Sunday, December 7, 2014

Cardiff Naturalists’ Society Indoor Meetings Jan-March 2015

The first meeting will commence on Tuesday 13th January the speaker Rob Parry, and the subject “The Wildlife of Parc Slip Nature Reserve”.
The talk will cover the recent developments at the Wildlife Trust’s Parc Slip Nature Reserve in Bridgend, including the creation of several wader scrapes, which are now overlooked by the Mary Gilham Elevated Hide.  Parc Slip nature reserve supports a variety of habitats, from meadows and wetlands to scrub and mixed woodland, which together attracts a plethora of wildlife.

Our members evening on Monday 26th January, is held to enjoy members Wildlife and Holiday, photographic contributions to the evening. Members who wish to contribute please contact Hilary Wicks.

Monday 16th February the speaker is Chris Hatch and the subject “In search of the Wildcat”.
A photographic journey through the highlands of Scotland, in search of the wildlife to be found there with a particular emphasis on looking for the elusive Scottish Wildcat.

The meeting on Thursday 26th February is a combined meeting with Cardiff Group South and West Wales Wildlife Trust and the student Wildlife Society Cardiff University and will be held in the Wallace Lecture  Theatre, ground floor, Cardiff University, Park Place, Cardiff.
The speaker Richard Wistow and the subject “Colliery Spoil Biodiversity” (please note the change of tittle).
The Colliery spoil sites of the South Wales valleys are a unique and valuable habitat supporting a suit of colliery spoil species. However, it is only recently that their biodiversity value started to become recognised and we have only just started to understand that importance. However, it is not just ecology; colliery spoil also has a fascinating geological, landscape and historic story which has yet to be fully told.  As it stands colliery spoil; is poorly understood and undervalued without a better understanding an effective conservation strategy cannot be developed.  In my talk I hope to describe some of the key issues associated with colliery spoil biodiversity and to help raise the profile of these superb habitats.

The meeting held on Tuesday 17th March the speaker is Dr Neil Price and the subject  Hemiptera: the real bugs”.
The lecture will introduce the group to Hemiptera, a largely under recorded order of insects in Wales. It will include a section on morphology, classification and survey methods: there will also be a section on keys and guides. There will be a focus on some on some of the more frequently recorded species in Wales, with a range of habitats being discussed. The speaker will draw upon his own experience of surveying for this group in Wales and will discuss a number of case studies.

The last meeting on Monday 23rd March will be in two parts a talk by the student awarded the Cardiff Naturalists’ Bioscience Prize.
The speaker for the second part to be arranged as soon as possible.

All Meetings unless otherwise stated will be held in Lecture Theatre 0023(023) Ground Floor Metropolitan University, Llandaff Campus, Western Ave, Llandaff, Cardiff.
All meetings are held  7.30pm to 9.00pm



Monday, November 24, 2014


We were recently sent this


I'm renovating my house at the moment and when clearing out, I came across this flyer.

I saw that the society is still running so just thought I'd send a pic as perhaps it's of interest to someone there.


I admit that I hard not heard of the sanctuary so with a bit of help from the internet

"The members of a branch of the Selborne Society bit upon an admirable idea. London grows outwards : every year the grip of the town fastens more and more on vanishing country, and where it fastens it generally kills.

With the coming of the town and its roads and railways the country has to be protected, if it is to survive at all, against the enemies the town brings with it ; against wanton spoiling and defiling, against the destruction of its birds and beasts, against the trippers and streets hawkers who grub up its ferns and flowers.

The Brent Valley branch of the Selborne Society looked at the practical side of that difficulty as it affected their own neighbourhood. Why should not they, while there was yet time, secure and protect a sanctuary of wild life, particularly bird life ?

A wood, one of the few remaining in the district, seemed to offer the opportunity of such a sanctuary, and after some negotiation it was arranged with the farmer on whose property it stands that the fences surrounding the wood should be kept up and that a keeper should be appointed. "
I admit to not finding any recent references so any information would be appreciated.

