Thursday 19 April 2018

Spring in Worsbrough Country Park

Spring in Worsbrough Country Park

14th April 2018
Joint Meeting of South Yorkshire Botany Group with Barnsley Naturalists’ and Scientific Society Leader Gordon Bristowe, with assistance from Geoff Jackson & Ken Balkow

Attendees: -
Barnsley Nats
    Gordon Bristowe
    Peter Roberts
    Annefie Roberts
    Geoff Jackson
    Anely Young
    Michael Winder
    Gill Richardson
    Adam Lawrenson
    Les Coe
    Ken Balkow
    Apologises from Louise Hill

On a dull and overcast morning, the party assembled in the car park adjacent to the Trans-Pennine Trail. With introductions having been made, we were shown two varieties of Alder growing in the car park by Ken; our native Alder (Alnus glutinosa) and another Alder which could be either Grey Alder (A. incana) or Italian Alder (A. cordata), it being difficult to differentiate between the latter two without reference to leaves which had not yet sprouted. Reference was also made to the size of the cones and catkins that had fallen from both trees.

With a warning that the paths were going to be muddy around the reservoir, the party set off, initially admiring the blossoms of the path side trees, Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera), Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum) and Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa). A dead Wych Elm (Ulmus glabra) was still standing and looking rather forlorn, reminded us of what we were now missing throughout countryside.

Alongside the footpath there were last year’s Wood False Brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum), characterised by seed heads which bend over to one side, Hybrid Bluebells (Hyacinthoides sp.), Hart's-tongue (Asplenium scolopendrium), Celandine (Ficaria verna) and Lords-and-Ladies (Arum maculatum) well into leaf but not yet showing any signs of a hooded spathe.

Along the edge of the reservoir we were shown how erosion control mats had been installed to stabilise the bank resulting in unsuitable species being introduced. On the sloping banks of the reservoir we could see Butterbur (Petasites hybridus), Bulrush (Typha latifolia), and Ramsons (Allium ursinum) in the lower section, while higher up were Broad-leaved Dock (Rumex obtusifolius) and Curled Dock (Rumex crispus) and also a hybrid of these two species, and last years Clustered Dock (Rumex conglomeratus), a typical waterside species. A good showing of introduced Primrose (Primula vulgaris) added a splash of colour, and a pink form could also be seen. Five fresh flower heads of Meadow Foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis) were on view, with the promise of more to come.

Many plants appeared only in their vegetative forms, including Brooklime (Veronica beccabunga), Spear Thistle (Cirsium vulgare), Oxeye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare), Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Knapweed (Centaurea sp.) and the Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea), which did have flower buds present.

Along the reservoir wall we found Barren Strawberry (Potentilla sterilis) in flower, Hairy Bittercress (Arabis hirsuta), Wall Speedwell (Veronica arvensis), Whitlowgrass (Erophila verna agg.), Sticky Mouse-ear (Cerastium glomeratum), lots of Indian Balsam seedlings (Impatiens glandulifera), Prickly Sowthistle (Sonchus asper) and Ragwort (Senecio sp.).

Whitlowgrass (Erophila verna agg.),

Alongside the old Mill race were Marsh Marigolds (Caltha palustris), Colt's-foot (Tussilago farfara), Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage (Chrysosplenium oppositifolium) all in flower, and Soft Shield-fern (Polystrichum setiferum) growing amongst the Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis).

Members of Barnsley Nats

In the woodland at the far side of the reservoir, a number of now well-established Portugal Laurel (Prunus lusitanica) lined the footpath. Geoff, with his wealth of local knowledge, was able to show us Common Polypody (Polypodium vulgare) on fallen trees in the Willow car, Soft Shield-ferns under the trees, and Wood-sedge (Carex sylvatica) appearing alongside the paths though not yet come to flower. Moschatel (Adoxa moschatellina) was also well established in the woodland, along with non-flowering Red Campions (Silene dioica), and Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria), both awaiting some warmer weather. Geoff took the party along a woodland path to show us an area containing a nice showing of Early Dog-violets (Viola reichenbachi).

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachi). 

Back on the main path the leaves of Common Bistort (Persicaria bistorta) were beginning to show, and alongside a ditch Pendulous Sedge (Carex pendula) was flourishing and threatening to extend its range. An odd Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scriptus) in flower shared space with non-flowering Nipplewort (Lapsana communis), Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris), Wood Dock (Rumex sanguineus) and Garlic Mustard (Allaria petiolata).

Geoff Jackson

Here the group split, with early leavers departing whilst the remainder carried on towards some agricultural fields. Ivy-leaved Speedwell (Veronica hederifolia ssp. hederifolia) was found at field edges along with Common Speedwell (Veronica persica) and Cut-leaved Crane's-bill (Geranium dissectum). The sun at last made an appearance bringing out the Brimstone and Comma butterflies, with temperatures now well into double figures.

Ivy Leaved Speedwell (Veronica hederifolia ssp. hederifolia

A coffee break was then taken when more of the group deciding to depart. On entering a marshy area Marsh Thistle (Cirsium palustre) appeared path side along with Hard Rush (Juncus inflexus) and Soft Rush (J. effusus), distinguished by the former having a ribbed stem, with Great Willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum) shoots in the more wetter areas. Reed Canary-grass (Phalaris arundinacea) had new shoots emerging from the previous year’s dead strands, also Square-stalked St John’s-wort (Hypericum tetrapterum) and Prickly Sowthistle (Sonchus asper) flourished.

Further along beside the stream were a pleasant patch of Marsh Marigold with a Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) beginning to establish itself. Also, in the water was Floating Sweet-grass (Glyceria fluitans) with Water Starwort (Callitriche sp.) in attendance. At the waters edge, growing amongst the Ramsons (Allium ursinum) were many Butterburs (Petasites hybridus) in full flower.

Butterbur (Petasites hybridus)

Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum)

With the circumnavigation of the reservoir almost complete, and along a final muddy path, Hedge Woundwort (Stachys sylvatica) was encountered, the leaves having a rather pungent smell when crushed.

We were entertaining throughout this spring walk by the songs of Blackcap, Chiff Chaff, Wren, Great Tit, Nuthatch, with Greater Spotted Woodpecker hammering away and Buzzard calling from up on high. However, the Willow Warbler was conspicuous by its absence. The Reservoir had many Coots nesting in the margins, while Great Crested Grebes patrolled the deeper waters.

Report by Les Coe, SYBG

What was initially thought to have been a ladybird found in a crevice in the bark of a standing tree, I now suspect was a False Ladybird (Endomychus coccineus) which emerges in April and lives under bark, usually of dead timber.

Thanks to Michael Wilcox for pointing out that the Ivy-leaved Speedwell Veronica hederifolia is in fact Veronica hederifolia subsphederifolia.