Monday, 26 March 2012

Still sunny

In this extended period of sunshine, most wildlife has advanced, regardless of the fact that we're still in March. I could see five Small Tortoiseshell butterflies at the same time in my garden yesterday, and that's more than I usually see in a year. Small Tortoiseshells hibernate as adults, so I think the mild winter has allowed a higher proportion of them to survive.

Some plants are flowering at roughly the usual time: I found Germander Speedwell:

Germander Speedwell
Wood Sorrel:

Wood Sorrel
And Common Dog Violet:

Viola riviniana - Common Dog Violet
But this flowering specimen of Herb Bennet is by far the earliest I have ever seen:

Herb Bennet

Field Horsetail is a bit unusual, in that it has early fruiting growths before the sterile green parts are seen:

Field Horsetail - fruiting growth
Again, these are a couple of weeks earlier than I would expect.

If have a microscope, I urge you to put one of those fertile cones on a slide and wait a couple of days for the spores to drop. The spores are fascinating: they have four curled 'legs' which expand and contract with humidity. As they curl and uncurl, they catch onto plant parts and debris, pulling themselves along in order to aid dispersal. This is a plant with 'walking' spores.

Even the uncurling fronds of Hartstongue Fern appear to be earlier than usual:

Hartstongue fern frond uncurling
As soon as the relevant plants are flowering, then their dependant insects appear as well. This is a new moth for me - Mottled Grey:

Mottled Grey moth
The Mottled Grey overwinters as a pupa and feeds on a number of Bedstraws, but the foodplant in my locality will almost certainly be Cleavers.

The Common Quaker feeds on Willow catkins, so March is the normal time to see them:

Common Quaker moth
I spotted a horde of Gerris lacustris Pond Skaters skimming over the surface of the stream beside the path:
Gerris lacustris Pond Skaters
These detect any unfortunate insects that have fallen into the water by sensing the vibrations in the water surface: they move instantly to the precise location in a feeding frenzy that lasts just a short while.

I think I have a new favourite picture. This is portrait of a female Platychierus albimanus hoverfly:

Female Platychierus albimanus hoverfly
I particularly like the way she is highlighted by the petals of the Celandine.

I wasn't too happy with the distance shot of the Small Tortoiseshell butterfly in my previous post, so I'm showing this closeup from yesterday:

Small Tortoiseshell butterfly

1 comment:

Gill said...

"I think I have a new favourite picture" yes, it's a cracker - but so is the wood sorrel, which I find incredibly difficult to photograph well. I think it is my favourite flower - so delicate with that wonderful purple veining.