To Read more about the sanctuary take a look at this old reference

Friday, November 7, 2014

Adrian Lloyd Jones: Return of the Beaver

This was a fascinating talk giving us a real insight into these wonderful creatures and an understanding of how nearly they were taken to extinction by man's hunting

With the aid of some props we really had an insight into how these creatures live and how close to the riverbank they are confined in their lifestyle

I had not realised how far the considerations of doing a managed release in Wales had moved forward so it was really interesting to hear about the work of the Welsh Beaver Project

Adrian gave us the link for all the detailed documents that show the net benefits to wildlife, environment, and especially flood prevention and went through us the net benefits and the very few considerations that need to be taken into account and showed how easily these are dealt with

He also talked to us about the less reputable side of introductions (Beaver Bombing) which was something many of us were unaware of and a bit of research today turns up this upsetting article on National Geographic From reading that I can see how much education is needed of people to understand that the Beaver Dams will reduce not cause flooding. It's also clear from the comments that you need to be careful dealing with reporters from any publication as there is a need to clarify the article so read down for all the facts (and some opinions)

At the end of the talk we did a straw poll on the opinion of the audience as to whether we are in support of the project and I am pleased to say we agreed 100% with the proposal and we would be really happy to see it go ahead

There is also a twitter feed @beaverafanc for updates on progress

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Report on Sally Snow's whale shark lecture

Sally took time out of her busy schedule to give the Cardiff Naturalists’ Society a fascinating, entertaining, and very informative talk about the whale shark (Rhincodon typus) and the work she has been involved in with the Large Marine Vertebrate project (LAMAVE), an initiative of the NGO Physalus, in the Philippines. The talk on Monday 13 Oct was illustrated with spectacular images by LAMAVE photographer Steve De Neef. Sally was accompanied by Dr Alessandro Ponzo, the President of Physalus and her partner, who kindly took the group photo above.

Whale sharks can be individually identified by their unique pattern of spots. Sally explained how an area on the left side behind the head is photographed, and a computer algorithm used to confirm an individual’s identity compared with a database of whale shark images. To date, over 700 individuals have been identified from photographs. This relatively cheap technique has advanced the study of the shark’s behaviour. Whale sharks can swim considerable distances; satellite tracking of tagged sharks have revealed journeys of over 5,000 km in Asia. Combined with biopsy data, we now know there are no isolated populations of whale shark – genetically they mix across the globe.

The whale shark can grow up to 20 metres long and live for over 50 years. They are filter feeders and capable of deep dives. The biodiverse seas around the Philippines are a vital habitat for the species and they are known to give birth there. They are now protected in the Philippines, though not in other the seas off neighbouring countries, with bans on catching whale shark been put into place relatively recently. They are now being exploited in a new way: tourism.

Sally emphasised that not all wildlife tourism is eco-tourism, in fact most is not. There are four areas where tourists are taken out in boats to see whale sharks in the Philippines. She contrasted whale shark tours in Oslob, where guidelines are not enforced, with an eco-tourism operation in Leyte that LAMAVE is helping operate. In Oslob, the whale sharks are crowded by too many boats and are approached too closely by divers; over 2,000 people can be in the vicinity of the sharks in a five-hour period. In Leyte, strict rules are enforced on how to approach whale sharks to minimise disturbance.

Commercial whale shark tourism operations are now provisioning – artificially feeding the whale sharks from boats to facilitate tourism. The LAMAVE team’s scientific data is showing that this can affect the sharks’ behaviour in an adverse way. They do not provision in Leyte and Physalus recommend that provisioning be stopped. Eco-tourism when carried out in a responsible manner, however, provides an alternative local source of income, can benefit conservation if environmental fees are charged, and can have a beneficial educational role.

Further information:

Large Marine Vertebrate project Philippines

Shark Tales (Sally Snow’s blog)

Wildbook for reporting and identifying whale sharks

Monday, October 6, 2014

Next Indoor Meeting, on 13 Oct: Sally Snow on Whale Sharks

At the next indoor meeting of the CNS, on Monday 13 October, Sally Snow will talk about 'The world's largest fish: an introduction to the whale sharks of the Philippines'.

The meeting will be held in Room 0.23 (ground floor) at the Cardiff School of Management, Llandaff campus, Metropolitan University, Western Ave, Cardiff.

