Thursday, 8 July 2010

Bee is for broomrape

The safari was allowed the first early Patch 1 walk with Frank after the op this morning. He promptly disgraced himself by haring off after a Woodpigeon feeding on the ground yanking his lead from our 'good' hand. Bad dog...never done that before!!! The Blackcap was still giving us a few bars of song and after noting yesterday that the Sparrowhawks were still around well we actually heard them this morning. If there is a nest it could be right by where the Chav-finches hang out in their 'shelter'. Thanks for the correct nomenclature Cliff - nice one.
On the way back we spotted this torpid White Tailed Bumble Bee. A Soldier Beetle was about to be photographed when Frank disturbed a large Frog and it hopped our way with him close behind, nose to the grass, after it.After a bit of brekkie we decided to try a safari a bit further afield so we doused ourselves in insect repellent and fired up the Land Rover to try a 500 yard drive. Managed it fairly successfully - good job it's an auto though cos changing gear might not have been possible just yet. The area is a County Biological Heritage Site on account of its wildflowers and there are loads of ant nests some quite large ones like the one below.The object of the safari was to see if we could find any Bee Orchids, nope couldn't find anything resembling a drying seedpod anywhere. Should have marked the two we found before we went into hossy. We did, however, after much searching find a single spike of Common Broomrape. This plant is a parasite on the Red Clover seen in the back ground.The sun was shining but this is an exposed raised site and a cool breeze was keeping the insects tucked up in the grass. As we walked about we kicked up oodles of Meadow Browns, Large Skippers
and a fair few Small Skippers. We also saw three scale perfect Small Tortoiseshells. It was very tricky trying to get shots of the butts, and the number of Cleggs hovering around looking interested but not landing might have given the game away. As we approached the butterflies with the camera they were getting a good wiff of the insect repellant. Only one pic but boy are we glad we had it on, loadsa Cleggs - no bites! The Common Horse Fly (link goes to some good pics esp showing the beautiful eyes - all the better to see you with!!!) or Cleg-fly has an interesting Latin name: Haematopota pluvialis = blooddrinker of the rains. Nicked that bit from Garden Safari
Further on we noted that there is the starts of some scrub invasion that will need addressing at some stage in the not too distant future. Not that scrub is a bad thing - on the contrary its a brilliant transitional habitat and that coming from someone who spent much of the 80's 'scrub bashing' some of it perhaps unnecessary looking back with hindsight; BUT NOT the Rhododendron bashing bit!
If the scrub starts to take over and overshadow the grassland we'll lose some of the more delicate species of open ground like this tiny, no more than two inches tall (50mm) Common Centaury.

Must remember to check the small patch of dunes beyond the cliffs, past where we normally safari too, to check for the very similar Seaside Centaury.
The hemi-parasite Red Bartsia would struggle if the scrub increased too much. Unlike the Common Broomrape it has chlorophyll and is not wholly dependent upon its host plant, in this case grasses.
Some plants like this Common Catsear would be OK in open scrub.
But which is softer, the downy leaves of the Common Catsear or a Labrador's ears? Probably the softest thing is the bit between the Labrador's ears!

Along the bottom edge of the wildflower bank is a reed filled ditch. From there the Calamine Lotion-like scent of Meadowsweet was filling the air pleasantly on the breeze.
Beyond the ditch there is a seriously overgrazed horse field, although we don't think the horses were using knives and forks to munch the grass! The damp areas are heavily poached and only unpalatable species survive. It was here we found some specimens of Celery Leaved Buttercup - so the seed that has germinated in Base Camp's pond has come less than half a mile!
Marsh Marigolds have long since finished flowering but there were several clumps of them. In this area there are several ponds, some better than others for wildlife but each one unique. This one has a rather nasty infestation of New Zealand Stonecrop. Possibly one of the worst of the invasive aliens in the UK and almost impossible to get rid of once established. The solution for this pond is to dig a similar sized on close by and use the excavated spoil to bury the alien.Not far away is a worse example, probably taken their on the hooves of the horses or the wheels of the chav's shopping trolleys. Needless to say the safari was very careful not to go too far and risk getting the stuff on our boots.
The 'pond' above is really a seasonally wet area and if left ungrazed and wasn't invaded by aliens then it puts on a fine show of Fine Leaved Water Dropwort, a rare plant in Lancashire. We managed to find one small specimen close to edge of the morass.The horse field had a Mistle Thrush feeding away fairly close and within lens range which we didn't notice until we were right on top of it, as we raised the camera it flew...doh.
Leading into another of the ponds is a ditch with a nice variety of wildflowers including a couple of large patches of Greater Bird's Foot Trefoil.We also had a cracking pic of Marsh Woundwort for you but managed to delete it off the camera by accident...doh. also along this ditch we watched out first Brown Hawker dragonfly of the year patrolling his territory whilst overhead a feeding flock of about 50 mixed Swallows and House Martins whizzed about - no Hobby though - shame, probably have to stand there a long, long, long time before one eventually flew through upsetting the hirundines.
The last pic is of an Orange Skirted Slug and is for Dean, showing this remarkable feasting behaviour of slugs isn't confined to Yorkshire. Enjoy; we're sure he's about to - the slug that is not Dean!!! And no, we hadn't just trod in it!Where to next? Somewhere less smelly!
In the meantime let us know who's been feasting on what in your outback.


Phil said...

Well they do say you learn something every day. Thanks for such erudite information about the horse fly that will eat me alive soon on the moss. I just call them a name that begins with the capital letter "B" but also eat more garlic that makes me taste nasty before I hit the moss.

Anonymous said...

"The last pic is of an Orange Skirted Slug and is for Dean, showing this remarkable feasting behaviour of slugs isn't confined to Yorkshire."

Glad to hear it`s not just a Yorkshire trait then, Dave.

cliff said...

I've been trying to suss out just where this is & have pinned it down to the scrub at the end of Holyoak Ave, somewhere I've never explored despite it being very nearby. Me & the missus have now promised ourselves a walk around there the next time it's nice, which at the moment is looking like 2011, that hosepipe ban hasn't half put the mockers on the weather.