Sunday, 31 March 2019

Now it really is spring

Last night we put the clocks forward an hour. Very symbolic. Spring has really sprung, to use a much overworked aphorism.

With it have come bee-flies by the hundred, all Dark-edged Bee-Flies, although I have just heard from my friend John Showers that the far less common Dotted Bee-fly, Bombylius discolor has now turned up in Northamptonshire. The two species are very similar when in flight so I must keep my eyes open.

Dark-edged Bee-fly, Bombylius major, in our front garden, Stefen Hill.
24 March, 2019
More and more flowers are now coming into bloom including the Snake's Head Fritillary, Fritillaria meleagris. This is almost certainly native to Northamptonshire but a number of recent records certainly refer to deliberate plantings. The generic name comes from the Latin fritillus, a dice-box, and probably refers to the squarish shape of the flowers. As for meleagris, the Guinea Fowl,  Numida meleagris, bears similar chequered markings. So we have 'the plant with flowers shaped like a dice box and speckled like a guinea fowl'; occasionally Latin names make things so much simpler!

Snake's Head Fritillaries in our front garden in Stefen Hill.
31 March, 2019

Definitely native to Northamptonshire is the Pasque Flower, Pulsatilla vulgaris. The red-flowered form has been in bloom with us for a couple of weeks but the authentic native form has rich purple flowers and they are now open.

The native form of Pasque Flower is also blooming in our front garden.
31 March, 2019
Not native, but very well naturalised on walls right across Britain is Yellow Corydalis, Pseudofumaria lutea. Certainly it grows well around Daventry town centre. We do not have it in our garden but instead are growing Pseudofumaria alba. I am not claiming it is a better plant but it is simply of interest because it is less often seen, although I understand that it is naturalised in Harpole.

Looking nothing like a poppy but from the same family, Pale Corydalis
is now flowering with us. 31 March, 2019
Despite its oddly-shaped flowers it is a member of the Poppy Family, Papaveraceae. Many members of the poppy family are important medicinally and Corydalis yields tetrahydropalmatine, an alkaloid which has proved to be potent muscle relaxant. My muscles are relaxed enough thank you (too much, according to Chris) and I have no plans to chew a mouthful.

Saturday, 30 March 2019

A sudden rush

Today was gloriously sunny.  Our friend Pom Boddington had organised a working party to do some maintenance jobs in Byfield Pocket Park and Chris and I went along to help. We were too busy for any wildlife observations although the area was full of bird song. We spent a couple of hours stripping over-enthusiastic ivy from various trees.

It was not until the afternoon that I had time to do any recording, and that was in Stefen Hill Pocket Park. Many insects were on the wing. The sunshine had brought out scores of butterflies although I only saw two species, a Peacock, Inachis io, and lots of Small Tortoiseshells, Aglais urticae.

Small Tortoiseshell basking on short turf. Stefen Hill Pocket Park.
28 March, 2019

A Green Shieldbug, was lurking in a Cherry Plum bush. It was still in a sombre shade of dull green, a sort of khaki colour. In a few weeks it will be a bright leaf green, providing excellent camouflage, hardly needed as its stink glands produce a pungent odour which deters most birds.

Green Shieldbug on Cherry Plum. Stefen Hill Pocket Park.
28 March, 2019
Dozens - probably hundreds - of Dark-edged Bee-flies were around the base of Cherry Plums. Some had paired up to ensure a new generation. The 'dark edge' of the common name refers to the leading edge of the wings. It is by some distance our commonest bee-fly

A Dark-edged Bee-fly at rest. Its long proboscis can be clearly seen.
Stefen Hill Pocket Park, 28 March, 2019
Stefen Hill Pocket Park can in no way be described as flower-rich, and a number of the species present are garden escapes. However I was pleased to find a patch of Greater Stitchwort, Stellaria holostea, beside the park's only pond. It is hardly an exciting find but I will keep an eye on the plants, looking for the gall of the tiny fly, Dasineura holosteae.
Greater Stitchwort showing the deeply cleft petals and grass-like leaves.
Stefen Hill Pocket Park. 28 March, 2019
Many two-winged flies were taken, ensuring that I will be spending an hour or two on the microscope during the next day or so.

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

More about our local pocket park

I have neglected Stefen Hill Pocket Park.  It has problems but is less than a quarter of a mile from our house and I frequently visit it but rarely do any recording. I have resolved to try and put matters right this year. We have scant knowledge of what wildlife is present, especially in terms of invertebrates and if I don't do it, I suspect no one will.

