Thursday, 25 August 2016

A Hedgehog fungi and Montanum Day (23rd August 2016)

Well I have lots of stuff to blog about as soon as I can and will share with you soon.  I have recorded but not yet put into blog a piece on “Flowers I have found on the edges of Maize or Fodder Beet fields in Dalton near Burton in Kendal” you may be surprised just to see what variety we get take for instance: Solanum nigrum or maybe better known as the Black Nightshade and what about Galinsoga quadriradiata which isn’t but just looks very similar to it’s relation the Gallant Soldier.  But that’s all for another day because today I want to talk about what went on Tuesday last when I decided to make it a Hedgehog and Montanum day.

Hypericum Montanum No.3 - Click to enlarge
It started whilst going through Dalton Crags and looking out for just anything available and worthy of note.  It was even worth (to me) to make gps notes to where all the Hypericum Perforatum was and subsequently recorded, because this information could be very beneficial to just where the species was on the Hutton Roof complex and its association (perhaps) to another rare hypericum species which I have been fortunate to recently find.  I didn’t mean going out of my way, but to record all I could see from the forestry track on my way up from Nineteen Trees and onward through the Crag. 

Climbing up through the lower crags and stopping off talking with folk and making notes and stopping to take the odd photo I eventually arrived at the little beauties which were my first intended destination of the beautiful day to check out the near hypericum montanums (population no.3) or known as the Pale St. John's Wort. So out with the camera to capture the plant (see left). I also found another nearby (20ft at least) and up to seven seedlings which hopefully will mature and prosper and be on view in future years.  Its always worth checking the leaves of our specimens on HR because so far every one I have checked have shown perforatum within the leaf and according to all the text books at my avail, this should not be happening.  So you can see why I am noting even common species such as "Perforated" because I wonder if some hybrid meddling has taken place here somewhere along the line.  Another "perforatum" species I regular encounter up here on Hutton Roof is Hypericum Pulchrum (or Slender St. John's Wort) and maybe that species could well have also played its part in this strange phenomena.  Time will tell.

No sooner had I left the little beauties than I was to bump into this fabulous chap which I can only
Dung Beetle - Click over to enlarge
imagine maybe he was some sort of dung beetle, he was large and had large folded brown transparentish wings which now and again he would display in a sort of threatening posture as though perhaps I was too close and he was showing me he was ready to take to the wing should I go one step further. I enjoyed watching him for another ten minutes or so whilst he took on his mountainous terrain and at times wobbling on the "tipping point" similar to how you see the land-rover on a assault course.  The amount of times I find these larger beetles on their back with legs waving about and helpless.
This chap today seem to be doing fine.

Climbing even further through Dalton and again noting all "perforatum" on the way up and just before the "Line of Trees" I glanced across to the butterfly bush (buddlea). All the times I go up here and have never noticed it before.  It looked well out of place up here amongst all the natural stuff but I guess it would be playing its part in bringing in lots of the more abundant butterflies like the Torts, Red Admirals and Peacocks which I were seeing plenty of today

Its quickly becoming that time of year again "Visible Bird Migration".  Good job I had my binoculars with me and checking out the far wall was not to be disappointing with a fabulous Wheatear with the most upright posture I have ever seen, a proper standing to attention bird! and only perhaps a few metres to its left a lovely Stonechat which later made off to the ground and quickly back up onto some shrub high point where it could have its temporary "watchpoint". I was wondering if this would be the pair already come back to their regular wintering territory or would it be just a solitary bird passing through!  I guess the wheatears are on the move and will have come in overnight and dropped in to feed up before setting off again later that night onward towards their final destination of South Africa. I was to also see another Wheatear as I got further around and coming down through Lancelot Clark Storth.

"Ramosum " A. Scollopendrium Click to enlarge
Onward and upward through the boundary and on to the Common stopping briefly at the Trig Point to take in the magnificient views. Soon I was looking for "Ramosum" and sure enough he gave me a quick wave with his many tentacle fingers. He doesn't change much from year to year its a very strong looking plant and always worthy of yet another photograph.

Descending the Crags and then ascending the next set of Crags in search of the small hedgehog fungi better known as the Spiny Puffball fungi.  Back in 2014 I had seven of them but last year this was down to one and this year I just drew a blank with none at all showing. I checked out all the surrounding areas without success.

