Sunday, August 31, 2014

Pant y Llyn

We went to Pant y Llyn south of Builth Wells last week and recorded a good number of species, many as confirmation that plants last recorded in the 1990s are still there. This is a great bit of Mid-Wales landscape and well worth walking around at this time of year. The more interesting species are in the boggy pools above the lake itself.

We did record one species that hadn't been recorded here before and that was Crassula helmsii, featured in this blog recently and now the dominant mat around most of the shore of this lake. Definitely not good news.
Pant y Llyn with pools and boggy ground above

New Zealand Pigmyweed or Corchwyn Seland Newydd, Crassula helmsii

Heather above the bracken

Cwmhyndda was the outflow valley from the lake (but now there are two outflows due to damming of the lake).

And Gorse above the bracken at Cwmhynnda
The only botanical picture I took was this:
Equal-leaved Knotgrass or Y canclwm manddail, Polygonum arenastrum

And this is the little alien species still adorning the pavement outside my house:
Malling Toadflax or Trwyn-y-llo Caint, Chaenorhinum origanifolium

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Expected and Unexpected finds

The week started with the unexpected: on a walk to stretch our legs around the block in Hay last Sunday I spotted this right next to the pavement as we passed the Medical Packaging factory near the Meadows.
Autumn Lady's-tresses, Troellig yr hydref or Spiranthes spiralis

This is rarely seen in the county but I suspect may be under-recorded. Now is the time to watch out for it in short turf. But obviously the mower and sheep are its mortal enemies - there could well be places (like this in Hay) where it grows but rarely gets to present a spike for long. The insignificant rosette of basal leaves has withered by the time the flowering spike emerges.

So for my eagle-eyed helpers here is a better picture of one from Uphill near Weston-super-Mare to show what to look out for:

Then after the volunteers picnic at Allt Rhongyr (BWT reserve) we did a walk around the reserve and spotted the significant number of white-variant Devil's Bit Scabious in amongst the swards of the normal blue variety:
Devil's-bit Scabious, Tamaid y cythraul or Succisa pratensis at Allt Rhongyr

Nearly back at the cars we were very pleased to find a second site for the reserve's signature plant:
Autumn Gentian, Crwynllys yr hydref or Gentianella amarella at Allt Rhongyr

But when two of us went to Brechfa Pool to answer the question put to me by a visitor a week earlier: "what is that growing out in the deeper water", I was humbled to find that it was actually just Soft Rush with some Marsh Bedstraw amongst it. Good to establish the answer but not the "interesting sedge" my less-than youthful eyesight had me hoping for. 
Soft-rush or Juncus effusus in wetter than normal conditions

We then did a four mile circular walk through the lanes and byways around Brechfa and the common above the pool, generating a good and varied list of records including this Broad-leaved Helleborine by a roadside:
Broad-leaved Helleborine, Y galdrist lydanddail or Epipactis helleborine

And I finally got the shot I wanted of Bittersweet:
Bittersweet, Elinog or Solanum dulcamara

Finally on Friday I joined a BSBI group very much with an expectation in mind for what we should find as we were looking for the Bog Orchid near Pont ar Elan. Populations fluctuate from year to year (and are never very high).

So it was a relief after many flushes had been examined in detail high and low by a large number of BSBI botanists to finally hear the call from Gillian Foulkes that one was found. It turned out that this - with an associated non-flowering plant and one smaller spike were all we were going to see of this in the whole day.
Bog Orchid, Tegeirian bach y gors or Hammarbya paludosa
One of the tiny flowers close-up. They are upside-down compared to most orchids.
The basal leaves  with small bulbils fringing the edge.

This species does grow in Brecon (and Paul Green confirmed one site last year) but I have yet to see it in my county. It will be tricky to spot if plants are the size of the smaller (more typical ?) one we found at Elan:

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Not a lot to report except...

Keith Noble has spotted a Small Blue butterfly (Cupido minimus) near Brecon:
"A worn female Small Blue, which, going by the Millennium Atlas, is the first Powys record."

