Thursday, February 28, 2013


Today was bright, sunny and mild .... until I left work. I managed to grab about half an hour in the square late afternoon and picked up a few more. Best sighting today was not a new square tick - a superb hunting Barn Owl tonight just drifting along in front of the car for c300 meters, stopping every now and then to hover over the verge.

Taxon Vernacular Date Added
158 Emberiza citrinella Yellowhammer 28/02/2013
157 Hypoxylon fuscum Hazel Woundwart 28/02/2013
156 Polydesmus angustus Common Flat-backed Millipede 28/02/2013
155 Daldinia concentrica King Alfred's Cakes 28/02/2013

I also noticed this on a line of motar in a brick wall whilst looking at lichens again. Can't work out if this is some sort of bizarre lichen or if there just happened to be some crystalline crap in the mixture (click for big).

End of Feb, Shotesham

Day 59, 217 species... Thanks to John Martin for confirming my Greater Stitchwort and Ivy-leaved Speedwell leaf-only photos this morning. I did also hear my first Skylark of the year, but the blighter was just outside the square. Still spring is on it's way, with March tomorrow! There was a Comma seen in Thetford today. Not by me, but exciting even so.

I did manage to get a photo of this chap on a pre-work morning walk today. As often happens, I stood stock still as he flew towards me and he got very close before he noticed me. Instead of just flying away though, he flew into a nearby tree, looked straight at me and then screamed. Bit harsh I thought. Anyway, always a delight to see.

The North calling

Waldridge Co. Durham

Thought I'd jump aboard if only to show there is life to the north, hopefully 1000 different sorts.
NZ2549 is my chosen my square  basically because that's the square I live in and I've been running a moth trap there for many years so I expect it to be a major contributor. The square includes as well as my house, Waldridge Fell and some wet to very wet birch and alder woodland. The Fell is an SSSI  and a Country Park. It's also perhaps the largest dog toilet in the north east but more importantly one of only a few and perhaps the largest, lowland heath in the county. Also Wanister Bog, the only valley-mire in lowland County Durham. The square has perhaps the only debatably wild Royal Fern in the county as well as Dingy Shell and Green Hairstreak and there's been 3 records of Red-tipped Clearwing (none by me but I've got my lures ready)

I only noticed the challenge mid month but started straight away.  Great idea I thought, should soon catch up a bit. A week later the whole square was under 4 inches of snow whilst others were getting their first amphibians, primroses in flower etc. I then started to think I was a bit hasty but being an optimist (at least at the moment) I'll carry on.

I have been birding for a very long time and looking at vascular plants for quite a while. Butterflies and dragonflies followed and then the moth trapping started. The last couple of years I've been looking at hoverflies (after an excellent weekend course we arranged) and bryophytes.

I'm doing ok considering the late start and weather I suppose and may well hit that 1K mark. The reason being I have been logging the flora of my patch since I moved here in late 1990s and have recorded 461 species. So a few have become extinct and some are mere casuals but surely 400 is obtainable as I know where most of them are. Plants tend not to move much.  My moth list for the garden and a few additional ones elsewhere in the square is a just a few less so the 1000 must be obtainable. There's me being optimistic again.
 So my predictions

 To date Anticipated
Birds   43 70
Vascular Plants   43 400
Mosses & Liverworts  6 50
Lichens   5 12
Fungi & Slime Moulds   5 20
Terrestrial Mammals   2 8
Butterflies   0 20
moths   0 350
Dragonflies   0 9
Hoverflies   0 25
Other inverts   0 50
Amphibians & Reptiles   0 5

TOTAL 104 1019

So,  I'm on (only) 104,  well behind my southern cousins and not one invertebrate. Though this is not surprising as there is still patches of snow in the back garden and elsewhere. Never the less, I've done a little predicting, [fatal mistake] and there's hope. So far I have not seen a great deal and nothing really surprising. 3 Woodcock last weekend in and because of the snow, were nice but to be expected, a small party of Crossbill were not and so far the best birds.

So wish me luck, I think I might need it

Not counted, honest

Keith Robson
Waldridge NZ2549, vc 66.

Corky-fruited Wheatear

Quick blast around the square again, I struck lucky with a small patch of Corky-fruited Water Dropwort Oenanthe pimpinelloides growing just inside the boundary of the Grazing Area, the cattle seem to move it around via their droppings! The only other newbie for the year was a female Grey Wagtail at Stamford Green Pond - definitely NOT seen from the upstairs seating area of the pub, a'hem...

302 - Corky-fruited Water Dropwort - small patch in Grazing Area, Epsom Common
303 - Grey Wagtail - female flew in at Stamford Green Pond

Out with Mark Telfer tomorrow - fingers crossed. Expect the invert tally to take a huge lurch forwards!!!! :D

New to the Fray. TF2000

Inspired by a quick conversation with Andy M at a "metadata" workshop (?), I have now joined in with this collective venture into the unknown and unknowable.

