Like hundreds of others, we went for a walk along the beach at Newgale. The tide was a long way out, and birds were few and far between. We found a footpath above the road, going uphill through a patch of scrub.
As Pembrokeshire county mammal recorder, I stopped to make a note of some molehills.
A molehill doesn’t seem like much of a find, but usually they are the only evidence that moles are around. This one has a footprint on it, too indistinct to say what made it – could have been a badger, a dog or even a child.
Now, while I am stopped here, I’ll look for other species to record.
Gorse Ulex europeaus flowers all year round, though displays are most impressive in April-May. In times gone past, it was actually harvested as a crop – horses and cattle will eat it, but first it has to be bruised (in a gorse mill) and wilted. Any name place that mentions gorse or furze indicates that this shrub once grew there, even if it doesn’t now.
If the gorse flowers don’t provide enough colour, you can often find this fungus on stems at this time of year. In dry weather it shrivels up and is hard to see, but rain and damp weather cause it to become active. It is often called yellow (or orange) brain fungus, and sometimes witch’s butter (although this also refers to a black jelly-like fungus). It’s scientific name is Tremella mesenterica, and it actually feeds on lichens on the surface of the wood, rather than the wood itself. There is a very similar species, Tremella aurantica, which is found on the bracket fungus Stereum hirsutum which grows on logs (mainly on oak).
The next of my five easily identifiable species from where I was standing, was bramble Rubus frutiscosus agg. Only the leaves are visible now, still attached to the woody, thorny stems. With a bit of practice, they can easily be picked out from the general vegetation.
Even though it has died back, the stems and fronds of bracken can easily be distinguished. It is the only branched fern in Britain, and anyway, most of the others still have green fronds. Bracken is a very much maligned plant these days, but in the past it had all sorts of uses, for example, what did people use before they had bubble-wrap to protect fragile items?
So, five easy to ID species. Now to get them into the recording system.
You have to sign up on-line to use the West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre recording system, but once signed-up, you can enter data in the field via the app, or back home on a PC. There are instructions on the website if this is the first time you’ve used this on-line recording system. If you can, include photos to show what you have found. Some species records will not be accepted without a photo.
And that’s all there is to it. Just go out and look.