Sunday, 29 December 2013

VC55 Plant Hunt: our list sets new record!

Some of the Plant Hunt 2013 Team
Image: L. Marsh
It was great to arrive at the Soar Lane site today and find 10 of us assembled including Brian Laney, plant-finder extraordinaire who came over from Northants to join in the BSBI New Year's Plant Hunt. But you want to know the total, don't you? Well... 

Quite a few other counties have submitted their records to the Plant Hunt but nobody has yet matched our total of 63 wild or naturalised plant taxa recorded in flower in town today, including a possible new county record - Geranium rotundifolium

Geranium cf rotundifolium near Vaughan College
Image: L. Marsh
Our specimen certainly has the red-tipped glandular hairs mentioned in Poland, and some expert botanists like Tim Rich and BSBI President Ian Denholm have looked at the photos and agree with Brian Laney, who noticed and ID'd the plant. 
We also have 5 extra species from Russell and still to add are Maggie's and Jack's extra records. And anybody else who still wants to contribute? New Year's Day is final date for inclusion in our total - today it is 68 and counting!  

Brian "Eagle Eyes" Laney in VC55 today
Image: L. Marsh
We have been strict in our definition of naturalised - it must have "jumped the garden fence" and become established without human intervention. But Maggie asks about some plants that do seem to have become naturalised in her wildlife garden and would be unable to jump the fence due to over-tidy neighbours! What do you all think about this - include them or not? 

We are still working on the spreadsheet, and Mike our VCR hasn't seen or commented on it yet, but I've just uploaded the list so far - if you contributed, please take a look and see what you think. It's the latest document on our bsbivc55 Google page and is called Flowering December 2013. 

End of survey - time for tea and cake
Image: L. Marsh
Christmas cake: G. Hall & J. Lindesay
Many thanks to Russell for writing it up so quickly, to new member Rashmi for taking photos which I will upload when she sends them through, to Brian for joining us today and to all of you who have contributed records so far - well done VC55 botanists!

PS Our next meeting will bring us back to earth with a bump - mosses, liverworts and lichens in Rutland. Back to scratching our heads and - like Manuel on Fawlty Towers - knowing nothing! 

Saturday, 28 December 2013

New Year's Plant Hunt has started!

Silene dioica Red Campion
Image: J. Riggall
Some botanists just can't wait... Jack Riggall is home from Cheshire for the hols and not only has he been out looking for plants in flower in the Barlestone area, he's also typed them up on a spreadsheet and sent us the photos! 

Jack is building up his ID skills - he joined the Botany for Beginners course last summer - and he's already advanced enough to;
a) know what he doesn't know, 
Unknown species #1
Image: J. Riggall
Unknown species #2
Image: J. Riggall
b) know how valuable the support of his fellow botanists can be, and
c) know that yellow dandelion/daisy type things are extra tricky.

So, included in Jack's pix are two plants he isn't quite sure about - want to offer him some suggestions? Click on images to enlarge them. Leave a comment below or email me at the usual address. 

Jack intends to go back out tomorrow, and a few of us will be in town - meeting at 12.30 in the car park outside cement works at end of Soar Lane, near new Wildlife Trust HQ. Hope you can join us, or else let us know what you are seeing in flower in your neighbourhood. 

The rules for the Plant Hunt are here and you can email me photos or attach them to Tweets and send .to @BSBIbotany.


Friday, 27 December 2013

New Year's Day Plant Hunt 2014: the details.

Thanks to all of you who voted and emailed me about the New Year's Day Plant Hunt. We will carry out our survey on Sunday 29th December, starting at 12.30. Assemble in the small car park at the end of Soar Lane, just before the Rally Bank Nature Reserve - grid ref looks like SK 579 048. Phone me if you can't see us. Weather forecast looks good for Sunday.

If you are recording in your own neighbourhood, rather than joining the city survey, please follow the rules here and send your records to us here for collation - we'll send VC55 records to Co-ordinator Tim Rich all at once to minimise his workload! If you are recording outside Leics & Rutland, please contact your County Recorder direct. 

We plan to use the new BSBI Twitter account to hook up with all the other BSBI botanists around the country planning to record for the New Year's Day Hunt. So - if you are on Twitter - please tweet to me @BSBIbotany and attach some selfies of you with the plants you are seeing in flower. 

