Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Byfield - A galling day

Wednesday, 26 August. Byfield Coffee Club.
Byfield Village Club 26 August, 2015

When Chris and I first moved to Byfield , what is now the Village Club was then The Conservative Club, (invariably just called The Con Club). As someone slightly to the left of Jeremy Corbyn it was not a place I generally frequented but the club, having recently been refurbished, is really quite a pleasant venue.

We went there for coffee today but I, having half an hour to spare, set off for Byfield Pocket Park.

Hornbeam with its tassels of winged fruits.
Byfield. 26 August, 2015

As I approached the park a couple of Hornbeam trees, Carpinus betulus, were bearing their distinctive female catkins with near-ripe nuts. Three types of gall are associated with this species but a close examination failed to reveal any. These trees are not native in the area so perhaps they are generally gall-free. 

Ulmus procera developing a considerable
girth. Byfield. 26 August, 2015

An elm (probably Ulmus procera but I didn't really check) stood nearby. It has quite a stout trunk and, standing at about 25 feet high, is unusually tall for elms in these disease-ridden times, except, of course, for Wych Elm, Ulmus glabra. This latter species is reasonably resistant to Dutch Elm Disease and therefore grows with some vigour, but the former is very susceptible. 

The disease is caused by fungi - types of Ascomycota - with the vector being bark beetles, particularly Scolymus scolymus. The bark on the tree in question has now reached a stage where it becomes vulnerable to attack.

A lacewing, Chrysopa perla, in Byfield Pocket Park.
26 August, 2015

A lacewing, Chrysopa perla, distracted me for a moment. There are about sixteen species of green lacewing found in Britain but C. perla is the most frequently encountered, in this area at least. My real objective however was a fairly large oak tree a little further on. 

As expected, the tree was exhibiting a number of galls.

A scarlet specimen of Andricus quercuscalicis.
Byfield Pocket Park. 26 August, 2015
My attention was immediately caught by a startling red structure. In fact, close examination showed it to be a Knopper Gall, Andricus quercuscalicis. This scarlet form is quite well-known but it was the first time I had encountered it. The more 'normal' form had attacked many acorns on the tree. In fact, what appeared at first glance to be a huge range of different galls virtually all turned out to be the same species.

Andricus quercuscalicis in a more typical shade.
Byfield Pocket Park. 26 August, 2015

Some of the other Knopper Galls had a pinkish flush to them.

Seven-spot ladybirds gather on a nettle leaf.
Byfield Pocket Park. 26 August, 2015

Another flash of scarlet seen beneath a folded leaf turned out to be a trio of Seven-spot Ladybirds, Coccinella 7-punctata

So, on balance a bit of a disappointment, but there was a small consolation on returning to my car; a large moth was clinging to the bodywork

It was clearly one of the Crimson/Red Underwings, but we have, in theory at least, six possibilities in the UK, although some are more or less extinct. So, which one was it? The rear (under) wings were of no help as I only got a quick glimpse of scarlet as it suddenly sped away.

Red Underwing, Catocala nupta, on car bodywork.
Byfield. 26 August, 2015

A careful examination of the patterning in this close-up shows that it was a Red Underwing, Catocala nupta This large insect is probably the commonest of the Catocala species so in a sense it shouldn't have been a surprise, but I was pleased to see it.

So, nothing mouth-watering in the way of specimens or photographs but, quite content, I was able to stroll across the car park and have a pleasant coffee with friends. 

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