Currently a shrubby plum is smothered in white blossom. It is the Cherry Plum, Prunus cerasifera, also known as Myrobalan Plum. It is not a native species but is widely planted and naturalised. Unlike Blackthorn it is thornless. Although today was rather cool it was attracting quite a few insects including bumble bees, honey (hive) bees, greenbottle flies and a hoverfly, Epistrophe eligans.

There is quite a lot of Cherry Plum in the pocket park.
26 March, 2019

The flowers are typical of this section of the Rose family, fundamentally quite simple and allowing easy access for a range of insects unlike, for example, the long tubular flowers of honeysuckle.

The flowers are simple and typical of the Prunus species.
Stefen Hill Pocket Park. 26 March, 2019
The male catkins of sallow, aka Goat Willow were also attracting a range of similar insects because, although it seems likely that wind pollination occurs, there is nectar to attract insects for the same job.

This fly, a species of Eudasyphora, was partaking of the nectar.
Stefen Hill Pocket Park, 26 March, 2019
However, the most eye-catching insect of today's visit was a butterfly, a nice example of a comma, Polygonia c-album, resting on a bramble leaf. Not rare but always pleasing to see.
This Comma butterfly looked newly emerged.
Stefen Hill Pocket Park, 26 March, 2019


Species added to the list today included Calliphora subalpina, Eudasyphora cyanella, Musca autumnalis*, Lophosceles cinereiventris, Geomyza tripunctata and Phaonia tuguriorum - all very common.

*Not confined to autumn despite name.

Monday, 25 March 2019

In praise of Euphorbias

A few weeks ago I managed to get some latex from a Euphorbia around my eye. The result was a mess which led to a trip to Eye Casualty in Northampton General Hospital. Since them I have regarded Euphorbias, otherwise known as spurges, with misgivings.

Over the last few days I have come to look at them more benignly, not least because there has recently been a steady procession of insect visitors to my plants; I had not appreciated just how much nectar spurges yield.

A Seven-spot Ladybird visits Euphorbia myrsinites.
Our garden at Stefen Hill, Daventry
The ladybird I mentioned in a blog a few days ago,, fuelling up with nectar until aphids become available. Bumble bees are also regular patrons, in this case a Buff-tailed Bumble Bee, Bombus terrestris.

Buff-tailed Bumblebee nectaring on one of our spurge plants.
24 March, 2019

Of course Honey Bees, Apis mellifera (mellifera means 'carrier of honey') are regulars, but where their hive is I don't know.

Often mistaken for bees are hoverflies, many of which mimic bees rather convincingly. The photograph shows a species of Eristalis, perhaps Eristalis pertinax, but in approaching it I carelessly let my shadow fall across it. Result: instant departure.

A female Eristalis is also tucking into the copious nectar.
Our garden at Stefen Hill, Daventry. 24 March, 2019
Another bee-like visitor is the Bee Fly, Bombilius major. It is frequently mistaken for a true bee but it only has two, as opposed to four, wings. This is not always easy to establish since the wings are a blur as it hovers before a flower prior to inserting its needle-like proboscis. The dark leading edges of the wings are generally easier to see.

Not to be confused with a true bee, a Dark-edged Bee Fly probes for
nectar. 24 March, 2019
Today provided a surprise. There was a Sloe Bug, Dolycoris baccarum sitting in the cup-like cyathium. Despite the name these insects are not particularly associated with sloes and visit a range of other plants - but not, as far as I know - for nectar. Perhaps this rather pale specimen was simply enjoying the sun.

This Sloe Bug may just be loafing. 25 March, 2019

Smaller insects need to approach with caution as there are predators ready to pounce. Bumble bees are safe, as are larger hoverflies, but this Nursery Web Spider, Pisaura mirabilis, will happily accept smaller items.

Ready for an ambush! A Nursery Web spider hopes for a meal.
24 March, 2019

Butterflies, greenbottle flies and many more call in for a top-up. I'll treat spurges with more respect in future.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Jephson Gardens, Leamington

I normally restrict my blogs to observations made in and around Daventry, but today Chris and I went to Leamington - correction, Royal Leamington Spa, - and it isn't a million miles away.

