Friday, 20 November 2020

Lovely Jubbly

This season I'm hoping to focus on the Glamorgan part of Caerphilly county, much of which has received little attention in the past (though it looks promising). Today I had a drizzly outing to the woods west of Llanbradach. After a couple of hours I'd seen most of the usual woodland suspects and generally had an enjoyable time despite the drizzle, but had seen nothing out of the ordinary and was on the point of turning back with the school run looming. So imagine my surprise when I came across a small stream in a not especially humid east-facing location which had several good sized patches of Jubula hutchinsiae. It was growing on rocks over a reasonable length of streamside habitat at ST145898.

This is the 7th Glamorgan tetrad and the most easterly to date, and only 500m from the VC35 border. I remember Sam saying in the past that there were no VC35 records from the west of the county - is that still the case?

After finding the Jubula, I scrambled up and down the stream for a little while and found some Heterocladium heteropterum var. heteropterum and a couple of nice patches of Hookeria lucens.

Monday, 17 August 2020

Sphagnum Medium - A first for VC41

In July of 2020 I was fortunate enough to stumble (quite literally!) onto a hummock of Sphagnum medium within the Eastern area of the Pen-y-Cymoedd wind farm on Mynydd Ystradffernol. The area in which it was found is far from what anyone would be able to describe as optimal for bog vegetation. It exists on an area in between extensive spruce coupes and Molinia dominated wet modified bog with large amounts of associated drainage, although the hummock I found sits along the edge of a more natural looking erosion feature with a higher Calluna presence. The peat itself is around 0.6m in depth around the location, which is less that I originally expected, grading into over 2m deep within 100m.

General habitat surrounding Sphagnum hummock

A return visit on the 31st to search for any further species of interest didn’t yield any more results for Sphagnum medium but there are some impressive hummocks containing a variety of species (including but I’m sure not limited to capillifolium var. capillifolium, palustre, papilosum, subnitens and fimbriatum)  within 50 or so metres, although broadly speaking these are all restricted to the lower areas within the ridge/furrow microtopography.

A fairly majestic hummock to the south west

I’ve been searching for some of the former Sphagnum magellanicum species (medium and divinum) for the better part of 8 months (fuelled by jealousy over what I’d seen on Cors Fochno last summer).  However, before this, efforts had been fruitless, despite having now walked over extensive areas of the Afan and Rhondda Fawr Uplands. What it is about this particular location versus the others in the uplands of NPT and RCT that I’ve been to that makes it more suitable for the species I’m not sure, but after sending off a voucher to the BBS and receiving confirmation of the species and it being the first record for VC41 I will be returning to scope out the wider area and see what else is hiding there.

Sphagnum medium on Ystradffernol

The story of the finding of this species often seems to be more enjoyable for people I tell than the actual finding. For those of you with glasses like myself, you’ll understand the dilemma presented by consistent heavy rain, it is a choice between not seeing because of the water on the lens or not seeing because you have to take your glasses off. Cue the heavy rain as soon as I get to the area, after pushing through sitka and finally reaching some clearer air I took my glasses off, made it about 10 steps before tripping and falling over. Three inches from the end of my nose was what I’d been searching for 8 months, no doubt without the fall I wouldn’t have found it as it was off my route.

So there we have it, an 8 month goal realised and a lovely record for VC41. Thank you for the invitation to write here and may all your stumbles be so fortunate.

An extreme close up of Sphagnum medium voucher courtesy of Barry Stewart 

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Before the lockdown - some nice surprises in my home hectad

The relatively care-free days of social distancing (but no lockdown) seem a long while ago already, but as I write it's only been 10 days. On Sunday 22nd March, sensing what might be coming, I took a trip to Cwm Cydfin near Leckwith - a tricky to access wooded stream valley that runs down into the River Ely. This short valley straddles three different tetrads so the GPS needed to be regularly checked to be sure which square I was in at any particular point.

After a bit of scrambling over fallen trees I came to a nice soft cliff section. The whole valley is calcareous so it was no surprise to find Fissidens incurvus, Eucladium verticillatum and Riccardia chamaedryfolia here, in fact the latter species was surprisingly frequent down the entire length of the stream. More of a surprise was Rhynchostegiella teneriffae, new for my home hectad ST17.

A little further downstream, a very rotten oak log that bridged the stream supported plenty of Tetraphis pellucica and a few patches of Nowellia curvifolia - also new for ST17.

The five south-easternmost records on the map above were all made by me in the last four years, suggesting this species is spreading into the less humid areas of the county.

To round off a fun couple of hours, a Scarce Fungus Weevil Platyrhinus resinosus was found on an ash log with numerous Daldinia fruit bodies on it.
This little valley proved a lot more productive than I expected, and added 38 new tetrad records for ST17L, S and R.

Sunday, 29 March 2020


Due to that pesky virus keeping us close to home, I now have few excuses for not doing some outstanding jobs around the house.  Last Friday I looked at the lawn and whilst deciding it didn’t need cutting just yet, I spotted some Calliergonella cuspidata fruiting.  I occasionally see this species fruiting, but I think always in fairly wet habitats like flushes and I don’t think I have seen it fruiting in such a dry lawn before – perhaps it is a symptom of the very wet 6 months we have just endured.  

