All news


A possible flower association of Ferdinandea cuprea

This note was written for the national Hoverfly Newsletter and has been published in the autumn 2017 edition issued by the Dipterists’ Forum. It may interest some other naturalists too.

On 19 August 2017 I visited a large woodland site in the Cotswolds. The weather was cool and there had been rain during the night; the grass was still wet in the lower and more shaded rides. As there was very little insect activity I decided that I would spend some time photographing the Naked Ladies which were a conspicuous and colourful feature of the scenery. By Naked Ladies, of course, I mean the flowers of Colchicum autumnale, also known as Meadow Saffron.

My eye was soon caught by an unusually downward facing flower within which there seemed to be some activity going on. I found that there was a female Ferdinandea cuprea moving around inside the base of the inverted flower. The hoverfly may have been foraging for nectar or pollen but as the surroundings were devoid of flying insects, and because of the hesitant way it began to emerge from the flower on my approach, I formed the impression that it might have been sheltering under the tent of petals for some time.

The day warmed up later, but not very much, and the few flowering plants in the woodland continued to attract almost no hoverflies. I had walked some distance from my first sighting of F. cuprea when I spotted a particularly shapely group of Naked Ladies and decided to take their photograph. While I was getting into position I became aware that a fly of some kind was coming into view and was clearly moving towards the same flowers. I quickly took my shot, hoping that the fly might add some interest to the image. Fortunately, the fly came out almost as well-focused as the flowers, and is clearly again a female F. cuprea. On this occasion the hoverfly did not land on the flower; it apparently detected my presence, changed course and flew away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These two separate sightings of F. cuprea with C. autumnale may be a random coincidence. However, as I am not aware of any reported association between this flower and any species of hoverfly, the observation may be of some interest. In Hoverflies of Surrey (Surrey Wildlife Trust, 1998) Roger Morris does not include C. autumnale either in the extensive list of flowers visited by hoverflies (Appendix 2) or among those mentioned in his account of F. cuprea.


Coombe Hill and Cobney Meadows on 21 October

Little sign of any rise in water levels in the Severn Vale: at the GWT reserve at Coombe Hill, the north scrape was till dry, there was just a small puddle in the south scrape, but still shallow water on the Long Pool (the only place where water has lasted throughout the summer). Some hay late had recently been cut on neighbouring fields – a sign of just how dry the conditions are. Storm Brian didn’t succeed in blowing the Grundon Hide away, but made it hard to see songbirds, which stayed in thick vegetation. 

The colour-ringed pair of Mute Swans that had nested locally were still present, with their eight full grown cygnets; at least 260 Greylag Geese grazing, eight Canada Geese, one very striking Canada x white Farmyard Goose hybrid, four Wigeon (the first of the winter here), 160 Teal, eight Shovelers, 11 Grey Herons, a single Green Sandpiper left; 6 Redwings flew over to the southwest (also the first  of the winter).

 At Cobney Meadows, not much water left on the flight pond either: 1 Sparrowhawk hunting, 1 Buzzard; a single Snipe on the old Parish Drain.

 


Black nightshade in maize stubble

Fodder maize in a Standish field was harvested during the week. Gulls and woodpigeons are feasting on the dropped cobs. I’ve taken the opportunity to check the weed flora hoping to find some unusual alien plants, but the ground is overwhelmingly dominated by Black Nightshade, Solanum nigrum, which is also common in my garden. It is a member of the potato family, and has small starry white flowers and round fruit that turn from green to black without going through a red stage (unlike Woody Nightshade, Solanum dulcamara, that has purple flowers and fruit that go from green to yellow to red.)


Discovering Bats Day – John Moore Museum – Saturday 28th October

A Live Animal Event

Organiser John Moore Museum
Date Saturday 28th October 2017
Time Four sessions to choose from:
10.30am to 11.30am
11.45am to 12.45pm
2.30pm to 3.30pm
3.45pm to 4.45pm
Venue John Moore Museum, 41 Church Street, Tewkesbury, GL20 5SN
Details Discovering Bats!
Why do bats hang upside-down?
How do they find their way in the dark?
What different types of bats live in the UK?
How can I encourage them to visit my garden? 

Renowned bat expert David Endacott will be at the museum with a selection of live, rescued British Bats to explain all about these fascinating creatures of the night.  Also displays by the Gloucestershire Bat Group where you can learn about their work and how to join.  This is the perfect opportunity to find out the truth about these much misunderstood animals.

PLUS
Pick up FREE information on how you can help bats, and take part in our craft activities – make your own origami bat!

Tickets available on the door or in advance from the museum
Adults £4.00 / Seniors & Students £3.50 / Children £2
(Tickets include admission to the John Moore Museum & The Old Baptist Chapel).