Sally Snow was born in west Wales. She grew up sharing a house with wildlife, because both her parents were also Doctors of Zoology. Sally studied Zoology and Psychology at Bristol University, which led to her working both as a researcher and associate producer on programmes for the BBC, National Geographic and S4C.

In 2012, her interest in whale sharks took her to the Philippines. She joined a team at WWF-Philippines, and then became involved with Physalus, a non-governmental organisation specialising in Marine Vertebrates. Sally is now part of the small team that helps run Physalus’ Large Marine Vertebrates Project in the Philippines (LAMAVE). It is her work with Physalus that will form the basis of her lecture to the Cardiff Naturalists' Society. 

According to her website: "She continues to divide her time between her production work, developing her own film projects, working with rural communities to help them develop sustainably, conducting conservation research and holding her breath underwater for as long as possible to identify Whale Sharks and the occasional Manta Ray."

We look forward to welcoming you to the talk.

For further information about Sally Snow and Physalus, see the following websites:

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Wenvoe orchards: Sat 6 September 2014

Bruce McDonald led this fascinating walk in the Wenvoe area, attended by around ten CNS members, which took in four newly-planted orchards, a community nature reserve, two churchyards and an ancient burial chamber.

Orchards are a priority habitat and relatively easy to create, so the Wenvoe Wildlife Group is currently focusing on them to promote local biodiversity. The trees in commercial orchards are regularly replaced, often within a decade of planting, and are subject to numerous agrochemical sprays every year; so they have become a very poor habitat for wildlife. The Wenvoe group planted traditional tree varieties in four diverse locations last year that should provide a haven for wildlife for many years to come. These orchards are being primarily managed for wildlife biodiversity and not intensive fruit production; although they should eventually yield abundant fruit for community picking.

The first stop was the Community Orchard, on the edge of the playing field to the east of Wenvoe. A mixture of trees has been planted here, including traditional varieties of apples (e.g. Bardsley Grenadier, Ribston Pippin, and also crab apples), pears and plums (including greengage), along with medlar, quince, mulberry and hazel. The orchard has an impressive bee hotel, with a noticeboard on the back. Bruce mentioned that it would make a good research project for someone, investigating the species using it. Bumble bee nests are also being created, using buried flower pots, and Bruce is on the lookout for mouse droppings (so they can better mimic the abandoned mouse nests favoured by bumble bees). A pond has been dug, which in its second year is supporting a range of aquatic flora and fauna.

Taking the underpass, the next stop was St Mary’s churchyard in Wenvoe. Here we saw the old yew tree and a Balm-of-Gilead.

The tour continued along Pound Lane and through Wenvoe Woods to the farmland beyond, where the Elizabethan Orchard is located, in a fenced-off corner of a field. This was part-funded through the Glastir programme, whereby farmers get paid to increase biodiversity on farms. Using a National Trust listing of fruit trees in an Elizabethan orchard, the Wenvoe Wildlife Group planted medlar, quince, and apple and pear varieties that would have been familiar to the Elizabethans. Trees are widely spaced, up to 10m apart, based on old orchard records. The group is also constructing a Shakespearean garden here, with herbs that are mentioned in the Bard’s plays. A log pile and a pond are among the other habitats being created.

The walk continued along the golf course, through more woods and up to the St Lythans burial chamber - an ideal spot for a picnic lunch. This megalithic dolmen was built around 6,000 years ago, as part of a chambered long barrow (so it’s significantly older than Stonehenge). Current thinking suggests that corpses where put into a cave in nearby Goldsland Wood, and the skeletons moved to the St Lythans burial chamber (and the nearby and larger Tinkinswood burial chamber that is of a similar age).