Happy New Year from Louise :-)

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

New Year's Day Wild Plant Hunt and other diary dates.

The BSBI is planning to hold its plant hunt for a third year - more info here and the Doodle poll is here - we don't have to do it on New Year's Day, it can be any day between 28th December and 1st January.

We are still working on the spring programme for vascular plants (starting in April) but here are the dates for three meetings until then, all starting at 12 noon:

18th January: Hambleton Churchyard and adjacent woodland in SSSI; Rutland Water. Cryptogams. Grid refs and assembly points to follow.

15th February: Charnwood Lodge. Cryptogams and interesting conifers - we may split into two groups.

15th March: Charley Wood. Cryptogams. 

Weather would have to be pretty foul for us to cancel a meeting, but contact me if you'd like confirmation before you set off. Phone number at bottom of any email from the VC55 group.

I'm still waiting to find out when John Poland can offer his conifer workshop - will post details here when I have them.

Thanks to all of you who came to the Cryptogams and Mince-pies meeting (pictured) last Saturday - and especially to Maggie for the amazing apple chutney :-) 

Happy Christmas, botanists! 

Friday, 29 November 2013

VC55 botany courses promoted at Natural History Museum.

We offered posters on both of our local botany courses at the BSBI's Annual Exhibition Meeting, held last Saturday at the NHM in London.

There was a lot of interest in both Botany for Beginners - which will run again next year, and we are already taking names for the waiting list - and also the Plant ID course for intermediate level botanists.

192 botanists from Britain and Ireland were at the Exhibition Meeting, and one - John Akeroyd, (photo on left) - was at University with Richard Gornall. So he was glad to see what Richard is doing these days - teaching botany to all of us!

We are going to put as many of the AEM posters and presentations as possible up on the Meetings page of the BSBI website, so watch out for them.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

No Samolus, but not so bad...

Is there a word for the particular kind of annoyance you experience when it has been raining all weekend and the sun comes out on Sunday evening? Brightening-up Rage perhaps? Thanks to the rotten weather (I assume?), we've just had our worst-attended meeting in years - only four of us! 

We didn't refind the Samolus, but we did see Catapodium rigidum Fern-grass and Scutellaria galericulata Skullcap, and a rose with rather stunning prickles (right). So once the rain had stopped, it really wasn't too bad...

Uta, Russell and Ian on the Grand Union Canal
 The interesting thing was that, once again, we were surveying alongside the canal and we were finding species on the Local Wildlife Site criteria list for both mesotrophic grassland (6 spp) and wet grassland (4, possibly 5, spp). 

With 10+ species from the two lists, this stretch of the canal bank would meet the criteria to be designated a LWS for its wet grassland, if it is also seasonally-flooded. Anybody got any good photos of last winter's floods?

The mesotrophic grassland species were Centaurea nigra Knapweed, Filipendula ulmaria Meadowsweet, Galium verum Lady's Bedstraw, Lathyrus pratensis Meadow Vetchling, Ranunculus bulbosus Bulbous Buttercup and Trifolium pratense Red Clover. 

And from the wet grassland list: Angelica sylvestris Wild Angelica, Juncus inflexus Hard Rush, Carex otrubae False Fox-sedge, Carex riparia Greater Pond-sedge and Russell has taken home what may be Carex acuta to look at more closely. We got 94 taxa on our recording card.

You can download a pdf of the criteria species here. And then you can go out and find some more potential Local Wildlife Sites!

Hunt the Samolus part 2

Just to confirm that today's 'Hunt the Samolus' meeting will still take place, even if it is raining. The majority vote is for a 12 noon start, so...hope you can make it! You can phone me if you arrive late and can't see us - phone number at the foot of any email from the VC55 group.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Videos for botanists

BSBI wins Best Stand 2013 (Conservation) at Birdfair
Image: L. Marsh
 Here is a link to a rather nice short video about plant collections at Kew. Anyone who has visited the Herbarium at Leicester will be interested to see what a Herbarium looks like when you apply some serious money to it. 

Just think what Richard Gornall, Curator of the Herbarium at the University of Leicester (LTR), could do with an equally juicy cash injection...  

