Do you remember last Friday I blogged about the abundance of ladybirds at Cosmeston? They were feasting on the huge numbers of aphids on the Wild parsnip plants. Well, it turns out the ladybirds have had some competition for those aphids this week, as the migrating Willow warblers move through. I don’t think we need to worry though – there are more than enough aphids to go around!
I googled ‘What do ladybirds eat?’ today because I was trying to work out why there are so many ladybirds – about a 50 / 50 split between 7-spots and Harlequins – on the Wild parsnip plants at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park. It turns out ladybirds are particularly keen on aphids and, as you can see in some of my photos, there are rather a lot of aphids on these plants. Good news for the ladybirds!
I went for a wander along the Ely embankment yesterday and was delighted to discover a family of five Linnets, two adults and three exceedingly cute juveniles, all feeding on Herb Robert seeds. They started off with Mum and Dad feeding the youngsters but the kids soon got impatient and wanted more food more quickly.
Mum or Dad has just plucked one of the Herb Robert seed pods while …
… youngster is watching to see how this food-gathering process works.
“Now if I can just reach …”
“Now I’ve got the idea, I can help myself.”
Youngster looking rather pleased with itself.
British flora, British wildflowers, Cefn Cadlan, Common butterwort, Cwm Cadlan, Dog violet, Greater stitchwort, Green-veined white butterfly, Marsh lousewort, marsh marigold, Micropterix calthella, Native bluebell, Opposite-leaved golden saxifrage, Redstart, Water avens, Wood sorrel
You may be surprised to learn that birding trips aren’t always dominated by birdwatching.
Last Sunday’s Glamorgan Bird Club trip saw 22 people striding firstly around the high moorland near Cefn Cadlan, north of Cardiff on the way to Brecon, and then exploring nearby Cwm Cadlan National Nature Reserve, an area renowned for the rare plants that thrive in its wet grasslands.
Of course, we were on the trip primarily to look for birds – and I saw my first Redstarts for the year (always on distant tree tops) and heard my first Cuckoo (exactly a year since my very first Cuckoo).
But, when the birds proved elusive, our team of talented amateur naturalists turned their attention to all the other wildlife and wildflowers that surrounded us. We saw frogs and a hare; speculated on what had left its footprints in the mud; enjoyed all the Green-veined white and Orange-tip butterflies that were nectaring on the abundant Cuckkoflowers …
and we turned our heads downwards to admire all the special wildflowers that surrounded us. It was a glorious sunny day, the scenery was stunning, and the flora and fauna superb.
Are you up for a challenge? Do you like wildflowers? Well, then get following Wildflowerhour on Twitter and / or Facebook, and join in the weekly wildflower challenge fun. Not only will your newsfeed be filled with glorious colour every Sunday night from 8 to 9pm (and throughout the week, as well) but I guarantee you will also learn something new each week.
This week’s challenge was titled ‘On the verge’, and we were challenged to see what wildflowers we could discover on roadside verges. Rather than a busy highway, I chose a quiet local side road at Penarth Marina – I already get lots of odd looks for taking a close look at flowers and insects, so tried to avoid too much attention. The Marina area is a relatively new environment, my verge an area that had previously been a dock, where ocean-going ships brought goods from near and far to Cardiff, but this particular dock was filled with household rubbish and turned into a park back in the 1980s. So, I didn’t find anything particularly exciting on my verge but it was interesting to see what plants had become established.
Strobilus: noun; a botanical term, which came originally from the Greek strephein meaning ‘to twist’, and which is used to describe the cone of a pine, fir or other conifer; and also ‘a structure resembling the cone of a conifer, such as the flower of the hop’ (Oxford Dictionary).
I have the lovely Helen of Plantlife Cymru to thank for this word because, when I originally posted this photo on Twitter, she responded by saying that ‘the strobilus is ascending’. My photo shows the newly emerged stalks of Equisetum (possibly Field horsetail, Equisteum arvense), which is a dinosaur of the plant world, a plant that reproduces using spores rather than seeds. The spores are produced in the strobili, the cone-like structures you can see on the tips of the stems.
I kid you not – Lungwort really is this wildflower’s common name (scientific name: Pulmonaria officinalis). And why? Well, it goes back to the times when people believed that the physical qualities of a plant – its shape, colour, features – reflected its uses (a theory also known as the doctrine of signatures). In this case, the freckled oval-shaped leaves were thought to resemble diseased lungs (and I thought I had a good imagination!) and so the plant was (and still is) used as a treatment for various respiratory ailments.
Those blotchy leaves are also the reason for one of the plant’s many common names, ‘Mary-spilt-the-milk’. And the variety of pinks and blues in its flowers are behind its other vernacular names, ‘Jacob’s coat’ and ‘Soldiers and Sailors’ – all much more understandable.
I was handing out the cigars last Monday!
Now, you might well think me more than a little mad to be excited about the birth of a fly but this was the first time I had tried rearing one … and it was actually successful, which bodes well for the fact that I’m intending to take part in a fly-rearing investigation this summer (more on that closer to the time).
The fly is Phytomyza ranunculi, a creature whose larvae often make their home in the leaves of Lesser celandine (Ficaria verna). I blogged about this leafminer, its larvae and the pupa here, and it is that pupa which finally hatched earlier this week. I had been told it would take about 3 weeks to hatch but it was, in fact, longer than that – it was 6 February when I found the pupa and 12 March when it hatched, so 34 days in total.
Now, here I must admit to a rookie error. As it was well over the 3 weeks, I had almost given up on its hatching so, on Monday night, when I had a sudden notion to open the container, I didn’t look inside first. The fly popped straight out, perched on the edge for a very brief time – and I managed to get just one photo, and then it flew off. I’ve searched for it in my flat, and it did a quick fly by when I was washing the dishes yesterday, but I haven’t been able to find it, neither to take more photos nor to let it outside.
This week’s Wildflower Hour challenge was to check out your local pavement for #PavementPlants. As the challenge says: ‘It is amazing how many plants are able to eke out a living where they were never invited. Growing in seemingly inhospitable cracks and crevices, thriving where there is little soil, these tough little plants are often overlooked.’ So, it was eyes down this week as I wandered around Penarth and, though I decided to look just for plants that were flowering and ignore the ubiquitous grasses and mosses, I did manage to find a few little treasures in my local pavements, steps and paths.
Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)
I’m sure most people recognise Groundsel when they see it, as it’s very common in areas of disturbed ground. I just learned today that Senecio comes from the Latin for ‘old man’, a reference to the bare ‘scalp’ that remains once the plant’s fluffy white seeds have blown away.
Hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta)
I was initially confused about which bittercress this was, Hairy or Wavy but my trusty wildflower guide tells me that Hairy has four stamens and Wavy usually has six, so that clinched it. Apparently, this plant is edible, though bitter – hence its name: I think I’ll pass.
Lesser celandine (Ficaria verna)
Once known as Pilewort, as it was believed to be a remedy for haemorrhoids, Lesser celandine contains high levels of vitamin C and was also used to prevent scurvy.
Shepherd’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)
This very common wild plant’s common name comes from the purse-like shape of its seed pods.