Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Last word on the BSBI Summer Meeting

Now that people have dispersed home after the BSBI Summer Meeting - and before we go any further, I just have to share this view, taken by Lydia at 5.35 am on Monday, the final morning, looking out from FSC Blencathra where the meeting was based...


Viola canina at Ullswater - Aira Point
Image: Fred Rumsey
So now that people are home again, they're uploading their images from the meeting and the thank you emails and congratulatory messages must be flooding in to Jon Shanklin's Inbox. 

But where is our man of the moment, who organised a meeting which attracted participants from Perthshire to the south coast of England? 

What do you do to recover from the intensity of organising a five-day national botanical recording meeting?

Yup, you guessed it - you go off botanising and recording somewhere else! 


Look out, botanists below!
Image: Fred Rumsey
So here's a brief report from Jon about his post-Summer Meeting recovery day, accompanied by some final images. 

Jon says: "Well I did have a nice relaxing day at the seaside!  For most of the day the sun blazed down, but a cooling sea breeze made it brilliant weather for botanising. 

I'd originally planned a two tetrad route, but the first was so nice that I spent most of the day there. The scenery was rather different to Blencathra and so were the plants. 

A very pink Oxalis acetosella at Bassenthwaite
Image: Lydia Koelmans
"The area I chose was one of the few Flintshire ones on the Dee estuary that was short of records - not any more. A large part of the tetrad includes the site of the former Point of Ayr colliery, which has been bulldozed flat. 

It therefore has a range of habitats and I found quite a few plants that I'd never seen before, such as Trifolium ornithopodioides, Ruppia maritima and Anchusa azurea".

A possible venue for a future BSBI field meeting? 

And well done Jon for filling in another recording card on the way home - we need all those records for Atlas 2020

I wonder what Jon will do when he does finally make it back to Cambridge - a little recording perhaps?

Many thanks to Jon for all his hard work organising and to Fred and Lydia for the images on this page, all taken during the Summer Meeting.  

I'll leave you with a final image from Fred (on right) of the botanists wending their way home after one of many successful fieldtrips on the BSBI Summer Meeting - until next year! 

Monday, 23 May 2016

BSBI Summer Meeting: the final day

Botanists at the Summer Meeting
Image: Dave Barlow
Here's the final report from this year's BSBI Annual Summer Meeting and it sounds as though it's been a great success. Three cheers for Organiser and Field Meetings Secretary Jon Shanklin, who found time to send through daily updates as well as co-ordinating everything on the ground.

"The final day - numbers had dropped, but there was still a good crowd at breakfast, many saying goodbye for now. Where were the posters? - in the studio (thanks Geoffrey). Had anyone left anything in the communal rooms - yes -  I'd left my box of id books!  

A Dog-Violet spotted during the Summer Meeting
Image: Natalie Harmsworth
So finally time for a bit of morning recording. I had two passengers to take to Penrith, and Phil Brown wanted to see a bit more, so we went to a square half way there. We did part of the village first, picking up several aliens, then along a green lane with a view to making a circular walk. 

Surprisingly there were quite a few introduced species along the track, but we then spied a small old quarry in a field. Phil vaulted over the drystone wall, but the rest of us went a bit further down the lane where the wall had collapsed to give easy access. 

The quarry had lots of nice limestone grassland species, including Rock Rose and Small Scabious. A bit further down the track we had Vaccinium myrtillus, so clearly the geology was quite complex. Around a corner we found a marshy area, then further up a hill remains of a lime kiln and pits. 

Botanists heading home from a
Summer Meeting fieldtrip
Image: Dave Barlow
This seemed a good place for lunch, but Phil hadn't brought any, so was sent off to explore another promising marshy area. By the time we had finished he came back with a handful of goodies, such as Menyanthes trifoliata and Vaccinium oxycoccos. 

Given the time it had taken to get this far, it seemed prudent to return directly if the passengers were to catch the train, however the return was far faster, and we had time to walk down a lane to a beck, where Phil grabbed a new plant for him - Berula erecta. We weren't expecting much from the tetrad and it just shows that even something that looks pretty dull on the map can have a host of nice species.

The workshops were very popular
Image: Dave Barlow
We made it to the station with enough time to spare, and then I journeyed back to Chester for a bit of relaxation (probably a spot of gardening and some more local recording in Flintshire or Denbighshire), before completing the journey back to Cambridge.

For me it has been an exhausting event, with barely a moment to relax, so I never saw the Red Squirrels that live at Blencathra, and only had a ten minute walk round the grounds this morning (but I did add 10 species to the site list that we had been compiling). We were lucky with the weather, with only one wet morning. We had some great scenery as a back-drop to our botanising, and for many a host of new plants to see. 

