Trumpington Meadows 2012 diary

2012 March 25.  The great drought continued, and although the morning started with fog and low cloud, this soon burnt off to give a warm spring day.  Jonathan and Richard had a wander round the northern part of the site in the morning, finding some white flowered Red Dead-nettle Lamium purpureum, but otherwise little that wasn’t seen in the afternoon.  The main party assembled by the pond at the Trumpington Road P&R, aided by a helpful security guard who used the surveillance cameras to advise those who weren’t certain where the congregation was.  We progressed slowly along the verge, pointing out some of the difference between the small white flowered plants of Whitlow Grass Erophila verna, Shepherd’s Purse Capsella bursa-pastoris and Bittercress Cardamine hirsuta.  Moving on to the central entrance track we found a host of arable weeds with one plant that we couldn’t identify and many ladybirds, finding the common 7-spot, and also a handful of Adonis and a couple of 11-spot.  Notable amongst the weeds was Henbit Lamium amplexicaule, which was doing well on much of the previously arable ground.  At this point our habitually late arrival joined us, and a little later another member who hadn’t managed to put his clock forward.  We continued along the track and over the motorway to view the coprolite pits, though nothing unusual was showing on the relict chalky banks.  Further on we walked along the river to the new reed bed, finding Soft Rush Juncus effusus growing on the peat.  Jonathan thought he saw an amphibian in the ditch above the reed bed, but it wouldn’t show itself for identification.  We had a look for Otter under the motorway bridge, and also noted that Mink control was in operation.  Returning towards the starting point we were delighted to see mad March Hares indulging in a spot of boxing on the open fields.  Altogether we noted over 100 plant species, over 20 birds, and a few invertebrates and bryophytes.

2012 April 22.  April lived up to its reputation, and the string of showers continued.  Although the morning was mostly dry, showers began as forecast at 1pm, and towards the end of the walk we had a thunderstorm with hail.  Jonathan Shanklin carried out a morning reconnaissance, with the highlight being the finding of three orchid species along a section of ditch.  The party met at the Byron’s Pool LNR car park, and progressed towards the old railway, noting the variety of plants sown in the wildflower meadow along the way.  We found several concentrations of 7-spot ladybirds, but didn’t see any of the less frequent species.  Some Alder trees growing along the river bank gave cause for comment, as their leaf shape didn’t match that expected for the common Alder Alnus glutinosa.  At the old railway, Alan Leslie confirmed that an odd looking meadow-grass was Poa infirma.  Management work had been done in the nearby meadow to allow Adder’s-tongue Fern Ophioglossum vulgatum to thrive, and we were delighted to find a few tongues beginning to emerge from their green hoods.  The party then crossed the motorway to look at the coprolite pits, however as we crossed the bridge the rain increased and thunder rolled out.  We pressed on!  The pits have become a little overgrown, but still support a margin of chalk grassland plants.  Glaucus Sedge Carex flacca was in flower, and Bird’s Foot Trefoil was just starting to show signs of its “Eggs & Bacon”.  By now it was beginning to get a bit miserable, so the party headed back towards Byron’s Pool.

2012 May 31.  As an experiment this visit was offered as a two part one – a mid afternoon visit to the area round Byron’s Pool, and an evening visit to the Hauxton end.  Numbers were low for both, but did allow a different set of visitors.  During a gentle walk round Byron’s Pool, explaining some of the work that had been done and the management programme we made a couple of interesting finds – a beautiful Latticed Heath moth near the meadow pond and Aquilegia in the wood – a first record for the site.  Rain had been predicted, and a little started soon after this leg, as I wandered around the sown meadow area.  Interestingly parts had been ploughed, and I saw a few plants of small Toadflax in the open areas.  Around the new drain and balancing pond there was further open ground, and here there was a lot of Venus Looking Glass and an area of Small Flowered Fumitory.  Elsewhere arable weeds had been sown and there are places to see Cornflower, Corn Marigold, Corn Cockle, Corn Buttercup and others.  Checking these interesting parts took longer than expected and I had to eat tea on the move to get to the appointed evening meeting place in time.  We started with an introduction to grasses, as many species were coming into flower and triggering hay-fever.  Continuing round the river we found a planted Sugar Maple Acer Saccharinum, with a few galls of the mite Vasates quadripedes, first reported in London as recently as 2002, on its leaves.  Finding a ditch blocking our path round I suggested jumping it as we all had wellies on.  I made a clear jump, Willa needed a helping hand, but our third member, darkly prophesying that he would get his feet wet duly landed in the middle of the ditch.  Nothing daunted we continued round, looking at the new reed bed, then continuing towards the coprolite pits.  Here we found many drowsy damselflies, which obliging allowed close inspection to determine that they were the Azure Damselfly.  We also saw a pair of Muntjac, which on spotting us headed towards the cover of the field of oil-seed rape. 

