Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Christchurch Drive, Daventry.

Daventry's Christchurch Drive is quite a busy thoroughfare but the numbers of vehicles using it are as nothing to the A45  running almost parallel to it. So busy is this, forming part of a Daventry bypass, that a belt of trees has been planted to separate the two and muffle the incessant noise from Stefen Way, as the A45 is called at this point.
A belt of trees on the south side of Christchurch Drive, Daventry,
help to drown the sound of traffic on the nearby A45. 24 May, 2017
The trees used to create this vital barrier are overwhelmingly Field Maple, Acer campestre, but ash, oak, sycamore, cherry and beech leaven the mix, with all except the last-named regenerating as saplings.
Between the trees it is surprisingly countrified. 24 May, 2017
Children and dog-walkers have created tracks running through the trees, eventually breaking from the shade into the sunlight of a meadow-like hillside, studded with buttercups, daisies and the like. They are really rather pleasant surroundings  - and all within three minutes walk from our house.
There is even a stretch of grassland.
Today I made a visit to the area but confined myself to the trees and seeking woodland insects with, I must confess, only limited success. On a sunny patch of disturbed ground at the woodland edge grew Fat Hen, Chenopodium album, bearing a leaf mine almost certainly the work of the micro-moth, Chrysoesthia sexgutella. Known as the Six-spot Neb, it is quite common on waste ground where the food plant occurs but so rarely gets a mention that I felt morally obliged to get it in my blog.
The mine of the Six-spot Neb on Fat Hen. Christchurch Road, Daventry.
23 May, 2017
Nearby, on a dock plant, a rather similar leaf mine was present, but despite the superficial resemblance it is not the work of a moth but of a fly. Pegomya solennis is a very common member of the Anthomyiidae,  the Root-maggot flies. Despite this family's common name the maggots - larvae - are obviously not confined to roots.
Pegomyia solennis can create huge blister-like mines on dock leaves.
Christchurch Road, Daventry. 23 May, 2017
Leaves of a sycamore bore the scarlet pustules caused by a very common mite, Aceria cephalonea. Several broadly similar galls may be found and a good guide is needed to steer the enthusiast through this cecidological minefield.
A rash of pustules created by the mite, Aceria cephalonea. It tends to be
confined to sycamores. Christchurch Road, Daventry. 23 May, 2017
Being still early in the season the leaves of oak were largely free of blemishes but another three months on and the story will be quite different. However a micro moth, Dyseriocrania subpurpurella, had been at work. As indicated by its name of Common Oak Purple, it is very widespread and so its presence came as no surprise
Larvae of the Common Oak Purple moth create blister-shaped mines on
oak leaves. Christchurch Road, Daventry. 23 May, 2017
This is all very well (and boring to most of the public) but where are the flowers and what of adult insects? Where are the butterflies, iridescent wasps and beautiful beetles? Well, a very shy Speckled Wood was present, keeping its wings as tight together as a nun's...(Ed. Enough of that! We don't want any smut around here.)
A rather coy Speckled Wood, loth to spread its wings.
Christchurch Road, Daaventry. 23 May, 2017
As I was saying, as tight together as a nun's hands at prayer. Anyway, it partially spread its wings for a moment and I had to be content. A carabid beetle sat nicely on a leaf, albeit at quite a distance, making photography difficult. Carabids are generally referred to as Ground Beetles and we do find most of them on the ground, often beneath stones, logs or leaf litter. This specimen of Amara ovata, with a slightly brassy reflection, clearly fancied itself as Icarus and I stood on tiptoe, almost overbalancing, as I reached for a photograph. Perhaps I shouldn't have bothered!

Amara ovata is a very common ground beetle. Christchurch Road,
Daventry. 23 May, 2017
The Empididae, known as Dagger Flies, include some rare and interesting species. Empis tessellata, may be interesting but rare it is not, so to see one today was not a mind-blowing experience, and yet some extremely common flies really ought to be given more credit for their aesthetic qualities.
My camera failed to do justice to the brilliance of this Neomyia cornicina.
Christchurch Road, Daventry. 23 May, 2017
Neomyia cornicina has something in common with a Blue Tit: both are extremely common and rather lovely creatures, yet both are taken for granted and to some extent undervalued. It is true that the former feeds on excrement and corpses but then again, some otherwise likeable humans read the Daily Mail. When freshly emerged from its pupa this fly is of a brilliant iridescent blue-green but tend to become more bronze coloured as it ages. It has several relatives of a broadly similar appearance.
The sun was brilliant today and conditions good for observing wildlife and, although the species seen were all commonplace I was well-pleased with what I saw - and I still have a potful of specimens to put under the microscope.

And all this within a coke-can's throw of a lorry window!

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