Its not long before I am fighting my way through lots of undergrowth barely penetrable but hiding yet another beautiful pavement, and this is were Montanum No.2 lives, just a singular plant which seems to survive in the most precarious of places on the side of a well fractured gryke.  I have now watched this plant over three years and as yet there have been no additions, neither have I noticed any set seedlings in the immediate areas.  Its lies about one mile away from No.1 and some one and a half miles away from No.3 yet here again we have another rare specimen with the unique "perforatum" leaves!

During my adventures today I was fortunate to see quite a few butterflies which were mainly Small Tortoiseshells, Red Admirals and at one point whilst entering Lancelot Clark Storth (A Cumbria Wildlife Reserve) I had the pleasure to see a Wall Brown Butterfly on Ragwort.

Soon I arrived at the home of Hypericum Montanum No.1, and this was the very first specimen of this particular species which I located back in 2013 and it has done well every year since.  Or should I say that is up to this year.  For some reason the main group of eight plants has just not appeared this year although the surrounding plants are all doing fine.

Finished off the day checking out Angular Solomon's Seal, lots of gone over Epipactis "orchids" and also the rare Southern Polypody Ferns.

Monday, 15 August 2016

More Helleborine Purpurea plus other stuff (15th August 2016)

Grayling Butterfly (Click over to enlarge)

It seems to me to have been a cracking year with the Grayling butterflies which have been everywhere this year on Hutton Roof, probably the best year yet! Also this very morning (15th Aug 2016) I had a very washed out large Fritillary (Dark Green or maybe High Brown!) which seems very late, it was enjoying the sun and feeding on hawkweeds and ragwort.  Lots of Large Skippers about as well, also Meadow Browns, Peacocks and the occasional Red Admiral and several whites.

Up to yesterday we still had 19 Swifts (am) and a count of 11 by 2000hrs so they are still about, can only think they must be late brooders because most of our Swifts had left by 5th August which you would consider to be the norm.

Hypericum Montanum - Dalton Crags today (Click over to enlarge)

Guess what?  I have managed to relocate the rare Pale St. John's Wort (Hypericum Montanum) in Dalton Crags, but not only that the really good news is that there are seven (new) seedlings with paired leaves or more all quite close to the parent plant, so hopefully in the next year or two we might just find more!

I keep checking out the scollies in hopes of finding another Crispum!  now then that really is asking a lot but you never know.  Yesterday whilst checking out some fabulous orchids I just had to call off and check how the Southern Polypody (Polypodium cambricum) are doing. Here below are a couple of photos of the state of play yesterday.

Southern Polypody (Polypodium cambricum) Click over to enlarge
Some baby "Cambricums" (Click over to enlarge)
And here are a few more of the orchid beauties I have had in the last few days.  I thought best to track down Specimen Purpurea 15 to see how he is going on in his fourth year as I know.  So here is a photo from yesterday.

Specimen Purpurea No.15 (Click over to enlarge)

So thats Specimen No.15 which I have now been monitoring since 2012 and although in most years it will take on purple, just occasionally things start to go wrong like back in 2013 when you did not get any flowers at all, you just got a sort of television aerial made up of bracts with dried out buds which just dropped off.

Specimen 15 from 2013 (Click over to enlarge)
Here is a little sketch back in 2013 I did which shows all the beautiful helliborines snuggled under this one particular tree, some turn out with purple, others are just like any other standard helliborines, although some also take on a reddish look.  But in 2013 for some reason five of the plants "aborted" before flowering. The last three years all has been OK.

Sketch showing 2013 Aborted plants marked with "X" (Click over to enlarge)
I got a nice surprise yesterday morning when I went to check out Specimen 15 and the rest to find a love trio of plants facing the South West which have come through with Purpurea but the colours with strong leanings to Purply red.  Here is a photograph showing these little beauties:

The new trio which has appeared behind Spec 15 (Click over to enlarge)

I had this beautiful Antler Moth yesterday whilst coming through Lancelot Clark Storth, I was actually making a long detour to try and avoid those nasty little (or larger) ticks.  All full grown adults of both sexes trying to get through and I managed to fight them all off (well I think so!) but I'll bet I had no less than 50 on me "yuk!!" I soon realised they could run almost as fast as spiders other than that it was all "Ticketyboo".