2012 June 27.  As part of National Invertebrate Week, the Wednesday volunteer group spent the day at Trumpington Meadows and began by inspecting a box of moths that had been trapped by the county moth recorder overnight.  It included many large hawk moths, several brightly coloured moths and a few rarities.  Armed with sweep-nets, pooters and pots the volunteers wandered around seeing what they could catch.  Finds included an orange ladybird, damselflies, spotted craneflies, spiders (most of which were not identified!), a leopard slug and many others.  Afterwards Jonathan wandered round parts of the site that would not be visited the next day, find Grass vetchling Lathyrus nissolia, Short-styled field rose Rosa stylosa and Medic Medicago sativa.

2012 June 28.  The CNHS visit started at the pond at the P&R, which proved to have an unexpected variety of introduced species such as Bogbean Menyanthes trifolia at its margins, and one alien invader, Floating Water-pennywort Hydrocotyle ranunculoides.  After much persuasion the party moved on towards the main entrance to the Trumpington Meadows site, where a host of wildflowers had been sown.  A surprise addition to the list was a big area of Night-flowering Catchfly Silene noctiflora, which according the Wildlife Trust was not supposed to be a component of the seed-mix, as well as Thorrowax Bupleurium obovatum, which most likely was a contaminant.  As there was much else to see, Jonathan tried to get the party moving towards other areas, but despite striding off purposefully some lagged behind.  The next area to look at was the new ditch, to see the native arable weeds, then on to the old railway to see Toadflax Linaria vulgaris.  From here we wandered round the balancing pond, and then towards the spoil mountain.  Unfortunately there wasn’t time to see the coprolite pits, so we headed back and reached the gate towards sunset.  The Catchfly lived up to its name, with most plants now showing their rosy white petals in full flower.

2012 July 19.  The Met Office forecast of a dry evening put most people off.  As expected there were heavy showers until 5pm, and then some light rain during the visit, which was generally a damp one.  Jonathan and Monica had a wander round the sown meadows and coprolite pits.  Just over 50 botanical records were made, none exceptional, with perhaps the most unexpected being Marsh Woundwort Stachys palustris being found in a former arable area, though it is sometimes a crop weed.  We admired a rather handsome Black Slug Arion ater, and also some rather soporific damselflies.  Sadly the nice chalk grassland strip along the coprolite pits had been trashed by a severe mow and leave followed by tractor trampling.  Midges and mosquitoes started biting as sunset approached, but recording continued until shortly after sunset.

2012 August 16.  Our final evening visit was dry, though generally overcast, breezy and humid.  The wind was too much for the butterflies and dragonflies that we hoped to see, so instead we looked for plant galls, in addition to searching for additions to the plant species list.  Many of the young Hawthorns in the recently planted hedge were suffering from mildew.  A young Oak tree in the hedge did well, with three galls, the familiar Marble Gall caused by Andricus kollari, the less familiar Knopper Gall caused by Andricus quercusramuli and the Silk Button Spangle Gall caused by Neuroterus numismalis as well as a rust.  A rose gave us the Robin’s Pincushion Gall Diplolepis rosae and the Smooth Pea Gall caused by a Diplolepis sp, which lived up to the description of being easily detachable. 

