Friday, 28 September 2018

Field Skills Training Day at St Chads - Lichens - Insects - and more - by YNU - for Leeds University MSc

Hi there 

Want to catch up with the latest in Wildlife Field Skills with the Yorkshire Naturalists' Union (YNU) and this year's Leeds MSc Ecology Course?

Sept 27th 2018 - The sun comes out and a dozen experienced members of the Yorkshire Naturalist Union turn up ready to lead training sessions in the annual YNU training day for the the new batch of c.35 Leeds MSc Ecologists for the first day of their course.

I come, handouts prepared, and twigs gathered en route, ready to teach my group of four about lichens


(There is a more detailed the background to this event where I describe the Training Day in 2016)

There are  eight groups  - from Hoverflies to Hyemenoptera, from Lepidoptera to Lichens. 

Each of the eight groups also visits  Clare and Mark from the  North & East Yorkshire Ecological Data Centre, who give a talk on recording systems and centres (See picture below)








We go out outside into the warm Leeds' sun to visit my favourite Ash tree just outside the St Chad's Center.  It yielded 10 species in 2016, and it is still  here with its its lichens in 2018: all the species are indicators of, or are at least tolerant to, high nitrogen compound pollution: - This year we notice seven:-
Xanthoria parietina, Xanthoria candelaria, Physcia tenella, Phaeophyscia orbicularis, Parmelia sulcata, Ramalina farinosa and a species of Lecanora.

Xanthoria parietina is the bright orange one in big patches, with orange fruiting bodies - cups - like lemon curd tarts.  

It is pronounced "Zan Thor Ear" . say it: "Zan Thor Ear"

It has a host of English Names (e.g. Maritime Sunburst Lichen, Common Orange lichen, and my favourite name for it: Bird Perch Lichen).  Here is a picture of it from Settle


"Xanthous" is an English adjective meaning yellow - eg yolk yellow and comes from the the Greek Xanthos meaning yellow.



The ruler on the left shows centimetres
divided into millimetres.





The other very abundant very common lichen we see is a much tinier grey foliose lichen called Physcia tenella which you can read about here




While we are here, who appears, but Mike Willison of the Green Team at St Chads. He is able to tell us more about the churchyard and how it is managed for nature, and the new replacement bird-boxes.  I have obtained copies of the nature trail leaflet and the Geological Trail leaflet to show the students








We discover the old wooden benches next to the cricket pitch have now been replaced by brand new wooden benches - so we miss out on seeing a couple of lichen species there. Hey ho. Perhaps in another twenty years...

However the little roundabout in front of the church has cement kerb-stones and has several bright crustose species:-





including Lecanora dispersa  - jam tarts with a white rim (amazing what you see under a hand-lens.. or Olympus Tough TG4 camera)




In the next picture you see orange fruiting bodies (on a dark background thallus ) which is  Caloplaca holocarpa 
and the grey one top left half is Aspicilia contorta




We eat lunch on the grass on the slope next to the church and notice the Field Woodrush (Luzula campestris) an old meadow species.

We look at Lepraria incana on the Old Oak Tree in the corner of the churchyard. It likes shady places. 

We find the Porpidia tuberculosa (Cigarette-Ash Lichen) on a tombstone as in the previous two years. The dark spots are soralia (one soralium, two soralia). The upper cortex (skin) of the lichen has holes, and a sort of powder made of fungal threads and associated algae come out and are blown away and can thus spread the lichen.




In the churchyard we meet others looking for wildlife. This group is looking for Hoverfly larvae in the grass cuttings compost



Next:
Andy Millard points out a Bumble bee's nest - the Common Carder - which has been disturbed, maybe by a fox



The Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society say:
Nests are made above-ground in tall, but open grassland, under hedges and piles of plant litter. It may occasionally use bird boxes and holes in trees. It is one of the carder-bees: these bees gather moss and dry grass to make the covering of the nest. Nest sizes are fairly small, with 60-150 workers (Løken, 1973; von Hagen, 1994). The life-cycle of the nest is remarkably long, with workers still present in September and October in some cases.

Then in the wood beyond we meet the  Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)  group -  collecting caterpillars that drop from branches



We progress to the field beyond with a tennis court and big beech tree - but the lawn has just been mown and fallen branches in the wind last week that may have had good lichens on them have been removed.

Back in the centre the Lepidopetera group try and work out what the caterpillars are.




And the Hymenoptera group examine their bees, wasps and other insects



See pictures from 2017 here (stored on Flickr)

I realise I haven't told my group quite everything there is to know about lichens, so invite them to visit the Website of the British Lichen Society.

I wish them good luck at Malham Tarn Field Centre which they will be visiting the following day - and tell them to look out for field courses there (and at other FSC centres) where they can learn specialist subjects - In some subjects and cases they can get student discounts/bursaries if they apply. Most people go to Field Centres independently - you don't just have to go with a school of university.

Malham run a Day course on Lichens and a Long weekend Course.

And me? I was pleased to see the trees: Aspen and the Turkey oak on our walk round and to see the Bombus pascuorum.

I do hope my four students will go away and teach others how to recognise the two most common foliose lichens we found - 
Xanthoria parietina  
and Physcia tenella 



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