Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Spring tide inundation of the endangered moss Bryum marratti

Recently I've had the pleasure of working with Dr Des Callaghan, on a PlantLifeCymru funded project. Part of the project aims to characterise the setting of Bryum marratti in respect to sea water and fresh water in the upper salt marsh areas at Whiteford and Pembrey.

We are writing up our results of this stage of the project now, however we have a little taster video from last weeks high tide, which provides evidence that at least some of the colonies are directly inundated by sea water during high tides.

Best not too say too much more before I crunch the numbers, but here is a video for you all to enjoy until we have something more substantial.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Coal spoil at Penygroes

A total of 60 bryos were recorded growing directly on coal spoil at this development site in Penygroes, vc44. Most interest was focused on the mildly basic 'Cratoneuron filicinum-Bryum pseudotriquetrum' seepages found around the margins of the site, with noteworthy species including Bryoerythrophyllum ferruginascens and Palustriella falcata. Both were rare on site and it's the first time that I have encountered the latter on spoil, the location of the only patch I saw shown below. 

The central plateau was much less interesting, being dominated by Campylopus introflexus and Lotus corniculatus, which together with locally frequent Cladonia spp. formed a distinctive coal spoil community.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Upper reaches of the Afon Tywi

The rocky upper reaches of Afon Tywi, north of Lynn Brianne, couldn't be more different from the lowland, meandering section of the river with which I'm familiar from winter Brown Hairstreak egg surveys.
A couple of weekends ago we stayed a night at Dolgoch Hostel in Ceredigion, just a field away from the Tywi (which here forms the boundary between VC46 and VC42). Sam had provided me with a list of rare bryos to look out for, and though I failed to find any of these there was still plenty of interest - for me at least. Most notable, perhaps, was the abundance of Atrichum crispum, here growing on the thin soil layer on top of large river boulders.
I was also impressed by the quantity of Andraea rothii ssp falcata on the in-channel rocks, sometimes growing not far above the water level. A small patch of the lichen Lasallia pustulata (please correct my ID if wrong!) was growing in the same habitat.
The river itself was full of great wefts of Fontinalis squamosa, and Oligotrichum hercynicum was frequent on steep gravelly banks.
I'm a little puzzled by this falcate Campylopus, which had the nerve filling about a third of the leaf base. It might just be C. flexuosus, but is almost lacking in tomentum and doesn't have any obvious coloured cells in the basal angles of the leaf.

Sam tells me this part of the Tywi has been little studied bryologically. It surely warrants a proper look.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Sea Frillwort on Skomer

During our annual pilgrimage to Skomer last Saturday, I didn't do any bryophyte recording, or much else for that matter, as it was nice just to relax enjoy the island ambience. However, I did get on my knees to have a quick scan of the Fossombronia in the farmhouse courtyard in the hope of finding capsules in the extreme drought conditions - as expected, this proved to be 'fruitless' exercise. But I did have success elsewhere, in fact, not too far from the farmhouse, along the edge of the path that heads out towards the Wick, where it passes over one of the Mugearite outcrops, there was a nice Fossombronia colony with plenty of dried up, but seemingly intact capsules. Examination of spore and stem anatomy last night provided confirmation of F. maritima as a Skomer species.
barren courtyard Foss.
fertile footpath Foss. with Archidium

I never photographed the location, but as I didn't get
on my knees too often I'm pretty sure this was the spot.
In any case my ref for the colony was SM7268409272
The main direct associates here included Archidium alternifolium, Campylopus introflexus, Erodium maritimum, Lophocolea semiteres, Plantago coronopus and Sagina subulata.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

check up on Southbya in Lydstep

On the way back from St Davids (long weekend camping) I decided to pop to Lydstep to check out Sams Southbya tophacea colony he had recorded back in 2012?  I am slowly visiting all the Welsh populations, just Barafundle Bay left. I had a quick scrabble up the cliff and after about 40 minutes I had identified a few very shrivelled up colonies. To say a few I mean three at best, none more than 10 cm in area and all on loose open ground of which there wasn't much (see general site photo). So good to confirm it is still there (SS 09150 97747).

