Friday, 17 April 2015

Back to Byfield Pocket Park

After experiencing a riot of flowers around the Portuguese town of Tavira it was back to familiar ground with a visit to the pocket park at Byfield. I wasn't expecting dramatic findings, nor were there, but it was oddly reassuring to find that the year was unfolding here in a gentle manner.

Ground Ivy was in full bloom 15 April, 2015

Ground Ivy, Glechoma hederacea, was blooming freely. Like all members of the Mint family, its flowers are rich in nectar and were attracting visits from bumble bees. 

White Dead-nettle, Lamium album, was also in flower and, as another member of the Mint family, it too was receiving attention from bees. 

A Pied Shieldbug on a brick.  Byfield Pocket Park.
22 April, 2015
But White Dead-nettle is also the food plant of the Pied Shieldbug, Tritomegas bicolor, and many of these were scurrying around. They are almost frantically active, making photography tricky, but I had a go. The picture was dreadful so a few days later I revisited revisited the pocket park and this time an obliging specimen posed on a broken brick.

At about this time of the year I am often asked about 'bees with very long noses' seen visiting garden flowers. Invariably the insect in question is the Common Bee-fly. Bombylius major. With its furry brown coat it is undeniably bee-like and imbibes nectar in a similar manner via a very long proboscis. There are four species of Bombylius in Britain; all are parasites (in the larval stage) of solitary bees.

Bombylius major takes a break from its almost incessant
hovering. Byfield Pocket Park. 15 April, 2015

Bombylius major can be readily recognised by the dark patterning on the leading edge of the wing. It was very common on the day of my visit. In this picture it is quite clear that the fly has only two wings. Bees and wasps have four wings although it is not always obvious.

Small Tortoiseshell. Byfield Pocket Park.
15 April, 2015

A few butterflies were around, also taking advantage of the plentiful nectar sources. This Small Tortoiseshell only paused briefly before flitting off for refuelling.

A Peacock butterfly looking the worse for wear.
Byfield Pocket Park. 15 April, 2015

A rather tatty Peacock, Inachis io, also called in. Have its rear wings been victim to a bird strike?

Stigmatogaster subterranea is probably the most
familiar of the geophilid centipedes. Byfield Pocket Park
15 April, 2015
I turned over a few stones, hoping to reveal a ground beetle or two, but only found a centipede. We are all familiar with the glossy chestnut centipedes which - in my case - always seem to be under flower pots. Species like this Stigmatogaster subterranea are very sinuous creatures and seem able to move freely in the soil using crevices between soil crumbs. They are frequently exposed by gardeners while digging.

None of the species seen today represented a new record for the Pocket Park. Having to date recorded 538 species of 'mini-beasts' from the site they are inevitably becoming harder to find. But I live in hope.

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