Posted by: lensweb | August 15, 2017

The Sound of Grasshoppers

Aug 14 Monday Bush Cricket Hunt Bring your bat detector!

Darley and Nutwood Local Nature Reserve

Meet 2:30 at South Avenue entrance

Sat nav DE22 1DZ.

Leader Felicity Jackson

The chirping of grasshoppers and crickets is one of the quintessential sounds of summer. Their song is very unusual in the insect world. At Darley and Nutwood Local Nature Reserve a small group met up with Felicity Jackson who has made a special study of these insects.


The Darley and Nutwood Local Nature Reserve is based on an old landfill site which was closed and sealed in 1985 and was originally the site of a swan pond of a grand hall. The ruin of a garden temple survives. It is close to the River Derwent and also incorporates a fragment of ancient woodland. Chairman of the management team Dr Keith Dodd explained that the site is fenced so that it can be grazed by sheep and cattle in the winter months.


Leading us to an area of long grass, Felicity explained that the Orthoptera are an order of insects that have enlarged hind legs for jumping. There are two sub-orders, consisting of 27 native species, the grasshoppers and the crickets.

Crickets have long antennae, grasshoppers have short antennae.

Crickets stridulate by rubbing their wings together, grasshoppers have a series of pegs on the hind legs that produce sound when rubbed against wing veins.  On hot days they can be heard over considerable distances, but in duller weather can be less conspicuous and may be more reliably heard with a bat detector to amplify the sound.

Males can produce up to five songs during courtship: normal song, courtship song, assault song, copulation song and the rivals’ duet

The male sperm is transferred in a package called the spermatophore.

Adult females lay eggs through ovipositors adapted for laying eggs, singly or in pods, into the ground  or base of grasses. Eggs are the overwintering stage.

The immature stages (called nymphs) closely resemble the adults. They hatch in spring when the temperature is suitable for development and succulent vegetation is abundant. Some bush-crickets are predatory and consume grasshoppers or younger stages of their own species.

The number of nymphal instars varies between species but most Grasshoppers have four nymphal instars and most Bush crickets have five or six.

Development takes about two months and the adults usually emerge in July.

Grasshoppers and crickets rely on external sources of heat to raise their body temperature so are reliant on environmental conditions. As they are highly mobile, they may be valuable indicators of climate change.

We set our bat detectors to 22KHz and soon picked up the loud churring of Roesel’s Bush Cricket. We had to look very carefully among the long grass and meadow vetchling before we spotted the actual cricket. We heard about 4 of these before we sighted a wingless bright green cricket with a black stripe down it’s back, this was the nymph of a long winged conehead. After some time we heard an adult male conehead. Through a bat detector, the stridulation is a chugging train engine sound which distinguishes it from the raspberry buzz of Roesel’s Bush-cricket, and from the softer sewing machine stridulation of the grasshoppers.

Long-winged Coneheads (Conocephalus discolor) have been expanding into new territories, with rising temperatures under climate change a likely factor. Roesel’s Bush Cricket (Metrioptera roeselii) is also expanding it’s range. Of course, 21st century records may sometimes reflect the increased use of bat detectors by recorders, rather than range expansion.

Many colour forms exist of Lesser Marsh Grasshopper Chorthippus albomarginatus. It may be a uniform straw brown or dark green with a white line running along the forewing. Fully winged, the side keels of the pronotum are straight which together with a median keel form three parallel lines across the pronotum. We found several females before we heard the soft purring trill of an unseen male which was then tracked to halfway up a plant stem.

The Lesser Marsh Grasshopper can be confused with the meadow grasshopper Chorthippus parallelus or the common green grasshopper but the songs are quite distinct. Meadow Grasshopper has a short rattling song of 1 – 2 seconds duration sometimes described as a dry chuckle of 10 —15 pulses. The Common Green Grasshopper  Omocestus viridulus has a loud continuous song lasting up to 15 seconds. It is soft in tone but far carrying, rather like the sound of hands being briskly rubbed together. Only the Lesser Marsh Grasshopper has been found at Darley and Nutwood so far.


Two groundhoppers which are like diminutive grasshoppers have been found on site the Slender Groundhopper Tetrix subulata in which the pronotum extends beyond the tip of the abdomen, giving a characteristic kite shape when viewed from above and the Common Groundhopper Tetrix undulata in which the pronotum is shorter. Their antennae are short and they have no stridulation, courtship being a series of bows.

Felicity was keen to survey the site for speckled bush crickets which have an abrupt, high pitched click, as they are present at nearby Allestree Park, but she was unlucky on this occasion. We were tempted to settle for the night and listen out for the crickets as we watched the Perseids display but – enough!

Pleased to have unravelled the mysteries of grasshoppers singing we were now able to look at other insects. Honey bees and red tailed bees busy on knapweed.  Drone flies, sun flies and even a large Volucella inanis on angelica. Ladybirds, harlequin, seven spot, clown faced (14 spot) and 22 spot.


A shining domed black dor beetle with purple under garments was set to work rolling rabbit currants before we left the site.

Marion Bryce 14 August 2017

Posted by: lensweb | July 31, 2017

West Hallam Screen

Source: West Hallam Screen

Posted by: lensweb | July 31, 2017

West Hallam Screen

Monday 31 July 2017 West Hallam Screen- Bioblitz

Parking by kind permission of the Newdigate Arms DE7 6HW.

Leader Stuart Gilder


Until the early 20th century West Hallam was a small rural village and the property of the Newdigate family, which parted with their interest as Lords of the Manor in 1914.

Most jobs were in agriculture, later there was mining work locally in the Erewash Valley coalfield. There was also a West Hallam railway station, now Station House, connected to the Great Northern Railway and Derby Friargate Station.

The later 20th Century saw rapid change with both the collieries and the railway disappearing during the 1960s. Stanley Colliery (known locally as ‘Nibby Pit’ on Station Road) was the last to close in 1959 and some buildings remain. The colliery spoil tips were removed and landscaped and after much opencast coal extraction the area regained its traditional rural appeal from the 1970s onward.