The video is very slick and professional with some eye-catching graphics - I love the plant silhouettes that flutter over the Herbarium cabinets (another item for the LTR wishlist!).

VC55 members arriving at Charity Fields, Desford;
Nick Crowley tells us about the site's history.
 Image: L. Marsh
Compare Kew's offering with the BSBI's short video here, filmed on our award-winning stand at this year's Birdfair by a professional team for Birdfair TV. No fancy graphics, but you can see the plant displays that won us the Best Stand Award (Conservation). 

The video also features a big plug for the VC55 group from BSBI's President, Ian Denholm. He says we are a good example of a local BSBI group! But you may want to fast forward for some of the video - there's a really annoying curly-haired old bat wittering on about outreach...  
Herbarium volunteers show Botany for Beginners
 students what we do in the Herbarium
Image: L. Marsh

Or compare with the New Journal of Botany video: interview with Richard G, shot by me on a point-and-shoot camera on a budget of absolutely nothing. Great content (ok, I would say that!) but as for production values... still, worth a look. Richard brightens up towards the end of the video, once he realises the ordeal is nearly over. Watch our reluctant media star here, and hear him praise the volunteers who help in the Herbarium.  

I spotted the link to the Kew video on the BSBI (Irish Section) Facebook page here. Some nice things on their page! The main BSBI Facebook page also has mystery plant photos for you to try and ID, links to events and... posts by an annoying old bat wittering on about outreach. Sorry! 

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Hunt the Samolus

Looking up old records for Samolus valerandi (Brookweed) in the 1988 Flora of Leics, Uta found that it was recorded in 1972, growing in a "marsh at canal margin near Pywell's Lock" between Wistow and Kibworth.  

Uta says "the Samolus could be in flower now" so she suggests that we go out this weekend and see if we can refind it at Pywell's Lock. We will also, of course, record any other plants we find, but here is our prime target, as photographed by Geoffrey in the Outer Hebrides last summer: 

According to Mike's Flora, Samolus valerandi is rare in VC55, with records from only 14 localities. Click here for the Doodle link so you can vote on your preferred day and start time, and can see where to park and assemble. If you need a lift, please leave a comment on the Doodle poll and we will try to help - we always try to car-share when we go out recording.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Derelict orchard survey, Aylestone Meadows.

Sampling the fruit in the old orchard:
by taking specimens home for ID and by eating some of it!
Image: R. Rogers
Glorious summery weather today for our field meeting at Aylestone Meadows

Thirteen of us turned up - a smaller group than usual, and commiserations to five local members who voted for a Sunday slot for this survey of the old orchard.

It was really more of a preliminary nosey around the perimeter with a few brief forays through the undergrowth and into the odd patch where more light could penetrate - very C19th plant-hunter!

There's a silty wet ditch in there with (probably) sticklebacks but very shaded and botanically quite bleak - could be opened up in places to create different micro-habitats and encourage more flora and fauna to move in? 

You'd really need to go back with billhooks for a full survey, but I did a quick total from today's recording card. We identified and recorded 72 plant taxa and yes, we found several kinds of fruit tree - pear, apple, damson and plum - especially towards the eastern side of the site. 

Very little fruit, presumably due to lack of management, but some trees are quite old. Regenerating old fruit trees can be a difficult job and you may never get a great yield, according to my admittedly limited experience, but IMHO that doesn't mean it shouldn't be attempted and it would be fun trying!  

I'm sure that Neill Talbot (LRWT) and Helen O'Brien (LCC) will be able to give AMAS some more considered advice once the site has been surveyed properly, and I hope our group will be glad to help out with this if required. 

It would be great to see a community orchard here - we ran into loads of local people today, out blackberrying in the sunshine, so I hope they'd support the plan. They might bemoan the loss of some berries, but some of those bramble patches are too dense for successful foraging and there are loads of other good spots on the Meadows.

Great to have Neill with us for a while today, showing us the scrapes that have been created and talking us through current management in this part of the Meadows. 
We also benefited from the presence of Graham and Anona Finch, our local lepidopteran (is that a word?) experts who showed us larvae of, and signs of damage by, some fascinating micro-moths in that amenable stage, before they get their wings - larvae are nice because they can't fly away before you have time to get the book out. 

