Thursday, 25 September 2014

Old haunts: Byfield Pocket Park

Chris and I regularly revisit Byfield for one thing and the other and I grabbed the chance today for a stroll around the pocket park. It was cool, grey and breezy but I felt optimistic. But first I popped into Lynda Moran's to return some garden tools.

I was intrigued by her plants of "Nasturtium" - Tropaeoleum majus. This native of Peru is familiar to everyone as a colourful and easy-going annual.
Tropaeolum majus. Byfield. 24 September, 2014

The name Nasturtium is confusing, as it was originally applied to the water-cress now known as Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum, but the name, though incorrect, has stuck.

We are used to seeing the leaves of Tropaeolum being eaten by the Caterpillars of the Large White Butterfly, Pieris brassicae but I was surprised to see leaf mines on Lynda's plants.

I can't be certain but I am reasonably sure that the mines are the work of an agromyzid fly, Chromatomyia horticola. 

This Tropaeolum has never excited me although in the form of its flowers it is unusual. It is also useful for scrambling over unsightly drain covers, etc., but a far more attractive member of the genus imo is a climber, Tropaeolum speciosum, sometimes called the Scottish Flame Flower. It is also from the Andes and the cool damp climate of western Scotland, with its acid soils, seems to suit it but, not being able to emulate these conditions, I have never attempted to grow it.

Having returned the tools I continued to the pocket park. Summer was segueing effortlessly into autumn with leaves taking on shades of russet and gold.

Aster lanceolatus at Byfield Pocket Park.
24 September, 2014

On cue, Michaelmas Daisies, Aster lanceolatus, were in flower (Michaelmas Day is 29 September). This is a rather weedy, untidy plant and its flowers are little bigger than lawn daisies but they have the merit of providing valuable nectar for insects late in the year. It is a North American species but has become widely naturalised on waste ground

Although foliage was colouring most leaves were clinging on. I carefully examined them for galls and leaf mines but initially had little to show for my efforts.

Neuroterus albipes on oak at Byfield Pocket Park
Northants. 24 September, 2014

It was not until I examined a Pedunculate Oak, Quercus robur, that I came up with an interesting gall. It was the work of a cynpid wasp, Neuroterus albipes. It is a common species but nevertheless a new record for the pocket park and must rate as one of the more colourful of this group of galls.

Flowers were still wet from overnight rain and were therefore attracting few insects. but many were to be seen on foliage and gateposts.

Helophilus pendulus basking on a leaf.
Byfield Pocket Park, 24 September, 2014

Helophilus pendulus, a smart hoverfly and one the commonest of this colourful genus was on foliage. This female may manage to overwinter but even if she dies her offspring will survive as rat-tailed maggots in the still water of ponds or ditches.

A cicadellid bug, Allygus mixtus. on a gate post at
Byfield Pocket Park.  24 September, 2014

This undistinguished bug (for it is a true bug) was on a gate post near to the base of the aforementioned oak. It is Allygus mixtus, a species often found on oak trees. For obvious reasons little bugs like this are easily overlooked so, although it is common, it was another new species for the site, bringing to total of mini-beasts up to 538. 

...and that was about it. I had to get back to Daventry so, although ivy was in bloom and beginning to attract insects, I called it a day.

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