Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Daventry Country Park 1

I felt it was likely, on moving to Daventry, that I would spend quite a lot of time at the Country Park. Today I made my first visit, just a recce really, to look around and consider the possibilities.

Few flowers were in bloom. Hedge Bindweed scrambled through bushes and in places patches of Greater Chickweed, Stellaria neglecta, grew alongside the track.

This diminutive member of the Pink Family can hardly be called spectacular; even the most enthusiastic of botanists would hardly get excited about it.

Greater Chickweed, showing the pink stamens.
Daventry Country Park.  8 September, 2014
Nevertheless a close-up of the flowers is quite revealing. The petals are deeply bifid (a common situation in this family) so that there appears at first glance to be ten petals rather than five. The stamens are pinkish but, when all is said and done, it is quite a dull little plant.

Of more interest were the clumps of Angelica, Angelica sylvestris, occupying damp but open areas. The interest arose partly because their size gave the plants considerable impact, but from my point of view they were attractive for the many insects which visited the umbels for a nectar-fest. They play a similar role to the earlier-flowering Hogweed.

The hoverfly Eristalis pertinax on Wild Angelica
Daventry Country Park.  8 September, 2014
The most obvious visitors were hoverflies, particularly species of Eristalis. The photograph shows Eristalis pertinax, a very common member of the genus, easily recognised by the distribution of yellow on the front legs (not obvious in the picture). Of the nine Eristalis species found in Britain this is the one I see most frequently. The gap between the eyes shows that it is a female.

A reservoir forms the heart of the country park and there were large patches of water-mint beside the water. 

Water-mint. Mentha aquatica.
Daventry Country Park.  8 September, 2014

The flowers of this plant normally attract large numbers of insects and I approached them very optimistically. As it happens there were none of the usual greenbottles, etc so I left, devastated.

I pottered along, paying particular attention to blemishes on leaves. These may be caused by fungi, bacteria or mechanical damage. But what I was on the lookout for was evidence of insects or mites.

In some cases the damage is obvious and very disfiguring. Horse Chestnut leaves showed the characteristic mines of a micro-moth, Cameraria ohridella. So much has been written about this pest that I will dwell on it no further.

Galls formed on alder by the mite, Aceria nalepai.
Daventry Country Park., 8 September, 2014

Less obvious, and rather more interesting, were these galls on Alder, Alnus glutinosa. The distribution along the midrib shows that they are the work of a species of mite, Aceria nalepai. The specific name commemorates the great Austrian acarologist (mite expert) Alfred Nalepa. (Valuable information to bear in mind; acarology questions are always cropping up in pub quizzes).

Alder leaf mined by the fly, Phytomyza agromyzina.
Daventry Country Park.  8 September, 2014

Even more interesting were these wavy lines on dogwood (Cornus sanguinea). Not a moth or a mite, these are the mines of a fly, Phytomyza agromyzina. It is probably fairly common but it is a 'first' for me.

The dogwood shrubs were bearing a good crop of fruit.
Daventry Country Park.  8 September, 2014

Although the mined leaf was disfigured, the shrub seemed otherwise healthy and was bearing a good crop of berry-like fruit (they are technically drupes) and will form valuable bird food as they ripen.

The original name of dogwood was dagwood. Apparently the stems were sharpened to a point and used as cattle prods; 'dagger' comes from the same root-word. 

Many other mines and galls were present, but as these are excruciatingly boring for most people I will not dwell on them. It is clear from this cursory visit that the site has great potential so I am likely to become a regular visitor.

e-mail: diaea@yahoo.co.uk

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