Wednesday, 5 August 2015

To the Windmill

Arguably Virginia Woolf's most famous work is 'To the Lighthouse'. We're a bit short of lighthouses around Daventry so I had to make do with the Newnham Windmill.

Although I set out in cool and cloudy weather with a blustery wind I was tempted to peel off a layer ere I had walked half a mile. I had decided to walk there and back on the grounds that I needed the exercise but it is a tricky area for car parking anyway, so 'twas as well I took Shanks's pony.

Newnham Windmill. 2 February, 2015

I had been to the windmill before of course - probably on four or five occasions - but this was my first summer visit so I kitted myself out to record some interesting wildlife (correction, wildlife that I find interesting).

The tiny galls of the mite, Aceria campestricola on elm.
Western Avenue, Daventry.  5 August, 2015

Elm lingers on alongside Western Avenue and, looking for an excuse to draw breath, I bent to examine the leaves. It was no surprise to find that most bore the small pimple-like galls of Aceria campestricola. Rarely do I find an elm unblemished by these structures, the work of a mite. 

The glory days of elms, Ulmus species, may have passed but they still harbour a wide variety of organisms, even though trees tall enough for a rookery are virtually unknown.

                     The rook a noisy quest,
                     That on the wind-rocked Elms prepares a nest.

                                                     Clare's Shepherd's Calendar, 1827

Moving on... I had reached the hill by 10.30 but before the final ascent (I make it sound like Everest!) there was time to record insects around the small pond, now virtually dry, at the foot.

Clumps of reed-mace mark the site of a 'pond' near Newnham Windmill
5 August, 2015

Had a significant body of water been present there might have been great numbers of insects around but I was able to record relatively few.

I braced myself: 'Onwards and upwards my son', as Del Boy would have said. At 201 metres the hill isn't really high at all, but the surrounding slopes are, in places, very steep.

Common Rustic moth beaten from Scots Pine
Newnham Windmill. 5 August, 2015
Pines are rather uncommon in this area so I took the chance to sweep some convenient overhanging branches, only to find an oddly asymmetric moth in my net. It was a Common Rustic, Mesapamea secalis, and the damaged right wings were probably the consequence of a rather unsuccessful pupation. Strictly speaking this could be a Lesser Common Rustic, M. didymaand the species are only separable on differences in genitalia. But the Common Rustic is, as you might expect, the commoner.
Hoary Plantain. London Road, Daventry.
5 August, 2015

Despite keeping my camera handy I saw little to quicken the pulse until I set off home. On a grassy verge grew Hoary Plantain, Plantago media. It is the most attractive of our native plantains and it some nurserymen keep it in their catalogues, presumably because there is some demand for it as a garden plant.

There is a hint of pink about the flower heads and I would certainly be happy for it to be in my lawn - if I had a lawn! Clearly insects appreciate it too, with the picture showing a hoverfly calling in for refreshments.

The Plantain Family, Plantaginaceae, was - until about twenty years ago - a relatively minor family, but research has demonstrated that the plantains are closely related to foxgloves, snapdragons, penstemons, hebes, veronicas and many other species, all of which have been transferred to the Plantain Family, thus making it very important indeed.

On the same grassy verge grew yarrow, Achillea millefolium. Legend has it that this was the herb applied to Achilles' injured heel at the Battle of Troy. It clearly didn't work and he popped his clogs.

One of the tachinid flies, Eriothrix maculata, on yarrow.
London Road, Daventry. 5 August, 2015

A fly, Eriothrix maculata, was paying the yarrow a visit, ts rusty-red sides to the abdomen making it easily identifiable. There are other species with reddish sides but the form of the wing veins and one or two other features make it easy to identify.

My stomach was reminding be that lunch was nigh so, tearing myself away from some rather interesting roses, I called it a day and made for home.

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