Thursday, 28 May 2015

Byfield - the Pocket Park revisited

It is now about ten months since Chris and I left Byfield, but we still seem to get there two or three times a week. Today it was Coffee Club, but before settling down to a coffee, biscuit and chinwag I had time to take a stroll around the pocket park.

There are at least four approaches to the site and I chose to enter from the cricket pavilion area.
The approach to the pocket park.
27 May, 2015

A foaming mass of Cow Parsley ('Keck') billowed on either side of the track. Individually the tiny flowers have no discernable scent but en masse they have a pleasant and distinctive fragrance, evoking childhood memories. As kids we would wander beside the plants and choose a suitable hollow stem to make a peashooter. It was possible to make a sort of musical instrument with them too. My aspirations didn't reach that high, but John Clare's clearly did...

              And keck made bugles spout their twanging sounds
              Though trumpet kecks are passed unheeded by,
              Whose hollow stalks inspired such eager joy.

                                                                    Shepherd's Calendar, 1827

Vicia sepium. Byfield Pocket Park.
27 May, 2015

The tall and robust keck lent support to Bush Vetch, Vicia sepium. Only tiny flies were visiting the keck but bumble bees were busy at the vetch. Sepia is cuttlefish ink and sepium is its bone, often placed in budgerigar cages. Unsurprisingly, in my youth, I failed to see the connection between a cuttlefish and this vetch, but of course I was way off beam (a common situation in my younger days) for in the context of Bush Vetch - and several other plants - the specific name comes from the Latin sepes: a hedge. Most vetches have weak stems and cling to more robust plants using tendrils, and find hedgerows a congenial habitat.
A Rowan, Sorbus aucuparia, remembers John Caldwell.
Byfield Pocket Park.  27 May, 2015

A few month ago an old friend, John Caldwell, passed away. Chris and I decided to plant a tree in his memory and chose a rowan. One reason for visiting the pocket park was to check on the tree's condition and I was delighted to find that it was doing very well and in full flower. Although a few rowan saplings have been planted this is, as far as I am aware, the only one mature enough to bear blossom and it is a fine sight.
Cassida rubiginosa on thistle in Byfield Pocket park.
27 May, 2015

Almost beneath the tree, on a thistle, sat a green beetle. I counted myself fortunate to have spotted it for at a distance it looked no more than a green, rounded blister on the leaf. It was a Thistle Tortoise beetle, Cassida rubiginosa, a widespread species the presence of which was no great surprise. It is one of several similar beetles which must be distinguished with care.

Dryophilocoris flavoquadrimaculatus in Byfield
Pocket Park. 27 May, 2015
I saw no other beetles but a beetle-like bug was noted on a stinging nettle leaf. I had to lean across a bed of the nettles for a picture and my photograph is not as crisp as I would have liked - but I wasn't prepared to get any closer! It is - wait for it - Dryophilocoris flavoquadrimaculatus. Phew! It is one of the mirid bugs, a large and challenging family which daunted me a little when I first began investigating them. Fortunately this species is easily recognised and is common, usually on oak.

Stinging nettles are the food plant of the Small Tortoiseshell 
butterfly.Byfield Pocket Park. 27 May, 2015
I was pleased also to find on the nettles some caterpillars of the Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly, Aglais urticae. Ok, its a very common species but so many butterflies are having a bad time that it is good to be reminded that some are flourishing. Incidentally there is a Large Tortoiseshell and it was widespread in Britain during Victorian times. It is still found on the continent but is considered extinct in Britain.

This, plus a weevil, Perapion violaceum on a dock leaf, and a leaf beetle, Altica palustris, pushed the total of invertebrates recorded in the pocket park up to 542 species.

Two-spot Ladybird larva.
Byfield Pocket park. 27 May, 2015
Speaking of oak, this creature was on an oak leaf nearby.  It is, of course, the larva of a ladybird, in this case a Two-spot Ladybird, Adalia bipunctata. (Later in the day, at a meeting of the Boddington Garden Club, I showed this picture to some of the members. None knew what it was and they were surprised when I told them. Surely gardeners ought to know these things.)

Beneath the oak was a lovely spread of Red Campion, Silene dioica. This species is enjoying a very good year it seems, and is flourishing along roadsides and in woodland clearings.

Red Campion, Silene dioica, in Byfield Pocket Park.
27 May, 2015

I spent some time examining the plants. It is the food-plant of a couple of bug species, Dicyphus globulifer and D. constrictus, but I was out of luck.

Esperia sulphurella in Byfield  Pocket
Park. 27 May, 2015

Finally, leaving the pocket park, this moth, Esperia sulphurella, was resting on the wall of the cricket pavilion. It has the odd 'common' name of Sulphur Tubic; what it means I have no idea. Its caterpillars feed on the fungus, Daldinia concentrica.

So, not a very long visit, but  a very worthwhile one. Now, coffee...

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