Stuart led us on a short circular walk around the area known as West Hallam Screen which used to be used to screen coal from the colliery. Screening, washes soil and rock from the coal, then crushes it into chunks that are sorted into different sizes or grades. The plant then stockpiles grades for transport. Although the pit was closed, there were various attempts to reopen the colliery as open cast and to recover buried coal, but because of the proximity of a large and vocal local population, Mr RJ Budge was unable to get planning permission. Head House Farm were keen to buy some of the site as grazing but at the insistence of the owner, they were forced to buy the whole site. How fortunate! Now the mosaic grassland site complete with infrastructure, roads, old buildings, industrial relics, an old rail trackway and part of the Nutbrook Canal is under management by the Owner and a consortium of Natural England, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and Butterfly Conservation. New hedges have been planted and grazing is by the owner’s herd of Park Cattle.


A gleaming metal Arla milk tanker met us on the lane as we started out. Sheltering behind concrete blocks we were keen to list all of the wildlife on our mini-bioblitz and the panoply of plants engaged us a while at the beginning, and among them was a short-winged conehead. We walked along the lane and came across an old traffic island, bursting with wildflowers. A heap of sand grew super-sized fat-hen.

Skipping from flower to flower along the verge bright orange gatekeeper butterflies contrasted with the sombre colour of the fading meadow brown butterflies. The gatekeeper is also known as the hedge brown and spends much of it’s time basking with wings open, when the sexes are easy to tell apart – only the male has the distinctive sex brands on the forewings. On the ground was egg without bacon, bird’sfoot trefoil, the sulphur yellow flowers of black medic seemed too yellow. Prickly leaves turned purple on the common hemp nettle, musk mallow oh so rose pompadour, and there were raised islands of pretty pink flower spikes of rosebay willowherb.  Bramble tendrils strayed across the track.



It must be difficult for plants to grow on the acidic black coally substrate, wavy hair grass was common here,  and the ragwort was a riot of yellow. Some change in the air must have vanquished the insects, we only saw one black tipped soldier beetle where there would have been hundreds the week before. Was that the briefest summer ever? The sun disappeared behind a cloud and a common blue butterfly clung to a grass stem sulking, with wings folded.

Water-mint crushed underfoot, marsh cudweed and purple loosestrife signalled a damp flush and Stuart allowed us time to photograph green marsh leafhoppers with their strange blue nymphs, a slender ground-hopper and to chase various grasshoppers which no doubt we will be able to identify by this time next week. Great Pond Sedge, and False Fox Sedge competed with hard, soft and compact rush for space. Sedges and rushes are often confused with grasses, a handy mnemonic:

Sedges have edges,
Rushes are round,

Grasses are hollow
Right up from the ground

Like a mini-sputnik the white larval cases of a micro-moth, (Coleophora alticolella is the most common), protrude from the seed head of compact rush. The larvae initially feed inside the rush, but when larger, they feed externally and construct distinctive protective silken cases.


John Langford got the prize though, a large burying beetle, Nicrophorus vespilloides, with black and orange patterning on the elytra. More normally found under dead birds and mammals, these beetles perform an important service in getting rid of carrion (dead animals and birds) by digging beneath the bodies to provide a food supply for their larvae. So what was it doing on top of a grass stem? She didn’t stay long, John was quite surprised that a beetle could move so fast from a standing start.

We strayed into a grey moonscape then the sun burst out as we followed a return route along the old Nutbrook Canal. A large splash could have been a water vole?  Hemp agrimony, Himalayan balsam and wild angelica, it’s developing umbels partially enclosed in inflated purple sheaths looked quite exotic. Hoverflies and sawflies fed on the flowers and licked honeydew from the leaves. Chocolate-brown with creamy-yellow eye spots speckled wood butterflies basked in the dappled shade under the oak, willow and birch. In a burst of sunshine, green veined white butterflies chased each other, with some success.


This delightful interlude was followed by lights out, the sun disappeared completely and a heavy shower of rain sent us back to the warmth of the Newdigate Inn.

Marion Bryce, 31 July 2017.

Posted by: lensweb | July 18, 2017

LENS at LINBY (and Papplewick)


17 July 2017 All Day Walk Newstead Abbey and Linby Trail ‘Butterflies Galore’

Park at the end of the Papplewick Village Hall car park (near the play park), Linby Lane NG15 8FB

Leader Marion Bryce and Christine Carrier 0115 9730506

We made a prompt start from Papplewick, nearly leaving 2 of our members behind. The houses and gardens on Main Street were packed with specimen plants and flowers and history. We passed Papplewick Hall, rebuilt in 1787 for the Hon Frederick Montagu, Lord of the Treasury.

1soayz.jpgA lime tree marked the spot for a mood change as we turn left and follow Hall Lane. The tarmac track  passed fields of sugar beet, rape and miscanthus. A yellowhammer called ‘a little bit of bread and no cheese’ as we named the flowers on a headland of agricultural weeds, scented mayweed, field pansy, fat hen,  and poppy. Somehow the track became  a magnificent driveway of Turkey Oaks. A sprouted acorn was carefully preserved to grow on. We dallied as a family of kestrels were trying their wings, then they settled on a branch showing side and front profile,  it seems they were waiting to be fed.


The track trundled on until a seeming dead-end, a pair of wrought iron gates were the entrance to a lodge. The footpath passes left of the gates and follows alongside ancient beech and oak  woods. Hogweed, ground elder and sanicle survive the shady and dry conditions under the trees.

Ignoring a meadow filled with ragwort we kept under the shade until suddenly the frontage of Newstead Abbey was revealed.

DSC_1217.JPGThe abbey, the epitomy of a romantic ruin, doesn’t look real, is it too good? It seems  like a film set facade. Although originally an Augustinian Priory built in 1170 it is best known as the ancestral home of Lord Byron who lived in the house in the early 19th century. He was a leading figure of the Romantic Period, first and foremost a poet. It is sad that his enormous body of works are now little read and he is a celebrity better known by revelations of his bohemian lifestyle. The monument Lord Byron erected to his favourite dog, Boatswain, is larger than his own.

Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
and all the virtues of Man without his Vices

We parted in front of the garden lake, a huge expanse of water-lilied calm.  Like Alice in Wonderland we explored the romantic nineteenth century gardens around the house which were made by Mrs WF Webb and her daughters between 1865 and 1900 and are now maintained by volunteers guided by the Head Gardener. They include a fern garden, a sub-tropical garden, a Spanish garden, a Japanese garden and a rockery. The Rose Garden was added in 1965, and occupies the old kitchen garden. The enormously long and colourful large raised bed is inspirational.


There are mediaeval stew ponds and a large rectangular 17th century pond, a regular residence of 2 pairs of little grebes. There was also a family of mallards towing a line of fluffy brown ducklings. Birds are a feature of a visit to the gardens, large white orange beaked geese guard the house and peacocks think they own the place which is actually owned by Nottingham City Council and is open to the public.

After suitable refreshment at the excellent café we regrouped and passed the overflow cascade to walk out of the grounds along the east drive. The fields were full of ripe wheat and once again we were glad of the shade of the trees. A second lodge was reached, a most desirable residence. We then continued walking for a considerable distance passing distressed horse chestnuts suffering leaf fall, wych elm with sandpaper leaves, plaited trunks of sweet chestnut and lime dimpled with small globes of fruit. A small pond provided an oasis of purple loosestrife and common fleabane. The hogweed was getting a little ‘samey’ the white flat umbels being much of a muchness, until it started to turn into the ribbed stems and shiny green leaves of greater burnet saxifrage.

A left turn took us onto the path signed Linby Trail and National Cycle Network Route No 6. This is a cutting which was the route of the Great Northern Railway. Here Magnesian Limestone beds outcrop, a yellow-ochre sandy limestone in ready-made layers of bricks. It is this rock which has been used as a building stone in the villages of Linby and Papplewick. It weathers to produce a lime-rich clay soil.

This was a complete change of scene and the curtains went up on a fine performance. Firstly were yellows of tall melilot, St John’s Wort and agrimony, then pink pea flowers of rest harrow and mauve tufted vetch. A purple phase followed with common knapweed, then greater knapweed. A rare plant, saw-wort, looks similar to thistle but without spines, and gets its name from the sharply toothed leaves. It has been used to produce a yellow dye. Super-sized harebells nodded pale blue on the sides of the low but steep sided cutting.  A deep rooted survivor of hay meadows, growing tall, tiny flowers in dense oval heads a rich shade of mahogany, great burnet thrust amongst the pale powder blue flat bobbing heads like circus performers spinning multiple plates on sticks held vertically in stands, field scabious.


Where were our butterflies? Bumble bees early and tree, red tailed and buff tailed, busily buzzed, but we had been looking forward to seeing clouds of butterflies. Although a delight to see the bright blue wings of the not so common blue butterflies, we only saw 2. A few worn ringlets and meadow browns. a paltry few skippers and a small tortoiseshell. There really weren’t many insects, a capsid bug, a cardinal beetle a dance fly, we should be concerned.

Behind a screen of willow a train raced us along the Robin Hood line which runs into Nottingham. Towards the end of the trail meadowsweet’s  irregularly branched cymes packed with small creamy flowers featured more and more and a small stream ran alongside growing brooklime, fool’s watercress and edible watercress amongst spikes of bur-reed.

We had now reached Linby which starts and ends with a stone cross. Heat exhaustion was such that ice-creams had to be purchased, the barrels of flowers at the Horse and Groom looked inviting! Across the road was an interesting Parish Map of Linby explaining the history of the village.  It is a picturesque Conservation Area, streams, known as the Linby Docks, flow down each side of the main street. We spied three spotted trout before they skirled and hid under the little bridges to each cottage. Pale buttercup flowers peering at the water surface was a  water-crowfoot we had not seen before Ranunculus circinatus.

The road was quite busy so we were glad to turn off and follow a path beside a hawthorn hedge straggled through with black bryony and hedge bedstraw. Golden brown fields of wheat.  This is where we saw our butterflies, red admiral, comma, ringlet, meadow brown, gatekeeper and even a speckled wood, which seem to be in short supply this year.


It is not often that you have to apologise for the warm weather but some folks were glad of the shade of a veteran yew tree in St James churchyard. We didn’t tally too long, saving the delights of the church for another day, we followed the drive back to Main Street where the friendly faces of huge sunflowers welcomed us back to the car park of Papplewick Town Hall.

Marion Bryce 17 July 2017

Posted by: lensweb | July 14, 2017

Chartley Moss

Chartley Moss

Chartley Moss, Staffordshire, Site of Special Scientific Interest, is the largest example of a floating peat bog, or schwingmoor, in Britain. The sphagnum lawn supports important botanical communities adapted to grow in this environment.

The site is unsafe to visit without an experienced guide due to the danger of disappearing without trace in the dark 16 meter depths of a submerged lake, topped with a meter of Sphagnum Moss and peat.  The bog was formed by dissolving salt deposits in underlying rocks, creating a large hollow which was then filled by ground water, creating an underground acidic lake. The habitat is very fragile, access is restricted to a few specially arranged events each year, so I was very pleased to receive an invitation from the Sinfin Moor Group to join a walk led by Beverley Rhodes.


We met at Tesco in Uttoxeter and then took the minimum number of cars to the site.  It is about a one mile walk across fields until the official boundary of the site is marked by a Natural England sign and a gate. We then walked through dense woodland of ash, birch, hazel, oak and rowan. Enchanter’s nightshade was flowering, typical woodland plants yellow archangel, bluebell and dog’s mercury were seen and some small balsam was an unusual treat for us.

Wooden bridges  crossed a couple of streams or drains and the ground got damper, then the path became easy to follow as it was lined with birch logs. Tufted hair grass and purple moorgrass were now dominant , there was also wavy hair grass in a strange forest of dead trees.  Past efforts had been made to try to drain the moss and grow pine trees, most of the trees had died. Now realising the value of the scarce habitat efforts are being made to reverse the decline of the moss. Scot’s Pine, birch trees and Rhododendron ponticum are to be removed.