Having parked the car we made for the town centre, and our walk took us through the Jephson Gardens. They are one of the town's most attractive features and it would be lovely if Northampton, Daventry or Banbury could do something similar. They would be, in theory, very expensive to create and maintain but lots of people are apparently involved on a volunteer basis and I'm sure that in Northampton for example, with a population of 230,000, a similar volunteer force could be assembled to do something in, say, Abington Park. 

We passed Butterbur growing beside the River Leam. Yes, I know it can become a bit of a nuisance but it is an oddly attractive plant. Butterbur, despite its name of Petasites hybridus, does not appear to be a hybrid but a true species. It flowers early in the year when other nectar sources are limited and so is a valuable bee plant. By late summer its leaves will be huge.

Butterbur beside the River Leam, Leamington.
23 March, 2019
The day was turning out to be rather chilly and so we made for the warmth of the moderately large, heated glasshouse. The first thing to strike the visitor are the Bird of Paradise flowers, Strelitzia reginae. their blooms are certainly dramatic and yet, for their subtlety I rather prefer Strelitzia nicolei, which was growing nearby. The Strelitzias were once, I believe, placed in the Banana family, Musaceae, but are now given a family of their own, the Strelitziaceae.

Strelitzia reginae with its strange inflorescence, reminiscent of a bird's head.
Jephson Gardens, Leamington. 23 March, 2019
Both plants hail from southern Africa and so they demand rather warm conditions. In Britain they live outdoors in Tresco Abbey Gardens on the Isles of Scilly but to grow them elsewhere it would be a big, big gamble.

Strelitzia nicolai, growing nearby, makes a much larger plant.
There was a range of other plants to be seen, some blooming dramatically, but I will add only a couple of other pictures, neither involving flowers.

The Stag's Horn Fern, Platycerium bifurcatum, is a curiosity, bizarre rather than beautiful, but if I could give it the conditions it needs (It comes from, for example, the forests of Queensland, Australia) then I would certainly have one.

The Stag's Horn Fern also requires warm greenhouse conditions.
Jephson Gardens, Leamington, 23 March, 2019
Finally a plant upon which I could find no label but is certainly some sort of fig, Ficus species. It may have been Ficus trichopoda, but several figs develop similar prop-roots. It was straddling the surrounding hand-rail in a very suggestive way, but I do not believe that this qualifies as copulation.

Hmm... A fig. I will say no more! Jephson Gardens, Leamington.
23 March, 2019

As for the outdoor plantings, we have found that in the warmer months there are fine displays, particularly of flowering shrubs. Leamington always has something of interest for the gardener or botanist.

Friday, 22 March 2019


I never read read horoscopes. Today's on-line offering said:

                   Don't be hard on yourself; recent problems are not your fault and later on today there's a pleasant surprise in store.

What problems? I lost my place in the book I'm reading, and a shoe lace broke, but that's all I can recall. My potatoes are chitting nicely and I'm not even constipated.

As for a pleasant surprise - that could only mean one thing - I'm going to find a Red Data Book species on Matt Moser's land. Despite a distinct lack of sun I set out with a spring in my step.

My first target was a patch of woodland a quarter of a mile east of the farmhouse. It is relatively new woodland, having been planted, I guess, about 25 years ago. Both the flora and fauna will be quite limited of course.

To reach it I first crossed a stretch of sheep pasture, where fresh deposits of sheep droppings were being eagerly investigated by dung flies. The dung also serves as a trysting ground for the flies, with the furry males quick to seize any available females. They must live really shitty lives.

Dung Flies, Scathophaga stercoraria, mating on sheep dung.
Foxhill Farm, 21 March, 2019
I probed a few likely-looking poo-piles for dung beetles but found nothing. That clearly wasn't my horoscopic 'pleasant surprise'. On to the woodland then...

I had not investigated this patch of oak, sweet chestnut et al before but was pleased to find several logs scattered around. They were home to a number of spiders and beetles. The Lace-weaver Spider, Amaurobius similis was present in the form of a large female, but this common spider had already been recorded for Foxhill Farm. She was surrounded by fragments of her victims. It is not a spectacular spider and I believe its generic name comes from the Latin amaurus - dark. 

Female Amaurobius similis revealed under loose bark.
Foxhill Farm, Badby, Northants. 21 March, 2019

The underside of several logs bore discs of a fungus, almost certainly a species of Peniophora, but I sternly remind myself of my New Year's Resolution - don't go there!