Leaving behind some great scenery!
Image: Natalie Harmsworth
Everyone learned a lot, from beginners to experts (I must read the keys more thoroughly!) and we all enjoyed the experience. Thanks to all for coming, and for making it such a successful event. A full report will appear in the BSBI Yearbook (LM: this is available to BSBI members only).


Hopefully many members will come to other BSBI field meetings over the summer, to the AEM at Wallingford in the autumn and to next years ASM, which might be in North Wales. If you do, you will meet a great crowd of people and have a really enjoyable time".

Sunday, 22 May 2016

BSBI Summer Meeting: Day 4

Botanists at Sale Fell, Cumbria
Image: Natalie Harmsworth 
Things are getting serious at FSC Blencathra - there's some serious recording going on! Here's the latest daily report by Jon Shanklin from the BSBI Summer Meeting: 

"Although a few spots of rain fell as we left Blencathra, that was it for the day and everyone enjoyed a fine day in the lake district. Once again groups of three or four scattered to the four corners in search of records for Atlas 2020.  

"My group of four headed for Rowrah, an under-recorded area since 2000, despite containing a National Nature Reserve with one of the finest hay meadows in Cumbria. 


A "purple patch": Early Purple Orchids
BSBI Summer Meeting 2016
Image: Anne Middleton
We started in the village, where there were some interesting garden escapes including the pretty Alchemilla conjuncta, although the owner of the property that it had escaped from thought it was becoming a bit of a pest! 

"We then headed for cycleway 71, which ran along a section of disused railway. The area of the old railway sidings distracted us, and we found a good selection of plants on the damp ground. In fact it distracted us so much that this was our lunch spot!  

"Continuing down the track we entered a permissive path through part of an old quarry, containing delightful woodland with trees draped in byrophytes. The rest of the quarry was guarded by a barbed wire fence and a moat, and clearly something very interesting grew there, but sadly we couldn't get in. 

We couldn't quite get Orchis mascula into our initial monad, so it became the first plant for the new monad. 

Botanists in a huddle over a plant ID.
Image: Dave Barlow
"A bit further along the cycle path we spotted the leaves of an umbellifer, but what was it? Nothing immediately came to mind so a leaf was bagged, and its grid reference taken. 

Plants were added to the monad edge, then we back tracked a little into the NNR. Part was rough grassland grazed by Belted Galloway, but sadly only a bit of the hay meadow was in our monad. 

"We recorded our bit, finding three species of Alchemilla. The rest of the NNR was a bit disappointing, though the boundary edge of an ungrazed meadow was more species rich. A few meanders along roads and tracks eventually got us back to the car for the longish drive back to Blencathra and dinner. 

Keying out Luronium in the evening
Image: Anne Middleton
"The post dinner ID session gave us some mundane species such as Arrhenatherum elatius (still vegetative in the lakes), and more interesting ones such as Geum macrophyllum found by another group. At 8:30pm everyone joined together to give some highlights, though there were still a few species to identify. 

The list is a long one, so not for the blog, but memories included the smell of Daucus carota, blue sheets of Viola canina, an Oak covered in epicormic growth like an Ent, a lunch amidst a flock of Oenanthe (so not the plant!) and some of the wonderful mountain scenery. 

Plant ID workshops at the
Summer Meeting were a great hit!
Image: Dave Barlow
"But what of that odd umbellifer? A quick look at the picture book immediately reminded us of Pimpinella, but as the leaflets were very big and the lowest clearly petiolate, possibly Pimpinella major. 

This seemed a bit unlikely for western Cumbria, however reference to the Cumbria Flora revealed "a possible 19th century record from near Arlecdon". Rowrah is just a kilometre from Arlecdon! Phil Brown is clearly going to have to have a closer look in a few weeks time when hopefully it will be in flower.

Tomorrow is our last day in this lovely part of England and it promises to be fine. Some people are driving straight off , but a few are continuing with a morning recording before heading for home."

BSBI Summer Meeting: Day 3

The view from FSC Blencathra
Image: Natalie Harmsworth
The latest on-the-spot report from the BSBI Summer Meeting is just in from Jon Shanklin:

"Day three dawned with typical lake district weather - grey and wet, however the rain had stopped by the time we finished breakfast and headed off in different directions. Some went to places chosen as having few records, others went to interesting places that still needed more records. Where they went I know not, but it seems that all came back happy with the days efforts, though for many there was more to come in the after dinner ID sessions that are an important part of the event.
  
