Wednesday 11 October 2017

Botanising in Wales 19th & 20th May

Here's the first of quite a few botany posts to come as it's been a busy year botanising as well as the butterflies. Back in May we spent two days on a small tour of Wales beginning just on the border at Stanner Rocks in Radnorshire. We had arranged to meet Rhys, a warden from Natural Resources Wales on site and he was going to show us a few of the special rare plants that grow there namely Sticky Catchfly, Upright Perennial Knawel and Upright Clover.

These Sticky Catchfly flowers were unusual in having a white calyx
not the usual concolorous ones. Here being admired by Rhys who'd never seen them in this colour form before.
These were the only ones (which after a bit of a climb) were easy to approach. 

 Most were up this slope which the warden had recently cleared of brambles. It wasn't too difficult to climb up there but the problem was that the whole slope was one big Wood Ant nest. I passed on getting a close up shot and used the zoom from here instead.

Sticky Catchfly - Silene viscaria

Upright Clover is a very rare clover only growing here at Stanner Rocks and on The Lizard in Cornwall.

Upright Clover -  Trifolium stictum

 Even rarer is this lovely little plant, Upright Perennial Knawel. A subspecies of Perennial Knawel which only grows at this one site in Britain.

 Upright Perennial Knawel - Scleranthus perennis ssp.perennis

Stanner Rocks is certainly an amazing site with these plants as well as the equally rare Early Star of Bethlehem, which flowers here in the late winter and many rare mosses too. Please note that only the Quarry Floor is open to the public and access to the rest of the reserve is by means of a guide. So many thanks to Natural Resources Wales and Rhys for showing us these great wildflowers.

Next stop was on the banks of the River Wye near Boughrood where we saw the rare and beautiful Rock Cinquefoil and also Chives.

Rock Cinquefoil - Potentilla rupestris

Chives - Allium schoenoprasum 

Our time admiring these lovely flowers was cut short by some hefty rain showers and so we set of for our next destination which was a long drive away, right through the heart of Wales to Anglesey on the northwest coast. We arrived at Holyhead in the evening and hoped for fine weather the next morning because for the flower we wanted to see this is a prerequisite. Spotted Rock-rose is the county flower of Anglesey and its delicate yellow flowers only open in fine weather and even then the petals may fall before midday! You need to time it right to see this one! Fortunately the next morning was bright if not sunny so we set off to Porth Diana with high hopes. Happily they were in flower and really were a sight to behold, simply exquisite!

Some like this one have smaller brown spots and some..

Just weren't conforming at all!

Spotted Rock-rose - Tuberaria guttata

The field at Porth Diana where they grow has a lovely array of other wildflowers, including drifts of  Heath Spotted-orchids and Spring Squill.

Heath Spotted-orchid - Dactylorhiza maculata

This Heath Spotted-orchid is probably the most flouncy, frilly one I've ever seen.

Tall Ramping Fumitory - Fumaria bastardii

This was a nice surprise, spotted growing at the side of the road whilst walking back to the car. 
The bright salmon pink colour really stood out but I still had to get the books out to confirm the ID.
Notice the colour coordinated aphid on the stem. 

Next stop was South Stack where I was hoping to see Spathulate Fleawort or South Stack Fleawort as it is endemic to Holyhead Island, around South Stack, growing on steep cliffs. There weren't that many plants in flower at the time of our visit and they were quite a way down the cliff-side. I was determined to get some nice photos so had to lie on the ground and lean over the edge. I think it was worth the abject terror! ;-)

 You can get some idea of the steepness in this photo 
although it doesn't look as steep as it actually was.

Spathulate Fleawort Tephroseris integrifolia subsp. maritima

And here with an Ant and a carpet of Spring Squill.

A bonus find here growing among rocks on the steps and surrounding heathland was Heath Pearlwort, a new species for both of us. Although it isn't rare we had somehow managed to avoid seeing any on our travels. It was pretty difficult to get photos of the flowers in the bright sun, with them being so small and brilliant white. We collected quite a few spectators wondering why we were photographing the ground!

Heath Pearlwort - Sagina subulata 

A view from South Stack over Anglesey with Snowdonia in the distance

I was really hoping to get some good views of Coughs and did see a couple but they were a bit distant for good photos and back lit too. Didn't stop me trying though.

Finally we made our way over to The Great Orme where it was exceedingly windy as opposed to the usual windy! We managed  to see most of our target species there. The notable exception being Spotted Cat's-ear which we can't seem to find anywhere!

Hoary Rock-rose.
 Most of the flowers were closed due to the wind strength. This one was in a slightly more sheltered spot but you can see that it was very windy by looking at the anthers. We found a lot more on the west cliffs in a much more sheltered location which were flowering well.