The third orchard – the Welsh Orchard – is just around the corner from here on a triangular area surrounded by farmland. All the 28 trees planted in this area last year have Welsh connections, either having their origins in Wales or being varieties popular over long periods in Wales. They include the Nant Gwrtheryn Golden Russet variety, which has just been put on the market after its rediscovery on the Llŷn Peninsula. Two flower beds are being created here with medicinal herbs described by the Physicians of Myddfai, who were influential herbalists who lived in the twelfth century in the Carmarthenshire settlement of Myddfai. At least 40 plants they used were noted in the literature; and a selection is being planted here, including wormwood, tansy, angelica, marsh mallow, agrimony, henbane and others that you won’t find in the Cowbridge Physic Garden because of Health and Safety concerns! Beehives are also present in the Welsh Orchard and a new pond will be put in place this winter. The numerous insects (including grasshoppers and crickets of note), birds (e.g. willow warbler) and scuttling small mammals seen attest to the site’s value to wildlife.

A walk along the road took us to St Lythans village and its churchyard. From here it’s a short walk to the fourth and final orchard: the linear Wild Orchard. Here, trees have been planted along a field edge to enhance the existing trees and shrubs, which includes crab apples and other wild-type fruits. Among the trees planted last year were hazel, wild cherry, bird cherry and plum.

We continued towards Twyn-yr-Odyn. By the quarry monument we took a path, which had only been opened a few weeks previously, and soon found ourselves in the Upper Orchid Field. This 5-acre Community Nature Reserve is, like the new orchards, managed by Wenvoe Wildlife Group. The sloping meadow contains over 300 species of flowers, grasses, insects and birds. The seven orchid species recorded here are best viewed in June. There is one annual mowing to encourage meadow wildflowers. This is a habitat type fast disappearing in the UK. The field is surrounded by woodlands and hedgerows. Here you can explore and find Molluscopolis, a secluded area with information boards, where snails and slugs are positively encouraged.

The path at the bottom of the field continues down into Wenvoe.

Text and photos: Stephen Nottingham

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


The Cardiff Naturalists’ Society indoor meeting programme for 2014/2015 was recently announced. Click on the ‘Programme’ tab above to see the full programme.

Here, Indoors Meeting Secretary Hilary Wicks gives further information about the Autumn 2014 series of evening lectures. These all start at 7.30pm in Room 023 (ground floor) of the Cardiff School of Management (Metropolitan University, Llandaff Campus, Western Ave, Llandaff, Cardiff), unless otherwise stated. If lost, members can ask at the Main Building reception where a notice and signs to the lecture theatre will be placed.

The meetings start on Monday 22nd September with the AGM, followed with a talk by Linda and Rob Nottage on ‘Wildlife of the Dolomites’. Expect photos of snow-capped peaks, flower-filled meadows, and interesting insects, as they present highlights of their recent wildlife holiday in Italy.

The next lecture on Monday 13th October is by Sally Snow: ‘The world’s largest fish: an introduction to the whale sharks of the Philippines’. She will introduce us to the whale shark, the world’s largest fish, with fascinating insights into its biology, distribution and migration in the Philippines, with a look at the potential impacts of developing whale shark tourism initiatives both in the Philippines and worldwide. This lecture centres around the work of the NGO Physalus and its Large Marine Vertebrate Project, which has been studying whale sharks in the Philippines since 2011.

The following meeting on Wednesday October 22nd will be a talk by Paul E Bowden: ‘Birds and Mammals of Southern India (Bangalore to Kochi)’. He found Southern India a great place to visit in January, with favourable weather - a little rainfall and the temperature not too hot. Also at that time of year there was very little insect activity, so no malaria tablets were needed. He covered about 1,000 km (630 miles) in a three-week journey that took in Bangalore (Karnataka), Valparai (Tamil Nadu), and Thrissur and Kochi (Kerala), visiting five Nature Reserves. He recorded a total of 181 species of birds, including 14 endemics, and captured 113 species on HD video and 83 species as stills; while also photographing leopard, tiger, Asian Elephant, mongoose, spotted deer and numerous other mammals. Tea and rubber plantations were visited, and the journey included a drive across the Western Ghats. The whole trip was done by taxi, which he suggests is the best way to travel in India. By the end of the trip, the taxi driver was well trained in bird and mammal recognition!

In contrast, the next lecture by Adrian Lloyd Jones on Monday 6th November is entitled ‘Return of the Beaver’. This will be an illustrated presentation on Eurasian Beaver (Castor fiber) and how they create and manage wetland ecosystems for the benefit of many other species. The presentation will also cover the Welsh Beaver Project and its proposal for a reintroduction of the beaver to Wales.

