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.

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