           Antler Moth on Ragwort in Lancelot Clark Storth yesterday (Click over to enlarge)
I nearly forgot the other day whilst dropping down through Burton Fell I came out into the open fields and saw about ten large checkered dragonflies circling around and coming very close to me. I dont know what sort they where but really nice to see.  At first when I saw so many I thought they were on migration (like I have seen them over in India), but no they must just have been locals and perhaps just hatched or something.

The birdlife seems to have gone pretty quiet although I am still hearing plenty of Willow Warblers doing their "hou whit" contact calls, also occasional broken song Chiffchaffs.  Dont know whether there still local birds or whether they are birds passing through because migration has definately started. Also seeing Nuthatches (lots), Ravens, Jays, Long Tailed Tits, and quite a few Marsh Tits this year. You hear them more than you see them with their fabulous unique "Pishoo" call.

I guess thats it for me folks please enjoy....

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Epipactis Helleborine var Purpurea (10th August 2016)

Purpurea No.3 is stunning!  (Click over to enlarge)

All the photographs included here were taken this morning unless otherwise stated. They were took on one particular local area on the Hutton Roof Crags (A Cumbria Wildlife Trust reserve)

To-day I have been checking out the Broad Leaved Helleborine (Epipactis Helleborine)  "Purpurea" variants and on to-days pavement alone I have five separate plants at various locations.  I also have a few more scattered about on other pavements which I have not had chance to check out this year.

The photo above is from a plant (Purpurea specimen No.3)  which lies about one metre under thick canopy and its purple colouring goes in fine contrast to its unusual light green ovaries, bracts and stem. The inner Hyperchile on these plants is usually a darker red or a dark purple colour. As a rule the purple takes over the main colouring within the flowers which as always the sepal takes on the darker in relation to the slightly lighter petals. Of further interest here is that very close by to this plant (about 5 yards), but in far less canopy with just a little shade is another plant (Purpurea specimen No.4) which also has very pale green ovaries, bracts and stem so again we are treated to such a beautiful contrasting coloured specimen.  I am sure that these two plants will be related! I am now putting on here a photograph which I took yesterday evening together with a close up photo of the flower, epichile and hyperchile which I took this morning and you can get some idea of the actual "purple colouring". The photo below was taken about 2000hrs just has the sun had started to go down.

Purpurea No.4 - A lovely plant (Click over photo to enlarge)
And to follow on whilst covering notes of Purpurea No.4 (above), I can show you the close up photo which shows the flower including the Epichile and Hyperchile. This photo was taken this morning at approx 0930hrs whilst a little sunny.

Close up of the flower on Specimen Purpurea No.4 (Click over to enlarge)

I first noticed odd plants going into "Purpurea" colouring some four years ago and did at first think that this phenomena was maybe down to some mineral reaction within the soil base. That was my early thoughts, because where you found one you could then sometimes find two or even more.  Also another theory I have which I stick to even today is that canopy has something to do with it and subsequently allowing a sort of photo synthesis reaction to take place.  The reason I say this is that I usually find that the deeper the plant is to or within canopy, more often than not the purple colouring goes stronger. So intermediate stages of purple colouring are taking place.

Another interesting observation into these strange "purpurea" specimens is that they do not come up like this every year.  The last time the "purpurea phenomena" took place was in 2014 and of course its happening yet again this year.  Last year during 2015 the same plants were just as you would expect a almost normal (perhaps slightly darker) helleborine to be.  So this helped me further in regard to it being unlikely to be caused through ground mineral interference because if this was the sole reason then I would have expected the same result to occur on a regular annual basis. Although I do have to add that I would never rule out completely the "ground mineral interference idea" because this could be causing a reaction when other factors are combined together.

Purpurea No.1 which I found back in 2014 is the plant which does seem to go to the deepest purple in colour.  Below are the flowers as I recorded them back in 2014.

Purpurea No.1 which is probably the darkest one we have (Click over to enlarge)
You can see from the above photo just how dark it can get and this morning I decided to check on the plant and take a photograph which you can see that the plant is taking on that deep "purpurea" colouring again.

The same plant two years on and photographed this morning - Purpurea No.1 (Click over to enlarge)

And now for a lovely photograph of how Purpurea Specimen No 2 looks today:

Purpurea Specimen No.2 (Click over to enlarge)
Purpurea specimen No.2 will be noted to have a very dark green stem which is in total contract to its close neighbours which are only yards apart being Purpurea 3 and 4. This plant is slightly more exposed to a direct sunlight with little canopy protection although for most of the day it will be shaded to its West side.