Splodging and squelching across the wet peat, we admired the pink bells of cross leaved heath on the top of mini-mounds, there was heather, with pink buds showing and low, bunting like trails of cranberry loaded with round red berries. We reached the exact site where David Bellamy, botanist, author, broadcaster and environmental campaigner had dived (live on TV) beneath the peat bog blanket to see what was there, disappointingly, it was too brown and mirky to see anything of interest. Of significance is that now we can stand on it. The Sinfin Moor Warriors did a sort of War dance circling around the green sphagnum carpet, which heaved and squelched and oozed in response.


Along another secret trail red carpets of round-leaved sundew lay in wait.  On each leaf, hair-like tendrils tipped with sticky droplets trap and digest small insects. The acidic habitats the Sundew lives in don’t provide enough nutrients, so it has evolved this carnivorous way of life to supplement its diet.

Bilberry and cowberry are typical plants of the moorland community and they both have edible berries, bilberries are wild blueberries whereas cowberries are red and often found as lingonberry jam at IKEA. Cowberry leaves are a shining bright evergreen whereas bilberries shed their leaves in autumn. Another evergreen plant is crowberry, and the short thin leaves spiral up the stem like a wire brush. The black berries last all winter, they are edible but taste very sharp and unpleasant.

The princess Andromeda in Greek mythology, was renowned for her beauty and was chained to a rock as a sacrifice for the sea monster. The hero Perseus, flew on his winged horse Pegasus, to save the damsel in distress, but bog rosemary is still chained to the peat. This rare plant has a lovely pale pink pitcher shaped flower and leaves which are narrow and blue green, just like the herb rosemary, but bog rosemary although pretty, is very poisonous.

Beverley had led us to a large pool with a necklace of fine cotton grass and rushes. This is where the dragonflies, the common hawkers, black darters, keeled skimmer and the rare white faced darters may be found, on another day……………


Re-tracing our footprints we turned toward woodland across big mounded tufts of purple moor-grass, this is known to be a good area for reptiles such as common lizard, slow-worm and adder, but, despite searching, all we found was a common frog. Our Wellingtons plodded back through the dark wood with a lot to think about.


Chartley has been designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a Ramsar Convention protected wetland site, and a National Nature Reserve but it is in an unfavourable condition of decline.  Natural England are now reversing the decline by taking certain measures. Fields that supply surface water to Chartley Moss, are currently allowed to use farmyard manure after a hay cut but this adds nutrients to the moss.  Other fields supplying run-off water, are tightly grazed by sheep, a longer sward would hold water longer. Pheasants bred on-site, input nutrients and are free roaming, spreading nutrients and eating the reptiles. The plantations, woodland and scrub are drying out large parts of the bog. Tree cover is almost 50% but on the main bog it is supposed to be 5%.  Such high tree cover has an adverse impact on hydrology (and displaces more valuable open bog communities). Cutting the trees down will increase the bog’s surface wetness and Sphagnum cover.  Dredging the ditches creates a conflict between and the short term interests of the white-faced darter and the need for re-wetting for the benefit of the bog restoration. Restoration of hydrology by efficiently damming outflows and felling of trees is considered to be a more sustainable long term remedy.

Marion Bryce 14 July 2017

LEISURE by WH Davies is a poem that warns that “The hectic pace of modern life has a detrimental effect on the human spirit.” Modern man has no free time to spend in the lap of nature.

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

This was the best summer day as we wandered down the Erewash Canal looking at the colourful waterside flowers. Thanks to the bankside enhancement carried out by the Canal and River Trust we still have Great Pond Sedge, Marsh woundwort, purple loosestrife, hemp agrimony, water figwort and bright orange jewelweed. Unwelcome intruders are Water hemlock and Himalayan Balsam.


Stepping over the rickety old stile into meadow at Cranfleet Farm we can relax, away from the madding crowd. Looking for meadow plants, sweet vernal grass, crested dogstail and fine leaved bent. Chimney sweepers, meadow browns and ringlets abound. Gatekeepers bright on the bramble by the hedge. Ladies bedstraw, birdsfoot trefoil and for a surprise, some nodding mauve heads of musk thistle with it’s strange perfume. Stand and stare at Ratcliffe on Soar Power Station, on Red Hill, the other side of the River. What is it’s future?

We walk towards the smooth blue water of Fletcher’s Pond. Tranquillity. This is where the martin’s collect mud for their nests and the sparrowhawk stalks the kingfisher. Dragonfly nymphs crawl up the reeds and burst in the sun to reveal their blue metallic glory. Yellow water lily smells like brandy and the fruits are the kegs. Pink water speedwell, pond water-crowfoot, rushes hard and soft and the not so common spike rush necklace the margins.

Fletchers Pond  has been described as ‘Derbyshire’s Premier Big Carp Fishery’ and is managed by Long Eaton Victoria Angling Society. Tench, bream, roach and pike also swim here. On a hot summer’s day the big fish break out of the water.

I was first introduced to these truly idyllic rural surroundings by Bert Hall, Long Eaton’s revered botanist and teacher. He knew every blade of grass. In the cool dark under the blue brick arch greater celandine, and wood false brome still grow. In the mortar between the bricks small ferns, wall rue and maidenhair spleenwort form stars apart from the Small Toadflax and Spotted Hawkweed. The trains thunder overhead, as we emerge at Cranfleet Farm. The Wildlife Wander has numerous permutations and on this occasion we wander down Trent Lane which runs from Meadow Lane to the Cranfleet Canal. A spaghetti junction of train lines and site of the old Trent Station.