A Peniophora species? Perhaps, but I can't be arsed.
Foxhill Farm, Badby. 21 March, 2019

A pale example of a Ten-spot Ladybird, Adalia 10-punctata, was on a dead leaf nearby. It is unusual among ladybirds in that it is frequently found in leaf litter. An odd name really because if the spot is counted at the base of the elytra, there are eleven spots.

Ten-spot Ladybird found on dead leaves. Foxhill Farm.
21 March, 2019
I was pleased to find clumps of Ramsons, Allium ursinum, pushing their way through the leaf litter. It will be a few weeks before its 'white with a hint of green' flowers appear but I will watch these plants with interest as the interesting hoverfly, Portevinia maculata, is associated with them. The woodland will smell of onions for a while.

Ramsons, a species of wild onion. Foxhill Farm, 21 March, 2019

On my return, just before reaching my car, I turned over a stone slab and a long, slim centipede was revealed. It was a Western Yellow Centipede, Stigmatogaster subterranea. This is a common species often found beneath clods of soil when gardening.

Western Yellow Centipede from beneath a stone.
Foxhill Farm. 21 March, 2019
It is not easy to catch, moving swiftly backwards quite as easily as it goes forwards. This specimen had 83 pairs of legs but the placing of a ten pence coin for scale was rather pointless, as the animal can shrink or lengthen its body concertina-like with amazing alacrity.

So that was it. Where was the surprise?

I never read horoscopes.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

The last day of winter!

The weather has been rather untrustworthy lately (Really, in Britain? Who would believe it!) so I have had to be content with a few brief visits to Stefen Hill Pocket Park. It is interesting in many ways, but so many people walk their dogs there, with consequent little piles of ordure, that seeking organisms at ground level is fraught with risk. Ironic that clumps of Dog Violets, Viola canina, are now in bloom. Their fragrance is not strong in the still rather chilly air but is distinctive. The flowers tend to be white.

Always pleasing to find. Sweet Violets in Stefen Hill Pocket Park.
19 March, 2019
Many of the plants present are not native, with Firethorn, Pyracantha coccinea, being rather frequent around the margins of the area. It is often visited by insects and the fruit attracts birds in the autumn and winter. Unfortunately it is subject to insect attack.

Perhaps the most notorious of these is the Firethorn Leaf Miner. It is a small moth, Phyllonorycter leucographella, and an example of a tiny creature with an inordinately long name. This is a widespread pest and has featured in my blogs before, but to be fair I have yet to find it causing unacceptable damage - just a groove-like mine down the midrib of the leaves.
The Firethorn Leaf Miner is a pest, but hardly a devastating one.
Stefen Hill Pocket Park. 19 March, 2019

Much easier to overlook are the galls caused by a fungus, Protomyces macrosporus. It is widespread on Cow Parsley and is most obvious in the early months of the year, but is hardly likely to cause the heart to miss a beat.

Protomycetes macrosporus on Cow parsley Wow,!
Stefen Hill Pocket Park. 19 March, 2019
How odd it is that I should be so pleased over finding such a trivial little thing.  A bit worrying really...

Monday, 18 March 2019

Stefen Hill Pocket Park

I have, over the years, produced several blogs about this site but, until recently, it has been known as Stefen Leys Pocket Park. It is under new management and, like Windscale, it would appear that re-branding is required!

I was not expecting many plants to be in flower, nor were there, but some clumps of Coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara, were very eye-catching against a boundary fence.

Several clumps of coltsfoot were present. Stefen Hill Pocket Park.
18 March, 2019
The genus is obviously kin to dandelions, both being members of the huge Asteraceae family, but they are more closely related to Yarrow, Achillea millefolium. The 'flowers' are really a cluster of small blooms gathered into a single head (a capitulum). Coltsfoot flowers are valuable to early bees, although I saw none today. One Scottish dialect name for the plant is 'Tushylucky', presumably a corruption of Pliny's name for the plant, Tussilago. The flowers open before the leaves are present, and the strategy seems very successful.

As is often the case, flowers merit close examination.
A few willows were bearing their flowers. They were Pussy Willows and I am content to regard them as Salix caprea, Goat Willow, although willows are a really tricky group to identify with certainty, with hybrids all-too common. The catkins I photographed are of course the male organs.

Willows can be problematic but this appears to be straightforward
Goat Willow. Stefen Hill Pocket Park, 18 March, 2019
Willows tend to grow in damp places and so 'sympathetic magic' suggested that somehow they should be good for treating chills. An infusion proved to be effective in easing the symptoms for, as is now generally known, the active ingredient of aspirin, salicylic acid, is present.

