Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Mooching around Daventry

The day didn't get off to the best of starts. I sat in bed idly looking at environmental issues on my tablet when I stumbled upon a 'wildlife quiz' - and found myself stumped by the very first question:
                     What is a lobster? Is it    a. an insect
                                                             b. a fish
                                                             c. a crustation
                                                             d. a mollusc
... and of course there was no correct answer since 'crustations' do not exist.


I have, over the years, often found references to a film called '101 Dalmations' but a 'crustation' was a new one for me. I try to be tolerant because my mathematical ability is almost risible but I'm amazed that a spell check hadn't picked it up.
Anyway, it was Chris's day for spending a couple of hours at the Daventry Air Ambulance shop. I had a few jobs to deal with in town but still ended up with lots of time on my hands so I went for a mooch around some of the less-visited areas adjacent to the town centre. (Mooch, by the way, apparently comes from the Old French mouchier, to hide, but I tried not to look too shifty.)
Where pavements were less trodden little 4-5 mm high 'palm trees' grew. These were the gemma-cups (asexual reproductive organs) of the liverwort, Marchantia polymorpha.
Marchantia polymorpha grew in paving crevices,
Daventry, 18 April, 2017
This is a common plant, particularly in plant nurseries and garden centres, where it can become a real nuisance, and here it flourished particularly around the bus station.
In a quiet spot just off the High Street stands a gnarled old specimen of Box Elder, Acer negundo. From whence comes its common name I know not.
Acer negundo, looking centuries old but perhaps not even a centenarian.
Daventry, 18 April, 2017
Certainly the leaves are vaguely elder-like, but I fail to see any resemblance to a box tree. All I learned from the internet was that there is a town in Colorado called Box Elder! The tree has an alternative name of Ashleaf Maple and perhaps this is the name we should use. The fruits of the tree already look brown and withered, but in fact are young and still ripening. The species, hailing from the eastern parts of central U.S.A., is commonly grown but, unlike this specimen, usually in the form with variegated foliage.
The odd-looking fruits of A. negundo
Although it was sunny it was rather chilly. Fortunately conditions away from the wind were very pleasant and on a leaf a female hoverfly, Syrphus ribes, was basking. This is one of the commonest of the wasp-mimicking hoverflies and frequently visits flowers, making it quite a useful pollinator.
The wasp-like Syrphus ribes enjoys the sun.
Daventry, 18 April, 2017
Bees are, of course, pollinators par excellence, and many were visiting shrubs of the gorse-like Spanish Broom, Genista hispanica. This is an excellent plant forming a mound covered with golden-yellow flowers and I was pleased to see it being grown in a municipal flower-bed.
Genista hispanica, found in Spain, France and Daventry.
18 April, 2017
The flowers have a delicious, spicy perfume and it was surely, this as much as the colour, which was attracting the bees, overwhelmingly Buff-tailed Bumblebees, Bombus terrestris.
A procession of bees was working at the flowers.
A handsome but very common Red-tailed Bumblebee, Bombus lapidarius, made off with her loot, not needing to travel far and quickly coming to ground among some dead leaves.
Bombus lapidarius is thankfully not one of our endangered species.
Daventry. 18 April, 2017
There will be an underground nest nearby containing up to 300 workers. The species seems to have a particular liking for yellow flowers. It is very widespread, unlike the very similar Bombus cullumanus, sadly now presumed extinct.

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