Field Event Reports

Sunday 26 November: Hitchcopse Pit ( Mosses Hunt)

Leader: Peter Creed ( Nature Bureau)

The Mosses Hunt provided plenty of interest

A group of 11 members congregated in The Ride, off the A338, on a cold but sunny morning (at last this year!), where we were met by our leader Peter Creed. Peter introduced us to the history of Hitchcopse Pit (a BBOWT Reserve, ) and its key characteristics. The Reserve is the result of quarrying for sand and contains fragments of heath, woodland, scrub, grassland and a small pond. The sandy floor of the pit is covered in lichens and grassland plants with many interesting, cushion-forming mosses covering the large boulders scattered around on the quarry floor.

Peter usefully distributed a list of bryophyte species that have been found in the Pit - remarkably some 53 species, including four mosses that are rare to Oxfordshire; he explained we would not be able to see/identify that many species as identification often needed capsule form, which had not yet emerged. The group then crossed the A338 and walked down a wooded path. Our first stop was in the wooded margin of the path, where we spent some time looking at the mosses cloaking an old calcareous stone wall. These were mainly feather-mosses of several species, such as Fox-tail Feather-moss characteristic of calcareous woodland.

A few minutes walk took us to the rim of the Pit giving a good view of the sandy floor with its numerous large boulders We descended into the Pit and while some areas were still covered with frost, the sheltered aspect of the Pit, with a fine winter sun above, was almost warming and certainly not too cold.

Our second stop was into a small patch of woodland, with a mixture oak, willow, birch, ash, sycamore and other shrubs. Here Peter pointed out that the mosses favoured slanting branches of ash, sycamore and in particular willow, of which there were a number of samples clothed in mosses such as Lateral Cryphaea, Wood Bristle-moss and Capillary Thread-moss. These favoured the alkaline nature of the bark of these trees. A single species of liverwort (Frullania dilatata/Dilated Scalewort) was located, although eight liverwort species in total have been identified at the Pit.

We spent the remainder of our visit out in the sandy open Pit floor, which was strewn with large calcareous boulders, the latter being the main sites of interest. Several stops were made at different boulders with members on hands and knees observing small clumps of moss, often with hand lens to see detail. A fair number of species were identified including various beard-moss and screw-moss species. Finally we walked to the northern end of the Pit, where the small pond was located and the sandy cliffs edging the site were best exposed. Peter explained that in the summer the reserve has exceptional numbers of solitary bees and wasps thanks to the soft, sandy layers of the low pit cliffs in which the insects burrow. He also pointed out the location on the cliffs of the Slender Stubble-moss, one of the real rarities of the site.

So some two hours after our meeting we walked back to our cars, observing a Tree creeper on the way - apart from a fly-over of a Common Gull no other rarer birds were seen, although we seemed to be followed by Robins (or just one?), which pecked at the soil we had disturbed. At the car a number of us purchased copies of Peter's excellent book (A Guide to Finding Mosses in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire, Peter Creed & Tom Haynes, Pisces Publications/ISBN 978-1-874357-56-8). Thanks were conveyed to Peter for his highly informative and enjoyable visit.

Selected Mosses Identified:
Dilated Scalewort (Frullania dilitata), Capillary Thread-moss (Bryum capillare), Grey-cushioned Grimmia (Grimmia pulvinata), Thickpoint Grimmia (Schistidium crassipilum), Lateral Cryphaea (Cryphaea heteromalia), Cypress-leaved Plait-moss (Hypnum cupressiforme var. cupressiforme), Great Plait-moss (Hypnum cupressiforme var. lacunosum), Neat Feather-moss (Pseudoscleropodium purum), Wood Bristle-moss (Orthotrichum affine), Anomolous Bristle-moss (Orthotrichum anomalum), Lesser Bird's-claw Beard-moss (Barbula convoluta), Bird's-claw Beard-moss (Barbula unguiculata), Dusky Beard-moss (Didymoon luridus), Slender Stubble-moss (Gyroweisia tenuis), Revolute Beard-moss (Pseudocrossidium revolutum), Intermediate Screw-moss (Syntrichia montana), Sand-hill Screw-moss (Syntrichia ruralis var. ruralis), Wall Screw-moss (Tortula muralis), Whitish Feather Moss (Brachythecium albicans), Fox-tail Feather Moss (Thamnobryum alopecurum), Rambling Tail Moss (Anamodon viticulosus).
Birds Seen:
Red Kite, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Common Gull, Jay, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Treecreeper, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Robin, Dunnock, Goldfinch.
Attendees:
Graham Bateman, David Hastings, Hugh &Vivienne Summers, Margaret Abel, Chris & Bridget Biggs, David Guyoncourt, John Killick, Gillian & Mike Taylor.

GrahamBateman

The Mosses Hunt provided plenty of interest.The Mosses Hunt provided plenty of interest.The Mosses Hunt provided plenty of interest.