FSC Blencathra, base for BSBI's Summer Meeting
Image: Natalie Harmsworth
"My own group headed for the little village of Tallentire, where we briefly joined Lynne Farrell's group to decide the strategy. We agreed to do separate monads and meet back for lunch at 1pm, though of course that didn't quite go to plan. My team headed roughly east and started recording when we passed a mini village green. 

"At about this point the first drops of rain fell, so the choice of waterproof paper for the morning recording seemed a good one (Jon is after all a meteorologist, so he had warned people). 

"Our first oddity was a crucifer growing on a wall, which didn't get identified until later, but turned out to be perhaps our best find of the day - Draba muralis. For the most part after that there was nothing eventful - the odd lost cow being returned to its pasture, a trailer of sheep going past, and a few more plants being crossed off the list. 

View from FSC Blencathra
Image: Anne Middleton
"By the time we were nearing the monad boundary the rain had stopped, with patches of blue sky, and although we pressed on for a short while looking for a lunch spot, it was quite windy, so we back-tracked to the shelter of a quarry that we had decided to do on our way back. 

"This proved to be a nice calcareous site, with Plantago media, Poterium sanguisorba and what we identified on the way back as Scabiosa columbaria amongst others. It was also a good spot for lunch and we phoned a message to the other group that we wouldn't be meeting up, so they should continue with their monad and then go to the southern part of the other tetrad. It turned out that although they never received the message, they did exactly as instructed - telepathy works!


Mystery plant spotted during Day 2:
can you tell what it is?
Image: Dave Barlow 
"After lunch we continued east to record the monad, adding a few species, but nothing special. Returning to the quarry area, we tried the east side of the road, where a young lad had been practicing climbing the 3m high crag. This had more calcareous plants, including something with leaves that didn't look right for the Vaccinium seen earlier and was quickly tied down to Genista tinctoria

"The map showed another quarry across the fields so we thought we might as well give it a look. Somewhat to our surprise this turned out to be completely different with Rumex acetosella and Galium saxatile amongst other acid loving plants. 

"As it was now past 4:00pm, we headed west back along the same road towards the cars, and did manage to spot several things we had missed going in the other direction. A final short detour produced a few more species and we got back to the car to find a ticket on the windscreen - a message from the other group stating their plan.

Another amazing view from FSC Blencathra
Image: Natalie Harmsworth
"Back at FSC Blencathra there was a little ID work before dinner and maps for Sunday were tabled and mostly ignored as the groups decided where they really wanted to go. Later further ID sessions grouped people together working on all the puzzling specimens. 

"For some specimens it was a question of believing the key, for others a question of reading the key, and for quite a lot asking Fred Rumsey and HelenaCrouch. Eventually all was done, record cards updated and time to relax or write the blog...


"Sunday promises to be fine. Some groups are staying close to Blencathra, others going to designated squares. There will be more interesting finds, and quite a few more dots on the species distribution maps for Cumbria".

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Natural Latin: a new blog about the etymology of plant names and botanical terms

Monkey Orchid blooming in Kent.
Saturday 21st May 2016
Image: Owen Leyshon. 
For those of us not lucky enough to be attending the BSBI Summer Meeting this weekend, here's a stay-at-home treat: a brand new blog by BSBI member Lin Hawthorne about the etymology of some of the plant names and botanical terminology we all use. Click here to view the Natural Latin blog or use the link in the list of blogs by BSBI members (on right).

This is a subject that has long fascinated both me and Lin, and we had a chance to chat about it last week when I visited Three Hagges Wood Meadow, an ambitious habitat creation project to turn a former barley field into a wood meadow of the kind still found in Estonia. Lin's vision is already becoming a reality, with 700+ invertebrate taxa recorded so far on-site. 

I'm hoping to feature my interview with Lin on these pages next week, complete with images from my visit to the fabulous wood-meadow, but meanwhile you can enjoy her first beautifully-written but not-so-innocent post about orchids here.  

BSBI Summer Meeting 2016: the first fieldtrips

Spot the botanists! Click on the image to enlarge.
Image: Anne Middleton
Botanists were out in Cumbria yesterday for the first full day of the BSBI Annual Summer Meeting 2016 and organiser Jon Shanklin was on the spot to jot down a few notes for News & Views readers. 

His report on Thursday evening had ended with the botanists in the bar after a good dinner and a great talk about the local flora, and Jon himself checking arrangements for Friday and hoping for good weather. Now read on... 

Jon says: “After a hearty breakfast the groups assembled by the coaches - which one was going to Clints Quarry and which to Eycott Hill was what everyone wanted to know. 

