Monday, 29 July 2013

Cottage Farm

I was invited to attend a walk around part of a 145 acre farm in NI, and this post shows some of the interesting species we found during that time. The farm has many differing habitat types, and the number of species we found is testament to the sensitive way in which those habitat types have been nurtured. Although much of the land is acidic, like my home patch, there are a few limestone outcrops, which helps to explain why so many of today's finds are new to my species index.

Himalayan Balsam is a rapidly-expanding and highly invasive species that is taking over vast tracts of ditch, riverbank and any other place near water. I have previously remarked that I have never seen any species which appears to attack it in any way: most specimens are pristine. But today, to my delight, I found some specimens that were clearly being mined:

Mines of Phytoliriomyza melampyga on Himalayan Balsam
The only miner known to attack it is Phytoliriomyza melampyga, and the initial narrow corridor leading to an eventual blotch matches perfectly. We generally find that any imported species will inevitably be followed by any native species that are dependant on it, and it looks like that has happened here at last. I'll need to keep an eye on my local specimens.

New to my species index.

Honeysuckle is clearly a nutritious plant: there are many miners to be found in its leaves. The mine of Aulagromyza cornigera is identified by the initial narrow corridor, widening to a consistent sized corridor, with a central row of frass.

Mine of Aulagromyza cornigera on Honeysuckle
New to my species index.

I don't have a great deal of Hazel on my patch, so it's always good to find a substantial amount to have a look at. I quickly found a few mines of  the micromoth Stigmella floslactella, which is identified by the frass-filled early corridor, with later sections having a clear border free from frass:
Mine of Stigmella floslactella on Hazel

New to my species index.

We also saw lots of the hoverfly Sericomyia silentis. I thought this crop showed the Hazel nicely:

The hoverfly Sericomyia silentis on Hazel
I saw a few females of the hoverfly Bachia elongata closely examining flower stems without landing. This is typical behaviour when they are searching for clusters of aphids, and when they find a suitable batch, they will lay eggs very close to them as a food supply for their larvae. No resting - no autofocus: this shot was on manual focus:

Female Baccha elongata examining plant stems for aphids
New to my species index.

I took this opportunistic shot of the Common Garden Spider, which can be recognised by the dotted white cross on the abdomen:

Common Garden Spider

There were a few clusters of Common Valerian: some on the road verge, and a large group on the slope down to the river.
Common Valerian - Valeriana officinalis
This is a very common and widespread plant, but I have never found it on my local patch. There doesn't appear to be a preference for lime, so I can't imagine why I don't have it.

New to my species index.

I was a bit surprised to find Teasel on the edge of a bog:

Teasel has the most wonderful structure, with spines in every imaginable place, and these little reservoirs at the base of the leaves:

Water and debris collected at the base of Teasel leaves
These little reservoirs are always full of dead insects and vegetation, and I have always wondered if the plant takes any nutrition from those. It seems the answer is a qualified 'yes':

Article Source: Carnivory in the Teasel Dipsacus fullonum — The Effect of Experimental Feeding on Growth and Seed Set
Shaw PJA, Shackleton K (2011) Carnivory in the Teasel Dipsacus fullonum — The Effect of Experimental Feeding on Growth and Seed Set.

30% increase in seed set is quite an improvement.

New to my species index.

A few moth traps had been set the previous night, and I managed to judge my arrival time just as the identifications were being completed. A few of the species are new to me:

Lesser Swallow Prominent - a Birch feeder - which is identified by the white triangle at the peak of the wing:

Lesser Swallow Prominent

Swallow Prominent - a Poplar and Willow feeder:

Swallow Prominent

And the micromoth Argyresthia goedartella:
The micromoth Argyresthia goedartella
All are new to my species index.

The Spectacle isn't new, but I thought this shot showed its 'goggles' very well:

Spectacle moth
9 new species isn't bad for around 4 hours.


Gill said...

Fantastic page (again). How big is that little hovering Bachia? Or should that be "how small..."?

Could you make the background of the article source transparent as it shows as a white block?

I bet those moths, especially the birch one, are perfectly camouflaged against the tree bark.

"this shot showed its 'goggles'" - indeed - "Here's looking at you..." comes to mind.

stuart dunlop said...

Bachia was around 12mm long.

I changed the colour of the background, but couldn't get an exact match. Does it show up ok now?

Those 'goggles' aren't the real eyes, btw....the real ones are lower down.

Gill said...

"Those 'goggles' aren't the real eyes, btw....the real ones are lower down." I know :-)