Trent Station, a Victorian masterpiece of Midland Gothic architecture stood at the interchange of the five main railway routes serving Nottingham, London, Birmingham, Derby and Chesterfield. Trent was a station without a town or community; no buses passed by, there was no taxi rank – and passengers had to walk more than half a mile from Long Eaton to get there. Opened in 1862, it had everything you would expect a busy station to have: a long, single-island platform, booking hall, waiting rooms, refreshments, book stall, crew accommodation and a ticket barrier. Yet, looking out of the station entrance, all that could be seen was an isolated farm, a cottage linked to a rifle range, the stationmaster’s house and a few railway cottages. It was nearly seven miles from Nottingham, more than nine miles from Derby, and precisely 119¾ miles from London St Pancras. All manner of royalty visited Trent, in the form of the Royal train that stabled overnight between Trent Station North Junction and Sawley Junction. Nearly 100 passenger and parcel trains stopped at Trent every day, from services like the high-speed Thames-Clyde Express to local routes hauled by light steam engines and later diesel units. Trent Station was knocked down when it closed in 1967 but Long Eaton was and is a train spotter’s paradise, as Rodney Fowkes describes ‘an exciting and romantic place for a train-mad lad to grow up’ in his book ‘From Clerk To Controller’.

Classic railway plants, mignonette, weld, toadflax common and purple and lucerne colour the roadside but the bank is a tangle of bramble with ground elder and ragwort and trails of wild hop and pink bindweed. Small tortoiseshell and large white and a lot more browns bask in the sunshine. It gets wilder, and pink fluffy heads of bridewort battle with snowberry to take over the railway embankment.

Now we dodge through the hedge to follow a footpath between the new ponds at Pasture Lane. Long grass and skipper country, small and large, no Essex. We are mesmerised by the green eyes of a horsefly. A busy day at the Rifle Range no tranquillity here but a crowd of Scentless mayweed with its hoverflies and bees engages our camera interest.

Another hedge dodge and we happen upon Nottingham Yacht Club (founded 1964) in the old lock cottage, with moorings for nineteen boats on a canalised section of the River Trent between Trent Lock and Attenborough nature reserve on the Erewash Valley Trail, close to the River Soar and the Erewash Canal and within easy reach of the Trent and Mersey Canal. We got stuck at the Grade II listed lock. Here we sat and we sat and dangled our legs over the edge as the sand martin’s entranced us, catching airborne insects whilst on the wing. Assiduously feeding the three pushy wailing chicks who butted their heads out from between the ancient stone blocks, me first, me first. Sand martins are summer visitors to the UK, one of the first spring migrants to appear, arriving mid-March to mid-April, travelling around 3,000 miles from sub-Saharan Africa.  Easily confused with barn swallows and house martins, sand martins have dark brown upper parts and dark under wings contrasting with pale under parts divided by a distinctive dark chest bar. Cute chicks!


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Finally, we followed Cranfleet Cut, which was dug in 1796 to allow the Trent barges to by-pass difficult and shallow parts of the River Trent and avoid the Thrumpton Weir. It is protected by flood gates when the river level rises. Smiling and happy boaters wave as we see Skullcap, Ivy-leaved Toadflax, Pellitory-of-the-wall, Angelica and many more flowers growing out of the lime mortar. The regular mowing of the grassy towpath has made a linear wildflower meadow with Burnet Saxifrage, Bird’s foot Trefoil, Dove’s foot Cranesbill, Self-heal and Black Medick. The Canal and River Trust moor their dredgers here and in the shade of the hawthorn hedge, ground ivy, cow parsley and rough chervil, straggle. A shadow of HS2 crossing the cut.

Weary at Trent Lock the major waterway junction where rivers and canals meet. Known as ‘Waters Meet’ by boaters. Trent Lock is the first lock on the Erewash Canal. Our circle completed we will leave you at the Lock House Tearooms, full of historic canal memorabilia and Measham teapots to admire while sipping our tea.

Marion Bryce 11 July 2017



Posted by: lensweb | July 11, 2017

Sunning at Skylarks

Skylarks Nature Reserve is a wetland nature reserve owned by Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust. It is specifically designed for disabled access. In 2014 a further 36ha of land and water to the south of Adbolton Lane, known as Blott’s Pit was purchased creating the largest nature reserve in Rushcliffe.

We were impressed by the car park which had giant mullein, nodding thistle, red and white campion, musk mallow and many other colourful flowers, all buzzing with bumble bees.

Our leader for the day was Tom Shields, a volunteer Reserve Warden at Skylarks who has led many working parties since the reserve opened in 1982 and runs a group which conducts on-site bird ringing.

Tom led us across the road to the old reserve and to our surprise we found that the Nottinghamshire County Council Community Archaeology Team have built Grubenhauser at the Nature Reserve. These are small sunken floored, timber framed buildings, which were typical buildings of the Anglo-Saxon and Viking ages. These buildings were constructed using traditional techniques and are part of a 3 year project which is exploring the human and natural heritage of the area. What makes this project more exciting is that a REAL Grubenhaus was discovered on the nature reserve when the site was a commercial sand and gravel quarry.


The sandy ground nearby had an interesting plant community which included common cudweed and blue fleabane, these are not plants we see every day.

We decided to go dragonfly spotting and saw common blue, blue tailed and red-eyed damselflies from a viewing platform, over Old Skylarks Lake. We watched swans with their cygnets dabbling among the reedmace. Common spotted and a single pyramidal orchid were flowering, the bee orchids having finished. The tangerine tang of sweet flag is unmistakeable and there was a lot of this among the more usual branched bur-reed. Looking like an iris or flag, this is distinguished from similar plants, by the unusual crimped edges of the sword shaped leaves. It rarely flowers but we were lucky to see solid, cylindrical, spadix densely crowded with tiny greenish-yellow flowers arranged in diamond-shaped pattern. Brown darter and black tailed skimmed across the water’s surface, and soared through the surrounding reeds.

We made our way back to the new part of the reserve. Centaury and St John’s Wort, Skylarks is definitely the Ragwort capital of the world. So many six spot burnet moths and butterflies nectaring, and orange and black cinnabar moth caterpillars munching on the ‘so called’ noxious weed. A flat meadow, prosaically called ‘the Dog Walkers Field’ was covered with the seed heads of silver hair grass, leading to Single Swan Pond, which speaks for itself. The inestimable value of local knowledge!


