Sunday, 20 May 2012

Echoes of last year

The early summer this year is looking depressingly similar to last year's: good weather in March and April, but cloud and/or rain from May through to September. Having seen butterflies throughout March and April, I haven't seen a single one since the first of May.

It's not all gloom and doom, however, since warm wet weather is ideal for fungal rusts. (The microscopic analysis required to identify them is also something to do on a rainy day.)

This is the fungal rust Melampsora hypericorum on Tutsan:

Melampsora hypericorum on Tutsan
And this is Uromyces acetosae on Common Sorrel:

Uromyces acetosae on Common Sorrel
Astonishingly, this very common fungus - which has been recorded from Cornwall to the Outer Hebrides - has no previous Irish records. Must be an oversight. No previous Irish records.

Very few parasitic fungi have a common name, but Botrytis fabae (in this case on Bush Vetch) is commonly known as 'Chocolate Spot' disease:

'Chocolate-spot' on Bush Vetch
I suppose any disease that affects crops will tend to have a common name. Again, no previous records from Ireland.

Although I still haven't seen a female Orange Tip butterfly this year, they are clearly around: I found this single egg on Cardamine pratensis - their sole foodplant in this area:

Orange Tip butterfly egg on Cardamine pratensis

Ferns must be amongst our most architectural (or at least geometric) plants. We all know they unfurl lengthways, but the pinnae also unfurl widthways:

Unfurling Scaly Male fern

We have four species of horsetail on the patch. This is Water Horsetail, which usually has no branches, but can also be found in a branched version, like this one:

I keep looking for the named hybrid between Water Horsetail and Field Horsetail which are both found adjacent to each other at this location, but all specimens seem to be one or the other.

Dungflies are very numerous at the moment, sitting on leaves or hiding in flower heads. They are ferocious predators, and if you watch them for any length of time they will pounce, catch and then devour other flies and wasps. This is the male (the female is green):

Male Scathophaga stercoraria Dungfly

Many of the schools around here have an ongoing 'Green Flag' initiative which encourages children to recycle and helps them to be aware of their local biodiversity. I was invited to open and examine a log pile which had been placed in a dark corner of the playground of one local school and I got a few photographs during the analysis.

We found plenty of woodlice:

Oniscus asellus - Shiny Woodlouse

Oniscus asellus - Shiny Woodlouse

And this excellent spider, which I haven't identified yet:

Unidentified spider from log pile

We also found:

Cup mushrooms
and a Millipede

The Woodlouse and two of the fungal rusts are new to my species list, so it continues to expand despite the weather.

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