Worcestershire Record No. 23 November 2007 pp. 77-101
Three Field meetings were organised during the summer of 2007.
The lists of records subsequently sent to the WBRC are given on other pages. The lists are according to site and in two parts: Vascular Plants (compiled by Bert Reid), and everything else (compiled by John Partridge from the WBRC database). Also included is a complete list of vascular plants recorded at Hollybed Comon and Coombegreen Common between 2005 and 2007 compiled by Bert Reid. This extensive information from these important sites can be compared with the list for nearby Castlemorton Common compiled by Keith Barnett and published in Worcestershire Record No.19, November 2005.
Between 17 and 27 people booked for these recording days and 14, 18 and 22 attended bringing a wide range of expertise to the meetings.
Saturday 9th June 2007. Wick Grange Farm, near Pershore. Mainly in monads SO9745 and SO 9746.
Wick Grange farm is fairly intensively cultivated for cereals and horticultural crops with small permanent pastures adjacent to the River Avon. An outstanding feature of the site is the establishment of wide conservation margins to the cultivated fields using wild flower and rough grass seed mixes. These contained a good range of plants and supported many insects. The farm also contains a breeding population of Corn Buntings, a nationally scarce species red listed as of conservation concern. Steve Davies was able to return to the farm on several occasions and mapped the territories. His article can be found elsewhere on this issue of Worcestershire Record. It will be interesting to see if this population persists, especially as sugar beet production on the farm has ceased.
We are most grateful to Tom and Isabel Meikle for allowing us to visit the farm.
Saturday 7th July 2007. Hollybed Common at the south end of the Malvern Hills. Mainly in monad SO7736
Hollybed and adjacent Coombegreen Commons are (like nearby Castlemorton Common) well known for the wealth of uncommon vascular plants they support. Much less is known of their invertebrates. Most of the Common is unimproved grazed pasture of varying degrees of coarseness. In some areas there are many anthills. There are also scrubby patches, trees, and big hedgerows. The group gathered at the Mill Pool and spent most time in the southern part of Hollybed Common and in Coombegreen Common. The Golden Valley lying between the two is a mixture of dwellings, scrubland, cultivated patches, grazing and old orchards. Interestingly this area contained several pairs of Turtle Doves, another threatened and scarce species.
We are grateful to Rob Havard of the Malvern Hills Conservators for his interest and arranging for us to visit Hollybed Common.
Saturday 4th August 2007. Burlish Top (adjacent to the Devilís Spittleful heathland) near Kidderminster. Mainly in monad SO8073 with some records from Upper Blackstone Farm SO7974 & SO8074 (recently acquired by Worcestershire Wildlife Trust).
Burlish Top is the site of a World War 2 military hospital and barracks long since demolished Ė the only remnants being a few concrete base slabs scattered amongst the scrub and woodland. Owned by Wyre Forest District Council excellent work is being done to restore parts of the site to heathland. This part of Worcestershire once contained many lowland heaths of which remnants can be seen at the Devilís Spittleful & Rifle Range, Hartlebury Common and at Habberley Valley. The east side of Burlish Top now contains open sandy areas and heathland plants and this zone is attracting heathland insects. Lowland heaths are now uncommon in Britain and important this habitat is an important target for restoration.
We are most grateful to Paul Allen Countryside & Conservation Officer with Wyre Forest District Council and his staff for encouraging us to visit the site.
Following the visit Brett Westwood wrote the following account
WOODLARKS, WOLVES AND WHITE TIGERS
A very healthy turn-out filled the car-park at Blackstone near the Bewdley by-pass, with swishing nets and a sense of expectation, on a bright but rather overcast Saturday morning. After marvelling at the gathering of so many naturalists in one place (with an age-range of 11-81), we set off on a route-march past the newly acquired Worcestershire Wildlife Trust fields at Upper Blackstone Farm up onto Burlish Top, a trek which set a new speed record for progress at a field meeting; all members were congratulated on their self-restraint (entomologists cannot usually move more than ten yards before stopping to search!).
At the top we were met by rangers, including Paul Allen from Wyre Forest District Councilís environmental team, which manages the habitats at Burlish Top. This site is a valuable fragment of acid grassland and heath , once used as a barracks, which has scrubbed over in places and succumbed to the usual frustrations of heathland managers: invasion by broom, bracken, birch, and gorse. Paul Allenís team have battled relentlessly over many seasons against the invaders and succeeded in restoring some very promising heath with open patches of heather and even bare sand. This ground-zero management has been crucial in saving some of the very special plants and animals of the area.
The party fanned out across the first grassy patch recording as we went. On the gravelly paths were heathland specialities such as Sand Spurrey Spergularia rubra, and Birdís-foot Ornithopus perpusillus, although we turned a convenient blind eye to the hawkweeds Hieracium Sect.Sabauda which are also common in the path-side grass, but a taxonomic nightmare. Some butterflies had survived the summerís soaking, though numbers were down. As expected, burgeoning species such as Essex Skipper and Brown Argus were present in small numbers, though there wasnít the variety of vanessids one would usually expect. Did anyone see a Painted Lady or a Small Tortoiseshell or even a Comma? There were encouraging numbers of grasshoppers though including the Mottled Grasshopper Myrmeleotettix maculatus which is fond of these dry, well-drained and sparsely-vegetated spots
As we moved eastwards towards the radio mast at the summit, we re- found another scarce plant, the Hoary Cinquefoil Potentilla argentea, named because the backs of its leaves are silvery-white. Itís a poor competitor and survives best in rabbit-grazed turf or where itís subject to light trampling. Although sensitive to shading it can be remarkably persistent in well-trodden sandy spots.
