buff-tailed bumblebee, common darter, common green grasshopper, eristalis, hoverflies, inula conyza, leucozona lucorum, ploughman's spikenard, tar spot fungus, traveller's joy
The first day of September was gloriously sunny and warm in the way that only our late summer days can be. In preparation for just such a day I had done a bit of research into other nature reserves that may be nearby and was surprised to discover there is indeed such a one, almost on our doorstep on another landmark hill just beyond Bryn Euryn, called Bryn Pydew. The land is leased and managed by the North Wales Wildlife Trust (NWWT), and just had to be explored not only because of its proximity, but also because it has within in it an area of Limestone Pavement that I have been keen to add to my round of habitats to visit.
To quote the Bryn Pydw entry on the First Nature website:
Bryn Pydew SSSI; RIGS site : “This reserve lies on carboniferous limestone and has woodland, grassland, limestone pavement and two disused quarries providing a wide variety of habitats.”
I could hardly believe it was so close by and I had never heard of it, but when I set off to find it, following the directions on the website, I did have some problems finding the ‘entrance’ to the reserve. (I must get myself an ordnance survey map and re-learn to use grid references !) I knew I was on the Bryn, it’s huge, so hard to miss, and drove up, down around and along a few lanes in the indicated direction, then through the village of Bryn Pydew and back again, finally stopping to ask for directions from a lady carrying a basket heading for the village hall. She didn’t really know either, but suggested it might be the “flat bit further on where they have been digging”. It was clear that there was little room for parking on the lane, so I asked if I should park outside the hall and walk, she said “Oh no, please don’t, we have a fun Dog Show here this afternoon, so we need all the parking space we have for that.” Not wishing to upset anyone or their dog, I drove a bit further and duly came to said ‘flat bit’ at the side of the lane, pulled onto it and got out of the car.
It seemed likely that the reserve was in the general area as I was now looking at woodland to one side on the lower slope of the hill, then across the lane, a grassy slope with some scrubby vegetation leading to the summit of the Bryn. Next to where I had parked there was a mound of earth and stones, becoming vegetated with grass, with the addition of clumps of vervain, verbascum and other wild plants, which made me think this may have been a bit of a dumping ground for the village gardeners. Behind this ‘tump’ there was a ‘path’ cobbled with small pieces of limestone between it and the woodland edge, bordered on either side with wildflowers, predominantly ragwort, but also marsh hemp, cat’s ear, traveller’s joy (wild clematis), hogweed etc.
The sheltered spot was buzzing with hoverflies, bees and bumblebees and even a few butterflies. Most of the hoverflies were of the larger eristalis species, some of which I have already featured photographs of in recent posts, but there were others too.
I was also an attractive hoverfly, Leucozona lucorum, which is a new one for my collection of photographs.
I was really pleased to find Ploughman’s Spikenard growing here. It is a plant quite unprepossessing in its appearance, looking a bit like a giant groundsel or ragwort that is going to seed, so may be easily overlooked, but it is another of my favourite type of plant, one with a history of traditional use as a medicinal herb and that has some great alternative common names; Cinnamon-root, Great Fleabane, Horseheal and Lady’s-gloves.
It was really peaceful here, so I sat down on the ground for a while to enjoy the sunshine and properly take notice of what was around me. I love to do that sometimes, to just sit still and lose myself in the moment, and feel connected to the real world. Stillness often brings other rewards too, things I may have missed if I’d been standing and wandering around. A dragonfly came to settle close by on the warm stones, as did a grasshopper and there were birds about too, a Robin came out of the woods to hop around close by and so did a Dunnock.
Into the woods
Still not sure of where I was I decided to walk towards the woods to see if there may be a track I could walk on. Lo and behold as I walked towards the trees, set just inside the edge of the woodland was the information board for the reserve. It looks quite faded so has clearly been there for some years, so maybe it was originally more visible from the lane?
There is a track, way-marked with red marks on some of the tree trunks.
The trees, mostly silver birch, as, some oak, sycamore and unusually a good many yew grow closely together, so it was quite dark and shady in there with occasional shafts of sunlight breaking through the leaf canopy. Most of the sycamore leaves I could see were sprinkled wit large black spots, the result of an infection of Tar Spot fungus.
In a clearing in the woodland where there was a little more light I photographed Hart’s Tongue fern growing amongst ivy on an old stone wall and Lady Fern.
On the other side of the wall where shrubby plants have colonised the clearing I watched five Speckled Wood butterflies chase one another around in the sun-dapples space. These are very territorial little butterflies that will tackle anything that tries to invade its territory; today each time one settled on a leaf to bask it was dive-bombed by another, so it took a while to get an image. It was good watching them though, this is the most I have seen together in one place for a long while and judging by their fresh appearance, I would say they were newly-emerged.
Thank you for your kind words Tony. Our woodlands really would be the poorer without the sight of Speckled Woods patrolling and defending their territories; I think they would probably even battle their own reflections!
Tony William Powell said:
Another wonderful account of your ventures. The Speckled Wood butterflies are nearly always the ones which you will see spiralling and tumbling together through the air when walking along a woodland glade.
Thank you Finn, I like the sun fly too and there have been a lot of them in our area this year. Speckled woods are great little butterflies, they scrap like mad things amongst themselves as well as seeing off other invaders – they are not even phased by birds. Probably why you see quite a few with chunks taken out of their wings! Have you worked out what the other butterfly could have been?
Finn Holding said:
Very nice selection of minibeasts, I especially like your sun fly, there’s a couple of hoverflies here that I haven’t seen before.
Your comment about the speckled wood being territorial was interesting too. On Sunday I spotted a butterfly near here roughly the same colour as a comma but without the ragged edges, and I was just getting close enough to get a good view for identification purposes when it was chased off by a speckled wood. I never got to see it well enough for an id but it bears out your point about the territorial nature of the speckled wood.
Emily Heath said:
I’m very impressed that you know the names of all the flies, I wouldn’t have a clue! Wonderful photos. I think I’ve seen some Ploughman’s Spikenard out on my walks, good to know the name of it.
Thank you Emily, I’ve always found insects fascinating, especially the ones that fly and are pretty to look at, but learning to identify them is very time consuming and there are just so many! I’m pleased you’re noticing the wildflowers, it is nice just to see them, but sort of satisfying to learn their names isn’t it?