My square TF2000 has a nice round number, which is the only nice thing about it. Its a very suburban square in NE Peterborough with a cemetery and some playing fields.

Birds and back garden moths will form the core.

I will be using a combination of birdtrack plus irecord to keep track.

Number 1 was a red kite (duly logged on birdtrack). Tempted to rest on my laurels (except I don't think I will be able to count any of the laurels), and leave it at that.

My target is a modest 200.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Come on the north?!

Nothing much to report except a pair of fly-over Egyptian Geese (215) and a scary weevil in a pot that I'm procrastinating on. So have just put together this map using the mighty Google, which plots out the rough locations of all the 1 km squares who have submitted a score to date (with the honourable exception of our friend down under). As an expat Yorkshireman, I'm very disappointed by the lack of anything north of Norfolk or the East Mids. Come on chaps and chapesses of the north. I suppose it is even colder up there than down here, but surely there's someone up there willing to take on the challenge?

300th Species Falls!

Just walked back home from work and had a Canada Goose and a Greylag Goose fly over the house (outside the square) and westwards towards the Great Pond on Epsom Common where they roost. Which puts them in TQ1960 airspace. I watched them flying through the square and, hey presto, I'm over 300 just like that!

300 - Greylag Goose - 1 over Stamford Green airspace
301 - Canada Goose - 1 over Stamford Green airspace

Cool   :)

Monday, February 25, 2013

TQ6410 - Late winter chill

Needed a productive day at the plot yesterday - NOT with the 'Challenge' - but sorting out all the things I need to do there. Unfortunately my toes and fingers froze rapidly (just the Raynaud's thing) in the biting wind. First getting some junk into the van at this end .... then when I'd driven over there and partially warmed up, they promptly froze again getting all the stuff out again. That left a couple of choices - sit in the workshop with feet and fingers close to a radiator ..... or go for a walk around the square to get the circulation going again. No contest! Three hours later I was back at the workshop, fully warmed up but with far too many photos to try and ID (I'm getting a soft spot for mosses) and no further forward on the sorting-out front.

Fortunately, the sheer cold and frozen fingers meant I could at least forget about invertebrates for the day (phew!) although this old larch log pile - one of several in the bluebell wood - looks interesting for a warmer spring day when I've got nothing better to do. All in all, I didn't have a particularly productive day - at least not from an ID-ing point of view - but there were some interesting finds. There always are in this square - as there are in any square - but I'm just not used to looking too hard in TQ6410. 

One useful discovery was the old Fire Station in the Herstmonceux Castle grounds. I've walked past it via the bridleway many times but didn't realise it possibly has this square's only bit of 'waste ground' flora. Being totally out in the sticks, I'd been quietly wondering where I'd catch up with some of the more random species - apart from around the arable field edges. The little patch of Fire Station grass and bare ground had several useful additions:

255 - Parsley Piert Alphanes arvensis  (left) simply a plant I'd never thought about looking for until this one was staring me in the face. The one on the left looks a bit like Orange Hawkweed Hieracium aurantiacum (but never seen it 'wild' in the square before) .... or it could even be a Forget-me-not sp ....

256 - Annual Meadow Grass  Poa annua .... first clump I've found in flower this year although always loads of it everywhere.

257 - Swinecress  Coronopus squamatus (left) .... although I'm more used to seeing Coronopus didymus out in the arable fields and around the parking area at my plot.

258 - Black Medick Medicago lupulina  Always lots of this self-seeding around the plot too but just hadn't bothered with it up to now. But this little spot may well have Spotted Medick too ....

Meanwhile, back in the woods and in between moss photo-shoots .....

259 - Stump Puffball   Lycoperdon pyriforme (left)  

Well, I'm pretty sure it is although these are a bit old now. Which begs the question: Fungi - dead or alive? How can you tell? The spores are exposed in this one, much as they were in last week's Stalked Puffball so I guess they're countable at least?
This fern's been baffling me for a while now. I'm sure it's very common but I can't find an ID for the spore pattern anywhere. I've got plenty of Bracken on the plot but nothing evergreen at the moment ..... apart from this one. Clumps of it are dotted around the little bluebell wood and around the Castle's rookery wood next door.

And I couldn't resist another poke around in the wet woodland edge. Local provenance wild flowers have been my thing over the past twenty years but that doesn't mean I don't come unstuck from time to time on plant recognition .... I'm NOT a botanist! This one baffled me completely at first glance .... and still does. I think it's Water Forget-me-not  Myosotis scorpioides ..... but not confident enough to tick it just yet. Happier with the next two though ..... by and in a watery ditch (respectively) ..... 

260 - Large Bird's Foot Trefoil Lotus Pendunculatus  and
261 - Watercress  Nasturtium officinale 

And finally: 262 - Grey Wagtail   (bird of the day although not unheard of in TQ6410)

Which took my bird tally to 51 for the square this year. This one was perched on the edge of the Castle's sewage works - well, on the edge of that big, round slop-stirrer contraption (it must have a technical name?). I also flushed another Snipe from the long lost ditch near my plot and yet another Woodcock from the wet woodland edge, as well as Redwing, Fieldfare and Mistle Thrush flocks from the wet meadow just south of the Castle. A Cormorant also flew over but not quite over TQ6410 alas ......

