Monday, 17 September 2018


On my last visit to Foxhill Farm I met up with Matt Moser and he accompanied me for a few minutes, intrigued by the various methods employed for catching creepy-crawlies. On the way he pointed out to me, hidden beside a rather tall hedge, a field (7077) I had previously overlooked. Last year, 2017, he had sown it with a range of flowering plants to attract bees and, later on, birds to the seed heads. This year he sowed it with barley but it was an indifferent crop, largely because a huge number of these wild plants re-appeared. I decided there and then that this field must be the target for my next visit.

So that is where I found myself today.

At first there was little to show other than a pair of Dock Bugs, Coreus marginatus, sharing a leaf but clearly not on speaking terms. As I have said before, this species is invariably lumped together with shieldbugs although technically belonging to a separate though related group.

Dock Bugs on -  what else? - dock. Foxhill Farm, 17 September, 2018
Despite the name of Dock Bug this insect can also be found on sorrel and, occasionally, rhubarb.

In truth there was not a great variety of plants to be seen but the situation was interesting. A dense growth of sub-tropical grasses had appeared and beneath them there was a carpet of borage. This plant, Borago officinalis, gives its name to the family Boraginaceae; it is, as John Hutchinson once pointed out, 'The Borage of the Borages'. Borage oil is sometimes used in skin conditioners and in order to boost its appeal in cosmetics it is sometimes given the name of 'Star Flower Oil'.

Thousands of borage plants carpeted the ground beneath the tall grasses.
Foxhill Farm, 17 September, 2018
The flowers were attracting huge numbers of honey bees together with a smaller number of bumblebees. For birds however the grasses are of greater importance because the species present produce large quantities of sizeable seeds. These are already ripening and being shed.

In the brisk breeze a satisfactory photograph proved tricky so I brought home specimens of the most significant species.

On the left is Cockspur Grass, Echinochloa crus-galli. This is a luscious, robust annual from the warm temperate parts of the Old World but is frequent in Britain from bird seed mixtures.
Cockspur Grass and Glaucous Bristle-grass sown to support wildlife.
Foxhill Farm, 17 September, 2018
Yellow Bristle-grass, Setaria pumila, is on the right. It too turns up in wild bird mixtures but is perhaps rather less common. Like Cockspur Grass it is a native of the warmer parts of the Old World.

Common Hawthorn has jaggedly pointed leaves but at the foot of this field a species with
rounded leaves was present. This is Midland Hawthorn, Crataegus laevigata, frequent in this area but always pleasing to see.

Midland Hawthorn has rather rounded lobes to the leaves.
Foxhill Farm, 17 September, 2018
I made my way home with a mixed bag of spiders, flies, beetles and true bugs. The total for the farm should soon reach the 400 mark.

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