One reason I love botany: the specimen stays put while you peer at it! Graham and Anona have kindly offered to pass on their records to us for circulation amongst the group.

Many thanks to all of you who came out recording today, and a special welcome to three of you who were out with us for the first time. Great to hear that you enjoyed the afternoon and would like to join us again! Many thanks also to Richard Rogers, who took the photographs on this page - what a nice man!

We'll put the species list up on our Google page once it's typed up, and copies will go to Helen, Neill and Anne at AMAS. I hope they will keep us posted on how things develop.

Posted by Louise

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Old orchard survey at Aylestone Meadows

Hi botanists

The weather forecast for this weekend is good, so how about joining us on a field visit to survey a derelict orchard at Aylestone Meadows? 

Helen O'Brien (Leicester City Council Nature Conservation Officer) and Aylestone Meadows Appreciation Society are considering a project to regenerate this site as a community orchard, so they'd like to know what is actually there. We can ID some fruit trees and hopefully help ourselves to some free plums and apples. 

Here's the Doodle link for more info, parking details, grid ref, and so you can vote on your preferred date and start time.
NB: A majority of you have now voted to start the meeting at noon on Saturday, so hope to see you then.  

And here is the link to the Wildlife Trust's recent report on Aylestone Meadows - note how many BSBI members were involved with the survey work!

The orchard is in a corner of the meadows which we have never visited before, so let's see what's there, grab some free fruit and maybe head to the Black Horse in Aylestone for a pint after? 

Posted by Louise

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Botany courses in VC55.

Plant ID students in Derbyshire 2013
The first year of our 'Botany for Beginners' course has just ended, with a dozen students attending the final module on Trees.

We are now preparing for the Plant ID course, which is due to start up again on 1st October. 

The Plant ID course is nearly full, but if you are interested in joining it and would like to put your name on our waiting list, chances are there will be a few last-minute cancellations. 

Full details of our botany courses are available on the Botanic Garden website here.

We are also taking enquiries already about next year's 'Botany for Beginners' course, and it's very gratifying to see how many of this year's 'Botany for Beginners' students are going on to study on the Plant ID course. 

I hope these photographs of lovely botanists enjoying both courses this year give a hint as to how much fun the courses are! 

Many thanks to all of you who have supported botanical training in VC55 this year. 

If you would like to know more about either course, add your name to a waiting list or receive a prospectus, just get in touch with me at

Posted by Louise

Monday, 1 July 2013

Grasses, Sedges and Rushes Identification Meeting

Steve Woodward (local all-round naturalist and Editor of Leicestershire and Rutland Recorder) is offering to lead a meeting at Bradgate Park (meet at Newtown Linford car park) on Friday 5 July at 6:30 pm.

Steve says: "Bradgate does not have an abundance of "pretty" flowers, but there are plenty of grasses, sedges and rushes in flower at the moment. I'm happy to offer what help I can in naming them; beginners are welcome. There are 25 species of grasses that we are likely to see, 10 sedges and 8 rushes."

If you want to join us, here is the Doodle link to arrange car-sharing. Meet Steve in the car park (Newtown Linford).

Friday, 28 June 2013

Rutland Water Nature Reserve Bioblitz

As you may know, a Bioblitz will be held at Rutland Water Nature Reserve again this July. The format will be slightly different to last year – the event will run from 12 noon on Saturday 6th July to 12 noon on Saturday 7th July. The organisers hope this will ensure that there is good weather for at least part of the 24 hour period.
The new format has allow the event to be divided into two distinct parts:
 Science Saturday
Saturday afternoon will be given over entirely to wildlife recording. Recorders with a specific area of expertise are encouraged, but everyone is welcome! There will be access to the whole reserve, including areas not usually open to the public. All you will need to do is to register on arrival and then report your sightings before you leave. As last year, there will be a species totaliser in the Education Room at the Birdwatching Centre to keep track of what’s been recorded. Geoffrey will be there in the afternoon.
In addition, Rachel Ibbotson (LRWT) will be running childrens’ activities for Wildlife Watch members and there will be a guided bat walk (and hopefully moth trapping) in the evening.
Public Sunday
A series of guided walks and events will be run on Sunday morning that need to be pre-booked. If you would prefer to simply come and do some more recording on Sunday, then that would be great. Louise and Russell will be there on Sunday, if you'd like some excellent company. (LM: Thanks Geoffrey! We hope to go over on Saturday evening too - if we are not too tired after the Botany for Beginners field session that we are leading that day!) 
More information can be found here, if you'd like to go. And who knows, maybe you'll find another first record for Leicestershire and Rutland, like the Frog Rush (Juncus ranarius) that turned up in 2011!

