Monday, 1 April 2019

Further pocket park notes

I find I am spending more time just lately in our local pocket park, Stefen Hill. I still intend to make regular visits to Foxhill Farm, roughly twenty times the size of the pocket park, but the farm loses out in one important respect: it is very limited in terms of mature trees. It is true that the pocket park only boasts a handful but in general terms there are more trees of interest - alders, poplars, hornbeams and birches - than Foxhill Farm. And they are all confined within an easy-to-cover area.

Five years ago Stefen Hill Pocket Park (Stefen Leys as it was then) was neglected, ill-maintained and litter strewn. It is true that specimens of the Common Dog Poo, Crappus caninus, still occur but even these are far less common. Residents have worked hard to improve the area as an environment and those efforts deserve recognition.

Today dawned bright and sunny and I made a fairly early visit. Conditions were still quite cool and there was a heavy dew but there were insects a-plenty on the wing.

Norway Maple, Acer platanoides, was in flower. It looks rather like a sycamore but the latter has flowers which hang in trusses whereas those of the Norway Maple are in rounded clusters.
Norway Maple has flowers in rather rounded clusters.
Stefen Hill Pocket Park. 1 April, 2019

The flowers yield significant quantities if both nectar and pollen so a number of insects were paying a call. Predictably some of these were hoverflies including the Glass-winged Hoverfly, Syrphus vitripennis. Thankfully some of these wasp-mimicking insects were females as no satisfactory way has yet been found of distinguishing the males from Syrphus rectus.

Syrphus vitripennis is one of our commonest hoverflies. Its wasp-like
appearance probably affords it some protection from predators. Stefen Hill
Pocket Park, 1 April, 2019
Ladybirds were also feeding at the flowers. Most were Seven-spot Ladybirds but a Harlequin Ladybird, Harmonia axyridis, was also present. These come with a confusingly wide range of black and red patterning but a close look will generally reveal a pair of small raised lumps towards the end of their hard forewings.
The Harlequin Ladybird is now all-too abundant. Here it is on
Norway Maple at Stefen Hill Pocket Park. 1 April, 2019

Also in flower were the hornbeam trees, with the male catkins currently the more obvious. These are wind-pollinated and so were attracting no insects. The female catkins are rather unusual in form and so will be instantly recognisable as they develop.

The male catkins of Hornbeam are quite attractive with their
reddish stamens. Stefen Hill Pocket Park. 1 April, 2019

The Hornbeam, Carpinus betulinus, is not native to Northamptonshire, being originally confined to south-east Britain, but is now found widely in our county through amenity planting. It is generally placed in the Hazel Family, Corylaceae.

Eight new insect species added during the day, including two ladybirds and two butterflies. Also one new spider.

Tony White. E-mail:

No comments:

Post a Comment