262 species ..... and in dire need of some warm Spring sunshine (and a few migrants).

p.s. these posts don't take long to write .... but the blogspot text formatting and random font changes drive me insane and take forever to fix. Is it just me or something to do with having the pics on the left and text on the right?

Introducing TG020241

Hello, having only recently joined the challenge a couple of days ago, I just wanted to introduce myself and my chosen 1km square. My name is Rob, and I am 43 years old. I have to admit to being a professional ecologist; however, this does not necessarily mean that my natural history skills are good in all the many taxa that I will no doubt be looking at during the course of the year. Birds - yes. Mammals - yes. Vascular plants - yes. Amphibians and reptiles - yes. Moths and butterflies - not bad. Bryophytes - rusty. Odonata - OK. The rest, well, therein lies the challenge.

My chosen square (SW corner TG020241) is a (fairly) typical slice of Norfolk countryside, ravaged by intensive agriculture, but nevertheless clinging on to some of its biodiversity. It includes my house and garden, and land to the south, some of which is arable and some improved grassland. There are some obvious foci for biodiversity, including four ponds, a flowing watercourse, and some seasonal wet ditches. There are also hedges in various condition, lone trees, small areas of woodland and gardens. Importantly, there is a public footpath running through the area in a loop. I am guessing this will be much used.

I haven't done the sums yet, but I think I may already have recorded around 80 species. 1000 seems a far distant figure, and I have some serious catching up to do. My garden bird list is on 99, and I certainly won't see all of those again in one year. I plan to be assisted on my naturalising forays by my two children, Rowan (12) and Zena (7). Sharp eyes and small hands will come in useful. You can follow me on Twitter: @robert_yaxley as I hope to post a lot of photos of various species. Tally ho!

Trent Park update

Woops, I’ve kept intending to write something and then not made the time for it. I’ve probably made the most gains in arthropods and mosses. So here’s what I’ve been looking at:

Vascular plants
  • Common Polypody
  • Broad Buckler Fern
  • Broom
  • Dovesfoot Cranesbill
  • Goat Willow
  • Bulrush
Non-vascular plants
  • Bifid crestwort, Lophocolea bidentata
  • Common Feather-moss, Kindbergia praelonga
  • Rough-stalked Feather-moss, Brachythecium rutabulum
  • Long-beaked Water Feather-moss, Platyhypnum riparioidesgrowing on the rocks in the stream between the two ponds
  • Common Smoothcap, Atrichum undulatumReally distinctive now I know what I’m looking for.
  • Springy Turf-moss, Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus – Also very distinctive with a star-shaped tip to the shoots
  • Cypress-leaved Plait-moss, Hypnum cupressiforme
Bifid Crestwort (the deeper green stuff on the left), I didn't ID the stuff on the right
but it looks like more Kindbergia praelonga

-Some sort of Marchantia but I wasn’t able to ID it in field and too small a piece to be happy taking a bit of it.
-What I think is Cape Thread-moss but will look for it again later in the spring when it should have capsules

  • Oakmoss, Evernia prunastri
  • Physcia tenella

  • Exidia glandulosa
  • Stereum hirsutum
  • Bracken Map fungus, Rhopographus filicinus – I don’t think this species has been mentioned on this blog yet but it’s an incredibly easy tick if you have old bracken on your square. Check a few stems and you should come across a pretty pattern of black splotches like below:
Bracken Map fungus

  • Hawthorn Shieldbug, Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale
  • Anchomenus dorsalis (a very pretty ground beetle)
Yet to find occupied mines of Stigmella aurella or Phytomyza ilicis despite seeing lots of them.

Hawthorn Shieldbug

Other arthropods
  • Pill millipede, Glomeris marginata
  • A large-ish springtail – Pogonognathellus longicornis
  • A distinctively banded springtail - Orchesella cincta
…and some other springtails I couldn’t work out but will have a bash next time now I know about the provisional key.
  • Diaea dorsata (spider overwintering in birch stump)
A juvenile female Philodromus sp. which was probably P. dispar but I can’t be sure

Oribatid mites look interesting; mainly because of their neat protective pteromorphs (wing-like structures that curve around the sides of the body) which they pull their legs into when they drop out of mosses under my microscope. I’m not sure I have the light and magnification necessary to do them justice. Also the only literature I’ve found is from 1888(!) which is a shame.

  • Rabbit. Thanks to the dog presence and being too lazy for dawn-time visits it’s taken over a month for me to spot a rabbit on site despite the amount of droppings about.
  • Pheasant
  • Dunnock
  • Mistlethrush
  • Common Gull

All in all that's 113 species so far. I'm surprised at how much I'm getting into the mosses but I'm really looking forward to warmer weather and more arthropods.