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Big Nature Day at Natural History Museum. 

Last year, BSBI had a stand at Big Nature Day, a one-day family event at the Natural History Museum. We joined other wildlife and conservation bodies to introduce young people to the delights of the natural world.

BSBI stand at Big Nature Day, 2012
Photo: Ian Denholm
It was a great day and we've been invited back this year, so we are now looking for people to help out on the stand. Three volunteers are needed on 13th July - I'm afraid we can't pay you, but your travel costs would be covered and you would get a free lunch and a chance to look round the other exhibits, both at the event and inside the Natural History Museum (without queueing for ages to get in!). You would also have the chance to tell people about BSBI and show them how botanists ID plants and how our work supports nature conservation. The aim of the day is to get people - especially children - interested in nature and show them how to get started recording wildlife.

More info here and some photos of last year's event here. Please email us at if you think you might be interested in helping out at this year's Big Nature Day. 

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Anybody interested in this taster day for a botanical art course starting in September? There are a few places left on both. Please contact Wendy directly. Details below: 

img074.jpgBotany for Botanical Artists Taster Day
Saturday 8th June 2013
10.30am – 4.00pm
To be held at
The Coach House
The University of Leicester Botanic Garden
Stoughton Drive South,

An informal taster day especially suitable for people with some experience of illustrating who wish to:
· Gain a better understanding of plants to inform their practice of the art of botanical illustration
·  Develop and refine illustration techniques appropriate to botanical subject
·  Have an interest in plants and wish to expand their knowledge

The day will concentrate on Plants from different environments.

It is hoped that some of the students on the day course will enrol for a one year course of ten linked sessions beginning in September 2013.
The Tutors for the taster day course and the one year course are Tony Duffield and Wendy Harvey
If you would like to attend the course please phone or email first to check availability as there are limited places. Tel. weekday 0116 2591959, or evenings and weekends 01455 290242, email Wendy Harvey at 

Friday, 31 May 2013

Welland Valley Bioblitz at Market Harborough

Victoria says:

"This year The Welland Rivers Trust is holding its first ever BioBlitz event and we would like to invite every recorder and enthusiast in the County to join us. Bioblitz events are held over a 24-hour period at the chosen location, and aim to record as many individual species as possible. We have set a target of "250 species living in Welland Park" and need your help to reach this goal!

Our event will commence on Friday 31st May at Welland Community College on Welland Park Road, Market Harborough. The evening’s activities will focus on bats and moth trapping, accompanied by tea, coffee and hot chocolate. We will restart early on Saturday morning with a morning bird chorus in Welland Park the remainder of the activities commence at 10:00. Welland Park was awarded a Green Flag award for its high standards in 2007 and has continued to receive the award in all subsequent years since. The River Welland creates a border for the park and on the Saturday we would like to focus the activities around the aquatic invertebrates and higher plant species but would also be interested in recording mosses, liverworts, lichen, algae, spiders, fungi, butterflies, amphibians, reptiles, bees, wasps, mammals, birds, dragonflies/damsels and all other groups of terrestrial invertebrates. All the records will, of course, get submitted to the records office and our intention is to produce an easily accessible baseline of data for future recording events as well as our current project to restore the River Welland as it runs through Market Harborough."

Hope some of you can go.

For further information see The Welland Valley Newsletter

Wednesday, 29 May 2013


There are three fields that are a Wildlife Site in the parish of Desford, one in particular is good for grasses and flowers. It was surveyed in 1970’s by Ian Evans and more recently by Steve Woodward and later by Katie Field. We want to update the records. Please meet at the library to walk to fields.


Thursday, 23 May 2013

Green-winged Orchid Count at Muston Meadows NNR. 

Thanks to all of you who voted to join the Muston Meadows Orchid Count and especially to the eleven people who carried out the count yesterday. Thanks also to Nick for sending this photo of the orchid counters, with Chris Hill (LRWT) showing us their grand total of 26,918 flowering spikes.

