Sunday, 12 May 2019

Return to Bradlaugh Fields

Twelve years ago Chris and I lived a stone's throw from Bradlaugh Fields and it was my regular 'patch', but today was the first time I had visited it for some three years. The occasion was a meeting of the Northants Diptera Study Group, a small (but highly select!) band whose gatherings are generally organised by John Showers. John was there of course as was my old friend Kevin Rowley. Kevin's main interest is limnology but he is a very competent dipterist too.

Bradlaugh Files, named after a famous radical Northampton M.P., has been created - or rather has naturally developed - after the abandonment of the golf course which once occupied the site. It is managed of course, but as little as possible.

We gathered in the car park of the adjacent Morrison's supermarket and, after exchanging pleasantries, set off. I got no further than a birch tree at the entrance to the fields before my camera came out.

A group of bugs, or rather 2 x 2, were gathered on a leaf, busy with reproductive matters. They were Parent Bugs, Elasmucha grisea. Predictably rather, because birches seen to be one of their favourite trees.

Two pairs of Sloe Bugs in cop on a birch leaf. Bradlaugh Fields,
Northampton. 12 May, 2019
Only a few yards further on a patch of nettles was harbouring another bug, Dolycoris baccarum. It has for many years been called the Sloe Bug, a rather inappropriate name as it has no particular connection with sloes. In more recent years it has more often been known as the Hairy Shieldbug - far more sensible as the body of this pretty insect does indeed have a covering of short hairs.

Speaking of sloes, a nearby Sloe (Blackthorn) bush was bearing 'pocket plums', its fruits having been attacked by the fungus Taphrina pruni, causing them to become distorted and with no stone developing.

A distorted sloe (a 'pocket plum'). Bradlaugh Fields, Northampton.
12 May, 2019

Returning to the subject of bugs, a hundred yards further on I took a third species when sweeping long grass. It was a Bishop's Mitre Bug, Aelia acuminata.  As it sits in my sweep net it is hard to appreciate how superbly camouflaged it is when among dry grasses.

A Bishop's Mitre Bug in my sweep net. Bradlaugh Fields,
Northampton. 12 May, 2019
It is widely distributed across southern Britain but seems not to be found north of the Sheffield area.

The limy soil supports large numbers of Salad Burnet, Poterium sanguisorba (Sanguisorba minor), plants. It is difficult, at a brief glance, to accept that this is a member of the Rose family, Rosaceae.

Salad Burnet plants were abundant at Bradlaugh Fields.
12 May, 2019
A close-up view is no more convincing. Its rather bitter leaves were once used in salads and some botanists claim that the plants scent the air with cucumber when trodden upon. I have not noticed it.
Not obviously a member of the Rose Family!
A more obviously attractive plant in Bradlaugh Fields is Meadow Saxifrage, Saxifraga granulata. Here it is common but it has been lost from many of its old locations. John Ray recorded it growing on walls in Northampton as he passed through in 1662. It is another lime-lover.

Meadow Saxifrage is still common at Bradlaugh Fields.
12 May, 2019

The three of us spent the morning in Bradlaugh Fields and seem to have recorded only a disappointing number of species but, as is usually the case, it will take later work under the microscope to establish the true picture.


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