The meeting on Thursday 13th November is a lecture by Kate Mortimer-Jones called ‘Seabed Life around Wales’. This is a combined meeting with Cardiff Group South and West Wales Wildlife Trust and Cardiff University student Wildlife Society, and will be held in the Wallace Lecture Theatre (Ground floor), Cardiff University, Park Place, Cardiff.

The last meeting in 2014 is the XMAS BASH on Monday 15 December, with Adam and Dave’s Biodiversity Quiz. They will test your (often obscure) knowledge of the plants and animals found in South Wales and the (crazy?) people who record them.



Sunday, August 31, 2014

WENVOE ORCHARDS - Saturday 6th September

Our next field trip takes us around the 4 newly-planted orchards surrounding Wenvoe and ends with a walk through the Community Nature Reserve. This is a chance to see the pond, the Bee Hotel, St Lythans burial chamber and the new access to the Upper Orchid Field through Whitehall Quarry. A rural walk of 4 to 5 miles taking in whatever wildlife is around. Walking gear a good idea as recent rain has made some of the paths a bit muddy. If the weather is not good the walk will be shortened. Bring lunch. Dogs on leads are welcome but there are a few stiles.
Meet at 10am in the middle of Wenvoe village outside the Village Hall (large white building) at the junction of Old Port Road and Station Road West which is next to the school. For Satnav users the Village Hall does not have a postcode but CF5 6AG gets you close. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Rhos Pasture - Sun 3 Aug

The next Cardiff Naturalists Society field trip is to the rhos pastures near Brynna on Sun 3 Aug. It will be a day trip starting at 10.30am, so bring a packed lunch.

The trip will be led by Gill Barter of the Countryside Council for Wales. Among the distinctive flora and fauna to be seen on this distinctive purple moor-grass and rush pasture land are whorled caraway and bog bush cricket.

A late summer visit coincides with when the grazing cows are in the lower fields, allowing better access to the species-rich pastureland.
There is limited parking, so car sharing is recommended.
The entrance is at SS 970834. On a narrow lane going north from Pencoed, it is the last gate on the left before a hump back bridge over an old railway line. There is a footpath sign at the entrance.
From B4280, on the northern edge of Pencoed, take the minor road signposted for Rhiwceiliog. Follow this lane, ignoring turnings, and take care on blind bends. After 1km you will see a field entrance on the left with a footpath sign, at grid ref SS 970834 and this is where we will meet. If you cross a hump back bridge over a disused railway line you will have gone too far so turn round - in the driveway entrance you will see on your right - and come back.
I assume people will have maps but if you think directions from the M4 are also needed, these are as follows.  From junction 35 of the M4 take the A473 northwards towards Llanharen. Go straight over two roundabouts (the second one is by the entrance to Pencoed college) and turn left at the third. You are then on the B4280 heading West, and the minor road signposted to Rhiwceiliog (mentioned above) is the first turning on the right.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

National Hedgehog Survey

Cardiff Naturalists Society have been asked if any of its members have records of hedgehog activity that they could submit to the National Hedgehog Survey.
Dan Foreman of the Swansea Ecology Research Team has forwarded a National Hedgehog Survey volunteer pack in pdf format. If you would like a copy forwarded to you, please contact Stephen Nottingham or Lucy Fay
Further information about the National Hedgehog Survey can be found here:
Dan is also asking for submissions of any mammal records for the ongoing Mammal Society Mammal Atlas Project. Information about this can be found on the Mammal Atlas Project website:

Friday, July 11, 2014

PARC SLIP - 5th JULY 2014

                Eleven members and friends assembled by the Parc Slip Visitor Centre for a tour of this Wildlife Trust Reserve in glorious sunshine after early morning rain. We were fortunate to be accompanied by Margaret and John Samuel who know the site intimately and to benefit also from the expertise of Rob Parry, the Conservation Manager. Serenaded by birdsong from skylarks, wrens, dunnocks, blackcaps and other warblers we made our way to the Northern Wetlands hide. Little grebes were feeding their chicks and a family of Canada geese swam over hoping for hand-outs.