BSBI & LRWT members counted 26,918 Green-winged Orchids at Muston Meadows NNR.
22nd May, 2013. Photo: N. Crowley. 

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Free opportunity to learn about Grizzled Skippers.

Mark Woods from the Notts BSBI group has just been in touch. He tells me there are still a handful of places left on a Grizzled Skipper Training Event to be held in Bingham, Notts. on the 26th May. The training event is free of charge and will be led by Bill Bacon, Chair of Butterfly Conservation, East Midlands. 

If you are interested in a place on the course, please enquire asap to Chris Jackson, Biodiversity Officer, Nottinghamshire Biodiversity Action Group. Contact him on 0115 969 6519 or 07753 850760.

Thanks for the tip-off, Mark!

Posted by Louise

Saturday, 18 May 2013

BSBI VC55 Group at Aylestone Meadows Bioblitz. 

A good day at Aylestone Meadows Bioblitz today. We did a quick field count at the end and it looks like we recorded 185 plant taxa. A few were more difficult plants (like willows and sedges) that we need to check carefully to get the species - and we got some hybrids and naturalised garden cultivars, so we can't say 185 species. Taxa is a good word, if you don't want to be too precise!

Nice to see Sir Peter Soulsby, our Elected Mayor, at the LRWT stand, appreciating the contribution the Trust has made to nature conservation at Aylestone Meadows. As he looked at our poster (which you can view here), Geoffrey and I told him about the wildlife surveys that Neill Talbot had carried out at the Meadows last summer, helped by BSBI members like Uta Hamzaoui, Paul Stevens, Diane Mattley, Geoffrey and me, and the resulting LRWT report which you can see here.

Around a dozen grown-ups and children joined us for a wildflower walk through the Meadows and along the towpath, and there were some very sharp-eyed children - one was very good at telling the different speedwells apart, and another heroically rescued a frog, which was hopping into the busy carpark, and carried out a translocation to a more suitable habitat. Destined to be an ecological consultant, perhaps?

After the walk, we carried on recording and of course we visited the famous field with Eleocharis uniglumis - check its national distribution on the BSBI map here, and you will understand why jaws dropped and eyebrows were raised two years ago when this plant was recorded here for the first time.

Many thanks to Russell, Diane and Jack for all their hard work towards reaching our grand total, which will make a huge contribution towards the day's total. The specimens we brought home and the records we made will be properly checked this week and then go to Mike Jeeves, our VC Recorder, for scrutiny. Nothing dodgy gets past Mike so, once he is happy, we'll put the official total up here on the Blog of all the plant taxa recorded today at Aylestone Meadows.

Congratulations to Helen, Richard and the LCC team on a very successful Bioblitz!  

Friday, 17 May 2013

Aylestone Meadows Bioblitz: update.  

Uta showing AMAS members some plants.
Aylestone Meadows, June 2012
Photo: R. Parry
Latest news and gossip: I hear that Uta (right) is planning to lead a Bryophyte Walk at the Bioblitz on Friday evening. Also that Nathalie is co-ordinating the Wildlife Trust's stand, which Geoffrey will be helping on throughout Saturday. So there should be some familiar faces at this Bioblitz, whenever you arrive. Nathalie did a great job organising the VC55 Recorders' Conference in February, so if anybody arrives at the Meadows and can't see the rest of the BSBI group, please head for the Wildlife Trust stand. Nathalie will know what is happening - she always does! 

And of course there will be an AMAS stand - I hear that Jack Riggall and his team have put some excellent display boards together. Jack is also a student on the Botany for Beginners course, so he can give you an honest account of how it's all going. And I hope to see Anne Hayto of AMAS on Saturday - the woman who led the struggle against the football development two years ago - more about all this on the AMAS display - it makes fascinating reading.

BSBI55 at Aylestone Meadows, 2008.
Photo: G. Hall
The LRWT stand will have copies of the new Recorder journal for sale: essential reading for any naturalist in VC55 and a snip at £3. I should declare an interest here - I am lucky enough to sit on the Editorial Board - but I honestly think that Editor Steve Woodward has done a fabulous job with reinvigorating the journal. You can judge for yourselves at the Bioblitz, or click here for more info and to download a free pdf sampler of this issue of Recorder, the first with Steve at the helm. 

