Thursday, 14 July 2016

Woodford Halse Nature Reserve

In previous blogs I have referred to this area as Woodford Halse Pocket Park and, as I have explained, it started out as exactly that. I also explained that, as it occupies areas once occupied by the Great Central Railway, it is linear in form. In fact it is L shaped at the western end, and it was to this area I ventured today.

Although the eastern part of the reserve occupies an old cutting and is therefore constricted as regards width, the western area opens up to form a meadow-like area of great interest botanically and entomologically (and probably several other 'cally' interests too).

The day was set fair as I set out and fortunately it stayed that way. The weather clearly suited butterflies too. There were no rarities or even vaguely uncommon ones but several Marbled Whites, Melanargia galathea, were visiting scabious and other plants. As on other occasions I found that they were not easily 'spooked' so I could approach easily for a photograph.
Marbled White on Scabious, Knautia arvensis. Woodford
Halse Nature Reserve. 14 July, 2016
Lots of rather small moths were flitting around too but I lack the expertise to identify them. However, this distinctive moth in my net is surely Common Drill,  Dichrorampha petiverella. Its food plant is Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, and this was plentiful in the reserve.
The micro-moth Dichrorampha petiverella poses in my net.
Woodford Halse Nature Reserve. 14 July,2016
More plants species revealed themselves than were obvious on my last visit and I was pleased to see that Rest Harrow, Ononis repens, was plentiful. This member of the Pea Family, Fabaceae, almost merits a place in the larger rock garden, especially if the hope is to attract insects. Having said that, the flowers have no nectar but bees visit them to collect pollen.
Rest Harrow, aka Fin-Weed, Ononis repens. Woodford
Halse Nature Reserve. 14 July, 2016

Its curious name refers to the tough roots which will 'arrest' a harrow when tilling the soil. One old Northamptonshire name is Fin Weed and John Clare was familiar with it:

                                         Where the blushing Fin-weeds flower,
                                         Closes up at even's hour.

                                                                          John Clare's Solitude

In the same family, but quite different in appearance, is Ribbed Melilot, Melilotus officinalis. A few clumps of this were present among the clover plants (also in the Pea Family) looking very natural. It often surprises naturalists when they learn that this plant was unknown in Britain before 1899 but has since become very widespread, perhaps because its seeds are often a component of bird seed mixes.
Ribbed Melilot at Woodford Halse Nature Reserve.
14 July, 2016

Most of us are familiar with the scent of new-mown hay, especially when Sweet Vernal Grass,
Anthoxanthum odoratum is present. The fragrant odour is due to the presence of coumarin and it is noticeable that when Ribbed Melilot is handled, the same chemical is released, resulting in the plant having the alternative common name of Yellow Sweet Clover.

A patch of Perfoliate St Joh's Wort caught my attention, although this is, by some margin, the commonest member of this genus in Northamptonshire. It has probably always been common in the county as it was recorded on Northampton town walls by John Ray on 8 May, 1622!

Perforate St John's Wort at Woodford hales Nature Reserve.
14 July, 2016
'It is highly esteemed in affections of the urinary passages' Potter's Cyclopaedia, 1923

And that, dear reader, is about it, although I did pause to photograph a plant of Germander Speedwell, Veronica chamaedrys.

Its flower bud (pouch) was swollen, broad and hairy as a result of galling by the fly Jaapiella veronicae. I would like to report that this was an unusual and exciting find but in fact this galling is very widespread and I rarely find a patch of this plant that is free from this attack but, as far as I can see, it does little harm to the victim.
Flower bud of Germander Speedwell galled by the fly,
Jaapiella veronicae. Woodford Halse Nature Reserve.
14 July, 2016

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