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A cast of thousands

4th June 2019

Guest blog by Keith Fowler, leader of Joy of Wildlife group.

Longden Road Cemetery, Wednesday 22nd May 2019

Remember those films that boasted “Cast of 1000s” as part of their advertising?

Yes?

Well we had our own version of this for our visit to the cemetery at Longden Road in Shrewsbury.

Not literally 1000’s, more like 18.

But this is a huge number of people to give up their day to look at fauna and flora.

And who could have imagined that a cemetery would be such a draw?

But it was.

Thanks to Caring for God’s Acre who arranged this trip the word had spread far and wide.

Photograph: David Williams

Inevitably with such a large number and two separate entrances to the site 200 yards apart here was a little confusion at the start and we were a little late getting underway on what turned out to be a beautiful, sunny, warm day.

The cemetery was consecrated in 1856 (according to the Shropshire Council website) and is still in use, although no burials took place while we were there. It is split into two areas called, with great imagination, the “Old Section” and the “New Section”.

We concentrated on the “Old Section” which appeared to be a wonderful grassland with graves scattered throughout rather than a graveyard with grassland between the graves. This is well illustrated by the above photograph.

To highlight that a cemetery can be a delightful place (in the right context) here are a few more views of the part of the cemetery we were in:

Photograph: Bob Kemp

Photograph: Bob Kemp

With such a large number it was not really possible for me to keep tabs on who saw and photographed what when so any attempt to relate the photographs to a story of the day is impossible. I will resort, therefore, to a precis of the day followed by a gallery of the insects and plants that were photographed. I hope you do not object to this approach!

The first hour or so after we eventually got going after not the smoothest of starts was spent in an area within 50 yards of the meeting point.

As people meandered about using their search method of choice the peace was broken by the sound of the vacuum sampler. Needless to say, despite objections to the disturbance, its emptying drew in the crowds.

Photograph: Deirdre Hodgkinson

Sometimes people just wanted the peace and quiet to collect their thoughts or take a photograph.

Photograph: Deirdre Hodgkinson

As time marched on we spread out somewhat with little groups forming, breaking up and reforming as people gravitated to others who were interested in the same things be they plants or hoverflies. Some chose to look alone.

However when lunch was declared we all gathered together for a bit of a social gathering.

Photograph: Stephen Mitchell

After lunch we did much as we had done before but spread deeper into the old section of the cemetery as we searched for habitats that were different to what we had found before including a wood pile in the shade of some trees as well as a selection of common and ornamental trees.

Here are some of the things that we found.

(At last, I hear you say!)

We start with a fungus found near the woodpile – Agrocybe praecox. This is known as the Spring fieldcap and as the common name implies is found at this time of year.

Photograph: Bob Kemp

Next is a beetle that all moth trappers will be familiar with: a Common cockchafer, Melolontha melolontha. They are attracted by the light of a moth trap and their arrival can be heard as they clatter into the trap, blunder around within it before settling down. And if you are unfortunate enough to be standing in their flight path they are likely to try to fly straight through you. Once in a trap they are like boomerangs. If you remove them and release them away from the trap they fly straight back.

Photograph: David Williams

A rather striking plant bug with a ridiculously long name – Dryophilocoris flavoquadrimaculatus:

Photograph: David Williams

A green hairstreak, Callophrys rubi:

Photograph: John Martin

A planthopper – Eupelix cuspidata:

Photograph: David Williams

A holly blue, Celastrina argiolus:

Photograph: David Williams

And onto something that is not featured very often – a lichen. The lichens in the cemetery are generally restricted to species that are tolerant of pollution. This lichen is Lecanora conizaeoides. This is something of a rarity nowadays as it is tolerant of heavy sulphur dioxide pollution and as the levels of this in general have decreased so has the abundance of the lichen.

Photograph: Bob Kemp

It was found on this stone:

Photograph: Bob Kemp

A “bumble bee mimic” hoverfly – Merodon equestris:

Photograph: Bob Kemp

A micro-moth, Scoparia ambigualis:

Photograph: John Martin

A well disguised barkfly – Mesopsocus sp.:

Photograph: Bob Kemp

A longhorn moth – Nemophora degeerella:

Photograph: David Williams

Now a youngster – a nymph of the Oak bush cricket, Meconema thalassinum:

Photograph: David Williams

 

Now one for those with keen eyesight. A tiny egg of an Orange tip butterfly, Anthocharis cardamines, on a cuckoo flower. The egg is on the right hand stem below the flower. You may need to left-click on the photograph to see a larger version of the photograph.

Photograph: Stephen Mitchell

A pair of Pardosa sp. spiders creating offspring:

Photograph: Nigel Cane-Honeysett

Another group of insects that do not feature in these reports very often is weevils. Here is one – Curculio glandium:

Photograph: David Williams

A pine ladybird, Exochomus quadripustulatus:

Photograph: David Williams

And another black and yellow plant bug – Rhabdomiris striatellus:

Photograph: Bob Kemp

 

An unusual plant was found. Was it a Mouse-ear hawkweed or a Fox and cubs? In the end the botanists decided that it was probably a hybrid! We await a final determination. Here it is:

Photograph: Stephen Mitchell

Photograph: Stephen Mitchell

Photograph: John Martin

We were by now running out of energy after a splendid day and taking every opportunity to rest.


We called a halt and went home.

My thanks to Caring for Gods Acre for inviting us go survey the site and for making the necessary arrangements with Shropshire County Council. As always my appreciation to the photographers David Williams, Bob Kemp, Deirdre Hodgkinson; Nigel Cane-Honeysett, John Martin and Stephen Mitchell who allowed me to use their photographs in this report.

This report was originally posted onhttp://wrekinforestvolunteers.blogspot.com/ and Caring for God’s Acre is grateful to the Wrekin Forest volunteers for their permission to add it to our blog.