The photo (above) shows some founder members of the BSBI VC55 group surveying at Aylestone Meadows in the summer of 2008. It will be interesting to compare the list we made then with what we record this weekend during the Bioblitz!


Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Aylestone Meadows Bioblitz.  

This weekend sees the first of four Bioblitzes scheduled for the Vice-County this year. The Aylestone Meadows Bioblitz has been organised by Richard Kelly at Leicester City Council. Click here for more information, and go to the foot of the page for the Activity Schedule. 

The wildflower walk is scheduled for 11 am - 2 pm on Saturday and the local BSBI group has offered to show visitors around the meadows, so I hope that lots of you can come along and join us. We should see some nice plants and can show visitors how to ID them. 

We also need to do some recording before and/or after the wildflower walk. Please get in touch if you would like to do this, and we can arrange some teams. 
Posted by Louise

Dates for your diary: part two. 

We have put together a calendar for the local group, with dates for BSBI meetings (national and local), local Bioblitzes and both the Plant ID course and Botany for Beginners courses. 

I've filled in dates until September, and we can keep updating it. Hopefully this link is now working ok: 

Please let me know if the link still doesn't work, if you spot any errors or if you would like to add anything.


Dates for your diary: part one.   

This year, alongside our usual, impromptu Doodled meetings, we are planning some fixed meetings too. Here are the dates for six evening meetings over the coming weeks. They all start at 6.30 pm. We will add the links asap and give map, parking details and any site info for each field meeting. I've done the Owston one already. Please post a comment if you need, or can offer, a lift to Owston.

  • Owston Big Wood, Friday 17th May; map here and click on the compartments for site info; park on the road verge, SK778064 at the western end of this FFC site. 
  • Mountsorrel: Meadows and Mousetails, Tuesday, 21st May; park at SK 545 179. Coming from Loughborough:
    From the A6 just south of Loughborough, pass the crematorium / cemetery on your right and go over the railway bridge over the great central railway line, then turn right (west) on to the minor road and park on or close to the railway bridge. There is room for approx 6 cars in the parking area although the spaces may be taken by railway enthusiasts who film the steam trains from the bridge.
    Please feel free to indicate here if you would like to attend and to arrange lifts.
  • Allexton, Friday, 7th June. Meeting 6.30pm by the church at Allexton, see map and please  doodle here. 
  • Bagworth, Tuesday, 18th June, meeting at 6.30 at the car park at SK45800676. There is a website with more information about the site. Please doodle if you would like to come and to arrange lifts.
  • Charity Fields, Desford, Tuesday, 25th June. Details here. And here is the doodle link.
  • Great Bowden Borrowpit, Tuesday, 2nd July. The meeting point is at SP74158989 and marked on the map. Please doodle here. This is a SSSI with a tall fen vegetation on base-poor soil where we will see bog moss and cottongrass. Wellington boots are recomended.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Botany for Beginners.

The first module of the University of Leicester Botanic Garden's new botany course started on Saturday at Attenborough Arboretum, with a tuition session. Five beginner botanists tried out a range of botanical equipment (handlenses, wildflower keys) on some wildflowers of woodland and glade, both in situ and from specimens we had collected earlier. One thing we looked at was bluebells, and how to tell the native and Spanish bluebells apart. There's also a piece about this on the Plantlife Blog here  

The five students are now on our mailing list and will be invited along to local botanical meetings - they are all really nice, as botanists tend to be(!) and I know we will all enjoy sharing our botanical expertise and passing on ID tips - and so will the eight students booked onto the second module. 

Beginner Botanists learning field ID skills,
Attenborough Arboretum, May 2013
Photo: R. Parry
More info about the course here - you can still sign up for any individual module and none is fully booked yet, although enough people have signed up already that we have just about met our minimum attendance requirements for the entire course, so it will run right through to September, finishing shortly before the Plant ID course starts up again.

The 'Botany for Beginners' package is only viable because of the contributions of so many local botanists who are supporting the course by coming along to one of the 5 field ID sessions (the first one is next Sunday at Cloud Wood). If there is a date on the flyer here when you might be free to join us, please email me - the more of you the merrier! If we could achieve a 1:1 ratio of student to local botanist, that would really help people get going with field botany and start to feel more confident. 

