Sunday, 20 September 2015

Autumn is icumen in

Officially the first day of autumn is 23 September, but hints of the changing seasons are all around us.

Chris and I spent a while yesterday with a good friend in Byfield or, to be more precise, in The Twistle. This road may owe it's peculiar name to a sharp twist at it's northern end, a twist which I suspect has existed for centuries, negotiating a long-gone pond, copse or building. A hint of this twist is shown on my old (1st edition Ordnance Survey) map.

Elderberry-stained bird poo. The Twistle, Byfield.
19 September, 2015

The garden is full of colour, but from ripening fruits as much as from flowers, with orange, black and scarlet berries tempting birds to do their bit in the dispersal of seeds. Indeed, they may have gorged elderberries to such an extent that their droppings are stained purple.

Blackberries and Cotoneaster berries create a riot of
colour. The Twistle, Byfield. 19 September, 2015
On the left of the picture, berries of Cotoneaster horizontalis, are close to being ripe. This popular shrub, hailing from China, has twigs which form a herringbone pattern, leading to its popular name of Fishbone Cotoneaster. It has become naturalised in many places. On the right of the picture, are blackberries, soon be gathered. I do eat the berries raw but have to admit that they are often visited by flesh flies, house flies, bluebottles and so on, so a stomach upset is quite possible; they are safer cooked.

The ivy is now in bloom, to be followed by berries which ripen in the darkest days of winter. The flowers are rich in nectar and attract a huge range of insects. A fly is on the panicle of flowers.

Pollenia rudis on ivy blossom. The Twistle, Byfield.
19 September, 2015

A closer look shows the golden hairs on the thorax, indicating that it is a Cluster Fly; the rather wide space between the eyes shows that it is a female. An even closer (microscope) look revealed it to be Pollenia rudis, the most common of these flies around dwellings.

Aquilegia leaves showing the depredations of
Phytomyza minuscula.  Byfield. 19 September, 2015

Flies had been busy elsewhere. The rather delicate mines on this Aquilegia leaf are The work of an Agromyzid fly, Phytomyza minuscula

                            How many insects flit to and fro

                            In an English country garden.

On the lawn a mushroom had popped up. I should have checked the smell for I suspect it was Agaricus arvensis. It should have a faint smell of aniseed when fresh. This species makes excellent eating

Horse Mushroom, The Twistle, Byfield.
19 September, 2015

The underside shows the typical gills of an Agaricus and reinforces my belief that it is indeed A. arvensis. Known as the Horse Mushroom, it is another indication of autumn, being a late-season species.

This female Garden Cross Spider, Araneus diadematus, her abdomen swollen with eggs, will survive until around the first frosts. Her eggs will then be safely deposited, wrapped in a silken cocoon, to emerge next spring. With this task complete and the next generation in place, she will then die.


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