Thursday, 17 May 2018

More of this and that

Yesterday was rather chilly and I wimped out of countryside capers and instead worked on the identification of specimens. There was quite a back-log.

Today there was far more sunshine and therefore no excuse for sitting around. It was a case of best foot forward (actually it could have been second best; I can't remember) and off to Foxhill Farm. If my visits there seem excessive I plead guilty - up to a point. The fact is that it is geographically convenient and the area is becoming well-known for wildlife enthusiasts. Today, for example, I met Brian Laney, a frequent lecturer on wildlife topics and a well-known botanist with a particular interest in alpines. He told me that in an adjacent field he had just found a specimen of Sheep's-bit, a scabious-like flower which, according to Northamptonshire's latest flora, is extinct in the county! I found nothing so rare but was pleased to find plenty of Pignut, Conopodium majus. This is one of those plants which, though once common, is now increasingly scarce as a result of 'improvements' to pastures and is now only thinly scattered across the county.
Pignut was present in considerable quantities. Foxhill Farm.
17 May, 2018
The small tuber - less than golf-ball size - is said to be very palatable but I have never sampled it. Various books give instructions on how to locate the plant and find the edible part, but I hope few people go around digging up specimens.
Lots of Meadow Buttercups were in bloom. Their scientific name, Ranunculus, as I have said before, comes from the Latin for 'little frog', perhaps because they often are found in rather wet habitats. Sure enough, hopping along...
A frog had to put in an appearance!

Moles had been busy in places and the bare soil was attracting flesh flies, basking on the warm surface. Two species are particularly common, Sarcophaga subvicina and S. carnaria. The females can be difficult (nothing new there!) but the males are less of a problem although a decent microscope is required.

Flesh Flies, Sarcophaga species, enjoy warm surfaces in the sun.
Foxhill Farm, 17 May, 2018
Changing the subject completely, I was at Daventry's hospital (The Danetre) earlier today and saw a Gorse Shieldbug, Piezodorus lituratus, on Spanish Broom, Genista hispanica. The Gorse Shieldbug, whilst most commonly seen on gorse, will visit a range of woody plants in the pea family and is occasionally even seen on laburnum. As soon as I approached it scampered on to a nearby bramble leaf but it was on the Genista - honestly.
Gorse Shieldbug on a bramble leaf, having just left a branch of Spanish
Broom. Danetre Hospital, Daventry. 17 May, 2018

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