be seen Ffynnon-oer (Cold Spring?) and the road carrying on round the hill that has Gaer Fach at its summit. Further south the route passes by Battle Hill.
The old route passing Gaer Fach and Ffynnon-oer

This was one quite surprising find in the valley below the area shown above.
Wood Horsetail, Marchrawnen y coed or Equisetum sylvaticum 

And this was right where I parked the car.
Red Bartsia, Gorudd or Odontites vernus 

Then, helping Steph again with Local Wildlife Sites, we saw a wide variety of wet woodland pasture plants and other gems in open pasture near Llangammarch Wells
Rostkov's Eyebright, Effros blodau mawr or Euphrasia officinalis subsp. pratensis or Euphrasia rostkoviana

Fen Bedstraw, Briwydd y fign or Galium uliginosum
Most things weren't actually flowering though but quite identifiable.

Other botanical finds recently have included:
Green Spleenwort, Duegredynen werdd or Asplenium viride
Found by Anne at Craig y Cilau - first record for the area for quite a while.

Field Scabious, Clafrllys y maes or Knautia arvensis
Not common these days in Brecknock (and very like the commoner-for-us Small Scabious found at eg Allt Rhongyr). Steph found this on the Brecon canal bank.

And lastly an oddity. This turned out to simply be the common Figwort minus flower colouring - but for a while we thought possibly something more exciting.
Common Figwort, Gwrnerth or Scrophularia nodosa - not it's usual colour at all!