Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Surveying Knighton Spinney

Clive, Russell & Goldilocks Buttercup
A very enjoyable field meeting at Knighton Spinney last weekend. Sixteen of us turned out for the survey and it was particularly nice that Brian Laney came over from Northants. to join us for the day.

Clive Forty of TCV joined us (and Graham - hi, Graham!) and a reminder here that if anybody is considering conservation volunteering in VC55, they can contact both Clive at TCV or one of the LRWT Team. Lots of opportunities in this county :-) 

Brian Laney (on his knees!) and the VC55 group
Neill Talbot and Chris Hill from LRWT were also present. Neill has probably surveyed more LWSs (Local Wildlife Sites) than... somebody who has surveyed a lot of LWSs, so he and Clive were able to chat about management of the spinney. 

We noted the relative abundance of some of the typical woodland plants. although there is only one LWS woodland criterion species present, the Wood Anemone. 

Unfortunately, the Bluebells at Knighton Spinney are not native English Bluebells, but Spanish Bluebells and/or hybrids (planted in error during the 1980's). We all felt that they've got such a hold that it would probably be impossible to eradicate them. 

Diane admiring Arum maculatum
We paced out a patch of Snowberry that Clive might want to clear, and spotted a few (presumably bird-sown) non-native species which might also be for the chop, like a Cherry Laurel just getting established in a clearing.

None of us knew of any wildlife that relies on Cherry Laurel - do you? I've seen flies on it but not much else!  

Everybody made a contribution to our species list and many thanks to Pouran, who is typing it up for us this time. Maggie Frankum came along and identified the bees we saw and a gall or two. We might not have noticed the bees in a wet bit if Maggie hadn't been looking out for them. She also told us about the spinney 30 years ago, before the adjacent distributor road. More on Maggie and bees once the species list is typed up. 

Maggie spots bees!
Russell kept his ears open while botanising and so we also have a nice bird list from the day. Thanks, Russell!

And finally, the indefatigable Brian Laney, after an afternoon of botanising in the Spinney, gave a short masterclass in What You Can Find on a Roadverge to those of us still standing after - was it 5 hours? 

Wood Anemones at Knighton Spinney April 2014
I guess all those nice plants - from halophytes like Lepidium ruderale and Cochlearia danica, to Geranium molle and dissectum, to a rosette of Verbascum, were all there anyway but Brian spotted them and then... suddenly we could all see them! And yes, Verbascum really does have dendritic hairs, just as John Poland says!

Next meeting on the 26th at Burley Wood, hope you can make it. Here's the doodle link in case you haven't voted yet :-)

Posted by Louise & pix by me

Friday, 11 April 2014

Botany for Beginners: time to book!

The flyer for this year's Botany for Beginners course is now available on the Botanic Garden website. You can check the dates of each module's tuition, field and herbarium sessions (they are also on the VC55 calendar here) and also see which habitats are covered. And decide whether this might be the right course for you?

'Trees' session at Attenborough Arboretum
Image: R. Parry
Last year, when the course started, I wasn't sure how many species we would actually be able to see during the five modules. There are 465 taxa on the target list - plants that occur in VC55 and are at least occasional (no hard-to-ID rarities) - so last year's flyer played safe and guaranteed all participants that they would see at least 100 different plants over the five modules. We actually saw more than 300, so this year's flyer reflects that. 

Some plant characters are best seen by microscope
Image: L. Marsh
The course is designed for beginners - especially Absolute Beginners who have never tried to identify wild plants before - and aims to show you how to recognise our local plants, understand where they grow in VC55 and remember what separates them from every other plant in the book. Puns and awful word play may be used here! 

Last year's students groaned at the "devil's horns" that distinguish a certain grass, or the delicate wildflower whose partial resemblance to a dog's private parts will help you tell it apart from its fellows. But I bet the students still remember how to ID those plants! 

'Weeds' session at the Botanic Garden
Image: L. Marsh
By the end of the course, you should have a real grounding in the plants of Leicestershire & Rutland, and be skilled enough to carry out plant surveys and identify the criterion plant species needed to designate a site as a Local Wildlife Site. Or be able to join ecological consultants and University of Leicester undergraduates on our popular Plant ID course for intermediate-level botanists. Or just get more enjoyment from local wild plants!

Check out the flyer here and contact me to enquire about booking a space.

Posted by Louise

Monday, 7 April 2014

One impulse from a vernal wood...

Peering at the Paris in Great Merrible
A nice walk around Great Merrible Wood yesterday and our first meeting of the year focused on vascular plants. Nine of us turned out and were delighted to see the first Wood Anemones in bloom and Bluebells coming along nicely. 

We didn't fill in a recording card, as Andy Lear had surveyed the site thoroughly and recently, so we just concentrated on getting our eye in with some woodland ferns and grasses. 

Geoffrey gets mycological!
Geoffrey led the walk and brought along Andy's species list and the compartment map which was very helpful. Despite the vascular plant focus, Geoffrey's inner mycologist was revealed every time we spotted Scarlet Elfcups or King Alfred's cakes! 

Russell was first to spot some Herb Paris and we talked about its distribution across the country. Zoom into the map to see where Herb Paris is recorded in VC55. 

At Dimminsdale last month
Ivan has also sent in his list of lichen records from Dimminsdale  and Uta has scheduled a visit to Burley Wood for Saturday 26th April. 

This is now in the group's calendar and Uta says: "We are meeting at 2pm at SK892093. This is on a grass verge on the north side of the A606 from Oakham to Stamford, which is a very busy road and people have to be very cautious when parking". For carsharing and indicating participation here is the doodle. Many thanks to Phil Rudkin of RNHS for his help in arranging landowner access.

The next meeting I am leading is to Knighton Spinney this weekend, so please vote in the Doodle poll if you would like to come. 
Ivan talks us through Physcia ID. Again!

If you would like to suggest and/or lead a meeting for the local group, email us at and we can help you set up a Doodle poll, add your event to the calendar and share details here on the Blog. 

Posted by Louise and pix are all mine this time, sorry!

PS I've added a 'Follow by email' gadget to this Blog so that you have the option to receive an email prompt whenever one of us posts something new here.  

Friday, 4 April 2014

Knighton Spinney: field meeting

Knighton Spinney
In the 1980s, Knighton Spinney was considered one of Leicester's top urban wildlife sites, and a visit to see the carpet of Wood Anemones each April was an absolute must for local botanists. Now, management of this Local Wildlife Site has been taken on by the Conservation Volunteers (formerly BTCV) so we intend to survey the spinney next weekend 12th/13th April and see what we can find. Our records will help inform the new management plan.

VC55 group at Launde Big Wood, 2012
Image: R. Parry
We will be looking particularly at woodland criterion species such as Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa, Enchanter's Nightshade Circaea lutetiana, Hairy-brome/Wood Brome Bromopsis ramosa, Broad Buckler-fern Dryopteris dilatata and English elm Ulmus procera. Helen O'Brien (LCC) has kindly provided a map and the LWS notification which has a species list at the back (from last century!).

Grid ref is SK 606 008, parking and public transport details are here and the link to the Doodle poll is here, so you can vote for your preferred date and time. Hope you can make it next weekend - let's hope that our survey will make a useful contribution towards restoring Knighton Spinney to its former glory.

Posted by Louise