A look at the flowers and insects of the Daventry area
Monday, 10 December 2012
When icicles hang by the wall...
As kids we had to learn extracts from "Love's Labour Lost" and I can still recall most of this famous poem. I was reminded of this on my walk earlier today when I saw some Crab Apples hanging from a branch.
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl...
I always assumed that the setting was a cottage by the sea and the crabs were the familiar marine crustaceans; my teacher never explained that they were Crab Apples and for some years I remained in blissful ignorance. All very confusing. I would have been further puzzled had I been familiar with a line from John Clare:
And crabs sun-reddened with a tempting cheek.
Even more confusing is the identification of these wayside specimens. The true Crab Apple, Malus sylvestris, is quite common but I suspect that many records may be in fact be examples of Malus domestica. Clive Stace, in his "New Flora of the British Isles" (1991) says [Malus sylvestris is] ... "much over-recorded for Malus domestica". These will have grown from apple cores casually flung aside by walkers. Crab Apples are usually - but not always - spiny; "domestic" apples never are.
I was pleased also to see several oak seedlings in a hedgerow forming one border of the Pocket Park. Earlier this year a group of us planted a "Jubilee Oak" in the P.P. so, in one way and another, there should be numerous oaks for future generations, compensating for the likely loss of many Ash trees.
Quite a few flies were on the wing along a south-facing line of shrubs. Most were Anthomyids, commonly known as...er...Anthomyids. They are very tricky to identify; I can't do it, and I don't know many people who can. I had more success with a Tachinid fly, Macquartia grisea. This species is parasitic on certain beetles and is not uncommon. However I was very surprised to take a specimen so late in the year. [For the enthusiast this fly has: a dusting of hairs on its face on either side of the antennae; bright yellow calypters and halteres; hairs on the radio-cubital node and crossed apical hairs on the scutellum.] For the non-enthusiast it is a very ordinary-looking fly superficially like a House Fly - but it pleased me! It was the 431st insect/spider I've now recorded from the Pocket Park; to be still adding species in mid-December is very gratifying.