                As we toured the Reserve, Margaret and John counted butterflies along their regular transect. Ringlets were amazingly plentiful with a total tally of 176, meadow browns were also widespread with 51. There were smaller numbers of large and small skippers and whites plus several other species including comma and small tortoiseshell. It was a pleasure to see so many insects on the wing, taking advantage of the flowery banks. Only a few moths were noted but we were delighted to see single broad-bodied chaser, southern hawker, common darter and golden ringed dragonflies.
                We admired the new hide and extensive scrape it overlooks, but failed to locate the little ringed plover family which had been raised there. En route, a common lizard posed beside the path long enough for all to enjoy. We followed the path beside the stream with its many little waterfalls and returned to the car park via the cycle path, passing the monument to the many lives lost in a mining disaster at the former colliery.
                A reduced party stayed to enjoy their picnic lunches beside the Centre pools where damselflies and a moorhen family were in evidence. Although the Centre café was closed for repairs, we were grateful for the use of the toilets. 
                A circuit of the eastern part followed. Colourful patches of blue meadow cranesbill and pink everlasting pea delighted the eye, but we helped John pull up Himalayan balsam plants to reduce the spread of this invasive alien. Bruce has an eye for galls of various sorts and during the day drew our attention to the strange pink tongues of a fungus, Taphrina alni sprouting from alder cones while the leaf ribs were pimpled by green galls of Eriophyes inangulis caused by a mite.
Taphrina alni
                We left Margaret and John to complete their butterfly count, returning to our cars highly impressed by the diversity and profusion of wildlife on the Reserve.
                                                                                                                                                Linda Nottage

Friday, June 27, 2014

Outdoor Meeting updates

A couple of outdoor meeting updates:

Parc Slip:
'We have just heard that the Visitor Centre at Parc Slip will be closed when we have our field trip there on 5th July. We shall still meet as normal in the car park but please be aware that the facilities will not be available. Sarn Services just off the M4 which most will pass on the way there will be open.'

Gower Rockpool Ramble:
The Gower Rockpool Ramble with Judith Oakley has been rearranged for Sat 27 Sept. More details to follow.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Field Trip to Clyne Gardens - Sunday 1st June

by Bruce McDonald

We celebrated the official onset of Summer with our first visit to Clyne Gardens, close to the sea and between Swansea and The Mumbles. 12 members along with two guests from the Friends of Dyffryn Gardens enjoyed the company of Tony Titchen as we skirmished with some of the magnificent trees in this scenic park.

Clyne Gardens was purchased in 1860 by William Graham Vivian with much of the work in the gardens continued by his nephew Algernon, 'The Admiral', who had a major influence on it between 1921 and 1952.

We hardly scratched the surface, as in four hours we probably covered just a quarter of the site. Scope for another visit in the future? The estate is famous internationally for its collection of Pieris, Enkianthus and Rhododendrons (they were blooming and there's a photo of one below), yet we did not get round to looking at many of these - nor the bog garden, bluebell wood, Japanese Bridge, heather beds, Italian bridge, Joy Cottage and the wildflower meadows!

So what did we see? First stop was a Persian Ironwood, Parrotia persica, originating in the forests south of the Caspian Sea and related to the Witch Hazels (photo below). There are two forms, one arborescent, the other shaped like a tree. The wood is very hard, hence the name, and a number of us proved the point by banging our heads on the low-lying branches as we weaved our way around the trunk.

Next a cedar and a less common variety than the Atlas, Deodar or Cedar of Lebanon normally encountered in parks. This was the Cyprus Cedar, Cedrus brevifolia, with its Latin name indicating its short needles (below). There are three geographical sub-species and Tony commented that this was the best specimen he had come across.

Next a substantial oak, a Red Oak, Quercus rubra. If you examined the big leaves it was noticeable how the veins continued to a point on the leaf, a 'bristlepoint'. Tony indicated that the wood of Red Oak is tougher than English Oak and in the American War of Independence this provided American warships with an advantage as they were clad in Red Oak which was more successful in repelling cannon-balls than the English ships with their covering of Quercus robur.

