Sunday, 26 April 2015

My Least Favourite Terrestrial Arthropod

Beetles, can't get enough of them, Bees and Wasps the same, Ants, not fot me even centipedes and woodlice hold a certain fascination, but ticks, they unsettle me like nothing else.  Plenty to be found on Budby Heath today.  Had an April sweep over the heath and along woodland edges to see what was out and about early,  Well Ixodes ricinus. the sheep tick seemed to turn up quite regularly in the net.  Good job I had long trousers on.  Not a lot else to find other than  the Oil beetle Meloe proscarabeus,  a single female minotaur beetle perambulating across the sand (usually these chaps don't come out until dark and several of my favourites the Tiger beetle Cicindela campestris.  Only beetle of note in the sweep net was the tiny red and black weevil Coeliodinus rubicundus (no picture provided as its a little too small to photograph clearly) 

Ixodes ricinus - Budby Heath 

Tiger Beetle - taking in the rays Budby Heath 26th April 2015

Friday, 10 April 2015

Sweet violets and the curious case of the lemming-like badger.

Woodlands in spring,  I probably don't need to say a lot more about them to those who read this blog, they're just the place to be, strong sunlight on the woodland floor and early spring flowers.  My local patch has quite an extensive covering of Viola odorata, the sweet violet at this time of year.  I know that they exist in purple and I know that they exist in white,  but it's the first time that I've noticed that they exist in intermediate colour forms as well, between the white and the purple.  Got me thinking of Mendelian genetics and co-dominance where both alleles contribute to the phenotype of their offspring, a trait shown by Red Campion, White Campion and the intermediate pink coloured variety. I'm just presuming that this is the case for the violet, I tried a bit of an internet search to discover flower colour inheritance but to no avail.  Photographs are shown to illustrate the varieties seen.

It's also the time of year for young badgers, and it was rather sad to see a rather small freshly dead fellow at the base of a steep clay cliff.  I can only speculate that this poor chap out on one of his first forays strayed a little to close to the edge and took a tumble. Not being a brock expert I don't even know when the young start to leave their sett so I might be spouting absolute tosh. This animal was about the size of a size 10 walking boot.

Viola odorata - normal purple form. 

V. odorata - white form 

V. odorata - intermediate form. 
Young dead badger, April 2015. 

Heavy Metal

I'm sure many of you have read about the effect mine spoil has on vegetation and the difficulty that some plants have in colonising spoil heaps. I've always enjoyed walking on spoil heaps as the plants that do manage to colonise are often rather scarce or not found in the surrounding countryside.  My local heap is the site of the old Gedling Colliery although Nottinghamshire is dotted with many similar sites and all of them if they haven't been capped by clay still show traces of mine spoil. The majority of Gedling has been capped but those areas still uncapped are pretty good floristically.  One of the major waste products discarded from coal mining are nodules of iron pyrites commonly known as fools gold, chemically Iron Sulphide. Iron pyrites occurs commonly in the carboniferous measures of Nottinghamshire and can be found on the spoil heaps if you keep a keen eye out.  I picked one such nodule up several years ago and brought it back to my garden and plonked it onto my rockery. This rockery is covered by Helxine soleirolii, "baby's tears" that creeps over and around the stones. As can be seen after a wet and damp winter it struggles where the Iron pyrites sits, in summer it manages to grow around and below the pyrites lump.  The reason for the dieback is the reaction between pyrites air and water,  the resultant products form both Iron oxides and Sulphuric acid. It's the sulphuric acid run off that's causing plant death.   I think the picture illustrates it rather well.

 Helxine damage caused by Iron pyrites derived sulphuric acid (10p for scale)

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Salticus with prey

Sun is out, first bit of real warmth on my house wall whilst I'm at home and spiders are out and about on the hunt.  Salticus scenicus a beautiful little spider getting lucky with a nice juicy midge. Still very little about, had a fly past from a Hairy Footed Flower Bee and a brief stop over form the Tree Bumblebee Bombus hypnorum.  The hairy footed's will hang around a little longer in the garden once the Archangel is in full flower.  Not a lot else to say other than I hope the sun comes out for a little longer tomorrow.