Interesting that it was growing in the unconsolidated and quite loose 'scree' made up of fragments of limestone from the host bedrock (Carboniferous Pembroke Limestone Group) mixed together with clay and soil, rather than directly on more permanent tufa forming seepages (like the VOG populations). I could only find it on more open areas of ground, which were very limited.

The weather was gloriously dry, so I would hope to find more  if everything wasn't so shrivelled up, mind you, not sure id fancy climbing that cliff in the wet.

As usual I was armed with a totally underwhelming iphone4 for photos, so do 'enjoy'.

location on cliff
general view of site, with lots of Contoneaster and other ground cover..including Hannah busy getting a closer look. 

close up, Southbya on the unconsolidated material rather than direct on the bedrock. 

Colony of shrivelled up Sothbya tophacea  (I know another terrible photo, was checked with x10 hand lense)

Saturday, 6 May 2017

A weekend on Lundy - mosses and liverworts

Clare and I spent the bank holiday weekend on the magical Lundy Island, sailing from Bideford after dropping Bea and Johnny with their grandparents in Sussex.  South Wales was visible from Lundy (when it wasn't raining), so perhaps it isn't stretching the Blog title too much to mention some of the bryophytes I bumped into during our visit.  Clare enjoys walking for walking's sake, whereas I walk to get to recording sites, but we had a good compromise where Clare strode between headlands and waited with a book whilst I made a few stops in between; we did plenty of walking together too.

On our first day included a walk up the west coast of the island as far as the Halfway Wall.  The path down to the Battery produced Anthoceros punctatus (photo) and Tritomaria exsectiformis (photo), whilst rocky heathland a little further north held Kurzia sylvatica.  A flushed area (photo) with Bryum alpinum also supported Fossombronia sp with violet rhizoids, which I suspect is F. maritima; I'm growing some on in a tube in the hope of sporophytes.  Pogonatum nanum (photo) was fruiting beautifully on a bank nearby.

Our second day was marred by heavy rain in the morning, but we ventured out a few times along the east side of the island.  Bryological highlight was Frullania teneriffae (new for VC4) alongside Scapania gracilis in the VC Quarry (photo).  Exploration of the wooded Millcombe valley produced Epipterygium tozeri, Pohlia lutescens and Plagiochila asplenioides, whilst Schistidium rivulare was a surprise on rocks in the Quarter Wall Pond.

Our third and final day involved a stomp along 'The High Street' to the north end of the island (4 km away from The Village) followed by a walk back along the east side.  Lepidozia cupressina (photo) and Dicranum scottianum (photo) grew together on a tor just south of Gannets Coombe - like Dartmoor in miniature - and there were Cephalozia connivens and C. lunulifolia nearby.  Salt-sprayed turf near the northern lighthouse held Hennediella heimii, and a Bryum nearby looked interesting but was unfortunately non-fertile.  Finally, an exploration of Landing Bay while we waited for the boat back to the mainland produced Schistidium maritimum and Weissia perssonii at last: most of the island is too steep to allow descent to the maritime areas favoured by these species.

I don't actually know how many of the 100+ species that I recorded (with 8-fig GPS readings) were new for the island.  The BBS dataset seems extremely incomplete, especially for liverworts, with some broad-date 20th century records and a list made by Mark Pool in 1997; I added nearly 30 species to the hectad tally according to the BBS data.  However, Jean Paton's data from her visit in 1975 does not appear in the BBS dataset and several of my 'additions' were already recorded by her (unsurprisingly!), and Jean spotted several liverwort during her "few hours" on the island that I missed.  The Lundy Field Society reports may include other liverworts, but the issues that I looked at didn't have anything.  Mosses seem to be even more under-recorded, and the only reference I can find is a list from 1959 with IDs by Michael Proctor, and it is that list which forms the basis of the BBS data.  I will, of course, make sure that my records go to the BBS and the Lundy Field Society.

