Thursday, 22 February 2018

A miserable outing

I can't deny that some of my recent blogs have been, well, boring, inasmuch as I had nothing of great interest to report on. But, as I have said before, this blog is a sort of on-line diary of things that I've done or noted recently and the fact is, life isn't full of 'highs'.
Yesterday I went yet again to Foxhill Farm.
Now the eastern part of Matt's land is intriguing, with steep, gorse-studded hills. The gorse is a blaze of colour even in this frankly miserable weather (which shows no sign of ending) and the patches of apparently quite ancient woodland - they would be called 'hangers' if they were on chalk downs - hold great potential for coming months. However, most insects are lying low - and who can blame them? What is there to emerge for?
However, yesterday - for the sake of fairness - I had a look at the western parts of Foxhill Farm - relatively flat and featureless and currently with everything having a sort of tweedy brown look. I say everything, but here and there greenery was showing (I mentioned the leaves of bluebells in my last blog). The leaves of elder, Sambucus nigra, are unfurling and tender new growths of common nettle, Urtica dioica, are pushing up through leaf litter (I was sharply reminded of this yesterday when I placed my hand directly on to a specimen; my hand still tingled many hours later).

Buds of elder are breaking to reveal fresh new foliage.
Foxhill Farm, Badby. 21 February, 2018
I made my way into a recently planted woodland and sieved through a load of twiggy leaf litter, securing five more 'new' species (two spiders, two beetles and a harvestman) but it was miserable work in the cold wet conditions. One curious feature caught my attention: on the trunk of a young oak tree a cluster of marble galls, the work of Andricus kollari, were in an odd position.
Marble galls were on tiny twigs, giving the impression of caulflorous fruits.
Foxhill Farm, 21 February, 2018
A number of tropical and sub-tropical trees including Cocoa, Theobroma cacao, (theobroma means 'food of the Gods') produce their fruit directly from the trunk. This is known by botanists as cauliflorous growth. What I was seeing was not cauliflory since the 'fruits' were simply galls and yet the resemblance was striking. They helped to add a little interest to an otherwise miserable February afternoon.
So, after about six weeks of steady work the arthropod species list for Foxhill Farm now stands at a mere 45. Oh dear!


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