Monday, 6 March 2017

Spring arrives with a rush

So, has spring arrived yet? In one sense no, for astronomical spring begins on 20 March. However, meteorological spring has already begun, having started on March 1st. Whatever, March has so far been anything but spring-like, with rain lashing down and precious little sun - until today when,
although not particularly warm, the wind has been light and as I walked into Daventry and back I was bathed in sunshine all the way.
Flowers have been quick to respond, turning their faces to the sun and flirting with insects. The blue anemone, Anemone blanda, was flowering, but as usual my camera has failed to do justice to its brilliant blue tepals*. This native of south-east Europe and Turkey is very popular and occasionally becomes more or less naturalised. I say 'more or less' because colonies apparently do not usually persist.
Anemone blanda beside a war memorial in Daventry's town centre.
6 March, 2017
A very similar species, Anemone apennina, is less commonly cultivated yet appears to be been more frequently naturalised.
Daventry is well endowed with open spaces and in many of these areas crocuses have been liberally planted.
Hundreds of crocuses on open ground along The Inlands, Daventry.
6 March, 2017
One such area is alongside 'The Inlands' where drifts of Crocus, I suspect Crocus albiflorus, make a fine sight. Honey bees were busy at the flowers today, gathering both pollen and nectar. It is not unusual for the casual gardener to confuse honey bees with hoverflies, and even the BBC frequently gets it wrong. It is an easy mistake to make as some hoverflies are mimics of honey bees (and bumble bees too), and although there are major differences - hoverflies have two wings but all bees have four - if an insect is moving quickly then inexperience can lead a person into error.
A honey bee delves into a crocus flower. The Inlands, Daventry.
6 March, 2017
There were indeed hoverflies on the wing today, visiting the blossom of  Cherry Plum, Prunus cerasifera, hedging.
Hoverflies were frequent on Prunus hedging. Daventry, 6 March, 2017
The most frequent appeared to be Eristalis tenax, known as the Drone Fly. This is one of our largest Eristalis species and careful examination shows stripes across the compound eyes caused by lines of hairs. Both the hoverflies in the photographs are females; males would have the eyes meeting in the middle - an arrangement known as holoptic.
A female Eristalis tenax was quick to exploit the blossom. Daventry,
6 March, 2017

Other species were probably present and it is high time that I blew the dust off my collecting equipment and investigated a little further.

* Where sepals are coloured and have taken over some of the functions of petals, the term 'tepal' is frequently used. However, botanists often prefer to play safe, referring to them as 'perianth segments'.

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