Thursday, 5 February 2015

A bleak Byfield Pocket Park

Finding myself in Byfield again, with time on my hands, I grabbed the chance to visit the village pocket park. 

Rarely do I stroll around the site without coming away having seen something worth commenting on; something to make me think...

Byfield Pocket Park,  4 February, 2015

But today was bleak. A bright morning sun was only making marginal inroads into the lingering snow beside the main track. Some green was provided by ivy clambering up trees and scrambling over shrubs but nature's palette was dominated by greys and browns.

There was also plenty of Bramble, Rubus fruticosus.  This, like the ivy, is a nuisance in many respects. Both ivy and brambles are important sources of food for many creatures but they crowd out or smother so many other plants that they are a problem for land management. Incidentally although the fruit of brambles are of importance the specific word 'fruticosus' has nothing to do with fruit; 'fruticose' means shrubby in habit, i.e. with upright, woody branches.

Stigmella splendidissimella on Bramble.
Byfield Pocket Park. 4 February, 2015
The leaves of brambles are ternate, i.e each leaf is a compound structure of three leaflets (My word, I'm getting insufferably technical today). The reason I mention this is because today I spotted one of these ternate leaves with all three leaflets mined by the tiny Glossy Bramble Pigmy moth, Stigmella splendidissimella. In fact, there are probably six mines to be seen (plus a bit of white feather). It is a very common insect but this was rather over-doing it.

The sticky buds of Horse Chestnut. Byfield Pocket  Park,
4 February, 2015

And really that's about it. The buds of Horse Chestnut, Aesculus hippocastanum, were glistening with their coating of stickiness. This is a fatal trap for any insect that might attempt to bore into the nutritious heart of the bud. As children we would bring home a handful of the twigs which were placed into water for the buds to slowly unfold and display the lovely emerald green of the new leaves. Does anyone do that now?

So, it was an uneventful visit. As I say, conditions were bleak and, although we tend to regard Christmas-time as midwinter, there is usually some residual warmth in the soil. For wildlife the really tough time will be the next few weeks until spring blossoms appear and the soil begins to warm.

But I heard chaffinches giving voice to spring songs today. Hooray!

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