A Field in England

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday 23 July 2016 07:18

I've just finished a repeat of the farm surveys I did last in 2010/11. This time it was just the four summer visits but it still ends up being 288 miles! Each one is about 11 or 12 miles and it's a relief to have finished. Now begins the write-up! It's too early for me to say what the differences in the bird life are but in terms of composition of the assemblages, there is little change. In terms of oddities and rarities, this year lacked the Black Kite and Honey Buzzard of 2011, I suppose the oddest was Grey Plover and Turnstone flying over my most easterly site just north of Bishopstone and three singing Quail just north of Brighton and one just north of Worthing were also great to hear (I haven't heard Quail since summer 2011).

Obviously, you must have heard about Calasoma sycophanta but I had a few exciting arable plant finds that day that were rather eclipsed by the excitement of the beetle. In the June and July visits I stumbled across three plants I had never seen before, something that just doesn't happen these days. Usually if I want to see something new I have to twitch plants so this was great. First up was Field Gromwell (EN - 8). By this time I began using Plantlife's arable plant index to assess the farms quality for arable plants (the rarer the plant, the higher the index).

Th other endangered plant I recorded there five years ago and is Narrow-fruited Cornsalad (EN - 8, running total 16).

And masses of Field Woundwort (NT - 6, running total 22) growing among Phacelia (where if anything, there was so much it was suppressing the Phacelia!). This area of the farm was more acidic. I didn't record this on any of the others farms last time and I've only ever seen it once.

Others that day included Prickly Poppy (VU - 7, running total 29).

Rough Poppy (3, running total 32). A score of 30 is needed for county importance, so that's in the bank.

Dwarf Spurge (NT - 6, running total 38).

Others not photographed in June were:
Small Toadflax (1, running total 39).
Grey Field Speedwell (2, running total 41).
Henbit Dead-nettle (1, running total 42.)
Round-leaved Fluellen (3, running total 45). A score of 45 is needed for a site of UK importance. So that's in the bank!
Sharp-leaved Fluellen (2, running total 47).
Dwarf Mallow (2, running total 49).

And the these Common Broomrapes (2, running total 51).

Great. A site of UK importance. And there I thought it would stay until things got really exciting on the July visit!

First up I refound a few Night-flowering Catchfly (VU - 7, running total 58) scattered about the farm.

I found what I thought may have been the exceptionally rare Upright Goosefoot but closer examination of the seeds proved this to be Nettle-leaved Goosefoot (VU - 7, running total 65). New for me, not seen this on any of the other farms.

In the same field as the Narrow-fruited Cornsalad, yet another life. Stinking Chamomile (VU - 7, running total 72).

And then in the Field Woundwort area, another plant new to these surveys (as it's more an acid soil thing) Corn Spurrey (VU - 7, running total 79).

So two EN and five VU species! I thought it was possible I might actually get to 90, the threshold for European significance. So I mopped up a few more species to get it.

Slender Parsley-piert (1, running total 80).
Black-grass (2, running total 82).
Annual Mercury (2, running total 84).
Black Mustard (2, running total 86).
Upright Hedge-parsley (3, running total 89).
Field Madder (1, running total 90) WAHOOO!!! European significance!

It continues though...
Cornfield Knotgrass (3, running total 93).
Fig-leaved Goosefoot (2, running total 95). Thanks to David Streeter for pointing this out to me, I've been spotting it on almost all the farms since.

What a great result. I look forward to writing this up properly and getting some comments from Plantlife!

1 Response to "A Field in England"

Nevil Hutchinson Says:

Wow Graeme, that seems pretty amazing. What are the implications in terms of conservation designation?

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