Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Byfield Pocket Park

The concept of Pocket Parks seems to have originated in Northamptonshire. A piece of unused or otherwise waste land is brought under control and managed, primarily - as I see it - as a refuge for otherwise beleaguered wildlife. 
Byfield's pocket park occupies the site of the village's former railway station and, although some parts of it currently offer little in the way of wildlife habitat, it supports a wide range of species. I had recorded in excess of five hundred species but then, in the process of upgrading my computer, one file was lost. Fortunately the plant list has survived and stands at 125 species, but this list includes ornamental plantings. Undaunted I have started the invertebrate animals again and today I made another visit to do a spot of recording.
Even before I reached the pocket park I paused for a short time to photograph a troop of Honey Fungus, Armillaria mellea. Not only is this very variable species but there are other closely related species so I'm hoping I've got this right. It will be growing on the base of a hidden tree bole but and I was not able to establish what the tree might have been.
Honey Fungus beside a footpath near The Green, Byfield.
23 August, 2017

Anyway, onwards and upwards. Once at the pocket park I made a point of visiting a large oak in a central position. Oaks support an enormous number of insects and other arthropods and always repay close attention. As expected a large number of galls were to be seen. As a child I always found that Oak Marble Galls were the most common. They are the work of a tiny wasp, Andricus kollari, and a close examination of the photograph shows the entrance hole from which the fully-grown wasp emerges.
The Oak Marble Gall is extremely common.
 Byfield Pocket Park. 23 August, 2017
Nowadays, commoner by far, are Knopper Galls formed on the acorns; here the wasp responsible is Andricus quercuscalicis. In some years a tree may hardly have a single acorn undamaged.
The Knopper Gall is ever more common.
Byfield Pocket Park. 23 August, 2017
At this time of the year a close examination of many plants will reveal galls and hawthorn is a case in point. The leaf edges here have been attacked by a mite, Phyllocoptes goniothorax, and although it is a new record for the pocket park it is a very widespread species.
Hawthorn leaves galled by Phyllocoptes goniothorax.
Byfield Pocket Park. 23 August, 2017
The other group of creatures to become obvious at this time of the year are the leaf miners. This very distinctive mine on a beech leaf is the work of  the Small Beech Pigmy Moth, Stigmella tityrella and over the next few weeks I hope to find many other related species.

The larva of the Small Beech Pigmy Moth creates a very distinctive mine.
Byfield Pocket Park. 23 August, 2017
The list of invertebrates has grown and now tops 150 species. But that means there's still an awfully long way to go.

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