Monday, 16 July 2018

Firsby Reservoir & Ravenfield Park

Firsby Reservoir and Ravenfield Park
Sunday, 15th July 2018

This was a joint meeting with Doncaster Naturalists' Society.
Meeting at 10 am on Garden Lane, Ravenfield, by the footpath leading to Firsby Reservoir

Leader : Louise Hill

Attendees:
Louise Hill
John Scott
Les Coe
Peter Burton
Ken Balkow
Jim Burnet

Firsby Reservoir is a Local Nature Reserve, owned and managed by Rotherham Borough Council. It is actually two connected reservoirs, one significantly larger than the other, being fed by Firsby Brook. In 2012 the water level in the reservoir was lowered, and the site has developed naturally over the summer of 2013 and the new shoreline areas have been colonised by vegetation. It is anticipated that in the long term there will be created a new ecological mosaic of habitats that will support a good range of bird species and other wildlife.

The party started at the smaller of the two reservoirs, having been welcomed by the eerie call of a Heron disturbed by our presence. Footpaths that had been wet and muddy in March were now found to be very dry following a long period of dry weather but had now become overgrown in places.

We noted that willowherbs, thistles and willow scrub now dominated the revegetation of what had been the old reservoir beds, with this small reservoir now looking little more than a pond.

A Hypericum plant was examined and keyed out as Imperforate St John’s Wort (Hypericum maculatum), whilst a yellow flower of the Hawkish Complex, a species notoriously difficult to ID, was examined by Louise, noting the features on site but taking a sample for further analysis at home. See the end of this survey for her comments.

Dock plants, now being in seed, were able to be identified by examining the fruits; we found Wood Dock (Rumex sanguineus), the fruits having untoothed tepal and one rounded wart, and Broad-leaved Dock (Rumex obtusifolius) with the fruits having toothed tepal and one rounded wart.

Greater Plantain (Plantago major) was very common whilst only a few Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolate) were noted, whilst Hoary Plantain (Plantago media), being a lime lover, was absent. A Meadow Buttercup (Ranunculus acris) was still in flower along with Devilsbit Scabious (Succisa pratensis) and Betony (Betonica officinalis).

The large leaves of both Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) and Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) dominated in places, with Meadow Sweet (Filipendula ulmaria) also being well established. In the hedgerow a Comfrey (Symphytum sp.), white flowered Yarrow (Archillea millefolium), yellow flowered Crosswort (Cruciata laevipes) and white flowered Large Bindweed (Calystegia sylvatica) twining anticlockwise through the branches, provided a splash of colour against the green leaves. Lower down was Black Medic (Medicargo lupulina) and the late flowering Tufted Vetch (Vicia cracca) presenting its blue flower spikes above the surrounding vegetation.

Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea) and Lesser Stitchwort (S. graminea) were noted along with Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum), Spear Thistle (Cirsium arvense), Common Broom (Cytisus scoparius), Ox-eye Daisy (Leucanthemim vulgare), Bush Vetch (Vicia sepium), Nipplewort (Lapsana communis), Wood Sage (Teucrium scorodonia), and the dead stems loaded with seeds of Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scriptus).

Rosebay Willowherb (Chamerion angustifolium), Great Willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum) and American Willowherb (E. ciliatum) contributed to the dense vegetation along with Teasle (Dipsacus fullorum), Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris), Cleavers (Galium aparine), Bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara) and Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) which was not yet dominating.

By the edge of the reservoir was found Water Mint (Mentha aquatica), Celery-leaved Buttercup (Ranunculus sceleratus), and Common Reed (Phagmites australis).

The whole area had been dominated by Ash (Fraxinus excelsior), Alder (Alnus glutinosa), native Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea) and Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) with grasses noted being Cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerate), Giant Fescue (Schedonorus arundinacea), and Tufted Hair Grass (Deschampsia cespitisa).

At the Spillway between the two reservoirs we noted Creeping Sainfoin (Onobrychis vicifolia), Male Fern (Dryopteris filix-mas) and Field Horsetail (Equisetum arvense). Around the larger reservoir were Hard Rush (Juncus inflexus), Soft Rush (J. effuses) and Compact Rush (J. conglomeratus), Water Forgetmenot (Myosotis scorpiodes), with White Water Lily (Nymphaea alba) in the water.

Tufted Vetch (Vicia cracca), Bitter Vetchling (Lathyrus linifolius), amongst the Creeping Bent (Agrostis stolonifera), Rough Meadow-grass (Poa Trivialis), Common Couch Grass (Elytrigia repens). Alder (Alnus glutinosa) trees having been infested by the Alder Beetle had their leaves reduced to the skeleton veins.

Proceeding around the reservoir we noted Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina) growing under the boardwalk, Broad Buckler Fern (Dryopteris dilatate), Sweet Vernal Grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum), Timothy (Phleum pratense), Meadow Foxtails (Alopecurus pratensis), False Oat Grass (Arrhenatherum elatius), Marsh Thistle (Cirsium palustre), Common Hemp Nettles (Galeopsis tetrahit), Hedge Parsley (Torilis japonica), Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis) with Homey Suckle (Lonicera periclymenum) growing amongst Field Maple (Acer campestre).

A deviation from the path to the water’s edge found Amphibious Bistort (Persicaria amphibia) growing.

A closer look was made to some Zigzag Clover  (Trifolium medium) which bore general resemblance to the species but raised some doubts as to it being a true species as it was so variable in detail.

And finally, an Apple Tree (Malus sp.) full of fruit which was probable growing in what would be the grounds of Firsby Hall Farm concluded our walk around Firsby Reservoir, ending at 12 noon. Lunch was then taken in the shade of trees before moving on to our afternoons destination.

