Friday, 31 August 2018

Saddleworth Moor

Saddleworth Moor
29 August 2018

Leader Kay Woodward, joint VC 63 recorder

Kay Woodward
Peter Burton
Les Coe

Louise Hill
John Scott

The purpose of the meeting was to add to the species count in under-recorded areas of these moors.
Trying to arrange the meeting around the vagaries of the weather resulted in a number of interested parties being unable to join us.

The party met at 10.30am at a lay-bye on the busy A635 (SE 050 063).
We were greeted with low cloud and drizzle, making visibility much reduced, but happily the weather improved very quickly and then remained fine throughout the day. It was decided to do a circular walk, which would pass through four tetrads, and include Holme Clough. The ground was surprising wet in places following such a dry summer, with water flowing through runnels and channels towards the Clough, where a small stream flowed towards the downstream reservoirs.

Peter & Kay
Crossing the moor, which was 507 mts at the highest point, we encounter typical moorland vegetation consisting of flowering Heather (Calluna vulgaris), Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum), Bilberry (Vaccinium myrillus), Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus), Common Cotton-grass (Eriophorum angustifolium), Hare's-tail Cotton-grass (Eriophorum vaginatum), Wavy Hair-grass (Deschampsia flexuosa), Purple Moor-grass (Molinia caerulea), Mat-grass (Nardus stricta), and Soft Rush (Juncus effusus) in large numbers. It was noticeable that there were no signs of peat erosion and as we found many areas where new vegetation had been introduced. This had been secured with large pegs to help it get established and had proved to be very successful. In addition to the above list of species, we also found low growing Broad Buckler-fern (Dryopteris dilatata) which never reached the stature as found at lower levels; plenty of Rosebay Willowherb (Chamerion angustifolium) and American Willowherb (Epilobium ciliatum), with the occasional small Rhododendron (Rhododendron ponticum) attempting to becoming established. There were also the occasional small tree also attempting to establish themselves, despite the attentions of sheep and possible deer. These included Downy Birch (Betula pubescens), Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis), and a Larch sp. (Larix sp.)

Awaiting an ID
Now into the next tetrad descending towards Holme Clough, we encountering all the above mentioned species, but were now seeing an introduction of other species. Yorkshire Fog (Holcus lanatus), Sheep's Sorrel (Rumex acetosella), Mouse-ear-hawkweed (Pilosella officinarum), Ragwort sp. (Senecio sp.), a Bent (Agrostis sp.) and Prickly Sowthistle (Sonchus asper) were all noted. A Kestrel (Falco naumanni) searching the moors for pray and white-tailed Bumblebees (Bombus sp.) working the heather flowers added to the day, along with many Oak Eggar (Lasiocampa quercus) caterpillars and a Broom Moth (Melanchra pisi) caterpillar which were spotted on the vegetation, along with grass-hoppers and frogs aplenty.

Broom Moth caterpillar (Melanchra pis)
Having reached the stream in Holme Clough we explored a short way into Little Holme Clough noting Heath Rush (Juncus squarrosus), Glaucous Sedge (Carex flacca). Now out of the wind, lunch was taken before resuming our walk alongside the stream in Holme Clough. Here Heath Bedstraw (Galium saxatile), Hard-fern (Blechnum spicant), Male-fern (Dryopteris filix-mas) and Mountain-fern or Lemon Scented-fern (Oreopteris limbosperma), which was spotted by Kay who was familiar with the species. It was a young plant having a nice aroma of lemon when crushed as the name suggests. Another such plant, though much larger, was seen a little further along the stream-side which had little of the aroma as found in the younger plant. Peter then spotted a plant that was growing mid-stream that defied our abilities to arrive at an identification, so a sample was taken for further study and consultation by Kay. Marsh Thistle (Cirsium palustre)) were well established in this valley bottom and a small Rowan tree (Sorbus aucuparia) was found.

Bulbous Rush (Juncus bulbosus)
Climbing out of the Clough and heading back towards the car park, we entered a new tetrad noting again all the common species previously encountered with the exception of Hare's-tail Cotton-grass (Eriophorum vaginatum) which proved to be elusive. We discussed how the Mat-grass (Nardus stricta) was able to establish itself because the sheep do not eat it. Next a Sheep's Sorrel (Rumex acetosella) was found, but a Hawkweed sp. (Hieracium sp.) proved more difficult, along with a Ragwort sp. (Senecio sp.), being either Common or Oxford, but we were unable to identify on site which one.

On reaching the road we entered the final tetrad, and searching along the road-side ditch we found totally different species to those previously encountered. These consisted of the large leaves of Colt's-foot (Tussilago farfara) with many Marsh Orchids (Dactylorhiza sp.) now in seed and which will require a closer look next spring for a positive ID. Also Meadow Buttercup (Ranunculus acris), Marsh Horsetail (Equisetum palustre) and a Sowthistle (Sonchus sp.).

Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza  sp.)
The survey was completed for a little after 4pm with early indications of a satisfactory result regarding improving the species count in several tetrads. This brings to a close our outings for this season.

We have a suggestion for the plant found growing in the stream as Bulbous Rush (Juncus bulbosus) which was accepted.

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