2012 September 23.  With weather forecasts having predicted the arrival of the remains of a tropical storm all week, prospects for the visit did not look good.  The morning was dry, and Jonathan Shanklin carried out a reconnaissance, finding the liverwort Aneura pinguis by the P&R pond, and adding several plants to the vascular list.  His forecast the day before that the rain would arrive about 2pm proved only an hour out.  It arrived at 1pm!  With rain falling, the prospect of anyone turning up looked remote, but Mark Powell arrived in his lichen covered van, followed a short while later by Hilary Pounsett, and we started looking at the various lichens on the kerb and fencing by the P&R pond.  Under Mark’s guidance they proved to be much more diverse than a quick glance would suggest, with around a dozen on the kerb alone.  An unknown metal loving lichen (no-one has found it fruiting yet) covered many of the fence-post tops.  With rain still falling, Jonathan and Mark headed for the motorway bridge, finding a further selection, but after a very short dry interlude, rain continued and they return via Shepherd’s Cottage.  Here lichens coated concrete baulks, some outlining where material had been depoted, and in the old garden Xanthoria parietina covered Lilac twigs.  With the deluge continuing further investigation was postponed for a better day.  Mark has provided a full report on the lichens.

2012 October 21.  There had been heavy rain the night before, and the day was damp and overcast, however the rain did not return until just as the visit was finishing.  The first fungi, and a myxomycyte, were growing on a log by the cycle stands at Byron’s Pool LNR. A quick look at the meadow found only a solitary Yellow Fieldcap Bolbitius vitellinus, but then under the hedge Wood Blewett Lepista nuda and several other fungi were spotted.  We moved into the wood and progress slowed as there were so many fungi to see.  Mark Powell, who had joined us, was also inspecting trees for lichens and was very pleased to find Enterographa crassa, an indicator of ecological continuity that is quite rare in Cambridgeshire.  There were happy cries as participants encountered new species, but perhaps the star find was the Arched Earthstar Geastrum fornicatum.  After lunch we proceeded slightly more quickly to the end of the LNR and out onto Trumpington Meadows.  There was nothing to be seen on the recently cut damp meadow, nor on the old railway, but we did better on some piles of cut willow.  We crossed under the motorway and along the motorway embankment a little while before crossing to the river.  There were a few fungi around the old PBI boat-shed, but apart from a tiny fungus on a pine trunk we didn’t see much of interest.  The coprolite pits were similarly sparse, but near Shepherd’s Cottage Helene found Garland Roundhead Stropharia coronilla and Smokey Roundhead Stropharia inuncta on grassland at the field margin.  From here we headed back to Byron’s Pool and along the river back to the car-park, where we met up with a very late David Seilly.

2012 November 25. Our final visit had the objective of recording bryophytes, and overnight rain which had cleared by the time we started, gave them good conditions.  The Cam was very high, with water levels either side of the Byron’s Pool weir only some 20cm different.  It was a sunny morning, but with a rather biting wind.  We started with an early blitz of Trumpington churchyard, which provided a nice introduction to some of the common lawn mosses, along with the churchyard wall topped by cushions of Grimmia pulvinata and Schistidium crassipilumOrthotrichum cupulatum on a monument and Didymodon nicholsonii and Tortula protobryoides on paths were new for the churchyard.  At Byron’s Pool LNR a few more participants joined us, and we started with a look at the pond in the meadow.  Hopes for its chalky bank to have lots of interesting species were dashed with Barbula unguiculata being dominant, but there were also a few stems of Aloina aloides.  Accessing trees along the high river required wellies, but Mark Hill was not put off, finding copious Leskea polycarpa and Syntrichia latifolia on several waterlogged trees, as well as Hennediella macrophylla on the clay bank.  H. macrophylla is an introduced species which is slowly spreading;  it was previously known from the Cam only by the Backs and at Little Abingdon.  On one rather more accessible tree, Richard Fisk noted two liverworts Frullania dilatata and Metzgeria furcata, the only two that we saw in the Trumpington Meadows area.  We then moved across to one of the new ditches along the old railway line finding a good range of pioneer and ruderal species, including plentiful Tortula protobryoides.  We had lunch in the sunshine on the railway track shielded by trees from the worst of the wind.  From here we continued round the river to an area which had been cleared down to the chalky clay, which again provided plenty of pioneer species.  The bridge over the M11 had acquired several species, including “Car-park moss” Brachythecium mildeanum.  The old coprolite pits had rather too much scrub for any interest, but Richard Fisk found some delightfully small-sized Fissidens viridulus by a rabbit hole.  With the sun getting low we headed back along the track, briefly inspecting the scrubby area near the motorway before returning along the main track towards Byron’s Pool car park.