Hoary Rock-roseHelianthemum oelandicum ssp incanum

 Welsh Hawkweed - Hieracium cambricum
A rare endemic which only grows on The Great Orme. 

Wild Cotoneaster is endemic to the Great Orme. It is also the only species of Cotoneaster native to the British Isles. It has never been found naturally at any other location.
 It is also sometimes called The Great Orme Berry

Wild Cotoneaster - Cotoneaster cambricus

Tuesday 3 October 2017

Butterfly Yearlist

It's finished! In fact it was finished on August 29th with the rather unexpected bonus of Queen of Spain Fritillary, which was my first ever butterfly twitch. (Well off patch one because there was a minor one for the Large Tortoiseshell in Bun's Garden back in 2008). When we had the first sighting of a Silver-spotted Skipper of the year at Aston Rowant on July 7th we were probably on schedule to get one of the fastest full list of British species ever. This was never going to be an option though as when we saw the Silver-spotted Skipper we were on our way northwards for two weeks botanising in Scotland and so an early Brown Hairstreak was out of the question. In Scotland it was nice to see some 'proper' Northern Brown Argus with their brilliant white wing spots and several of the Scottish form of Large Heath. We tried for Scotch Argus at Arnside Knott on the way back south but were too early. On my last update I was starting to panic about missing Purple Emperor as I hadn't been able to go to Fermyn Wood last time the weather was favourable.Fortunately there was a small break in the poor weather and this time I was able to go. I saw my first one flying around the treetops at Whitecross Green Wood on a nice warm Saturday evening just after we'd first visited the fabulous Bernwood Meadows where I got five year ticks. We spent many hours in a mostly cloudy Fermyn Woods the next day seeing quite a few Purple Emperors in the trees but not on the ground. Fortunately just as we'd decided to leave one did the decent thing and landed on my foot and then the path. After getting back from Scotland Brown Hairstreak was easy enough to see at Alners Gorse with a trip back up to Cumbria in August to see what I thought would be the final butterfly Scotch Argus.

So 59 species seen (and photographed) in total. Highlights were seeing four 'lifers' obviously but also visiting some great new locations. Best of all? Well, possibly the very rare and beautiful Queen of Spain but just pipped at the post I think by Chequered Skipper one I've always wanted to see! Anyway here's the final part of the list and lots of photos. All butterflies on this list and some photos of butterflies in previous lists but not photographed at the time.

45.  Gatekeeper                             30th June        Portland, Dorset

46.  Silver-washed Fritillary         30th June        Bernwood Meadows, Bucks

47.  Purple Hairstreak                   30th June        Bernwood Meadows, Bucks

48.  Essex SKipper                        30th June        Bernwood Meadows, Bucks

49.  White-letter Hairstreak          30th June        Bernwood Meadows, Bucks

50.  White Admiral                       30th June        Bernwood Meadows, Bucks

51.  Purple Emperor                      30th June       Whitecross Green Woods, Oxon

52.  Dark Green Fritillary              2nd July        Aish Tor, Devon

53.  High Brown Fritillary             2nd July        Aish Tor Devon

54.  Grayling                                  5th July         Portland, Dorset

55.  Chalkhill Blue                         5th July         Portland, Dorset

56.  Silver-spotted Skipper            7th July         Aston Rowant, Oxon

57.  Brown Hairstreak                   1st August     Alners Gorse, Dorset

58.  Scotch Argus                          12th August   Arnside Knott, Cumbria

59.  Queen of Spain Fritillary*     29th August    Peacehaven, Sussex

Adonis Blue



Common Blue

 Dark Green Fritillary

High Brown Fritillary

I didn't get any decent shots of these two species as they were always way too active in hot sunny conditions which weren't ideal for photography as you can see!


Meadow Brown 


Marbled White

Large White


Chalkhill Blue

Essex Skipper 


Brown Hairstreak

White-letter Hairstreak 

Purple Hairstreak 

Silver-spotted Skipper
 This female Silver-spotted Skipper was the first one seen this year, on July 7th, a very early date.
(More accurately it was equal first with one seen the same day in Sussex)

This one was later in the year in Hampshire

White Admiral

Silver-washed Fritillary 
 I think there are four here. A mating pair and a couple of hopefuls

And here's a lovely Valezina 

Purple Emperor

 A typical view with a couple of mystery leaf hoppers?


 I'd like to say I had him to myself but this was Fermyn Wood.
 I've seen bigger gatherings than this around an Emperor though.

Large Heath (form scotica)

A more typical view! 

Northern Brown Argus

Not the best photo, crap in fact, but this one had superb white spots.

Scotch Argus

 Some were doing their best impressions of a Purple Emperor.
A good effort I think.

On a farm near Peacehaven Sussex ...

Admirers prostrate themselves before the Queen of Spain 

And who could blame them!