Sunday, 23 August 2015

Weston Favell Mill

This area forms a rich mosaic of dry grassland, damp meadow land, some woodland (oak in the drier areas and alder/willow in wet areas) together with pools of considerable significance. 

The usual quintet (see 18 August blog) gathered there for a survey. As usual John Showers had made the arrangements but Graham Warnes was the one with local expertise as he does regular surveys there and is a warden for the site.

Rowan leaves bore dark blotches. Weston Favell Mill,
Northampton. 23 August, 2015

The excitement begin as soon as I stepped from the car. A nearby Mountain Ash (Rowan), Sorbus aucuparia, bore blotches on the leaflets and these proved to be the work of Stigmella sorbi. This is one of the micro-moths and rejoices in the name of Barred Rowan Pygmy.

They were the work of the Barred Rowan Pygmy - a micro-
moth. Weston Favell Mill. 23 August, 2015

It is a widespread moth and its blotch mines are a common sight - if anyone cares to look. Although Rowans are closely related to Whitebeams (all are Sorbus species) only Rowans seem to be attacked.

Penny Royal is common on the site.
Weston Favell Mill. 23 August, 2015

And so on to the site itself. The little paddock-type enclosure just inside the gate is well-known for the scarce mint known as Penny Royal, Mentha pulegium. The plant appeared a few years ago and its method of introduction is the subject of some speculation. It is Graham's belief that it was introduced when soil disturbance occurred in connection with building development further downstream. We may never know but Graham's theory is perfectly feasible. With its whorls of lilac-blue flowers it is a distinctive - and fragrant - plant, very popular with a range of insects.

The pinnately compound leaves of
Silverweed. Weston Favell Mill. 23 August, 2015

There were large patches of Silverweed, Potentilla anserina, in the meadow area. (The word 'anserina' means 'of the goose' and the Greylag Goose is Anser anser.) It has an astringent taste and has been used as a tonic (the weed, not the goose). Its yellow flowers were mostly past their best. Though these resemble little buttercups the plant is in fact a member of the Rose family.

In his 'Flora of Northamptonshire' (1930) G. Claridge Druce uses the more or less obsolete word 'viatical' to describe the plant's habitat. By this he meant that it was common on waysides (Latin: viaticus, 'of a road or journey', cf the word 'via'). And of course John Clare got his six penn'orth in:

                          The spreading goose-grass trailing all abroad 
                          Their leaves of silvery-green about the road

                                                          Clare's Rural Muse, 37, 1835

Not, you will note, a reference to goosegrass, aka sticky-weed, Galium mollugo.

Leaves were blemished by a fungus, perhaps Diplocarpon
earlianum. Weston Favell Mill. 23 August, 2015

Some of the leaves were quite badly disfigured and, although I claim no expertise in this area, the likely culprit is the fungus Diplocarpon earlianum (=Marssonina potentillae). This disease also affects the related garden strawberries.

Araneus quadratus has extracted herself
from the old exoskeleton. 23 August, 2015

In a clump of rushes nearby, a spider had adopted an odd pose, with its legs stretched out and all pointing forwards. In fact it had just made its final moult and its old exoskeleton can be seen above. The spider was waiting for its new skeleton to dry and harden before sallying forth. It is a female Araneus quadratus and soon, after mating, it will grow to become one of Britain's largest spiders. Indeed, according to The Guinness Book of Records a gravid female of this species is the heaviest of our British native spiders.

The galls of Diplolepis nervosa are reminiscent of sputniks.
Weston Favell Mill. 23 August, 2015
As the summer has worn on, plant galls have become ever more noticeable and a rose briar bore several 'sputnik' galls on its leaves. This is the work of the Rose Pea Gall, Diplolepis nervosa, a type of wasp.  Perhaps most younger people are unfamiliar with the word sputnik but, launched in 1957, this was the first in a series of satellites put into orbit by the former Soviet Union. It caused a sensation and was a significant propaganda blow to the U.S.A.

Impatiens capensis, a more welcome species of balsam.
Weston Favell Mill. 23 August, 2015
Graham tells me that he has been waging a war against the beautiful but invasive Indian Balsam, Impatiens glandulifera and there were indeed some hefty swathes of the plant. But here and there was another balsam. This was the pretty Orange Balsam, Impatiens capensis. A native of North America it is daintier and far less troublesome plant. These two balsams are annuals but, though they disappear with the frosts of autumn, the Indian Balsam leaves behind huge numbers of seeds, flung by the exploding fruit capsules for up to 35 feet.

And that was probably my last attendance at these meetings for 2015. Chris and I expect to be on the Isle of Wight in September and so I'll miss the survey at Pitsford Water. I've a feeling there'll be plenty to keep me out of mischief anyway.


No comments:

Post a Comment