Monday, 16 May 2016

Benburb bioblitz

This bioblitz was based around Benburb castle, but also included the grounds of what is now known as Benburb Priory. The 17th century castle is being restored and the priory was formerly a manor house built in the 1880's.

The underlying geology is limestone and the site slopes downwards towards a river which is extensively engineered with cuts and sluices, and could almost be regarded as a canal. The riverside area has been allowed to run wild and is covered with Giant Hogweed, Bamboo, Japanese knotweed, Laurel and Himalayan Balsam. The grounds closer to the Priory are maintained as a decorative garden, but again, large areas are running wild, with a collapsed victorian greenhouse/orangery attached to outbuildings. This feature runs for some 50 metres and was clearly an important structure in its day. This is a shot of the old glasshouse:

Part of the glasshouse area with priory in the background
The south-facing glasshouse area contained a mixture of wild and cultivated plants, notably an overgrown herb garden, and attracted a huge number of hoverflies, butterflies, solitary bees and bumblebees.

Here's a shot of a Holly Blue on the approach path: 

Holly Blue butterfly
We made a quick survey to see where we should concentrate our efforts and it was clear that the riverside paths would be most productive. When I noticed that the area was limestone, we looked for Garlic Mustard, since this is a host plant for the Orange Tip butterfly and we immediately found an occupied flower:

Orange Tip egg on Garlic Mustard
We saw many Orange Tips, both male and female along the river bank. This female was nectaring on Herb Robert:
Female Orange Tip on Herb Robert
The same area yielded 14-spot Ladybird:

14 spot Ladybird

And a 10-spot ladybird with the rear spots missing. The 10-spot must be the ladybird with most variation in the spotting:

10-spot ladybird
Also from this area were the hoverfly Leucozona lucorum:

The hoverfly Leucozona lucorum landing on Bush Vetch

And I caught a glimpse of a huge pond skater down below in the cut next to the river. It's a poor shot, but there is only one pond skater this size. It's Aquarius najas, and is around 5 cm long from front foot to rear foot:

The River Skater Aquarius najas
New to my Species List.

We found a couple of leaf miners in the wooded area closer to the castle:

Phytomyza chaerophylli on Cow Parsley

Phytomyza ranunculi on Celandine
Phytomyza ranunculi was also found on Creeping Buttercup.

Closer to the castle, I found a moth larva grazing on lichen on a fence post. It's Brussels Lace, Cleorodes lichenaria:

Larva of the Brussels Lace moth

That's a good example of the formal name clearly stating the nature of a species.

A final shot of Lords-and-Ladies or Cuckoo Pint, which I only ever find on lime:

Arum maculatum
Overall we submitted perhaps a hundred species on the day. This is far fewer than I would normally expect on a day's hunting, especially on a bright sunny day, but the habitat is essentially 'cultivated but abandoned', so the biodiversity could be expected to be low.


Gill said...

Fascinating - and that shot of the Leucozona is a stunner.

Cuckoo pint only on lime? I'll have to make more careful notes of where I see it (practically everywhere I thought).

I don't think I've ever seen a 10-spot ladybird - what's its habitat? I do see quite a few harlequins and they most definitely have multiple spot- and colourways. And since they've arrived I've hardly seen a 2-spot.

stuart dunlop said...

Cuckoo Pint isn't associated with lime in the literature, but I always find it on lime, and never on my home patch acid soil. I actually use it as a habitat identifier.

10-spot can be seen on verges, path edges and woodland edges. It's tiny, about a match-head size. Yes: harlequins are very varied too, but they're not on my radar since they haven't arrived this far north and west yet, although they are found further south in Ireland.

That greenhouse/orangery must have been some sight in its hey-day.

Gerry Snape said...

I have orange spot here in the back field but realise the small white was the female...not a green veined...thankyou for that.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Your keen eye continues to amaze me Stuart. I wander along the path and see only that which is in front of me. You find nature's bounty everywhere. I love those ladybirds.

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