Llanelli Naturalists Newsletter - December 2003 - No 70
Richard Pryce

Leader Richard Pryce

Again members were lucky with gloriously fine sunny weather. Rubbish dumping over the previous few months had resulted in the roadside lay-by now being partly closed-off by the Council who had deposited top soil to reinstate the grass-verge.  The leader explained the history and ecology of the reserve from the elevated ground inside the entrance gate, which affords a panoramic view over the whole wetland area, before sallying forth through the fen and reed-bed which reaches over 2m in height.

The Marsh Pea (Lathyrus palustris) was, again this year, producing an abundance of flowers (see cover photo) and is flourishing well within the Society’s land-holding.  Although some of the earlier flowering species such as Bog-bean (Menyanthes trifoliata) and Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) were now in seed, the marsh orchids were in full flower and both Southern Marsh-orchid (Dactylorhiza preatermissa) and Early Marsh-orchid (D. incarnata) were seen.

The drainage-ditches cleared-out by the Environment Agency (EA) about 18 months previously were becoming recolonised by characteristic vegetation and Floating Club-rush (Eleogiton fluitans) was now more abundant than it had been for at least thirty years.  Other aquatic species noted included locally abundant Frog-bit (Hydrocharis morsus-ranae), Amphibious Bistort (Persicaria amphibia), Water-pepper (P. hydropiper), Lesser Spearwort (Ranunculus flammula), Yellow Iris (Iris pseudacorus), Branched Bur-reed (Sparganium erectum) and Unbranched Bur-reed (S. emersum).  The leader used his grapnel to procure some weed seen growing below the water surface at the junction of two drains.  Amongst the material recovered was a long-leaved pondweed (Potamogeton sp.) which was tentatively identified as P. berchtoldii but awaits confirmation.  The new pond, which was excavated by the EA from within a monospecific stand of Common Reed (Phragmites australis), has yet to become colonised and only a narrow margin of aquatic species (including Frog-bit) had so-far developed.  However, the banks held many of the characteristic species, including, for instance, Water-dock (Rumex hydrolapathum), Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), Marsh Marigold, Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi), Lesser Spearwort and Water Mint (Mentha aquatica).  Dragonflies and damselflies were frequent close to the areas of open water and included Emperor, Southern Hawker, Azure, Common Blue, Blue-tailed and Large Red Damselflies. Reed and Sedge Warblers were singing and at least two Cetti’s Warblers burst into song at two locations within the site during our visit.  Willow Warblers, a Blackcap, Reed Buntings, three Mistle Thrushes and two Herons were also noted.

Having battled through the reedbed in single-file, the party emerged onto the unimproved damp hay-meadow part of the site.  Here Whorled Caraway (Carum verticillatum) was locally frequent amongst occasional Common Cotton-grass (Eriophorum angustifolium), Star Sedge (Carex echinata), Common Sedge (C.nigra), Carnation Sedge (C.panicea), Oval Sedge (C. ovalis), Devil’s-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis), Mat-grass (Nardus stricta), Heath Grass (Danthonia decumbens) and Purple Moor-grass (Molinia caerulea).  Several plants of Slender Rush (Juncus tenuis) were noted when traversing the ‘causeway’ onto the former dune-ridge: an area of drier grassland, improved in the past, but annually cut for hay for many years.  The mole hills indicated the dune-sand origin of this low, but more elevated ground, and on several, the tiny annual legume, Bird’s-foot (Ornithopus perpusillus), had germinated and was now in flower – in greater profusion than anyone present could remember in the past.

The walk back to the cars skirted the western boundary of the reserve where Greater Tussock-sedge (Carex paniculata) has now choked the old canal and where, if the Council can be persuaded to carry out some sympathetic management-work, an open-water habitat could be restored to benefit the rare flora and fauna characteristic of the area.