Ravenfield Park

Originally part of the Ravenfield Hall Estate but now managed by the Ravenfield Ponds Angling Club, with the new woodland being managed by Forestry Commission. Public access is permitted along concessionary footpaths through the woodland, whilst the ponds are for the use of the angling club only. Over the years the Angling Club has spent a lot of time effort and angler’s money ‘restoring the Park to its former glory’ and promoting its use by wildlife, and this was recognised by an award from the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE).

Permission was sort and granted for this botanical survey and the use of the angler’s car park.

Now, having entered in a new Tetrad square (SK9895), our recording started afresh. Leaving the car park the concessionary path descends the hillside with Bracken (Pteridinum aquilinum) and Bramble (Rubus fruticosus agg.) dominating the slopes under the Silver Birch (Betula pendula). During our walk around the fishing ponds we did encounter several other tree species, including Beech (Fagus sylvatica), Rowen (Sorbus aucuparia), Wild Cherry (Prunus avium), Wild Plum (Prunus domestica), Osier (Salix viminalis), Crab Apple (Malus sylvestris) and Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa).

As would be expected in any woodland, we found the now seed loaded stems of Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scriptus), along with the common Herb Bennet (Geum urbanum) and the unrelated Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum). Continuing downward we recorded Nipplewort (Lapsana communis) and several grass species including Creeping Soft-grass (Holcus mollis) and Yorkshire Fog (H. lanatus), Common Bent (Agrostis capillaris), Cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata), Rosebay Willowherb (Chamerion angustifolium), Hoary Willowherb (Epilobium parviflorum), Broad-leaved Willowherb (E. montanum), American Willowherb (E. ciliatum), Great Willowherb (E. hirsutum), Broad-leaved Dock (Rumex obtusifolius) and Wood Dock (R. sanguineus), Lesser Burdock (Actium minus), Large Plantain (Plantago major), Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) and Comfrey (Symphytum sp.).

At the bottom of the slope was a small pond formed from a spring or flush which had white flowered Water-cress (Nasturtium officinale) growing in it, with Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium cannobinum) on its bank. Also in this vicinity and along the next path were Hedge Woundwort, Purple Loosestrife, Soft Rush and Hard Rush, Meadowsweet, Clustered Dock, Yorkshire Fog (Holcus lanatus), Hogwood, Coltsfoot, Lesser Burdock and Ragwort

An Evening Primrose was examined and on finding green sepals and red based hairs it was identified as Small-flowered Evening Primrose (Oenothera cambrica). Water Mint (Mentha aquatica) was found and here John pointed out a short-cut towards an identification in that only this species has a terminal flower at the end of the stem.

Along the path that now skirted the fishing ponds were noted Hairy Sedge (Carex hirta), Creeping Bent (Agrostis stolonifera), Perennial Ryegrass (Lolium perenne), Wood Millet (Milium effusum), Wood Sedge (Carex sylvatica), Remote Sedge (C. remota), Field Horsetail (Equisetum arvense), Nipplewort (Lapsana communis), Hedge Mustard (Sisymbrium officinale), Angelica (Angelica sylvestris), Ramsons (Allium ursinum), Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon), Male Fern (Dryopteris filix-mas), Hartstongue Fern (Asplenium scolopendrium), Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina), and Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum)

John spotted a resting Large Emerald Moth on Cleavers.

As the path now crossed between two of the fishing ponds and over the Horton Brook, we had a chance to examine the surrounds for more aquatic species. Branched Bur-reed (Sparganium erectum), Water Plantain (Alisma plantago-aquatica), Curled Pondweed (Potamogeton crispus), Meadow Sweet (Filipendula ulmaria), Great Willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum), Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolata), Mudwort (Limosella aquatica), Yellow Water-lily (Nuphar lutea), White Water-lily (N. alba), Lesser Bulrush (Typha angustifolia), Broad Buckler Fern (Dryopteris dilatata), Hairy Sedge (Carex hirta), Field Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis).

Going back to the Hawkweeds found at Firsby Reservoir, here are Louise's comments regarding the identification.

Despite my comments on the day - I don't think that the basal leaves were present - it's always hard to determine whether it is just a lower stem leaf or a rosette leaf. I think the rosette leaves really have to be really flat against the ground.

Working through Vince Jones' Hieracium key (Yorkshire Hawkweeds - published by the YNU):
There were more than 8 stem leaves and the mid-stem leaves were not clasping.
Stem leaves were around 15 in number (not many more) and the plant was starting to flower in mid July - which takes us to Section Tridentata.

Once in this section - the next step in the key is to look at the receptacle pits - this involves carefully detaching the petals and young fruits to reveal the surface of the flower disc. The base of the fruits nestle in a pit, the edges of which look a bit like the waxed paper cases around a cup-cake. The 'paper case' has distinct teeth along the margin.

I inspected a specimen of the flower at home and found that the teeth on the pit margins had stiff hairs on the tips of each tooth - what's know as as fimbriate - dentate. (see photo below).

This takes you straight to Hieraceium eboracense

Hawkweed (Hieraceium aboracense)


Put this on the blog and see if anyone agrees with my diagnosis!

The other features that I recorded were not needed in the key. (By the way, I was trying to remember the main features needed in the key in Stace and Vince's key. The Collin's guide just says 'Hawkweed' and goes no further).

I too was rather surprised by the milky sap but it's not the first time I've seen this when detaching a leaf from hawkweeds.

The other very leafy hawkweeds that we saw at Firsby keyed out as Hieracium section sabauda - probably H. sabaudum f sabaudum but it all depends on how many glandular hairs are considered to be 'numerous' or not.

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