Paul Allenís pride and joy is the cleared area on the eastern side of Burlish Top. Gorse and Broom have been battered into submission so successfully that a substantial patch of dry heath with open areas of sand has developed. The main beneficiary of this management is a very rare plant, the Grey Hair Grass Corynephorus canescens, almost confined as a native to coastal dunes in East Anglia and the Sefton Coast in Lancashire. Here at Burlish and on the Devilís Spittleful, itís believed by many to be an introduction, though how it arrived isnít certain. Blue-green tufts of the grass dotted the sand and proved a magnet for everyone. The ground between the grass was pinpricked with holes. Bee-wolves Philanthus triangulum were scattered throughout, their burrows surrounded by cones of red sand. Occasionally adults would arrive with a honeybee slung, Lancaster-Bomber-style, beneath them, and as we watched them so much at home it was hard to believe how only fifteen or so years ago this was one of Britainís rarest hymenopterans. Another striking bee that may now be on the move as a result of climate change is Dasypoda hirtipes, also nesting here in the sand. It deserves a common name Ö the Ginger-socked Bee was Gary Farmerís suggestion Ö because it sports huge pollen-gathering ginger britches on its back legs, making it stand out when laden with pollen. Typically a bee of coastal dunes, it would appear to be a new arrival in the county. Other insects in the same sandy spot included the weevil-carrying wasps Cerceris arenaria, and a mature larva of the Emperor Moth which soon became a photographic model.
Before setting out, many of us had talked hopefully of seeing the Woodlarks Lululla arborea which bred here in 2006 and again this year, but without much hope, as this is probably the only breeding pair in Worcestershire. To our surprise, two of them not only showed well at close range in the heather and broom, but even flew up onto telegraph wires to be admired by everyone, including Ruben (age 11) who gained his second major tick in a week(after a Goshawk in Wyre the previous Saturday).
Flushed with success we moved on, inspecting the plentiful Ragwort, thankfully un-pulled here, and the heather. Kevin McGeeís eagle-eyes spotted a Beautiful Yellow Underwing Anartia myrtilli at rest in a patch of Ling. The botanists among us looked in vain for Heath Cudweed, but had fun speculating on the identification of various Cerastiums, relics from the old barracks.
In late afternoon we began our descent to Blackstone car park, noting two Ruby Tiger larvae on the way, apparently feeding on Bracken Ö no danger of them becoming extinct because one of their food plants being in short supply. An interesting fungus growing on dead gorse found by Jane Scott was later identified by John Bingham as Daldinia fissa (vernicosa) apparently not recorded in Worcestershire since 1962. On the way down some of the party made a detour off the track into a pasture sown with scattered Borage and found several specimens of Purple Viperís-Bugloss Echium plantagineum among them. In view of the similar combination of species found last month at Ribbesford Wood, is this from the same seed-source and can we look forward to more records of this very rare plant in our county? Chicory Cichorium intybus and a livid-purple variety of Common Mallow Malva sylvestris added weight to the Continental origins of the crop.
Down at Blackstone some of the group stayed on to visit the Field Garlic Allium oleraceu along the sandy track to Droppingwells Farm. Although not yet in flower, the flower-buds and long paired bracts easily distinguished it from Crow Garlic. From the same spot, we could see with binoculars across to the West Midlands Safari Park where the famous white tigers and wolves prowled in their compounds, and blackbuck grazed freely, watched by visitors in their Mondeo prisons.
A fascinating day in Worcestershireís Sandlands and a real treat to see the heath in such good heart.
SPECIES LISTS FOR RECORDING DAYS
As our recorders expand their range of interest there are more and more instances where a number of people have recorded the same species. In the interests of space and paper, these multiple records have all been listed on one line, with the names abbreviated to initials. Where initials occur twice the species has been recorded by the same person at more than one site. This has also meant that recording the Grid Reference in these lists for each sighting is no longer possible. All the details are of course on the WBRC database. If anyone should want a more complete listing, this can be supplied by contacting John Partridge at WBRC.
AL Allan Lawson
DB Dave Barnett
MEB Mick Blythe
SD Steve Davies
GD Gillian Davis
JB John & Denise Bingham
GAF Gary Farmer
GHG Harry Green*
GHT Geoff Trevis
JH Jackie Hardy
AH Ann Hill (on behalf of Worcs Bryologists)
JWM John Meiklejohn
KM Kevin McGee
MEB Mick Blythe
ML Mark Lawley
WJP John Partridge
JR Joy Ricketts
DS Dave Scott
PLT Patrick Taylor
WW Will Watson
RAW Rosemary Winnall
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