25 September 2017

Welsh Mānuka

An internet search last weekend finally enabled me to identify a mystery shrub that first saw at Duffryn Rhondda (SS838957) in 2011, but which we happened to pass again over the weekend. Known also as Broom Tea-tree Leptospermum scoparium, Mānuka utilised by bees in New Zealand produce honey famed for its medicinal properties. I'm sure the local bees enjoy the sweetness of this single shrub, though I doubt Welsh Mānuka honey is a viable business proposition! The presence of a row of Eucalyptus trees nearby indicates an Antipodean influence in the local planting scheme, but the location of the scrub amongst natural scrub indicates the possibility that the plant could have resulted from self-seeding - although no search for a parent plant was made in local gardens. I'd be interested to hear if anyone else has encountered this distinctive species elsewhere locally?

22 September 2017

Bonnets in Local Sitka Spruce Plantations

Mycena species are commonly known as Bonnets. Most of them are small mushrooms that are found in woodland, although a few occur in grassland habitats, including sand dunes. They are particularly common in our local conifer forests where you might find about 15 species in a good year. They are saprotrophic species which grow on woodland litter and play a crucial role in the woodland floor recycling process. Sitka Spruce plantations in the Neath and Afan Valleys are good places to look for Bonnets, where Mycena filopes (Iodine Bonnet), Mycena metata,  Mycena sanguinolenta (Bleeding Bonnet), Mycena leptocephala (Nitrous Bonnet) and Mycena galopus (Milking Bonnet) are probably the most evident species.

Mycena filopes (left) and Mycena metata (right) - Bryn Forest

Mycena metata - Glyncorrwg Forest

Mycena filopes and Mycena metata are very similar and both smell of iodoform (the typical medicine cabinet smell). However, Mycena metata has distinctive pinkish hues (often subtle) and microscopic characteristics which help to identify it. Also, in my experience, the iodoform smell is much stronger with Mycena filopes, which also has silvery streaking on its cap that is more easily observed in drying specimens. Mycena sanguinolenta is an attractive species which bleeds a reddish fluid when cut and its gills have a red-brown edge.

Mycena sanguinolenta -  Glyncastle Forest, Resolven

Mycena galopus and Mycena leptocephala are very common species in all types of woodland and often occur in large groups in Sitka Spruce forests. Mycena galopus can often be identified instantly because the broken stem exudes a milky fluid, hence its common name - no other British Bonnet does this. Also, unlike Mycena leptocephala, which has an acrid nitrous smell (often faint and fleeting), Mycena galopus doesn't have a characteristic smell. When young, Mycena leptocephala is quite dark in colour but it becomes more grey with age as the cap expands.

Mycena galopus - Afan Forest Park

Mycena leptocephala - Glyncastle Forest, Resolven

Mycena pura (Lilac Bonnet) and Mycena pelianthina (Blackedge Bonnet) are larger, very attractive Bonnets which are occasionally found in Sitka Spruce plantations. Both have fairly strong raphanoid (radish-like) smells and lilac or pinkish-brown hues. Mycena pearsoniana is a similar but less common species which I have seen in two local Sitka plantations this autumn.

Mycena pura - Pentrclwydau Forest

Mycena pelianthina - Bryn Forest

Less conspicuous, but often abundant, there are a number of tiny Bonnets that grow on spruce needles and twigs. The most common is Mycena rorida (Dripping Bonnet), which is only about a centimetre high and has a stem which is covered in a viscous, slimy fluid. I've recorded it in all the main Sitka plantations in Neath Port Talbot in the last two months.

Mycena rorida - Briton Ferry Woods

Other small Bonnets that grow on spruce needles are Mycena stylobates (Bulbous Bonnet), which has a distinctive basal disc and Mycena aciculata which has a conspicuously hairy cap and stem. 

Mycena stylobates - Afan Forest Park

Mycena aciculata - Rhigos

One of the smallest species is Mycena tenerrima. It looks like a tiny white pin with icing sugar sprinkled on its head.

Mycena tenerrima - Abergarwed Forest

13 September 2017

Grey Phalaropes at Loughor Bridge

A stroke of luck this evening as I went to have a look for the 2 Grey Phalaropes found by Barry earlier. The 2 had met up with another 3. Didn't think I'd ever see a flock of Grey Phalaropes,,,,bit surreal!
not sure if the 2 on the right are more advanced with moult or adult??

05 September 2017

more orthoptera

Out and about with my latest chum, the bat detector, trying to learn the calls of Orthoptera. Lots more Long Winged Coneheads all the way up the Swansea Valley as far as the old tip in Tawe Vale in any suitable grassland as described in the last post by me. Also found a lot singing to the west of Ashley Road playing fields in rough grassland behind the houses on the Mumbles Road. 3 were singing on grass besides the stream on the northern edge of the playing fields including this macropterous individual (supposed to be associated with spreading populations).
A visit to Pennard Golf Club allowed me to hear other species. Lots of Dark Bush Crickets (Pholidoptera griseoaptera) singing from bramble clumps. Field Grasshopper (Chorthippus brunneus), Meadow Grasshopper (Chorthippus parallelus) and Mottled Grasshopper (Myrmeleotettix maculatus) singing from low vegetation or bare ground on the golf course, the latter hard to hear on the bat detector. On the front slope of the cliffs at Shire Combe there was a large population of Grey Bush Crickets (Platycleis denticulata).

Another day I paid a visit to Welsh Moor to look for Bog Bush Cricket (Metrioptera brachyptera) and found a very large population of this and Short Winged Conehead (Conocephalus dorsalis) and realised that the bat detector was a good way to assess the population (of males) present as I only saw a few of the former (photo below) and none of the latter.
Further searches that day around Broadpool and on the north western margin of Fairwood Common only turned up Short Winged Coneheads in the more rushy areas.

A visit to Oxwich turned up Great Green Bush Cricket (Tettigonia viridissima, surprisingly from what I remember of the racket they make, I can't hear those either) and yet more Short Winged Coneheads. I also saw a pair of Lesser Marsh Grasshoppers (Chorthippus albomarginatus) but did not pick up any calling.

I suspect at Pennard I was also hearing lots of Speckled Bush Crickets (Leptophyes punctatissima) but am not yet confident enough to be sure without seeing them as well. I am now thus a born again bat detectorist, looks a very useful tool and you don't need a posh one, in fact they say a rudimentary one is better. Only problem is that the background hiss does my head in and it makes a terrible noise if you're moving, can't imagine what the orthoptera hear as you "sneak" up on them in the grass!