Nettle rust

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It’s Fungi Friday and, though this time of year is not what I usually think of as prime fungi time, fungi are always with us, around us, underneath our feet, in the air we breathe, and I did find some prime examples earlier this week.

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The vibrant yellow-orange-red patches on these Stinging nettles are Nettle rust (Puccinia urticata), and there were a lot of them.

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As you can imagine, they were not easy to photograph, particularly as the plants were swaying slightly in the gentle breeze.

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Fortunately, I spotted a patch of Dock nearby and used a leaf of that to shield my fingers while I held the plants steady.

210604 nettle rust (4)

First Common spotted orchids

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I was delighted yesterday, as I walked up the west paddock at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park, to spot my first two flowering Common spotted orchids of the year. This is just the beginning of what will, I’m sure, be another stunning display, as both the east and west paddocks are usually awash with orchids in the summer months.

Roosting

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When we think of creatures roosting or going to roost at night, we usually think of birds – one magnificent example is the murmurations performed by Starlings before they all fly down to roost together, or you may have seen photos of mass gatherings of Pied wagtails roosting together for warmth during the colder winter months.

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However, birds aren’t the only creatures that roost – some butterfly species also roost at night, or earlier, if the weather is particularly dull and grey. One such species is the Common blue, which roosts, with head pointed downwards, usually on a tall stem of grass.

210602 roosting common blues (2)

These photos were taken late last Friday afternoon, following a morning of rain, when the cloud cover was still low and quite dense. The butterflies had obviously given up on the prospect of more sun that day and gone to bed early. I’m sure we all know that feeling!

Green tiger beetle

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Here’s another find from my visit to Aberbargoed, though not from the grasslands. My friend and I also had a good wander around the adjacent spoil tip, a huge reminder of the coal mining industry that used to dominate much of the Welsh Valleys and now home to an amazingly diverse range of flora and fauna.

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Last week’s walk produced my first ever Green tiger beetle (Cicindela campestris), a species I’ve wanted to see since marvelling at the wonderful photos I saw on Liam Old’s Twitter feed. (Liam is the founder and force behind the Colliery Spoil Biodiversity Initiative, which promotes the environmental value of spoil tips and the immense biodiversity these sites support.)

Lousewort

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One of the many good things about visiting a different location after having been restricted to my local patch for many months is getting the opportunity to see something new. So, when I went to Aberbargoed Grasslands for the Marsh fritillaries I blogged about yesterday, I also spotted other fauna and flora I don’t usually see.

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Acid-loving Lousewort (Pedicularis sylvatica) thrives in the boggy fields where the Marsh frits are found. It’s actually a semi-parasitic plant, tapping into the roots of adjacent grasses and other plants to obtain the nutrients it needs to grow.

This plant’s name is odd: the NBN Atlas website explains that people used to believe that livestock that ate Lousewort would then become infected with lice. Bizarre!

Marsh fritillaries

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Having lucked out last week, I was over the moon during this week’s visit to Aberbargoed Grasslands NNR to see my first Marsh fritillaries of the year.

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Perhaps it was the company of my friend Sharon that brought me luck (it was our first meeting in almost nine months).

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And, no doubt, bumping in to the ranger on site really helped, as he pointed out which field he’d just seen half a dozen butterflies in (the main field where they’re usually seen is still very waterlogged).

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The day of our visit was the first really sunny day in a while, and, as most of the fritillaries were sitting quietly amongst the tussocks and clumps of grass, soaking up the sunshine and flexing their wings, I got the feeling that many had only just emerged from their pupae.

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We saw nine Marsh fritillaries in total – I’m sure there were more we missed. They are such stunning creatures that I’m already planning a return visit.

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Feeding time

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Who’d be a bird parent? The nonstop finding and gathering enough food to feed a multitude of gaping beaks, the constant flying out of the nest to dump chick poo and back in with the insects to generate more chick poo, the incessant and demanding cheep-cheep-cheeping….
I have nothing but admiration for these toilers!

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Oak: mothy goodness

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As you can see from the last two days’ blogs, there was much to be found on Oak leaves in my local woodlands on Sunday. These are two more finds, both relating to moths. This first was found on the same tree as the Purple hairstreak larva and, thanks to some help from Twitter moth-ers, I can tell you this is the larva of the Brindled green moth (Dryobotodes eremite) (you can see the adult moth on the UK Moths website here).

210527 brindled green larva

The wonderfully crafted cases in the photos below contain the larvae of either Coleophora lutipennella or Coleophora flavipennella – apparently, it’s not possible to determine the species without waiting for the adult moths to hatch and then dissecting their genitalia, which I’m not going to do. I’m happy just to admire their silk-weaving skills.

Oak: Purple hairstreak larva

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While examining the galls on Oak leaves that I blogged about yesterday, I also made a very exciting find, my first Purple hairstreak butterfly larva. It was so well camouflaged that I’m sure I wouldn’t normally have noticed it.

210526 purple hairstreak larva

This particular woodland contains some huge ancient Oak trees but also many younger trees planted to mark the turn of the millennium and I’ve always thought it would be good habitat for Purple hairstreak. Now that I know they’re definitely here, I’ll be looking for the stunning little butterflies when they emerge in a month or so, and also for more larvae in the meantime.