And finally moving across the pavement some 300 yards I come to the last specimen (as far as I know) on this particular pavement which is Specimen Purpurea No.5

Specimen Purpurea No.5 (Click over to enlarge)
No.5 is very interesting and lies some 300 yards away from its nearest relations! it is growing under canopy and close to a juniper bush and within a yard at one side and a yard at the other side are three fine specimens of very tall Epipactis Helleborine (Broad Leaved) which show no signs of purpurea in their make up, just the regular colourings you would expect with Helleborine.  Also of special interest here is that within four yard distance is a Helliborine var: chlorantha which has only white and green in the flower with a total absence of any of the regular colouring.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Epipactis Helleborine Specials on Hutton Roof (5th Aug 2016)

A helleborine specimen from 2014 "full blown purpurea" found 15ft under canopy (Click over to enlarge)
I enjoyed this morning on Hutton Roof Crags (Cumbria Wildlife Reserve), I was actually collecting more evidence on the mystery plant which is without doubt just starting to go over now. Though I did manage to get a photo together with more close up photo of the leaf margins for examination and this will go a long way to identification. I guess its just like a "fingerprint" but I just want another day or two on this before a more clear picture starts to develop.

Todays inspection of some of the helleborines, showed they are just starting to look their best and odd individuals are already showing some traces of "purpurea" in the petals and sepals etc.  The usual story the closer to canopy the deeper the purple becomes.  I have one plant on the West side which is really turning fast now and would expect it to produce the darkest of wine colours if it goes like it did back in 2014 (see above photo).

Another stunning plant today showed it had three ants on parade rummaging about in the petals and crawling along the ovaries.  They certainly did not like my presence and showed their anger as though standing on their back legs and waving their arms at me with a sort of "clenched fist", I guess if I could have only heard them they would have been shouting and probably squirting me as well, but still I did manage to get a photo or two (see photo below)

A beautiful helleborine with ants probably propagating (Click over to enlarge)
I regular see ants farming black aphids on the Dark Red Helleborines (E. Atrorubens) but thankfully this year we have not had the aphids, can only put this down to the wet weather perhaps, but by the left when they come they soon devastate the plant and suck all the life from it!

The photo below just shows you the Ant in "attack preparation mode"

Ant in centre of photo in "attack mode" (Click over to enlarge)
Another bonny plant I found in canopy and almost hiding within a Juniper bush along with it's other compatriots was this one below and I managed to photograph from behind which is showing the petals and sepals already turning to nice "purpurea" colour.

A beautiful "very open" purpurea specimen of Helleborine (Click over to enlarge)
And how do you work this one out?  Only one metre away from the above plant and yet within even thicker canopy we have the following very pale plant.

A  lovely light Helleborine sharing the same canopy as the plant in the photo above it
(Click over to enlarge)

We have several "Helleborine" plants on Hutton Roof which only flower on one to two sides of the stem! does that remind you of something? Well just look at these photos, the first photo I took this morning.

Flowers coming from just two side of the stem "Helleborine" (Click over to enlarge)
Another E. Helleborine I took back in 2013 and again it only flowers to two sides (Click over to enlarge)

And finally for today I could not resist this little beauty who clings within the side of her hazel bush and although surrounded by many lighter forms of helleborine, she still stands out a mile for her beautiful contrasting colours.


Also last night (4th August 2016) it was our Burton Swift Bird Study Group meet for the last of the season and here is the report:

We met at Burton Memorial Hall at 2000hrs and it turned out to be a fantastic night with lots of Swifts flying. We just stayed on the Car Park from where we got the best overhall observations.

We thought at first it was going to be a very quiet night and it took a while to build the numbers to around the 8 mark, then within a further twenty minutes or so the numbers had swelled up to a minimum of 30 birds which to us all seemed happy chasing one another whilst feeding on the wing and screaming in unison.

We all had that feeling it could well be their big finale night and what a superb performance.

Tonights observers included: David Craig, Bryan Yorke, Hugh and Sue and Pete Miles together with our special visitors young naturalist Ella and Ben who really enjoyed watching the Burton Swifts and it made a nice change for them having been used to seeing Swifts down in Bath were they live.

We have not yet called a meeting for next week and decided we will monitor the situation on a day by day basis, so please check out the Swift site if you want daily reports.