Monday, 22 January 2018

More Matt Mosering

With twenty-one species recorded from Matt Moser's land I'm not sure whether to be pleased or disappointed. It seems a meagre total and yet I remind myself that it is still January and the list includes only one fly - the Holly Leaf Miner, Phytomyza ilicis. To be honest I didn't find the insect but just its very characteristic leaf-mine; very few insects can make use of holly foliage. (I must remember to check for Holly Parachute Marasmius hudsonii, a tiny mushroom sometimes found growing on dead holly leaves on the ground.) 

The distinctive blotch-mine of Phytomyza ilicis on holly.
Between Daventry and Newnham. 22 January, 2017

There is a little holly in Matt's hedges and that is interesting for, as I have probably mentioned before, G. Claridge Druce, writing in 1930 (Ref 1) wrote of this species: I know of no native station in Northants. Significantly John Clare, as far as I am aware, makes no mention of holly - and he didn't miss much.
Matt has considerable numbers of sheep, and unfortunately sheep and wildlife make, at best, an uneasy mix. Horses and cattle will consume coarse herbs and thus create light and space for less robust plants. But sheep will come along and eat these more delicate species.

Matt farms large numbers of sheep. They are now untroubled
by my visits
Today I made a bee-line for the Douglas Firs, a clump of which stands in the corner of one field. It has, I feel, considerable potential for invertebrates so another visit seemed justified. An owl pellet lay on a fallen log and I was tempted to gather it for dissection at home.
An owl pellet on an old log beneath Douglas Fir. Matt Moser's  farm.
22 January, 2018
This regurgitated material will contain skulls and teeth of mice, voles and so on but I lack the expertise to deal with it. I might be able to deal with some beetle remains that the pellet would contain but...
One spider I was hoping to record was Malthonica silvestris, aka Tegenaria silvestris. This is a woodland-dwelling spider related to the big House Spiders we often see dashing across our living room on a September evening. M. silvestris is widespread in the south and west of Britain but begins to thin out towards Northants and Leicestershire, so I was pleased to secure a female.
A bright orange-red, very slim centipede proved to be Strigamia acuminata. I had to blow dust from my copy of Eason's book (Ref 2) as Myriapods aren't really my thing, but the identification proved to be straightforward and positive.
I popped the centipede into a collecting pot and was puzzled to see more bright orange-red markings on the outside of the pot. Did this species of centipede release a bright red haemolymph like the Bloody-nosed Beetle, Timarcha tenebicosa? Stupid idea, and as I looked around there was blood on my kneeling-pad and my sweep-net - my blood! That's the trouble with taking blood-thinning tablets; just a slight nick - and that's all it was - and there's scarlet everywhere! Anyway, I'd done enough and I set off home. Bloody but unbowed! 

Incidentally, the result of all this blood-letting was the addition of five more species (1 woodlouse, I centipede, 1 millipede and two beetles) bringing the total to 26.


1. Druce, G.C. (1930) The Flora of Northamptonshire T. Buncle & Co, Arbroath
2. Eason, E.H. (1964) Centipedes of the British Isles. Frederick Warne, London

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