This is a good time of year to catch the dogwoods in flower. Our first encounter was with Bentham's Cornel, Cornus capitata. The extended stems on the flowers (bracts) were eye-catching. Tony then demonstrated how to distinguish Dogwoods from Viburnums - with the former it was possible to gently tear a leaf in half and although separated they would be held together by thin strands.
Next a Macedonian Fir, Abies borisii-regis although Owen Johnson refers to it as King Boris' Fir. Those members who could smell anything agreed that the crushed leaves gave off an odour of grapefruit. A few erect cones at the top of the tree were evident but were really only visible with binoculars.

Now one of the more common cedars - an Atlas Cedar, Cedrus atlantica, and this a glaucous version. This also sported short needles and the Atlas is characterised by ascending upper branches. A short distance away was a clump of Scots Pine, Pinus sylvestris with their reddish bark colouring, particularly in the top half of the tree. Tony suggested that this along with Juniper and Birch were the only three tree species to survive the last Ice Age.
This is also a good time of year for the Paper Handkerchief or Ghost Tree or more correctly the Dove Tree, Davidia involucrata. An 'involucre' (one of our new words for the day) is a covering and the white 'petal' is actually an involucral bract covering the flower or inflorescence with the styles and ovaries clearly visible. Next a spruce and this one the Serbian Spruce, Picea omorika. We were asked to check if the needles were flat or round, the technique being to attempt to roll one in your fingers - if it rolled it was round. Ours wouldn't, confirming that the Serbian Spruce has flattish needles. Spruces also tend to drop their cones.
A Katsura, Cercidiphyllum japonicum, gave us an opportunity to compare and contrast its opposite leaves with those of the Judas Tree, Cercis siliquastrum,  which has them alternate.  A Tulip Tree, Liriodendron tulipifera, did not appear to be bearing any flowers, Tony noting that it can take 25 years before flowering. The Chinese Tulip Tree, Liriodendron chinense, tends to have much more narrowly waisted leaves.
Next a tree with few clues as to what it was although a visit later in the year should reveal the metallic blue berries which are a bit of a giveaway. A native of Asia it has various local names such as Glory Tree, Peanut Butter Tree or Harlequin Bower Tree but Clerodendron trichotomum usually works in the UK (photo of Tony Titchen with the Clerodendron below). The crushed leaves are supposed to smell of peanuts but we found it just unpleasant and Tony commented that its original name of foetidum was appropriate. A hazel with large and very soft leaves turned out to be the Turkish Hazel, the only hazel that will grow into a tree.
Our attention was caught by a Magnolia and this had a bit of history to it. A small. multi-stemmed tree, suitable for small gardens this was Magnolia liliiflora X stellata. The story goes that eight hybrids, known as the Eight Little Girls (one pictured below), were developed at the National Arboretum in Washington D.C. and were named after the secretaries who worked at the arboretum or wives and daughters of staff. They are Ann, Betty, Judy, Randy, Ricki, Susan, Jane and Pinkie. As I have a wife, Judy and a sister, Ricki, that is the next two birthday presents sorted! We never convinced ourselves which this particular specimen was, but Ann was a strong possibility.

