Monday 24 August 2020

July blowing hot and cold: notes from BSBI President Lynne Farrell

High Brown Fritillary
Image: L. Farrell
Last time we heard from our President Lynne Farrell she was being a busy bee and finding a rare hoverfly in her local patch, as well as an interesting bee. Lynne isn't just an expert botanist and BSBI County Recorder for Mid Ebudes, she's an all-round naturalist and conservationist, just like a lot of BSBI members. 

Now Lynne tells us what she was spotting during July:

"Some days during the month were hot and sunny whilst others were wet and windy - normal weather for Britain and Ireland then. However, lockdown was lifted, enabling us to get out and about further, even if we could not hold official meetings of large groups safely.

Fingered sedge growing in
Lynne's local area
Image: L. Farrell 
"I was allowed to return to my butterfly transect on Whitbarrow, one of the longest and more interesting in the South Lakes. It is on Forestry Commission land, so I needed permission to ‘walk’ on a weekly basis. This I was keen to do, as volunteers and contractors worked hard last year making scalloped edges and widening the rides, so more flowers could bloom and act as crucial nectar sources for the insects. The transect is over three miles long, and travels through a variety of habitats including deciduous and coniferous woodland, limestone grassland, wet and dry patches, often bordered by bramble and hazel scrub. 

"As you might suspect, it also has plants of interest, including Carex digitata (Fingered Sedge) and C. ornithopoda (Bird’s-foot Sedge), and Daphne mezereum (Mezereon). There are some magnificent Oaks and old Scots Pines, so a pleasant walk, which can take four hours, during peak flight period in mid-July when I recorded 19 species of butterfly, and 5 species of moth. It is still one of the best places to see all three large Fritillaries - Dark Green emerging first, followed by High Brown and then Silver-washed. It is a thrill to see these large, fast-flying insects, but being able to tell them apart when they zoom by, is challenging. Zooming has featured in recent BSBI meetings agendas frequently!

Lynne's painting of Hale Moss
Image courtesy of L. Farrell
"I’ve continued to visit some of the local nature reserves, each of which has its own particular features, and I have been trying to ‘capture’ these in my paintings, which I’ve picked up again in lockdown time. To date five have been completed, so only another 32 to go. You can see here an example of Hale Moss, which is a small area partially wooded with exposed marl patches with Schoenus nigricans (Black Bog-rush), Parnassia palustris (Grass of Parnassus), Primula farinosa (Bird’s-eye Primrose) and Frangula alnus (Alder Buckthorn), which is at its northern limit in Cumbria. The whole valley was once covered by a large freshwater lake, which eventually filled up with vegetation and this formed a peat layer over the marl.

"Several friends have been out with me, and I have been teaching them butterflies and plants. They already have an interest in the natural world so are eager to accompany me in the field. Some of them are much better photographers and send me their ‘shots of the day’. Local friend Sue from Silverdale has now taken on a butterfly transect of her own, plus she helps me with annual recording of Spiranthes spiralis (Autumn Lady’s tresses) in late August. It’s good to have someone to share the beauty and diversity of the outdoor world".

It's also good to hear what our President is spotting while she's out and about in her local area. Thanks Lynne, we'll look forward to hearing your next account of your wildlife sightings!

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