Friday, 19 April 2019

Familiar haunts

The dodgy weather of recent days has deterred me from venturing much further than our local pocket park and the consequence is that I have neglected Foxhill Farm. Some of the high ground around the windmill can be distinctly chilly. 'Real brass monkey stuff. Fair gets through to yer bleedin' marrer, guv', as Jacob Rees-Mogg would put it.

Anyway, I put that matter right today but only venturing as far as the north-east corner of the farm, the nearest accessible part. It really was a lovely day with my car thermometer reading 24 degrees C. although it was standing in the sun. A smell of balsam permeated the air, coming from poplar trees alongside the busy A45 and a pair of jays flew, screaming raucously, between a couple of ash trees nearby. It is amazing how these gaudily coloured crows can be unnoticed until they give their whereabouts away.  Their Latin name of Garrulus glandarius is very appropriate. The almost inevitable buzzard circled lazily above.

A number of butterflies were on the wing: Peacock, Orange Tip (only the males have the orange 'dipped in paint' wings), Brimstone and (probably) a Silver-washed Fritillary, Argynnis paphia. I only got a fleeting glimpse of the latter species and, as I am not a lepidopterist, I won't record it.

A fence had collapsed and on a fallen section was a very smart Zebra spider, Salticus scenicus. I approached it in order to obtain a photograph but it dashed under the piece of planking. When I lifted this the spider had disappeared but I had exposed a nest of the Yellow Meadow Ant. With the ants were several specimens of the Ant Woodlouse, Platyarthrus hoffmannseggi. This blind, albino creature seems to be tolerated by the ants and it is suspected that it does a service by clearing up their droppings. It was only 3 mm long and I struggled to obtain a decent picture.

The Ant Woodlouse is common but only revealed when an ants' nest
is disturbed. Foxhill Farm, near Badby. 18 April, 2019

Very few bugs came to my attention and I only recorded two very common species, the Green Shieldbug, Palomena prasina, and the Dock Bug, Coreus marginatus.

This Green Shieldbug will blend in with the nettles even better when it has
assumed its summer colour of emerald green. Foxhill Farm, 18 April, 2019.
A Noon Fly, Mesembrina meridiana, was motionless on the trunk of a young ash tree but  may not have been inactive. Was it releasing a pheromone to attract a mate? I confess I have no idea. Certainly it had no success while I was watching.
The bold markings of the Noon Fly make it unmistakeable.
Foxhill Farm, 18 April, 2019

Although I took relatively few flies I did obtain a considerable haul of Wolf Spiders. These cannot be positively identified unless they are sexually mature and they are usually in mating condition between April and late June. (The original 'true' tarantula spiders belong to this family, the Lycosidae, and they are only very distantly related to the large Theraphosids which are now regarded as tarantulas.)

Despite taking a large number of insects I only added a couple to the farm list, one of which was Gooden's Nomad Bee, Nomada goodeniana and the  other was a Flavous Nomad Bee, Nomada flava.

The farm total now stands at 452 species.

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