I couldn't resist photographing the curious male flowers of Ash, Fraxinus excelsior. The anthers resemble - what? Tiny coffee beans perhaps? Although female flowers may have been present I could find none. Ash trees are commonly dioecious,  and it appears that this particular tree is wholly male. When the anthers of these flowers have dehisced to release their pollen they will appear quite different.
Ash trees were displaying their male flowers. Stefen Hill Pocket Park.
18 March, 2019

A few flies were about but most of my specimens were spiders. It is unfortunate that those I took have to be put under the microscope for identification, leading to their death, but all were tiny linyphiids and there is no option. What is the point, you may ask? In fact several linyphiids new to Britain have been found in the last decade, with at least one new to science. Now we know of their presence suitable conservation measures can be put in place.

The frogs are back. Several clumps of spawn were present in the pond.
Stefen Hill Pocket Park, 18 March, 2019

Last year the pocket park lake was drained, cleaned out and refilled. Would this disturbance deter amphibians? I was pleased to find frog spawn there in some quantity. Not, perhaps, as much as in previous years, but the future looks promising.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

A resolution bites the dust

My friends Lynda and Damien have a fine garden and I always enjoy a stroll around to see what is in flower. Today there was a host of Hellebores in bloom but what really caught my eye was a fungus growing on a wooden bench.

My New Year's Resolution was to avoid fungi, but I'm afraid that plan went out of the window, mainly because it was a rather attractive species unfamiliar to me.

Once home I spent some time narrowing down the possibilities and decided that it was probably the species known as the Rusty-gilled Polypore, Gloeophyllum sepiarium.  Not being a mycologist I posted the picture on Facebook and people were kind enough to confirm this for me.

Gloeophyllum sepiarium on a garden bench. Byfield, Northants.
16 March, 2019
Apparently it is a widespread species for it is frequently found in North America, where it occurs in timber yards on sawn conifer wood. The fruiting body of the fungus seems to be slightly glistening and in fact 'Gloeophyllum' means 'with sticky or glutinous leaves'.

Also today (but not in Lynda's garden) Celandines, Ficaria verna, were in flower. In older books this pretty plant is called Ranunculus ficaria, the name-change only recently being adopted - although the botanist Hudson originally proposed this name way back in 1762.

Celandines in flower near Byfield, Northants. 16 March, 2019

Friday, 15 March 2019

More spring harbingers

It is still blustery and showers keep passing through, but the temperatures are creeping up and flowers are responding.

In my neighbour's garden Balkan Anemones, Anemone blanda, are now in flower. My camera is not good with blue colour and so my photograph fails to do them justice. The petals (strictly speaking, tepals) are of a far more brilliant blue. This lovely plant naturalises easily almost to the point of being invasive in some situations.

Despite its common name of Balkan Anemone this plant is by no means
 confined to that region. Christchurch Drive, Daventry. 15 March, 2019
Pasque flowers were once classed as anemones, bearing the name Pulsatilla vulgaris, but have now been placed in their own genus on a number of counts. They are now Pulsatilla vulgaris, members of a genus ranging right across the northern hemisphere from Britain to Japan and as far as North America.

Pasque Flowers in a rather salmon-pink form. Our garden, Stefen Hill,
Daventry. 15 March, 2019

My own plants are self-seeding nicely, with new specimens popping up in several places. They should provide flowers over a month or so.

Far less colourful, but one of Chris's favourites, is Hacquetia epipactis. The word 'epipactis' was used by Theophrastus for some unknown plants and how it became used as the specific name for this little plant is unclear. As with the two previous plants, what appear to be 'petals' are not truly so. In the case of the Hacquetia the green petaloid structures are really bracts. The plant is in fact a member of the Carrot family, Apiaceae.

Hacquetia epipactis appears to have no common name, simply being
called Hacquetia. Trinity Close, Daventry. 15 March, 2019
The colours of the Hacquetia are broadly the same as its neighbour, Euphorbia myrsinites. Interestingly a Seven-spot Ladybird, an insect well-known for its aphidophagous habits, was visiting the Euphorbia for nectar.
A Seven-spot Ladybird visiting a Euphorbia for nectar.
Trinity Close, Daventry. 15 March, 2019

They will consume this sugar-rich substance to provide energy until aphids become available. In so doing they also become a minor pollinator.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Mostly mosses

Yesterday Chris and I pushed the boat out and went to the little café behind Woodford Halse library. We parked the car at the rear where high winds had brought down dozens of cones from a nearby Norway Spruce tree.

