The Hull Natural History Society

News > 2020

Spring 2020

This year the COVID-19 lock-down has given us all more time (and inclination) to look for signs of Spring.

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Plants

New Year Plant Hunt 2020
Shaggy Soldier

Shaggy Soldier flower

Picture Andrew Chadwick, January 2020

BSBI New Year Plant Hunt 2020

This year the annual race to record as many native and naturalised plants in flower as possible within a 3-hour period ran from 1st-4th January. Six members of HNHS were involved.

On a very enjoyable walk in Hull Avenues area a total of 51 flowers was recorded, mainly, late lingering or winter flowering, apart from some golden Hazel catkins Corylus avellana and an early Dock Rumex obtusifolius. Most grasses were well over, but we managed to spot viable Water Bent Polypogon viridis and Perennial Rye-grass Lolium perenne. Irrelevant to our search, but unusual for the north of England, was a fruiting banana in a Pearson Park garden.

Our longest list of 54 was from Hornsea where, despite a heavy cold, Lesley steered us round largely familiar territory on a bitterly cold day. Bracing! The only grass with exserted anthers was the ubiquitous Annual Meadow-grass Poa annua. Early flowerers in sheltered spots were Winter Aconite Eranthis hyemalis, Snowdrop Galanthus nivalis and Lesser Celandine Ficaria verna. Notable re- finds: Creeping Comfrey Symphytum grandiflorum in an untended corner of a graveyard and Sea Mayweed Tripleurospermum maritimum at the front.

Beverley on 4th January was well scoured/cleaned up and we covered a lot of ground for a total of just 42. Only one plant of White Melilot Melilotus albus was seen in flower on the waste ground and Thale Cress Arabidopsis thaliana was spotted by the beck. A new addition to the list was Shaggy Soldier Galinsoga quadriradiata, known since the Beverley survey at New Walkergate.

The popular New Year Plant Hunt has been running since 2017 with a steadily increasing number of participants and individual records. As you would expect, results depend on location and recent weather, with the South-west and Wales usually doing best. Last year was a freak year with appalling weather in the hot spots, so after a long mild period we in the east did rather well, but in 2020 normal conditions were resumed. Lists ranged from 0 to 115 (Swanage),20 participants, mainly in Scotland and Northumberland reported no plants in flower. 622 species in total were recorded and 14651 unique records made. Daisy Bellis perennis once again figured in most lists. There was no requirement to record frequency, otherwise the ubiquitous Smooth Sow-thistle Sonchus oleraceus would surely have done rather better? This light-hearted competition also performs a useful function as phenological study. It would, perhaps be more useful if continued into the spring when insects emerge, perhaps by the BSBI issuing a list of key species to participants with a request to note dates of first flowering?

Gabrielle Jarvis, 10 January 2020

Garden visitor

Heron pellet

Yesterday morning, when belatedly (9 am) peering out of the bedroom window, I noticed a Grey Heron fishing for frogs in the garden pond, just a few metres from the house. Although neighbours have previously lost goldfish in clandestine early-morning raids this is the first time I have seen the bird in our garden.


A little later in the day I found a rather damp pellet, which appeared to contain two enormous sunflower seeds, on the roof of the greenhouse. Closer investigation revealed them to be the elytra of a female Great Diving Beetle (Dytiscus marginalis). On dissection the pellet was found to contain most of the chitinous parts of the beetle, the head and one damaged elytron of another beetle (?Colymbetes fuscus) and a Water Boatman head (Notonecta sp. - thanks to Bill Dolling for identifying this), bound together with fibrous pellets and what appeared to be the less-digestible parts of a frog. It seems that the Heron had left its calling-card.

Richard Middleton, 28 March 2020

Eelgrass

Eelgrass clump Picture: Africa Gómez

The previous week on a bright, windless day at Spurn there was an exceptionally low tide so that large areas of mudflat on the estuary side were exposed. We had our first ever sighting of clumps of the normally submerged Eelgrass Zostera, thought to be Z. noltei .(We await id confirmation from Tim Smith of IFCA who recently surveyed the colony by boat). Zostera has a complex inflorescence in its leaf sheaths pollinated by shrimps and currents and is a significant habitat for marine life. Its importance for biodiversity and need for protection are recognised at Spurn where there is an Eelgrass exclusion Zone for fishermen digging for bait, as Eelgrass does not cope well with disturbance and turbulence.

Once common around UK coasts Eelgrass meadows have been depleted by more than 90% through algae-boosting pollution, anchor damage and port and marina building. Rohan Lewis provided a link to an article about the Seagrass Ocean rescue project - Seagrass is another name for Eelgrass - a Swansea University initiative to restore eelgrass to Dale bay in Wales by underwater gardening. Seeds collected from a number of existing meadows are placed in hessian bags at one metre intervals on a long rope, which is then deployed along the shallow seafloor, where they will sprout and restore the habitat. As well as harbouring up to 40 times more marine life than seabeds without grass, this habitat is considered important in the fight against climate change as it is said to store carbon 35 times faster than rainforest. If successful this project could be extended to estuaries like the Humber.

Hull BAP committee is currently looking into the possibility of reintroducing Eelgrass on to local mudflats.

Gabrielle Jarvis, 20 March 2020

New Year Plant Hunt
Shepherd's Purse

Picture Andrew Chadwick, January 2020

Garden visitors

Garden bird pictures

Current restrictions on social interaction and travel are forcing us to take a closer look at our own gardens ...


Pictures: by Andrew Ashworth, 25 March 2020

A patch of Colt’s-foot

Bees on Colt's-foot On Monday I walked from Kilnsea to Easington, mainly on the beach, with Gabrielle Jarvis. On the base of the low till cliff off Easington Beach Caravan park there is an accumulation of sand, and some vegetation is growing. This is because of the sheltering effect of the rock revetment north of it. We were pleasantly surprised to find this wonderful patch of flowering Colt’s-foot, Tussilago farfara. It was cloudy at the time, and we noticed a number of mining bees feeding or resting on the flowers. Steven Falk confirmed they are Andrena nigroaenea, a common mining bee the size of a honeybee with a long flight season starting in mid March. This bee is not very fussy with which flower it feeds from, feeding on willow, hawthorn, gorse and many herbaceous plant flowers. It digs its nests in paths and cliff faces.

Africa Gómez, 19 March 2020

Snail shells - Wawne

Snail shells Recent heavy rains and high tides have raised the level of the River Hull at Wawne, leaving a strand-line deposit of material washed from the fringing reed bed. This resulting "brashy" deposit is particularly rich in the empty shells of terrestrial snails. The most abundant species encountered were Monacha cantiana, Cepaea nemoralis and Cornu aspersum with occasional specimens of Trochulus striolatus. Rather surprisingly the only aquatic species found was a single broken specimen of Lymnaea sp..

Richard Middleton & Rob Atkinson, February 2020