Now it was ‘Watch the Birdie’ at Blott’s Pitt which is part-owned by the Trust. A long central ridge shows the line of a former road through the site which has been extensively engineered to suit the birds and the viewing of the birds. Godwit, oyster catcher, peewit, little ring plover, pochard and sometimes smew. Tom had thoughtfully brought his telescope, even though we did not walk around the Lake it seemed we were close to the birds. Time had run out so we chased the meadow browns, the ringlets and gatekeeper butterflies all the way back to the car park.

Marion Bryce 11 July 2017

Posted by: lensweb | July 4, 2017

Marbled Whites at Toton Sidings

4 July 2017  Toton Sidings LENS with Butterfly Conservation

Meet: At Banks Road Open Space Car Park, Toton Greenwood Community Centre NG9 6LN  Grid ref: SK494345  Leader Marion Bryce

A walk around the Toton Fields Local NR and Toton Sidings. This area is full of wildflowers that attract a wide range of butterflies including Marbled White

A red admiral sucked the ripe dark cherries as we idly waited in the car park, then at 10 o clock off we set, with 19 people in tow. The weather forecast had been quite buoyant but as we walked by the River Erewash, the cloud cover increased and it started to rain. A little egret fled as we crossed the river bridge, passed through  the gateway into the old sidings.


Toton railway yards, built in 1856,were once described as the “biggest in Western Europe”. As freight business declined, the sidings began to return to nature. There was much dismay among local residents when the woodland that had grown up was illegally felled in 2009. But what followed was a blooming of the sidings with such a variety of wildflowers many different butterflies were attracted.

LENS Wildlife group surveyed the flowers and set up a butterfly transect at the south end of the site at Mayfield Grove. This was very successful, with Small Heath Coenonympha pamphilus, Brown argus  Aricia agestis, Marbled White Melanargia galathea and Green Hairstreak Callophrys rubi among the many butterflies recorded but the unmanaged site is now overgrown. The larger site remains and is the proposed site for a station hub serving Nottingham and Derby as part of the new HS2 high-speed rail network. Currently this is an unmanaged site that changes from year to year.

As we brush past the foliage the dark shadows of ringlets flutter and a gatekeeper flashes brilliant orange before shutting its wings and resting among the bramble. We went off piste to the best wildflower areas where the marbled whites fly late into the July evenings, and there they were, marble indeed, posing, frozen on the mauve knapweed flowers. So far this year only 7 have been counted and we saw 3 today with plenty of photo-opportunity for Rod and Martin our professional photographers. They got the best photographs ever! Four large day-flying moths appeared, the shaded broad-bar, the latticed heath, the six-spot burnet and was that a narrow-bordered five-spot burnet? A smoky wainscot thought it was night-time. Two green veined whites showed off and we took the time to look at the skippers. Essex and small skipper confirmed by catching them in a tube and examining the colour of the end of the antennae, sooty means Essex, brick red means small. A small grass moth was the common, garden grass veneer Chrysoteuchia culmella. Pale straw pearl Udea lutealis, a bramble feeder was also confirmed.

A pheasant squawked in the scrub and a green woodpecker flew across. A lesser whitethroat and chiff chaff took turns serenading us but it was raining quite heavily as we walked up the black powdery bridle path up to the north end of the sidings. We lost two birdwatchers.

White melilot, mignonette, St John’s Wort and centaury wildflowers excited interest as we padded between the hairy pods of old broom. White mullein and evening primrose put on a good show but the purple buddlia flowers and bird’s foot trefoil was abandoned by butterflies. No brown argus today.

Meadow fescue grows profusely along the path to the top of the hill. It stopped raining but the sky still lowered as we saw skippers and ringlets a plenty, confirming small and Essex skippers at the top of the hill. A large skipper rested, waiting for the sun to shine. Looking down over the Sidings it was sad to see so many old diesels rusting in rows. While the virtual quarry busily transferred stone, brought by lorries from the quarry, into train wagons for further transportation.

Sue’s sharp eyes spotted a tawny longhorn beetle feeding inside the pink striped white trumpet of field bindweed. A long winged conehead and a speckled bush cricket were solitary orthopteran records. Counting skippers and ringlets we also saw black tipped soldier beetles and a thick thighed flower beetle as featured on Spring Watch. Speckled woods were hesitant to fly as we passed through the dappled shade of the Toton Fields woodland. We were almost back when we spotted the unmistakeable jagged edged wings of a comma.


Phylloscopus collybita Chiffchaff 1
Picus viridis Green Woodpecker 1
Ardea cinerea Grey Heron 1
Sylvia curruca Lesser Whitethroat 1
Egretta garzetta Little Egret 1
Phasianus colchicus Pheasant 1
Turdus philomelos Song Thrush 1
Coccinella septempunctata 7-spot Ladybird 2
Rhagonycha fulva Common Red Soldier Beetle 10
Oedemera (Oedemera) nobilis Swollen-thighed Beetle 1
Paracorymbia fulva Tawny Longhorn 3
Polygonia c-album Comma 3
Thymelicus lineola Essex Skipper 20
Pyronia tithonus Gatekeeper 6
Pieris napi Green-veined White 5
Ochlodes sylvanus Large Skipper 3
Pieris brassicae Large White 1
Melanargia galathea Marbled White 3
Maniola jurtina Meadow Brown 3
Vanessa atalanta Red Admiral 1
Aphantopus hyperantus Ringlet 88
Thymelicus sylvestris Small Skipper 20
Aglais urticae Small Tortoiseshell 2
Pararge aegeria Speckled Wood 2
Calopteryx splendens Banded Demoiselle 1
Bombus (Thoracobombus) pascuorum Common Carder Bee 5
Bombus (Pyrobombus) pratorum Early Bumblebee 1
Apis mellifera Honey Bee 2
Bombus (Melanobombus) lapidarius Large Red-tailed Bumblebee 5
Bombus lucorum/terrestris/magnus/cryptarum White-tailed Bumblebee 1
Chrysoteuchia culmella Garden Grass-veneer 1
Chiasmia clathrata Latticed Heath 3
Zygaena lonicerae Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet 2
Scotopteryx chenopodiata Shaded Broad-bar 3
Zygaena filipendulae Six-spot Burnet 4
Mythimna impura Smoky Wainscot 1
Udea lutealis Pale Straw Pearl 2
Conocephalus fuscus Long-winged Cone-head 1
Leptophyes punctatissima Speckled Bush-cricket 1

