Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Blue skies smiling at me

We rarely have high pressure weather systems over Donegal, but the past week has been like this:


Con-trail over Mongorrey
High pressure at this time of year produces sun during the day and frost at night, so we have had a couple of nights with -4 and -5c, but the days are warm enough to bring out the first insects.

I can almost predict that the first hoverfly of the year will be a female Eristalis tenax, and sure enough, I spotted this one today on a Dandelion:

Female Eristalis tenax on Dandelion
Females of Eristalis tenax overwinter as mated adults, so they are ready to produce eggs as soon as it's warm enough. Related Eristalis species overwinter as pupae, so although the tenax females have a head start, they are at risk if the winter is very cold.

I went up to see if there was any frog spawn at the usual places, but none was visible, although I have seen a few frogs at night. I did, however, see a few midges in loose clouds:

Midge cloud

This is still a good time of year to see lichens before the green growth obscures them. I found a large specimen of Peltigera membranacea (Rabbit's-Paw Lichen):

Peltigera membranacea - 'Rabbits-paw lichen'

The underside of the thallus is covered with spiky rhizines, which are used as anchors:

Rhizines on the underside of the thallus of Peltigera membranacea
There are quite a few different species of Peltigera on the patch, but P. membranacea is easily distinguished by the pale blue thallus.

Evernia prunastri can be distinguished from other similar species by the twin-forked branching structure:

Evernia prunastri on Willow
Cladonia portentosa is most often seen apparently growing on the ground amongst mosses and heaths, but it's actually growing on buried wood. This specimen is growing on a badly-decomposed log:

Cladonia portentosa on decayed log
Night brings out the spring moths, and my first for the year is the Dotted Border:

Dotted Border moth
The Dotted Border feeds on a wide range of broad-leaf trees as a larva. I'll leave you to work out where its name comes from.

Here's the result of living in a wet climate:

Peziza domiciliana

Peziza domiciliana is a fungus which is most commonly found indoors, growing through concrete. This specimen is happily growing in the boot of my car.

New to my species list (and not previously recorded in Ireland, although I find that difficult to believe).



4 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

As usual, beautiful and informative photographs Stuart - I have sent a link to my friend who is very active at our local Nature Reserve (Foxglove Covert LNR if you fancy a look at their web site).
We are busy raising money for them by doing quizzes on moths, butterflies, wild flowers, birds etc., and the next one I intend to do (cryptic clues which I am etting) is on mosses and lichens. I have a book and there seem to be quite a lot which are indigenous to the UK. Thanks for popping over to see me. Loved your comment.

Gill said...

Beautiful - it's nice to see Donegal in the sun (even if we'be been suffering under grey skies on the other side of the high - until today when it is sunny again in Yorkshire).

Is that Peltigera really tha colour, or is that frost on it (my lawn looked like that this morning)?

stuart dunlop said...

Gill: the Peltigera is very pale grey/blue when the thallus is new. It later dulls down to a slate grey. Other Peltigeras are black, brown, green or dark grey. When I saw my first specimen (a glossy black P. canina with brown 'fruits') I had no idea whether it was plant, fungus or lichen. It seems that some Peltigera species can discard their captive photobiont(s) in favour of another as they develop. That will alter the appearance and colour. (I actually wonder if some of what we're identifying as separate species are actually the same fungus, but in association with different photosynthetic partners!)

**Thinking as I'm typing**

That's actually the reverse of 'host modified morphology' where a fungal rust can manifest differently depending on which host it has chosen.

Gill said...

" When I saw my first specimen (a glossy black P. canina with brown 'fruits') I had no idea whether it was plant, fungus or lichen." I know what you mean. I thought my first Peltigera was a funny liverwort!

"It seems that some Peltigera species can discard their captive photobiont(s) in favour of another as they develop. That will alter the appearance and colour. (I actually wonder if some of what we're identifying as separate species are actually the same fungus, but in association with different photosynthetic partners!)" Fascinating, and entirely possible. I believe something similar happens with fungi, especically rusts, which have two hosts, and the two(+) forms are given different species names.