Monday, 21 August 2017

An evening stroll

Today, Monday, 21 August, has been a frustrating day. The BBC weather forecast had suggested that we would enjoy warm conditions with a dash of sunshine thrown in. Well, we got the former but not the latter and it was a very damp, dull and muggy sort of day. It remained that way until well into the evening but, feeling the need to stretch my legs, I took a stroll. But only locally.
Muggy or not, the Eryngium bourgatii in our front garden was attracting many greenbottle flies. A surprisingly large number of greenbottle-like species occur locally - and indeed around most suburban areas. I left them to get on with their nectaring and strolled on. They had almost certainly all been recorded before - several times over.
Greenbottles attend the inflorescences of an Eryngium in our garden.
21 August, 2017
I made for a strip of well-wooded ground separating Christchurch Drive and the A45. The latter is an extremely busy stretch of road and so the trees fulfil the very important function of cutting out most of the noise; life would be miserable for the local residents without it. The commonest trees are ash and field maple, with a few other species thrown in. I was pleased to see that there are plenty of seedlings present.
Seedlings of ash (left) and oak (right) were flourishing.
Christchurch Drive, Daventry. 21 August, 2017
Beneath the trees are logs and old pieces of wooden fencing in a state of semi-decay. It is always worth turning some over and today a Devil's Coach Horse, Staphylinus olens, was present although it scuttled away before I could photograph it. This is one of the rove beetles, of which there are over a thousand species in the U.K. alone. I record only a few of the more distinctive species, but the Devil's Coach Horse is easily the largest common species and its shape and matt-black coloration make it unmistakeable.
Also present were many specimens of the Yellow Slug, Limacus flavus, together with its strings of eggs. This is an extremely common species even in built-up neighbourhoods.

Beneath the gloom of the trees a plank of wood concealed Yellow Slugs.
A string of eggs is to their left.
Replacing the timber I continued to where the trees thinned out to be replaced by grassy sward. The area was made colourful by hundreds of Ragwort plants. John Clare appreciated their beauty, even though he was surely aware of farmers' attitude towards it: 
                                      Ragwort thou humble plant with tattered leaves
                                      I love to see thee come and litter gold...

It is, of course, those 'tattered leaves' that have given Ragwort its name. Lovely though it is, some of its vernacular names relate to its poisonous properties: Mare's Fart, Staggerwort and Stinking Willie are but three of a host of names recorded. As for its Latin name, this has recently changed from Senecio jacobaea to Jacobaea vulgaris. Ragwort causes irreparable liver damage to horses and cattle but is generally avoided by stock. Nevertheless the Ragwort Control Act 2003 was introduced to try and suppress it.

Ragwort has flowers of brilliant gold and here is flowering beside the A45.
Daventry, 21 August, 2017

Entomologists certainly appreciate it as it attracts a large range of insects and this evening I spent some time checking the flower heads. Many hoverflies of at least four species were present including this female Drone Fly, Eristalis tenax.

The Drone Fly is one of the larger of our native hoverflies.
Daventry, 21 August, 2017 
Be that as it may, my evening stroll failed to come up with anything remarkable and I must hope that there are surprises in my pot of specimens to be examined later.

Postscript  I found that I had secured a specimen of the small brown lacewing,
Sympherobius pygmaeus; it may be the first record of this species from Northants.


No comments:

Post a Comment