Notes for editors Contact: Simon Lawton (Curator) – very happy to give interviews
E-Mail: curator@johnmooremuseum.org
Telephone: 01684 297174

Tubular water-dropwort in Gloucestershire

As part of our HLF funded pond monitoring project PondNet, Freshwater Habitats Trust are seeking records of a number of declining wetland plant species including Tubular water-dropwort Oenanthe fistulosa from counties across England and Wales http://freshwaterhabitats.org.uk/projects/pondnet/twd-gwp-2017/ this is to update current records, and where possible set up (long term) structured monitoring at ponds in each county.

We have two different ways of recording the plant; either a very basic rapid assessment form which can be used on any habitat type: http://freshwaterhabitats.org.uk/projects/pondnet/twd-gwp-2017/recording-twd-gwp-other-habitats/ Or, a more detailed survey if the species is found at a pond (this is our priority): http://freshwaterhabitats.org.uk/projects/pondnet/twd-gwp-2017/recording-twd-gwp-in-ponds/

Have you or members of your organisation seen this species in Gloucestershire recently? If so, would you be willing to share the record with us? All data gathered will be made available to local and national records centres. GCER have kindly provided the records they hold, unsurprisingly most of which are from the floodplain of the Severn in wet meadows and ditches. We are particularly interested in finding ponds where tubular water-dropwort is still growing from anywhere in the county – any info you have would be appreciated.

If you are interested in helping to revisit a site where the species has been recorded in the past to complete a survey, please let me know and I will attempt to find you a local site.

Best wishes,
Pete Case
Regional Officer for Central England
People Ponds and Water
Email: pcase@freshwaterhabitats.org.uk
Mobile: 07703 808520
Twitter: @peterbcase
Web: www.freshwaterhabitats.org.uk


New Curlew conservation website – www.curlewcall.org

As noted in several recent issues of GNS NEWS, much attention has been devoted in recent years to Curlews in Gloucestershire, both wintering birds on the Severn Estuary, and breeding birds in the Severn and Avon Vales. This reflects a wider interest in Curlews and a growing realisation (throughout UK, and indeed internationally) that the Eurasian Curlew has undergone a sharp decrease in numbers in recent years. Much of the interest in the UK has been devoted to birds breeding in upland sites in northern England, Scotland and Northern Ireland; but appreciable numbers continue to breed across lowland southern England too, and should not be neglected: a workshop devoted to this topic was held in Slimbridge in February 2017, and now a website on this topic (with much support from GNS) has been established at www.curlewcall.org. Do take a look and add your comments.

 


Another ringing session at Ashleworth Ham on 1 August

This was the ninth session out of twelve in the British Trust for Ornithology’s Constant Ringing effort at Ashleworth, three each month from May to August.  This study has been going on at Ashleworth for twenty years now.

Starting before sunrise, it didn’t look, at first sight, as though there were many birds about: little birdsong (just a few bursts of Willow Warbler: were these adult birds having a last session at the end of the summer, or newly hatched young ones, trying out their song for the first time?), nor much sign of bird activity early in the morning; yet the ringing session showed there were still quite a lot of birds about. 

Conditions were quite good to start with (overcast, no wind), but unfortunately the wind rose rather earlier than forecast soon after half past seven (the wind makes the nets belly out like galleon sails, so that the birds bounce off instead of getting caught).  So the catch, although just above the average for the time of year, was limited to 73 birds; 44 of them were summer visitor warblers all the same; interestingly, the vast majority of them were juveniles (probably locally bred as they were nearly all still in post juvenile moult), so it looked as though most of the adults had moved out already. Birds caught: 1 juvenile Grasshopper Warbler (another indication of local breeding, picture below by Mervyn Greening); 4 Sedge Warblers (all juveniles); 23 Whitethroats (not a single adult); five Blackcaps (one adult); 6 Chiffchaffs (just one adult in moult); 5 Willow Warblers (one adult in moult); plus the usual array of residents: as many as seven Reed Buntings (all juveniles); a single juvenile Great Tit; one juvenile Long-tailed Tit; no Blue Tits; 2 juvenile Treecreepers; one Blackbird; couple of Dunnocks, couple of Robins, five Wrens (all juveniles); three Linnets , three Goldfinches, two Bullfinches. 

Other birds on the reserve: 1 Sparrowhawk; 2 Buzzards; 1 Green Sandpiper; one Redstart; about 10 each of House Martins and Swallows hawking insects, probably migrants on their way south; one Raven; a flock of at least 50 Goldfinches (autumn coming!)  

No hay has been cut as yet on the reserve (which no doubt gave the Reed Buntings time to raise their second broods).  Water levels low on the scrapes, but a nice stand of Flowering Rush in the middle pool.