As well as the bryophytes, we saw Lundy's famous Lundy Cabbage (none of the plants by the paths were in flower unfortunately), Balm-leaved Figwort, Primrose Peerless and Ophioglossum azoricum.  Star lichens were Teloschistes flavicans and Anaptychia ciliaris subsp mamillata.  Bird highlights were the Lundy rarities Yellowhammer and Stock Dove, which I found during our wanderings, and there were various Warblers around, Black Redstart, Pied Flycatcher, Whimbrel etc.  Lundy really is a fabulous place for a wildlife-rich holiday!

Friday, 5 May 2017


While on a trip to Banwen and Onllwyn a few days ago, principally to check out some old meadows in the vicinity of the washery, H and I took a brief stroll along the path that bisects Gors Llwyn SSSI. Sam and others have recorded some nice wetland bryophytes here, including Hamatocaulis vernicosus, Kurzia pauciflora and Nardia geoscyphus. A good part of the SSSI is in Glamorgan (in NPT in fact), so it adds some significant species to the county list, and once upon a time there was a population of Trollius europaeus here. Carex elata, in one of its few inland sites in Glamorgan, is within easy reach of the path, just inside the county boundary, as is a nice photogenic colony of  Plagiomnium elatum along with Straminergon stramineum.

Plagiomnium elatum, Gors Llwyn

Straminergon stramineum, Gors Llwyn

The old meadows near the washery are of significant interest. One holds small populations of Epipactis palustris and Samolus valerandi, both increasingly rare in wetlands away from the coast in South Wales. Next door (and opposite Gors Llwyn) there is a superb swampy habitat with huge amounts of Bogbean, Marsh Cinquefoil and Water Horsetail and other M27 species. 
Yesterday, after reading George's account of Sam's Kenfig course, followed by a quick phone call to Barry, we went on an Amblyodon and Moerckia twitch. We spent most of the afternoon on our hands and knees with reading glasses on, occasionally loosing the will to live while searching for Moerckia! But success...thanks boys.

Amblyodon dealbatus, Kenfig

Moerckia flotoviana, Kenfig

Thursday, 4 May 2017

A visit to Darren Fach SSSI

A week ago I visited Darren Fach and Darren Fawr - on the Carboniferous Limestone north of Merthyr Tydfil - with 4 NRW colleagues to remember the massive role that David Stevens played in Welsh nature conservation.  We paid our respects to Sorbus leyana and Dryopteris submontana, following in David's footsteps, and I made a search for one of David's favourite Welsh bryophytes, Tortella densa.  His initial discovery of this species, new for Wales, was on the limestone of Great Orme's Head, and the only other Welsh record comes from the Clwyd limestone near Llangollen, but I hoped that Darren Fawr might offer a good chance.  The Tortella hunt was disappointing, as were the bryophytes of the general area, which is very dry and exposed.  Final tally for the area (split between SO0110, SO0210 & SO0209) was less than 50 species, with a few additions to tetrads I hope.  Highlights were Seligeria acutifolia and Grimmia hartmannii in the woodland below Darren Fach.  My previous visit to the southern end of Darren Fawr in SO0209 was similarly bryo-poor.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Kenfig dune slack day

I enjoyed an excellent introduction to dune slack bryophytes today, organised by Hannah Shaw of Freshwater Habitats Trust and led by Sam. Despite not finding any Petalophyllum there were plenty of highlights.
One of several splendid fruiting patches of Amblyodon dealbatus (thanks to Barry for the tip on where to find it).
Several thalli of Moerckia flotoviana found by Sam at SS78738194 (first site record since 2012?).

Pseudocalliergon lycopodioides at SS788820.