Plant-hunting at Eycott, 
BSBI Summer Meeting 2016
Image: Natalie Harmsworth
Then the group going to Eycott decided they didn't want to spend the entire day there so where else could they go - a decision was quickly reached that the north end of Bassenthwaite Lake looked interesting. 

The drivers from Titterington's Coaches were very flexible and said no problem. Off we went, more or less promptly at 9:30am.

“My coach went first to Clints Quarry. Our driver carefully shepherded us across the main road and we headed up the footpath, pausing to admire and taste Sweet Cicely Myrhhis odorata

Marsh Violet Viola palustris
Image: Natalie Harmsworth
The first entry path to the quarry proved a dead end, but the second proved the main way in. Fred Rumsey paused by one fern and explained why this was Narrow male-fern Dryopteris cambrensis – it’s the boat shaped leaves! 

"Then through a bit of woodland into the open grassland of the quarry. We made slow progress as our species list steadily increased. The sun came out, so we stopped for lunch (DIY packed lunches using materials supplied by the FSC centre at Blencathra). 

Botanists at Eycott;
BSBI Summer Meeting 2016

Image: Natalie Harmsworth
Time was passing and we only had another 45 minutes, when we could have spent the entire day there. 

A water-crowfoot was put in a bag for a later look - it turned out to be Thread-leaved Water-crowfoot (R. trichophyllus) - then back to the coach only a little late. Our final total was around 170 species - not bad for a monad!

"Next stop was Dubb’s Moss, where we were met by the Cumbria Wildlife Trust reserve manager who kindly showed us round. The parking place was conveniently next to a farm cafe, which was very tempting. We had a quick look round as a group then split into two to record the two monads in the reserve separately. 

A Lousewort Pedicularis sp.
Image: Natalie Harmsworth
"A few people took the opportunity to abscond and head back to the cafe for an ice cream! But the rest continued looking at the wet meadow and woodland. All too soon it was time to return to the coach, but we waited long enough for everyone to try one of the renowned Wellington Farm ice-creams.  

"The group had some interesting finds, including one which keyed out when we got back as Floating water-plantain Luronium natans.

“After dinner, we enjoyed a talk on the Cumbria flora from Geoffrey Halliday, which took us on a tour round the area and showed us the many delightful species that we were missing thanks to coming early in the season. Then we had to decide where to go on Saturday. 

Looking for plants by Bassenthwite Lake
Image: Natalie Harmsworth
"The maps of under-recorded tetrads did not appeal to everybody, so some groups were delighted when told they didn't have to stick to the plan and could go where they liked. 

"Some have still to decide, so watch this spot to find out what happened on what is forecast to be a wet day, at least in the morning”.

Thanks to Jon for this report and to botanists Anne and Natalie for their images, all of which were taken yesterday at the BSBI Summer Meeting.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

BSBI Summer Meeting 2016 kicks off in Cumbria

BSBI President John Faulkner
at supper with Ian Denholm
(BSBI President 2013-5)
Image: Sarah Stille

Botanists have started assembling at FSC Blencathra in Cumbria for BSBI's Summer Meeting 2016. Here's the first of a series of on-the-spot reports from Jonathan Shanklin, BSBI's Field Meetings Secretary and Secretary of BSBI Meetings & Communications Committee, who has led on organising this meeting:

"Jon arrived in Threlkeld at noon and rendezvoused with Phil Brown, one of the triumvirate of Cumbrian recorders. Both of us had actually arrived a little earlier and did a little bit of recording to get a feel for the local flora. After discussing plans over lunch in The Sally we headed up the road to Blencathra where we received a very friendly welcome from the staff at the Field Studies Council Centre, even to the extent of trusting the Field Meetings Secretary with the master key. 

"The forecast rain proved to be a brief shower at lunchtime, so some records were made of the Centre grounds by participants before the bar opened, and some were even added to the local database before dinner.  


John Faulkner with Lynne
Farrell & Jon Shanklin
Image: Sarah Stille

"After dinner the reserves manager from the Cumbria Wildlife Trust, Joe Murphy, gave us an enthusiastic and well illustrated talk about the Trust and some of the sites it manages including some of the sites that we will be visiting. It certainly whetted our appetite for the day tomorrow when we will get to see some of them at first hand. 

"The FMS followed with a short brief on recording and H&S (use your common sense!), that went on just long enough to allow the bar to open as scheduled at 9pm. Most members then adjourned, leaving the FMS to continue refining the groups and their destinations for the weekend recording venues and write up this blogpost."

Many thanks to Jon for this report and fingers crossed that the weather is good for the first field trip of the Summer meeting tomorrow.