Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Carpet and Moss

The bright green of this moth larva caught my eye as I walked past. Investigation shows that it's the larva of the Common Marbled Carpet - a handsome moth that I've shown before.

Detail of the head end shows that the front legs are all condensed into one group, and that it has five ocelli or sub-eyes.

These are the ripening capsules of the moss Bryum capillare:

Monday, 30 March 2009

But the rain came back. Of course.

Wood Sorrel - Oxalis acetosella - has very attractive flowers that bear close examination. As you can see, the rain returned.

The fertile shoots of Field Horsetail - Equisetum arvense - precede the familiar green growth by several weeks:

Leaves have appeared on the more sheltered Hawthorn bushes:

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Longest dry spell in 11 months

Barren Strawberry - Potentilla sterilis - has opened. The photograph shows most of the identification features: a small notch in the outer edge of the petal, gaps between the petals, and the final tooth in the leaf is shorter than its neighbours.

Single specimens of new moths keep arriving at light. This is Twin-spotted Quaker - Orthosia munda:

And this is Pale Pinion - Lithophane hepatica:

Sunday, 22 March 2009

More Moss

There's something quite wonderful about the way light interacts with mosses when you get really close. This is Ceratodon purpurea.

This is a habit shot on the top of a rock:

Racomitrium lanuginosum is another rock moss. The leaf tips have an extended central vein that looks like a white hair:

Here's a close-up.

And another Hebrew Character turned up last night:

Friday, 20 March 2009

Definite signs of spring

I was out looking for hoverflies - unsuccessfully, as it turned out - when this queen Bumblebee flew over my head and immediately started to rummage in the hedge base, looking for a nesting site:

I rattled off a few shots and a closer look reveals her to be a queen Bombus cryptarum - a recent segregate from Bombus lucorum. The notch in the yellow collar is the clue:

I have been watching the parasitic bumblebee Bombus bohemicus over the last couple of years. This is known to be a parasite of Bombus lucorum, but I wonder if it's also a parasite of Bombus cryptarum, which appears to be the dominant white-tailed species in this location.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Blue Sky

A wonderful spring morning dragged me out of my torpor and the hedgerow was found to be full of 7-spot Ladybirds. Every Hawthorn had a few basking in the sun. These two are on Ivy.

A few dry nights, and the moths are returning. This is the March Moth, Alsophila aescularia (male) , and is new to me.

And this is the Hebrew Character - Orthosia gothica:

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Some sun again

Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage has turned the back walls of ditches yellow. The actual flowers are tiny.

Right next to the Saxifrage, we find Primroses:

Coltsfoot is also fairly obvious in drier places:

Wood Sorrel is just about on schedule:

But this Cow Parsley is ridiculously early:

Monday, 16 March 2009

Catkins and thrushes

My garden Willow has flowered:-

This is the time of year to keep an eye out for the solitary bee Andrena clarkella, since it feeds its young entirely on Willow pollen. The pollen is available for perhaps 6 weeks of the year, so the bee is rarely seen since it spends 46 weeks of the year underground. Look for bees that look like shrunken and skinny Carder Bumblebees.


A pair of Mistle Thrushes have chosen my garden as their foraging spot, although I don't have suitable trees for them to nest in. I always think they look very elegant.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

A little sun

The first frogspawn is about 3 weeks later than it was in the last couple of years. What amazes me is that the first spawn is always in this high exposed area.

Lesser Celandine - Ranunculus ficaria - has been budding for about 4 weeks, but this is the first open one I found:

As soon as the leaves develop, the fungal rust Puccinia ranunculi appears:

Staying with fungi, Tubaria furfuracea is to be found under Hawthorns for much of the year:

And the fungus Milesina scolopendrii has been attacking leaves of Hart's tongue fern.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Hartstongue fern spider fungus

I was investigating Hartstongue Fern for micromoth activity today, and I was moderately successful, finding some inconclusive micromoth damage to some spore sori (the moth larva had left the scene, so no id was possible).

I did find, however, the following item growing between two sori:

Instinct tells me it's fungal. I then examined it more closely and found that the white fungus is surrounding what looks like the corpse of a spider:

I brought it back to the study, so I'll get it under magnification tomorrow. Early research shows that there are some species of Entomophthora that attack spiders, so I'll check that line of reasoning, too.

(The spider is the pink bit with the black dots.)

The fungus is about 6 mm. across.