The cones of Norway spruce are distinctive and very attractive.
Woodford Halse, 13 March. 2019
I glanced up at the tree and in so doing noticed that a low roof at the edge of the car park was bearing some lovely mosses. For many years now I have been interested in mosses without getting down to a serious study, but these were species characteristic of the habitat and easily recognised. The Ostrich Moss, Grimmia pulvinata, forms slightly furry cushions, and in fact pulvinate means cushion-shaped. It tends to bury its capsules among the leaves like ostrich heads.

Grimmia pulvinata, often referred to as the Ostrich Moss.
Woodford Halse, 13 March, 2019

It is very common on wall-tops and also between paving slabs if traffic is not too heavy.

Equally abundant, and occupying the same habitat is Tortula muralis, the Wall Screw-moss. It common name reflects the way in which its leaves twist up when dry. Our word tortuous comes from the same root. (Not having studied Latin at school I like to chase up the derivation of certain words.)

Tortula muralis is arguably the commonest of wall-top mosses.
Woodford Halse, 13 March, 2019
In very similar habitats is Common Pottia, Tortula truncata. It was once known as Pottia truncata but despite being transferred to a different genus the common name has stuck. This species is frequent on clay soil, sometimes occupying sunken hoof prints.

Tortula truncata forms particularly green cushions.
Woodford Halse, 13 March, 201

These three mosses are also common in flower pots and so the gardener soon becomes familiar with them. They are able to endure extreme drought conditions on sunny wall tops and will bounce back quickly after rain. During a rain storm they will absorb water like a sponge, helping them through to the next shower. They often contain an interesting range of mini-beasts including springtails and, if you are lucky, a few of this planet's most extraordinary creatures, tardigrades. So odd are these creatures that some have speculated that they arrived on earth via a meteorite or something similar. But I mustn't get started on that topic!

Ah, if only there were a few more hours in each day. 

Monday, 11 March 2019

Byfield Pool again, with postscript

Chris was out for the morning walking around Daventry Country Park with her friends Lynda and Annie. I took the opportunity to visit Byfield Pool nature reserve. It is still under-recorded in terms of invertebrates and, being surrounded by trees and bushes, I hoped to be out of the chilly wind that has plagued us for three or four days.

The water level was high - as it should be in March - and the vegetation had yet to put on much growth, so it was relatively easy to get to the edge of the pool. I did approach as closely as I could in the hope of finding spawn from frogs or whatever, but all I found was that my shoes weren't waterproof.

In three months time the water will be difficult to approach.
Byfield Pool, 11 March, 2019
My New Year's Resolution was to avoid anything to do with fungi, but I'm afraid that plan went out of the window. Several species were noted, all common, but two were of sufficient interest to bring my camera into play.

On dead wood were several specimens of Cramp Balls, Daldinia concentrica. The common name recalls a belief that carrying some it in the pocket when setting out on a long walk would ward off cramps.
Cramp Balls, aka King Alfred's Cakes, were common on dead wood.
Byfield Pool, 11 March, 2019

The Latin specific refers to the fact that, when the hard fruiting body is cracked open, pale and dark concentric rings are revealed.

The concentric rings which give Daldinia concentrica its name.
An alternative name is King Alfred's Cakes, a reference to the species' burnt, rather charcoal-like appearance and texture.

Very eye-catching were groups of Orange Peel Fungus, Aleuria aurantia. Its ascocarps form irregularly-shaped cups, like orange peel turned inside out and, when mature, little puffs of dust-like spores are discharged if a specimen is gathered. It is common in damp woodlands throughout Britain.

I wonder why this species is known as the Orange Peel Fungus.
Byfield Pool, 11 March, 2019
I had hoped that a range of insects would be on the wing but I took only a few. Most of my haul consisted of spiders, particularly tiny money spiders of the Linyphiidae family. Though mostly between two and four millimetres in length it is usually necessary to find particular hairs on the legs and accurately measure their position - most definitely a microscope job. It will be a day or two before I've identified them - but someone has to do it!


For the record no rarities were found, but 3 spiders, 1 bug, I woodlouse and a beetle were added to the known fauna of the site.