May 2023 - Priddy Mineries with Ray Barnett

At the end of May nine members met up with the invertebrate expert Ray Barnett for a field trip that linked up with Ray’s excellent “How to Read the Signs” talk given to the group last February.

The Priddy Mineries is on the outskirts of the village of Priddy on the Mendips. It is grassland/heathland mosaic with an area of valley mire and some nutrient-poor pools. The site was worked for lead for many centuries up to just before the First World War. The legacy is a landscape full of pools, mounds and spoil heaps. 

Before starting the walk, as part of Health and Safety, Ray mentioned that the Waldegrave Estate, who own the reserve, advised us know that there are adders and ticks on the reserve. Neither were encountered. However Ray tried unsuccessfully to find some ticks in one of his sweep nets at the end of the walk near Stockhill Wood car park.
Ticks cause Lyme disease which is a horrible infection needing treatment with antibiotics.
Ray came equipped with equipment like sweep nets to gather the insects in the grassland and amongst tree branches.

Photo: Ray using his sweep net

Ray mentioned that this Spring has been one of the worse for the quantities of insects seen. The numbers being recorded in the many moth traps around this area as well as the numbers of insects in general here and around the country are noticeably down. This has resulted in more horrendous stories of more dead young Blue and Great Tits being found in nest boxes than those that are fledging. Ray thinks it is a combination of a very hot summer last year resulting in a reduction of ground bait for the birds. This was then followed by a cold and wet Spring. 

One of the first things we noticed about the Priddy Mineries was that the Hawthorns were just starting to flower. The hawthorns around Keynsham and the surrounding area are far more advanced.

Photo: Examining the contents of the sweep net

Despite the sweep nets being in operation, the first sighting was a lovely Green Hairstreak butterfly. After this the nets started to bear fruit with the first beetle, an impressive Longhorn (Agapanthia villosoviridescens). It is a beetle that has only relatively recently appeared in our area, in the 1990's. Ray said that the beetle larvae feeds on plant tissue such as stems, trunks, or roots of both herbaceous and woody plants.
Green Hairstreak butterfly
Longhorn Beetle

With the accumulating numbers of sweeps of the nets the list of species grew. The impressively named Cucumber Green Orb Spider (Araniella cucurbitina). The word cucurbitina comes from the word curcurbit which is a family of plants that includes the cucumber.

We also encountered daytime moths like the intriguingly named Mother Shipton Moth. The moth gets its name from the pattern on its forewing. The pattern is said to resemble the iconic representation of Ursula Southeil. Known as Mother Shipton. She was, as the legend goes a prophetess and witch who supposedly foretold the death of Cardinal Wolsey in 1530.

Good to see birds such as the Whitethroat (Curruca communis) with House Martin (Delichon urbicum) flying around as well, plus a toad going about its business in a more leisurely way. Also encountered were damselflies and dragonflies, the Slender Groundhopper (Tetrix subulata), and butterflies like the Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus). 

Photo: Common Toad

It was a fascinating field trip over some interesting terrain led by a wonderful guide in Ray Barnett. Thanks must also go to Liz Wintle to organising this excellent event as well as the superb weather!

Andrew Harrison

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Avon Wildlife Trust
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