Sunday, 20 April 2014

Bryology at Rye Harbour

Since being inspired by Butterfly Conservation’s Rother Woods Project into taking an interest in conservation, especially invertebrates and plants, I have been surprised where this interest has taken me. Not only emotionally and intellectually, but sometimes geographically too, so when Tom Ottley, the county  recorder for Bryophytes (Mosses and Liverworts) for Sussex  asked me to be the minder for a British Bryological Society (BBS) Field Meeting at Rye Harbour and Camber Castle, I was more than happy to help.

North-Easterly Weather at Rye Harbour
I have always been rather impressed by how the Sussex Botanists can distinguish between very similar looking species of plants by utilizing a deep knowledge of plant morphology, habitats and seasonal distribution. The Bryologists are cast from the same mould, only perhaps more so, as the plants they study are often tiny. They are also very good botanists too, so any hope that I had of giving it the big one with my botanical knowledge was comprehensively crushed like Vlad the Impaler’s enemies.

Bryologists at Work
So this was an opportunity to learn rather than to pontificate; so two new plants for me, Field Madder (Sherardia arvensis) and Sea Milkwort (Glaux maritime).

Field Madder


A trip with the Botanists to Camber Castle a couple of years ago got me to the outer walls (the bastion), this trip with the bryologists got me to the keep.

The keep at Camber Castle
Many thanks to Barry Yates, Chris Bentley and the Sussex Wildlife Trust (SWT ) for permission to survey and for their excellent help and advice. 
Bryologists in Hard Hats
 The view of Rye from Camber Castle.

Rye: East Sussex
Finally, compare and contrast some different forms of energy generation.

Wind Turbines on Romney Marsh
Dungeness Nuclear power station (on the horizon, centre right)

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Comma 2014

The Comma; (Polygonia c-album)

My wildlife photographs are rarely top draw, however I do seem to be very fortunate with Comma Butterflies;

Barnes Wood Comma
This most excellent of butterflies, and the only UK species with the ragged or deep cut wing can been seem at almost any time of the year if the conditions are favourable.

The Comma butterfly is a great icon for conservation hope (or species resilience in the face of adversity) as
this butterfly almost disappeared from the UK at the turn of the twentieth century. It would appear that this butterfly increased its larval food-plant range from Hop (Humulus lupulus) and Elm (Ulmus spp), to include Common Nettle (Urtica dioica) too.  So from a low population period in about 1910 it has made a spectacular comeback and it is now well distributed in East Sussex as well as the rest of the southern UK.

Comma  Distribution Map (Mapmate)
It can now be found almost everywhere from woodlands to gardens and its appearance punctuates the start and the finish of the butterfly season.

Sussex Comma Population; weekly record counts
2012 appears to be the best of the recent years for Comma sightings, with a week 31 peek (late July, early August) but for actual yearly overall totals, like a lot of species, 2011 was the best. Another nice feature of this butterfly is that it is able to exploit the autumnal  nectar sources that are found in gardens long after the woodland flowers are finished.

Reference: Phillip's Guide to Butterflies of Britain and Ireland. J.A.Thomas

Other News: Butterfly Conservation launches new Smartphone App:
Butterfly Recording gets Smart

Sussex Butterfly Report :- Figures and Errata for Dingy and Grizzled Skipper Species Champion Reports in the 2013 Sussex Butterfly Report.
Figures & Errata