10 September 2015

An afternoon in the Pelenna Valley

Forestry Road in the Pelenna Valley with typical tall herb flora in verge 

There's a nice walk along a quiet forestry road in the Pelenna Valley that goes from Ton Mawr to the Coed Morganwg Way near the top of the Melincwrt Valley. Wet, Purple Moor-grass verges are full of Bog Pimpernel (Anagallis tenella) in places and the gravelly edges of the track have a fairly typical forestry track flora, which includes Trailing St John's-wort (Hypericum humifusum) a characteristic species in this type of habitat in Neath Port Talbot.

Hypericum humifusum, Pelenna Valley

The conifer plantations along the road are good places to look for fungi in autumn, but yesterday there was little to see except a dried up troop of the Birch Knight (Tricholoma fulvum), which grows with Sitka Spruce here, and some Whitelaced Shank (Megacollybia platyphylla), which grows on buried wood. One of the identification features of this common toadstool is the presence of white mycelial strands that arise from the base of stipe, which can be seen in the photo below.

Megacollybia platyphylla, Pelenna Valley

At this time of year the tall herb flora along the track has lots of conspicuous Rosebay Willowherb (Chamerion angustifolium) and Hemp Agrimony (Eupatoria cannabinum). These are good places to look for inverebrates at this time of year. For example, an  Elephant Hawkmoth (Deilephila elpenor) caterpillar was seen chomping its way along the midrib of a Rosebay Willowherb leaf.

 Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar on Rosebay Willowherb in the Pelenna Valley

Nearby, a hornet-mimicking hover fly, Volucella zonaria, was feeding on some Hemp Agrimony flowers. This large, handsome hoverfly first appeared in southern Britain about 75 years ago and it has been extending its range westwards ever since, particularly in the last 20 years. Numerous individuals have been recorded in South Wales in recent years. Judging from its torn, weather-beaten wings, this individual must have 'been around the block a bit', but it was a powerful flier nevertheless, with a loud buzzing flight.

Volucella zonaria on Hemp Agrimony in the Pelenna Valley


Barry Stewart said...

I like the hoverfly Charles. I've still not seen myself, although Sandra was impressed by one she encountered in the garden on the 8th. Hopefully I'll I'll have my own encounter before too long.

Ian Morgan said...

Ditto, it`s occurred in a garden (of a Llanelli Naturalists member) just down the road from me, but I`m still hoping to see one like Barry. An interesting post, Charles.

Charles Hipkin said...

Thanks both. My brother, who lives in Leeds, had one in his garden this summer (or whatever it was that occurred between July and August this year). So they are definitely expanding their range .

GMT said...

I usually see one or two in and around the BC office yard in Swansea each year, but don't think I've seen any this year. I've seen several in Cardiff though, as well as the odd individual of V. inanis.