22 May 2016

Walking with Mary: Cwm George woodland

At the start of May, SEWBReC, the South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre, issued a challenge. As part of the Heritage Lottery Funded project ‘A Dedicated Naturalist’, it asked the people of South Wales to take a walk with Dr Mary Gillham at one of the many sites Mary visited often and surveyed most thoroughly, Cwm George woodland at Dinas Powys. ‘Will you find as much as Mary? Has the species composition changed drastically? Can you add new species to the list?’, were the challenges they raised.

Always up for a challenge that involves a walk in a beautiful woodland, my friends and I went exploring. We were a great team: Emma, our fungi specialist (and her son, Callum, budding naturalist); Liam, our insect aficionado; Calum, the best plant-spotter I know; Cliff, our expert ears and bird whisperer; and me, knowing little about anything much but recording and photographing for posterity.

Emma soon disappeared into the deepest darkest areas of the woodland, emerging every now and then with a ‘Look what I found’. Liam scooped up beauties in his net and popped some into plastic tubes for closer examination – all got re-released unharmed. Calum pointed out wildflowers and nibbled at edibles, urging us to try a bit of this or that, and Cliff walked quietly ahead, listening acutely and watching intently. Little Callum beamed from ear to ear as he also caught specimens in his mini net, and, like the hoverflies that were prolific on the expanses of flowering Ramsons, I hovered here and there, trying to keep up with all that was happening.

Though we explored very little of its woodlands and meadows, Cwm George was glorious, and most generous with its offerings. And, though certainly not as extensive as Mary’s, we were very pleased with our final species list of 99 different types of insects, fungi, wildflowers, trees and birds.

Insects: Brimstone butterfly (Gonepteryx rhamni), Orange-tip butterfly (Anthocharis cardamines), Small white butterfly (Pieris rapae), Peacock butterfly (Aglais io), Common carder bee Queen (Bombus pascuorum), Red-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius), Buff-tailed bumblebee Queen (Bombus terrestris), Tawny Mining Bee female (Andrena fulva), Ashy mining bee female (Andrena cineraria) (above, centre), Dark-edged bee fly (Bombylius major), Orange ladybird (Halyzia 16-guttata), Harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis), Hoverfly (Helophilus pendulus), Hoverfly (Rhingia campestris), Hoverfly (Eristalis pertinax), Nomad bee male (Nomada lathburiana), Bee Fly (Bombyliidae), unidentified Weevil, Oak marble gall, another type of oak gall, Hoverfly (Syrphus ribesii), Ramsons Hoverfly (Portevinia maculata), Beetle (Cantharis pellucida) (above, left), Beetle (Sphaeridium scarabaeoides) (above, right).

Fungi: King Alfred's cakes Daldinia concentrica), Unidentified woodwort, Artist's bracket (Ganoderma applanatum), Jelly ear (Auricularia auricula-judae), Beech mast ascomycetes, Candle snuff (Xylaria hypoxylon), Dead Moll's fingers (Xylaria longipes), Red elfcup (Sarcoscypha sp.), Glistening inkcap (Coprinella micaceus), Turkey tail (Trametes versicolour) (above), Arum rust (Puccinia sessilis), Bramble rust (Kuehneola uredinis).

Wildflowers: Yellow Archangel (Lamium galeobdolon), Red Campion (Silene dioica), Hedge Woundwort (Stachys sylvatica), Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris), Herb Paris (Paris quadrifolia) (above, left), Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum), Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) (above, right), Common Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium), Old Man's Beard (Clematis vitalba), Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis), Common dog violet (Viola riviniana), Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa), Primrose (Primula vulgaris), Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum), Wild garlic (Allium ursinum), Creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens), Meadow Cranesbill (Geranium pratense), Herb Bennett (Geum urbanum), Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum), Jack-by-the-hedge (Alliaria petiolata), Opposite-leaved golden saxifrage (Chrysosplenium oppositifolium), Common sorrel (Rumex acetosa), Forget-me-not (Myositis sp.), Wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca), Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale agg.), Ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata), Lesser celandine (Ficaria verna), Cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris), Cuckoo flower (Cardamine pratensis), Cleavers (Sticky Willy) (Galium aparine), Ground ivy (Hedera helix), Common vetch (Victa sativa), Wood spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides), Bramble (Rubus fruiticosus agg.), Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata).

Trees: Beech (Fagus sylvatica) (above), Oak (Quercus robur), Hazel (Corylus avellana), Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), Ash (Fraxinus excelsior), Willow (Salix sp.), Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), Elder (Sambucus nigra), Wild cherry (Prunus avium), Field maple (Acer campestre).

Birds: Buzzard (Buteo buteo), Blackbird (Turdus merula), Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla), Blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus), Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula), Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), Coal tit (Periparus ater), Dunnock (Prunella modularis), Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis), Great tit (Parus major), Green woodpecker (Picus viridis), Greenfinch (Chloris chloris), Robin (Erithacus rubecula), Song thrush (Turdus philomelos), Stock dove (Columba oenas), Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus), Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes).

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