While taking the photo I remembered that I had spotted a nice patch of male Lunularia in one of our flower beds last autumn, so thought I would get a pic of that – unfortunately the patch had almost completely degraded, but there was one male bit still showing. 

Later that day, I made use of my daily exercise allowance by walking along some of the lanes near home, returning along the canal towpath.    The only bryo that caught my eye was a lovely patch of fruiting Bartramia pomiformis, on a small rock embedded in a lane bank.  

Walking past a pile of mixed clay and rubble by the canal, something shiny caught my eye and it turned out to be a small ammonite – a bit of a surprise as it not the sort of fossil you expect to see in Devonian country. Further fossicking resulted in a few more ammonite specimens and bits of broken Gryphaea and belemnite.     

I’ll see what else I can find in the garden over the next few weeks – might have to eke bryos out a bit, but there are plenty of other groups to get my teeth into.  After a week of working from home I am now up to 22 bird species on my new list “Staring out of spare bedroom window whilst taking part in telephone/ Skype sessions”.   Perhaps I’ll start a separate list for each window of the house!   

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Daltonia update

Daltonia splachnoides habitat in Pentreclwydau Forest

Apologies for labouring on this subject, but I thought this might be of interest. Firstly, we have searched for Daltonia in 5 likely sites in NPT over the past few days. Most trips have been disappointing, but we have managed to locate a large population in Pentreclwydau Forest where at least 10 willow trees have conspicuous tufts, probably 30 + plants in total. This may be just the tip of the iceberg. There are lots of willow here and the habitat is more 'typical' of the places described in Irish Sitka forests and Brechfa, i.e. willows in the vicinity of streams and wet ditches. Some of the tufts are relatively large (15mm or more in diameter) and they occur in places where they are easy to spot. In fact the glossy, dry colonies, that stick out like little shelves, are fairly easy to see from a couple of metres away. It looks as if the population has produced lots of sporophytes although some  have finished fruiting and several don't seem to have any capsules. Judging by the size of the population and the size of some plants, I guess it has been in this forest for several years. 
We now have Daltonia in 3 NPT tetrads, making a total of 4 for VC41. There must be more sites in the county, but it has a long way to go to catch up with Colura. Presumably it is a more recent colonist but I also suspect that it is a bit more fussy about where it grows. Daltonia associates on the Pentreclwydau willows include: Zygodon conoideus (abundant), Radula complanata, Lejeunea patens, Colura calyptrifolia, Orthotrichum pulchellum, Metzgeria temperata, Cryphaea heteromalla, Ulota bruchii, Ulota crispaUlota phyllantha, Hypnum andoi, Brachythecium rutabulum.

Large Daltonia tuft on willow, Pentreclwydau
Daltonia splachnoides with abundant capsules, on willow in Pentrecwydau  Sitka Spruce Forest

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Confusing Brachythecium - well, to me anyway.

I know I only post things on here when I need help, sorry! Hopefully in the future I'll be able to contribute more than questions on relatively common species. And this one probably is common...

I've been pottering around Craig Cerrig-Gleisiad a few times over the last couple of weeks. Once with the Gloucestershire group, but it got me hooked and I went back. I collected this 'Brachythecium' on a big boulder at the base of the cliffs at SN969221. Thought it was Sciuro-hypnum populeum, but it doesn't have the long nerve. So then I wondered about B. velutinum - which it seems quite close to, but is this the right habitat?
I'm struggling to get it to fit anything else so any help you can give would be most welcome.

Sorry, I don't have any images of it in situ, but this is my specimen, dry. Not much change when moist although the leaves do look slightly concave.

It has capsules though they have lost their lids; however I can see the seta is definitely papillose at the top, though it appears smooth below.

Branch leaves are similar to stem leaves though slightly narrower. Here's one of each:
Stem leaf (x40)

Branch leaf (x100)

Most leaves - both branch and stem - have this long, twisted leaf tip.

Leaf margins are smooth to faintly denticulate. Mid-leaf cells are quite long and narrow. Not sure if you can make out the measurements but they're 52 - 80 (110) x 5.5-8┬Ám.

Leaf bases mostly have this brown colouration and don't seem to be decurrent (this is half a leaf, split down the nerve on the left).

I'm starting to wonder if it's just an odd B. rutabulum, but don't think it is. So Brachytheciastrum velutinum? Any other suggestions? Maybe not even Brachythecium?

Thank you all.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Daltonia splachnoides in NPT

Daltonia splachnoides on Willow at edge of Sitka Spruce Plantation, Abercregan

While self-isolating in the Sitka Spruce plantation above the Cregan Valley we were very lucky to come across a willow with several small colonies of Daltonia splachnoides. Ever since Sam told me to look for it in the NPT spruce forests, several years ago, we have kept an eye open for it - there have been many disappointing excursions. Well, at last!

Strangely, although the site has lots of seemingly suitable and similar willows, we were only able to find it on one tree.  It was growing on the north-facing side of the trunk in an epiphytic community with lots of Metzgeria temperata and Orthotrichum pulchellum as well as Hypnum andoi, Radula complanata, Ulota phyllantha, Frullania dilatata, Peltigera membranacea and a Cladonia sp. The site is more open than the Brechfa and St Gwynno Forest habitats where Sam has found it, but this is a very humid environment nevertheless.
This is the first record for NPT, the second for VC41 and (I think) the most southerly in Britain.

Daltonia splachnoides community on Willow, Abercregan