Monday, 20 July 2015

Cotton End Park, Long Buckby

I quite frequently have cause to drive through Long Buckby and therefore I must have often passed the entrance to Cotton End Park and yet, until today, I was unaware if its existence!

The occasion was another meeting of local dipterists, organised by John Showers, who has the laudable aim of recording flies over as much of Northamptonshire as possible. In joining this group I feel a little fraudulent for, although I (hopefully) will record numerous flies I also intend to keep my eyes open for other organisms such as beetles and particularly bugs. (For the non-entomologist I should explain that a true bug belongs to a group of insects whose mouthparts have been modified to pierce tissues and imbibe the fluids thus made available.) The wind was a bit too blustery for netting insects but it was dry and we coped. Nitor in adversum, as Ovid put it.

           Ed. Are you sure he said that?   
           T.W. Er...I read it somewhere.
           Ed. Well, cut out all this arty-farty nonsense and get on with it for goodness sake!

The same group gathered as met last week at West Hill Farm near Welford, but in addition we were joined by Brian Harding. Brian lives in Oxfordshire and therefore tends mostly to attend those meetings held in the west of the county. 

Meadow covers most of the site but the land falls away to the north to give an interesting wetland area. This has been enhanced by the creation of a number of ponds and, as I intended to visit the wetter parts I prudently donned a pair of wellies. 

I spent the first fifteen minutes strolling around the meadow area. This is studded by patches of thistles and knapweed, many of which were receiving visits from a range of butterflies including Gatekeepers, Meadow Browns and Marbled Whites. The latter species, despite its common name, is not very closely related to other 'whites' and is placed, along with the Gatekeeper, in the Satyridae Family.

The bug, Stenotus binotatus, investigates a thistle.
Cotton End Park.  19 July, 2015

By and large thistles do not receive a good press but I was pleased to see them because, besides the butterflies, they can support a wide range of insects including bugs. Stenotus binotatus was abundant everywhere and the female photographed was typical.

There were several patches of wild carrot.
Cotton End Park. 19 July, 2015

Wild Carrot, Daucus carota, was there too, with the tell-tale dark red spot in the middle of each umbel. Our cultivated garden carrot is derived from this species which originally tended to be a coastal plant but now occurs widely in waste places. Unlike its close relative, hogweed, I found it almost devoid of insect visitors. In his 1930 'Flora of Northamptonshire' George Druce uses the curious and generally obsolete word pascual when describing this plant. Pascual derives from 'pastures' and refers to the habitat. 

The rest of the party had forged ahead, anxious to arrive at the marsh and ponds; I lagged behind but found little to excite me.
It has been a dry year so far! Cotton End Park,
Long Buckby. 19 July, 2015

Once into the wetter area I found that some shallower areas of water had completely dried up. I also found that by wellies had sprung a leak so that, when water was encountered, I quickly became aware of it.

Water Plantain at Cotton End Park.
19 July, 2015

There were patches of open water but it was distinctly eutrophic, as murky as a Catholic priest's conscience and stained in places by algal growth. In places stood plants of Water Plantain, Alisma plantago-aquatica. This is a monocotyledon and thus allied - albeit distantly - to bluebells, palm trees and orchids. But interestingly it shares many features with the Spearwort Buttercup, a dicotyledon and therefore - in theory - quite unrelated. Do we have here a link between 'monocots' and 'dicots'?

Spearwort Buttercup grew at the pond margins.
Cotton End Park. 19 July, 2015

In fact the Spearwort Buttercup, Ranunculus lingua, did occur a few yards away. It is quite a handsome aquatic perennial and is frequently planted so, in view of the fact that these ponds are artificial, it is probably an introduced species.

Apium nodiflorum. A relative of the wild carrot - but
a completely different habitat.  Cotton End Park
19 July, 2015

I took note of only one other plant species. Fool's Water Cress, Apium nodiflorum, formed dense tangled clumps in wet areas. It does not appear to be poisonous but is certainly unpalatable, hence the common name.

With all five of us seeking insects in the area it is conceivable that something out of the ordinary will have been found, but the general consensus was that mostly commonplace insects were noted. The site, like Kentle Wood near Daventry, is a recent creation and not too much can be expected at this stage. I do believe though that the management is very sympathetic and, given time, it will mature to form a valuable series of wildlife habitats.

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