Marion Bryce 4 July 2017























Posted by: lensweb | July 3, 2017

I Know a Bank Where the Wild Thyme Blows


26 June 2017 Flowers of Lead Spoil Heaps

Gang Mine Derbyshire Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve and National Stone Centre, Middleton by Wirksworth

Meet National Stone Centre car park off the B5035 Cromford-Carsington road DE4 4LS-SK285553

Leader Marion Bryce and Christine Carrier

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:

Spoken by Oberon, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 2, Scene 1

On a gorgeous summer day we walked up from the car park of the National Stone Centre, to Gang Mine to find a small car park which we could have used. Never mind, the walk was good for us and we were able to see some broad leaved helleborine which was about to flower in the grass verge. Gang Mine is incognito but if you can find it, take the opportunity to have a look round. It is fabulous for wildflowers!


Our walk started in an area of unimproved neutral grassland with abundant buttercups, clover, meadow grasses, and herbs such as burnet saxifrage Pimpinella saxifraga, yarrow Achillea millefolium, lady’s bedstraw Galium verum, mouse-ear hawkweed Hieracium pilosella, bush vetch Vicia sepium, pignut Conopodium majus and yellow rattle Rhinanthus minor. We were particularly impressed by the hoary plantain Plantago media. Ringlets and meadow browns danced in the grass and a pair of chimney sweeper moths stayed low.

Continuing towards the northern and eastern parts of the site which have been colonised by scrub species including hawthorn Crataegus monogyna, blackthorn Prunus spinosa, and ash Fraxinus excelsior we saw our first common spotted orchids Dactylorhiza fuchsii, valerian Valeriana officinalis, crosswort Cruciata laevipes and field scabious Knautia arvensis. Six spot burnets decorated the purple knapweed Centaurea nigra, tiny moths Micropterix calthella loved the buttercups and black tipped soldiers, orchid beetles and a hairy click beetle showed some of the vibrant insect life.


Dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis and ivy Hedera helix grew under the hawthorn hedge, then we turned down a gooseberry lined track towards Steeple Grange Quarry, to search a small meadow which is a translocation site, saving pyramidal orchids Anacamptis pyramidalis from the working quarry level ahead of the works. Here we found our only betony Stachys officinalis.


We now passed through a gate and chased red admirals and commas round a mysterious old building on a mound and found ourselves on another planet. Low growing plants, flowering to burst, all the colours of the rainbow and butterflies, small copper, small heath and common blue flying from flower to flower.

In 1652 Gang Mine was recorded as being an ancient lead mine. The associated ‘gangue’ minerals of calcite, fluorite and baryte were deposited as waste dumps around the shafts and it is these spoil heaps with their high levels of lead and cadmium that support a unique assemblage of plants. The large area of mine workings and spoil heaps on limestone vary in slope, aspect and soil toxicity so every mound has different wildflowers. Derbyshire Wildlife Trust manages the 9Ha site which is, not only as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, but also under European Law as a Special Area of Conservation.

The calcareous turf  on thin soil, is species rich and supports plants such as milkwort Polygala vulgaris, common eyebright Euphrasia officinalis, kidney vetch Anthyllis vulneraria, common rockrose Helianthemum nummularium, small scabious Scabiosa columbaria, fairy flax Linum catharticum, glaucous sedge Carex flacca and rare limestone bedstraw Galium sterneri (mixed with a lot of heath bedstraw Galium saxatile).


Only a small number of plants are able to tolerate these spoil conditions, they flourish because of reduced competition. The open spoil areas support large populations of alpine penny-cress Thlaspi caerulescens. and spring sandwort Minuartia verna which is the most characteristic and frequently found metallophyte species. Two further plants associated with the spoil are, mountain pansy Viola lutea and a small fern, moonwort Botrychium lunaria which we were unable to find despite searching, so we will have to visit earlier next year. Altogether these spoil heaps are an outstanding and unique site and so beautiful that Helen was moved to poetry.

As we completed the circular walk we climbed over the gate to look at the restored Dew Pond, the original purpose of this small saucer shaped pond would have been to water livestock from the rainwater it collects.

In the afternoon we explored the National Stone Centre and that is a story for another day.


Marion Bryce 3 July 2017

Posted by: lensweb | June 29, 2017

Another Close Encounter

Moth Trapping at Clover Close

Sunday, 25 June 2017,  Clover Close, Elvaston

Moth Trapping

Meet 9.30pm-1.00am  Grid ref  SK407323

Marion Bryce and Derek Brumbill

A spell of warm weather lured us into moth trapping at Clover Close. Two Skinner traps were used, a 125w MV lamp and a 15w actinic lamp. These were placed out of line of sight near the pine copse in the centre edge of the field. When we finally got set up it was 10.00pm.


A beautiful white barn owl floated over the top of the grass soaring and searching, finally going down for a feast of field vole, but where were the moths? The cloud cover was 100% but thin, and the temperature zoomed down to 10 degrees Centigrade, Brrr!  As we had made the effort we decided to wait it out. Excitingly our first moth was a huge brown furry Drinker, a very good looking moth.  Apart from Common Footman, Smoky Wainscot and Rustic ten of, the moths were few and far between but we managed to catch some which landed just short of the light. At 1am a Poplar Hawk Moth signalled the end of our session.

When we opened the traps to pack up we found very few moths, the most interesting catch was a summer chafer Amphimallon solstitiale . Altogether that night there were 37 species of moth identified of which 32 were macro-moths. The highest number of moths were species which  feed on coarse grass or bramble and also the nearby trees and shrubs. The most interesting moth was a micromoth, the Rough-winged conch, it’s white face and front legs shining in the light of the trap, tufted and unkempt, looking like a caddis larva that has gathered stones to decorate it’s case. This woodland species is distributed mainly in southern England, becoming scarcer further north into the Midlands. It is on the wing during May and June, and flies around dusk. During the day it relies on camouflage, taking on the appearance of a bird-dropping. The larvae feed on white bryony (Bryonia dioica). Listed as LOCAL in Waring and Townsend it is COMMON in the Butterfly Conservation Microlepidoptera Report 2011. Maybe it depends if you live in the North or the South of the UK?