This, I read, is our smallest resident butterfly with a wing span that can be a little as 16mm. Unfortunately this specimen may be a long way from it's sole larval food-plant, Kidney Vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria), which is only known to we botany recorders at a few sites on the limestone at the south of our county. It may be that we have a population of this, often coastal, plant nearer though - perhaps on a road verge site where seeding has been done and limestone used. However what I know about butterflies wouldn't fill a postage stamp in large print so let's hope this isn't the last sighting.
Kidney Vetch, Anthyllis vulneraria which I have only ever photographed in coastal locations such as The Burren in Ireland
Heaven for a Small Blue

We postponed the planned expedition to the Black Mountain this week due to poor weather and hope to make it there next week so I decided to walk the bridle way from Brecon to Y Gaer yesterday and got a lot of records - none spectacular. But sometimes a picture opportunity just presents itself in front of your camera as happened here while I was eating my lunch near Cradoc on the way back.
Hogweed or Efwr, Heracleum sphondylium

The camera was out of my bag to record this new viewpoint of the Beacons for me:

I'm also on the lookout on days like that for updates to common species where I feel I haven't yet got a really good picture so I tried to get one of plentiful Bittersweet here:
Bittersweet ir Elinog, Solanum dulcamara
Still not the picture I am seeking !
another in the same vein:
Meadowsweet or Erwain, Filipendula ulmaria
at least I have anthers covered now...

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Visits to Reserves

In the last week I've been to Kenfig National Nature Reserve near Swansea for a BSBI meeting and also taken a visiting BSBI member to one of our local Reserves, another location that is a sort of informal reserve in the National Park and Brecknock Wildlife Trust's newest reserve to make a plant list and record what is in the area. (The latter being our weekly recording meeting.)

Kenfig is a wonderful place but we were shown contrasting aerial images showing that vegetation cover has increased hugely since the 1970s - rather disadvantaging the speciality plants of the reserve which rather like moving sand that creates new habitat from year to year. So we were roped in to assist in monitoring of new "scrapes" where the top layer of vegetation has been deliberately removed to simulate conditions that favour the rarities.
Some serious surveying of newly scraped areas at Kenfig

This is one of the real rarities that is benefiting from the new work - in fact we were not encouraged to walk into one of the scrapes where it has several young plants newly established:
Fen Orchid or Tegeirian y fign galchog, Liparis loeselii
(Past flowering)

Also among the dunes were:
Round-leaved Wintergreen or Glesyn-y-gaeaf deilgrwn, Pyrola rotundifolia

Autumn Gentian or Crwynllys yr hydref, Gentianella amarella

Then on Monday I took my guest to see some sites near Hay including the only Welsh site for this sedge
Flat-sedge or Corsfrwynen arw, Blysmus compressus
(very abundant at Henallt Common this year.)

Henallt Common isn't a reserve and is actually a common shared by four farms but The Brecon Beacons National Park and Natural Resources Wales look after it well.

Then we visited Brechfa Pool - a magical location even if there were no special plants or birds to see. It is a Brecknock Wildlife Trust Reserve. This is the view from above the pool which shows a panorama of the Black Mountains; Brecon Beacons and just in the distance The Black Mountain at the other end of the county.

But BWT are battling to control an alien invader (which we saw all too much of) there:
New Zealand Pigmyweed or Corchwyn Seland Newydd, Crassula helmsii

This however was a welcome sight on the drying mud:
Mudwort or Lleidlys, Limosella aquatica

Finally the recording group (well two of us) did a comprehensive botanical sweep of BWT's new Cae Lynden Reserve near Ystradgynlais on Thursday. We saw Golden Rod, Devil's Bit Scabious and lots of different Willowherbs but I only photographed:
Slender Rush or Brwynen fain, Juncus tenuis

Heather or Grug, Calluna vulgaris

It was a perfect day for such work - not too hot and sunny all day.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Brambles, Roads and Car Parks

I spent three days in North Wales on a Brambles Course last weekend. They are now slightly less of a mystery than they were but I'm only starting on a difficult road if I am going to get to recognise easily even the more common of about 500 species !

Rubus ulmifolius - the only sexually active species and quite common
(one I ought to get familiar with)

I have many more pictures from this course on but won't burden this blog with any more!

On Wednesday the group (well two of us) went along to help Steph record a long Road Verge Nature Reserve near Henrhyd Falls. While waiting at our rendezvous in Brecon at the BBNP Car Park (police Car park also) I noticed a good stand of the newly named Knapweed I featured last week. So anyone who wants to examine this species can go along and see it easily there...

Slender Knapweed, Centaurea debeauxii at the at the BBNP Car Park in Brecon

At the roadside near Henrhyd we found many interesting things including:

Common Hemp-nettle or Y benboeth, Galeopsis tetrahit
Zigzag Clover or Meillionen igam-ogam, Trifolium medium
Beech Fern or Rhedynen gorniog, Phegopteris connectilis