Monday, 14 May 2018

4213 and 2997 - with postscript

Today's forecast promised sunshine and warmth. That sounded like a good excuse to visit Foxhill Farm again but today, instead of visiting the steep slopes of Beggar's Bank I decided to have a look at some of the lower pastures and I spent the morning in fields 4213 and 2997. These are wet in places and have not been grazed for the best part of a month, consequently many plants are on flower including buttercups and lady's smock. Orange-tip butterflies, for whose caterpillars the Lady's Smock is a food-plant, were flitting about.
Both fields contain a great deal of Yellow Rattle, Rhinanthus minor.

Yellow Rattle was once placed in the Figwort Family but is now in the
 the Broomrape Family, Orobanchaceae. Foxhill Farm, 14 May, 2018
In nature reserves this plant is an excellent component of meadowland as, being a partial parasite on grasses the coarser ones, which could overwhelm more delicate species, are weakened and suppressed. From the point of view of a pastoral farmer strongly-growing grasses are probably a bonus and yet Matt Moser, the landowner, seems happy to have Yellow Rattle on his land. (I even have a sneaky suspicion that Matt, being a wildlife lover, sowed the seeds deliberately.)
The hedgerows forming the field boundaries were mostly hawthorn, with a little blackthorn. Sone elm was present too and, almost predictably, many of the leaves bore tiny galls caused by a mite, Aceria campestricola.

Elm leaves galled by the mite, Aceria campestricola.
Foxhill Farm, 14 May, 2018
Several quite large trees are present here and there, breaking up the regular lines of the hedgerows. Oak, sycamore, field maple and ash will all be worth checking over the next four months for galls and already some are appearing. On Field Maple, Acer campestre, the galls of another mite, Aceria macrochela, were present as small red pimples in the angles of the leaf veins. They appear to do little harm.
Aceria macrochela is a common gall-inducing mite of Field Maple.
Foxhill Farm, Badby. 14 May, 2018
Cecidology, the study of galls, is of considerable interest and importance because, although galls generally go unnoticed they can occasionally be damaging to crops or the horticultural trade.
In a corner of field 2997 is a small pond, fenced and inaccessible to livestock. I took a number of insects in the area although none was particularly associated with water. It will probably be important later in the summer.

This pond may be of importance to wildlife later in the summer.
Foxhill Farm. 14 May, 2018
Craneflies were abundant in the area including Limonia phragmitidis, with three wing spots, a cream-coloured body and a distinctive mark on the top of the thorax.
Limonia phragmitidis is among the commonest of spring craneflies.
Foxhill Farm, 14 May, 2018
Finally I should mention that in another corner of the same field a group of conifers has been planted including larches but as far as I could see only Japanese Larch, Larix kaempferi, was present. These light brown developing cones would be cherry-red if the species were European Larch.
Larch trees are at their loveliest in spring. Japanese Larch at Foxhill Farm,
Badby, Northants. 14 May, 2018
Although the conifers are exotics they are nevertheless worth keeping an eye on as they have a number of interesting beetles and bugs associated with them.
Prior to today I had recorded 144 species of arthropod (insects, spiders, centipedes, etc.) from Foxhill Farm but with today's findings the total could reach 180 or above.


Sorting through my specimens later I find that I have taken a nice example of Criorhina floccosa. It is not a rarity but I cannot recall the last time I recorded it. Despite its general appearance it is not a bumblebee but is a hoverfly. A very pleasing record.

Criorhina floccosa. Foxhill Farm, Badby. 14 May, 2018


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