List of moth species at Clover Close 25 June 2017 with the larval food plant

Species Common name
Agriphila straminella Straw Grass-veneer Fine Grass Common
Agrotis exclamationis Heart & Dart Herbaceous plants incl dock, plantain Common
Alcis repandata Mottled Beauty Hawthorn, bramble Common
Bupalus piniaria Bordered White Scot’s Pine Common
Cabera pusaria Common White Wave Birch, Chestnut, Sallow Common
Campaea margaritaria Light Emerald Many trees and shrubs Common
Camptogramma bilineata Yellow Shell Herbaceous plants incl cleavers, bedstraws Common
Diarsia mendica Ingrailed Clay Herbaceous and woody plants incl bramble Common
Ditula angustiorana Red-barred Tortrix Most trees and shrubs Common
Dysstroma truncata Common Marbled Carpet Many incl willow, bramble Common
Eilema lurideola Common Footman Hawthorn, lichens Common
Eulithis mellinata Spinach Blackcurrant Common
Euplexia lucipara Small Angle Shades Wide range incl bracken, ivy, foxglove Common
Euthrix potatoria Drinker Coarse grass Common
Habrosyne pyritoides Buff Arches Bramble Common
Hemithea aestivaria Common Emerald Hawthorn, hazel etc Common
Hoplodrina blanda Rustic Herbaceous plants incl chickweed, dock, plantain Common
Hypena proboscidalis Snout Pellitory Common
Idaea aversata Riband Wave Herbaceous plants incl dandelion, primrose Common
Idaea biselata Small Fan-footed Wave Low plants Common
Idaea dimidiata Single-dotted Wave Cow Parsley Common
Laothoe populi Poplar Hawk-moth Poplar and Willow Common
Lomaspilis marginata Clouded Border Willow Common
Lozotaeniodes formosana Orange Pine Scot’s Pine Common
Mythimna ferrago Clay Grass incl cocksfoot and meadow grass Common
Mythimna impura Smoky Wainscot Coarse grass Common
Noctua pronuba Large Yellow Underwing Herbaceous plants incl dock Common
Nola cucullatella Short-cloaked Moth Hawthorn etc Common
Oligia fasciuncula Middle barred Minor Grass Common
Oligia strigilis Marbled Minor Grass Common
Opisthograptis luteolata Brimstone Moth Many incl blackthorn, hawthorn Common
Photedes minima Small Dotted Buff Tufted Hairgrass Common
Phtheochroa rugosana Rough-winged Conch White Bryony Local
Thyatira batis Peach Blossom Bramble Common
Timandra comae Bloodvein Coarse grass Common
Tortrix viridana Green Oak Tortrix Oak and other trees Common
Xestia triangulum Double-square Spot Many plants, buttercups, cow parsley Common

If data from the two previous moth trapping sessions is included, 26 August and 1 September 2016, we now have 56 moths on the Elvaston list. To these we could add several moths which have been seen in the day time, Ghost, Chimney Sweeper, Shaded Broad-bar, Cinnabar, Narrow-bordered 5-spot burnet and 6 -spot Burnet. As the hay meadow flora improves it is expected that the number of species of moth will increase.

Elvaston Moths

Species Common name
Agriphila geniculea Elbow-stripe Grass-veneer
Agriphila straminella Straw Grass-veneer
Agrotis exclamationis Heart & Dart
Alcis repandata Mottled Beauty
Amphipyra pyramidea Copper Underwing
Amphipyra tragopoginis Mouse Moth
Atethmia centrago Centre-barred Sallow
Bupalus piniaria Bordered White
Cabera pusaria Common White Wave
Campaea margaritaria Light Emerald
Camptogramma bilineata Yellow Shell
Colostygia pectinataria Green Carpet
Diarsia mendica Ingrailed Clay
Diarsia rubi Small Square-spot
Ditula angustiorana Red-barred Tortrix
Dysstroma truncata Common Marbled Carpet
Eilema lurideola Common Footman
Ennomos fuscantaria Dusky Thorn
Epiphyas postvittana Light Brown Apple Moth
Eulithis mellinata Spinach
Euplexia lucipara Small Angle Shades
Euthrix potatoria Drinker
Euzophera pinguis Ash-bark Knot-horn
Habrosyne pyritoides Buff Arches
Hemithea aestivaria Common Emerald
Hoplodrina blanda Rustic
Hypena proboscidalis Snout
Idaea aversata Riband Wave
Idaea biselata Small Fan-footed Wave
Idaea dimidiata Single-dotted Wave
Laothoe populi Poplar Hawk-moth
Lomaspilis marginata Clouded Border
Lozotaeniodes formosana Orange Pine
Mesapamea secalis agg. Common Rustic agg.
Mythimna ferrago Clay
Mythimna impura Smoky Wainscot
Mythimna pallens Common Wainscot
Noctua pronuba Large Yellow Underwing
Nola cucullatella Short-cloaked Moth
Ochropleura plecta Flame Shoulder
Opisthograptis luteolata Brimstone Moth
Peribatodes rhomboidaria Willow beauty
Photedes minima Small Dotted Buff
Phtheochroa rugosana Rough-winged Conch
Rhizedra lutosa Large Wainscot
Rivula sericealis Straw Dot
Tholera decimalis Feathered Gothic
Thyatira batis Peach Blossom
Timandra comae Bloodvein
Tortrix viridana Green Oak Tortrix
Watsonalla binaria Oak Hook-tip
Xanthorhoe fluctuata Garden Carpet
Xestia c-nigrum Setaceous Hebrew Character
Xestia sexstrigata Six-striped Rustic
Xestia triangulum Double-square Spot
Xestia xanthographa Square-spot Rustic


Marion Bryce 29 June 2017

Data from Waring and Townsend Field Guide to Moths Revised edition: Sterling and Parsons Field Guide to Micromoths also Ian Kimber ‘UK Moths’


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