A big thank you to all of you who have already offered to come along and especially to four people (and their support teams) without whose huge (unpaid) contributions, 'Botany for Beginners' would never have got off the ground:
Dr Richard Gornall who initiated, guided and oversaw the entire caboodle, and his team at University of Leicester Botanic Garden - Ruth and Jenny have been incredibly helpful in so many ways. 
Co-tutor Russell Parry, who contributed so much time and energy in prep for the session and then helped beginner botanists work through keys for the first time - many thanks to Russell and his fabulous "support team" aka Jennie Parry. 
Mike Jeeves (on whose Flora the selection of species is based) and Beverley Heath, Neill Talbot, Andy Lear and Uta Hamzaoui at LRWT for all their help and support. 
Dave Nicholls and his team at NatureSpot - great to see three of you (and two wives!) at Croft Hill on Friday :-)   

Thank you all for supporting beginner botanists in VC55.


Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Amazing Plants Exhibition

If you're at a loose end and want something interesting to do, or are straining at the leash to get out into the field to do some botany, but feel frustrated because of the cold weather, then why not visit the Amazing Plants exhibition at Charnwood Museum, Loughborough. It explores the relationship between people and plants, using objects from Leicestershire County Council's collections (Natural Life, Working Life, Home & Family Life, Fashion and Fine Art). The exhibition is at the Museum until 31 March, so you'll need to hurry!

A talk about the exhibition will be given by Geoffrey Hall at the Museum on Wednesday 20 March at 7:30 p.m. on behalf of the Friends of Charnwood Museum.

You can find more information about the exhibition, including opening times by following this link to the Council's website.

Posted by Geoffrey

Sunday, 17 February 2013

VC55 Recorders' Conference, Rothley Centre, 16/2/2013.

Our annual Recorders Conference took place yesterday and Nathalie Cossa, who organised the Conference for Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust, kicked off by telling us about bats surveyed at Charnwood Lodge. John Showers from Northants reported on national distributions and range changes of hoverflies, and then Geoffrey and I gave a short talk about the VC55 group - history so far and some plans for this year, like the new communications tools Geoffrey has been working on. The group now has this Blog, a Gmail address and a secure way for us to store and share our site records and photographs. We will upload a copy of the presentation so you can view it - details to follow, and I'll ask Nathalie about links to the other presentations.

Mike Jeeves' 'The Flora of Leicestershire & Rutland'
was exhibited on the BSBI display.
Photo by Katie Field.
After tea and a chance to view the display stands (and yes, there was a BSBI stand - need you ask?) Ivan gave us a VC55 lichen update; Ian Merrill, the Dragonfly Recorder, told us about work towards the new national atlas and a second edition of 'The dragonflies of Leicestershire & Rutland'; and then Mike Jeeves, Head of Conservation at LRWT and BSBI's Vascular Plant Recorder for VC55, talked to us about... birds. But once the botanists in the audience had overcome their disappointment, we were reminded what a great all-round naturalist our VCR is and how many decades he's been at it!  

After lunch, Vicky Price told us about the Stoughton pollinating insects project and welcomed specialist surveyors, so a local group visit may be in order (and the Cow & Plough afterwards?). 

Sue Timms ( LRERC) talking to LRC delegates 

Sue Timms' annual update on the Leics & Rutland Environmental Records Centre made sobering listening, but she and what remains of her team are making the best of the impact of severe funding cuts with customary pragmatism and a wry aside. 

I think we are all just so glad that, thanks to the support of Mike and all at the LRWT, we still have a Recorders Network that can keep putting on these annual Conferences and continue to publish Leicestershire & Rutland Recorder, now under Steve Woodward's editorship. 

From right: Chris Hill, Jim
Graham, Jenny Harris,
Nathalie & Jools Partridge
Steve's closing talk, on how we can access the reports of Loughborough Naturalists' Club, reminded us what a local group can achieve and how many keen recorders we have in VC55. And some real stars like Mike & Steve - their names were mentioned, with thanks, by many speakers throughout the day. 

Nathalie and the LRWT team did a brilliant job organising such a successful conference and she really deserved that drink in the Woodman's Stroke afterwards.         

Posted by Louise