Monday, 17 June 2019

Wow, some sunshine!

Just over a month ago - 10th of May to be precise - I was poring over my ark-building manual following heavy rain. I re-examined the document yesterday following several days of heavy showers but today the sun finally made its presence felt and I ventured forth, admittedly only as far as the local (Stefen Hill) pocket park.

Quite a lot of twigs and small branches littered the ground but although a blustery wind still tugged away at trees and bushes there were a number of insects around. Several species of micro-moths were dancing about, including the Yellow-barred Longhorn, Nemophora degeerella*. The males have extremely long antennae but I only managed to photograph a female.

Several moths bear a pale bar across their wings but the Yellow-barred
 Longhorn is quite distinctive. Stefen Hill Pocket Park, 17 June, 2019

Far more numerous, but 'dancing' so furiously that a decent photograph proved impossible, were dozens of the tortricid moth, Pseoudargyrotoza conwagana. Known as the Yellow-spot Tortrix it is extremely common hereabouts, perhaps because its main food-plant, the ash tree is also abundant (it is occasionally found on privet)). In some parts of the U.K. this moth is relatively scarce.

Even more common is the Nettle-tap, Anthophila fabriciana*, although I only saw one specimen today. As the name indicates, it is associated with its food-plant, the common nettle.

The Nettle-tap soon becomes familiar to anyone gathering material
for nettle soup. Stefen Hill Pocket Park, 17 June, 2019
This year I seem to have seen an unusually large number of Red-legged Shieldbugs, Pentatoma rufipes. Common they may be but nevertheless I was surprised to find one investigating, and apparently eating, a bird dropping. This species is known to have a wide diet, including dead insects. It moved away as I stealthily approached.

This nymph of the Red-legged Shieldbug appeared to be sampling a
bird dropping. Stefen Hill Pocket Park, 17 June, 2019
Before the heavy rains of recent days we had a long dry spell and the pond, awkwardly situated at the top of a hill, lost all its water. Tadpoles, of which there were large numbers, died en masse. Their corpses will not be wasted and even now there will surely be various creatures consuming their remains. The pond now holds considerable quantities of water and the Yellow Flags are blooming. This plant must rank among the loveliest of our wild plants.

The Yellow Flag, Iris pseudacorus, was blooming freely today.
Stefen Hill Pocket park, 17 June, 2019
One old name for this plant is 'segg'. and refers to the sword-like leaves, segg being an Anglo-Saxon name for a short sword.


* The names of these two moths commemorate very famous biologists. Charles de Geer (1720-1778) was a Swedish biologist whilst Johan Christian Fabricius (1745-1808) was Danish, specialising in insects. Perhaps because of Linnaeus, Scandinavian biologists played a very important role in the development of modern taxonomy.

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