We sailed past a Chusan Palm, Trachycarpus fortunei, which Tony confirmed was female as it was carrying berries and then had a look at some trees which exhibited twisting of the trunk - sinistral if it goes to the left and dextral to the right. A Coast Redwood, Sequoia sempervirens, gathered us under its wings as we prodded the spongy bark. A fire climax tree  resistant to fire but which it needs to release the seeds from the resin-packed cones at the top. From the Oregon to Monterey area this is now probably the world's tallest tree as the Douglas Firs and eucalypts have been felled for their timber.
Glossy green leaves and floral spires on a medium-sized tree had us puzzled although Tony felt that Prunus azorica might have been a candidate with hints of Bird Cherry and Portugal Laurel. A specimen was detached so that experts could be consulted. Owen Johnson subsequently confirmed this was Prunus lusitanica! A holly provided Tony with an opportunity to mention that lightning is less likely to strike a smooth-barked tree like holly than one with rough bark although if you are caught in a thunderstorm avoid trees altogether! A beautifully elegant lime also refused to reveal its identity so had to offer up a specimen for further analysis. Owen confirmed this was Tilia platyphyllos.
And next was a Stuartia, in this case pseudocamellia, which was not only covered in blossom but had carpeted the ground underneath with its flowers:
A Brewer's Spruce, Picea breweriana, was the next favourite, its elegant weeping form described as 'lugubrious'. There are two white lines on the needles. And a weeping beech also cascaded downwards although the orientation of the branches was to the left. Time for one last encounter and this was with a multi-stemmed Himalayan Chestnut, Aesculus indica, also known as the Indian Horse Chestnut. Whilst the number of leaves varies the predominant number was seven (or more) in contrast to the Horse Chestnut's seven (or less) - if that helps! Indica is later-flowering than hippocastanum and the floral candles on ours were only just beginning to open.
The top pond:
Our thanks to Tony for another interesting, informative and entertaining day. A list of the more interesting trees noted at Clyne Gardens by Tree Guide author Owen Johnson follows.
Bruce McDonald
Photos by Bruce McDonald and Margaret Samuel
weeping spruce:

 Acer capillipes, Acer crataegifolium, Acer X freemanii 'Autumn Blaze', Acer pensylvanicum, Acer pycnanthum, Betula kenaica, Betula utilis SSP. jacquemontii, Callitris rhomboidea, Cedrus brevifolia, Cupressus macrocarpa, Davidia, involucrata var. vilmoriniana, Eucryphia moorei, Fraxinus americana 'Skyline', Juglans mandschaurica, Magnolia campbellii var. alba, Magnolia doltsopa, Malus hupehensis, Malus X robusta 'Red Sentinel', Malus yunnanensis, Neopanax laetevirens, Nothofagus menziesii X obliqua, Nothofagus solanderi var. cliffortioides, Ostrya carpinifolia, Pinus radiata, Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa, Populus glauca, Prunus serrula, Pseudotsuga menziesii ssp. glauca, Pterocarya stenoptera, Quercus castaneifolia, Rhododendron arboreum ssp. cinnamomeum var. roseum, Rhododendron decorum ssp. diaprepes, Rododendron falconeri, Sorbus decipiens, Sorbus X kewensis, Stuartia sinensis, Styrax obassia, Thuja occidentalis 'Spiralis', Tilia mongolica, Ulmus 'Sapporo Autumn Gold'.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Wildlife Trackers

Why not pop over to Wildlife Trackers – You are in for a lot of fun!

Did you know there are over 20,000 kinds of insect, over 65 mammals and 230 different species of bird in the UK?

No-one has seen them all but this game is a race to spot 90 of the most common creatures.

To find out how it all works and get started click here.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

We had a fascinating talk about the work of the BTO and especially the Big Garden Birdwatch

Many think the BTO is complex because the word Ornithology sounds difficult, but the truth could not be further from the perception as we all learned

From their website

"The BTO is an independent charitable research institute combining professional and citizen science aimed at using evidence of change in wildlife populations, particularly birds, to inform the public, opinion-formers and environmental policy- and decision-makers. Our impartiality enables our data and information to be used both by Government and NGO campaigners"

It's easier than you think

"BTO Garden BirdWatch enables you to collect this information in a standardised way alongside similar information from many thousands of other garden birdwatchers. In effect, you are a 'citizen scientist' "

"Continuity of recording effort is more important than the quantity of recording, since this is a relative measure of garden use changing from week to week. "

And it's not just birds

"we work with partner organisations to monitor everything from butterflies to badgers."

To read more about it visit their site and about the BTO

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

We now have a speaker for our meeting on the 11th of March – spread the word it’s Niall Mcann again with some of his amazing wildlife stories

If you weren’t at his last talk and missed him on TV here’s some information

he’s a man of big adventures and always in a hurry. So all we know at present is the title we got as he was rushing out to Uganda

Hi Hilary,
I'll probably give you a talk about the TV series I'm involved in, which is to do with human animal conflict
I'll call it "The Making of". See you in March!

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