Bramble: rambling over fences and through hedgerows, its flowers and fruit provide nourishment to insects, mammals and birds for much of the year; its leaves are home to leaf-mining moths and a multitude of other invertebrates; and, in the autumn, bramble colours our world with a burst of golden yellows, brilliant crimsons, burnt oranges and scarlet reds. What a plant!
Having spotted movement in the Bramble bushes, I was moving in for a closer look, when out popped this beauty, a female Blackcap.
She wasn’t at all happy with my proximity and started giving me a real scolding, a ‘ticking off’. I’m sure you’ve heard Robins and Wrens making their ‘ticking’ sound. Well, Blackcaps also have a ‘tick, tick’ contact call, which seems to get louder, harsher and much more insistent when they’re agitated.
Why was she annoyed? It seems I was keeping her from her food. She had spotted some particularly succulent-looking blackberries but didn’t feel comfortable about moving in to the open to eat them while I was nearby.
A few minutes after I realised what was happening and moved away, she popped out and resumed her feast. So, she was content, and I got some nice photos – and, though the dictionaries don’t mention it, I do wonder if this is where the phrase ‘to tick (someone) off’ comes from.
A rustle of vegetation … an eye … who’s this lurking behind the ‘snipe paddock’ fence at Cosmeston?
A female Pheasant? A common enough bird in the local countryside but not normally seen here in this dog-full park. She has quite short tail feathers and she’s not too bothered about my presence so I presume she’s a juvenile.
It seems she’s quite partial to blackberries.
Are there more of those delicious treats?
Aha, yes, another ripe one.
And, after scoffing those couple of berries, she wanders off in search of more.
One of the advantages of all the recent wet weather is that it aids the development of slime moulds.
I found this lovely stuff on some small dead bramble twigs during today’s walk along the south Wales coastal path.
It may be Mucilago crustacea but I can’t be sure about that identification.
I think everyone would agree that blackberries, the fruit of the bramble bush, are delicious. I’m not one of those people who risks the almost obligatory scratches to go blackberrying at this time of year – I prefer to leave them to the birds and minibeasts. But, at Cosmeston yesterday, I’d been walking longer than I anticipated and my stomach was rumbling so I thought I’d grab a few to keep me going.
Well, if looks could kill, I would never have made it home because these Red admiral butterflies were absolutely certain the blackberries belonged to them. And they weren’t going to relent, letting me get my hand really close to them without moving a millimetre. One even flew out and ‘buzzed’ me before re-settling on its chosen fruit. I got the message and left them to their feast.
I took myself on a meander along the south Wales coastal path from Penarth to Lavernock and back again today. The weather was still quite gloomy, as it’s been for several days now, but at least there was no rain. I often have this trail to myself but not today – every man, woman, child and their dog had obviously decided this was a good way to walk off their festive feasting. As I had made it today’s mission to look for the little, I got a lot of strange looks, and I heard one or two ‘What was that lady doing?’ comments after people had passed. To their credit a couple of folk were brave enough to ask me directly but their eyes glazed over when I began to extol the beauty of the many leafhoppers I was seeing.
I saw lots of lovely things but thought, for the purposes of this blog, I’d focus on the Bramble (Rubus fruticosus agg.), which grows in abundance along the coastal path and, with this year’s mild weather, is still very green, and even flowering in places.
I haven’t yet had a chance to identify my finds but I think I have photos of three different species of leafhoppers (though it’s possible number 3 is just a yellower version of number 1). I was amazed to see so many of these little critters still flying and hopping around the bushes, though the winter has been very mild here so far and I think some species over-winter as adults.
I also spotted a couple of other tiny mini-beasties lurking amongst the leaves. I’m not sure what these are.
Lots of the leaves had leaf mines, though their makers have now left the leaves. I think most of the mines I saw would have been made by the larvae of Stigmella aurella, a moth.
And my last find was on an old, decaying Bramble branch, where these beautiful little bonnet fungi were growing. Though you can’t see the details in this photo, the caps were striated and the stems grooved so I think these might be Grooved bonnets (Mycena polygramma).
Last Sunday, on #WildflowerHour, the challenge was to find #plantsforpollinators, i.e. to find wildflowers that support a variety of the insects that act as pollinators. I had found several different insects on Bramble flowers last week so posted a series of photos that showed them. And that gave me the idea for day 13 of #30DaysWild, namely to see what insects I could find on the local Bramble bushes. It was overcast and a bit cooler today, so I didn’t see as many butterflies as last week, but there were bees and bumblebees, flies and hoverflies, one butterfly, and a number of bugs and beetles. Here they are …
The reason I’m hesitant about positively IDing this one is because there are two species of micro moth whose larvae produce very similar mines on bramble (Rubus fruticosus agg.) leaves. One is the Glossy bramble pigmy moth (Stigmella splendidissimella) but the more likely in this case is the Golden pigmy moth (Stigmella aurella).
Though it’s very common and widespread in Britain, I’ve never seen this tiny moth (images on the UK moths website here) but the mines its larvae create on bramble leaves are everywhere I look. As you can see, the mine starts out small but, as the larva within chews and chews, so it widens its mine to accommodate its expanding girth.
You can see if the inhabitant is still at home by holding the leaf up to the light. Most of these seemed to be empty, as you can see from the images below (the central black lines are the frass). I’ve never actually opened a mine to have a look at the larva when it has been inside but, if I did, I would see an orangey-yellow grub with a brownish tinge to its head (there are images on the Bladmineerders website here).
First, the glorious flowers: some look like crushed paper tissue, others like crinkled pieces of silk. They range in colour from bleached white through parchment with the merest blush of pink to a pink that reminds me of the sticky candyfloss I ate as a child at the local fair.
Once the busy little pollinators have done their work, the fruit begins to develop and my taste buds start to stir as I look forward to the delicious juicy treats to come. First, the clusters of little green globes and then, as they ripen in the summer sun, the tinges of red appear, hinting at the lusciousness to come.
And then one day, when I’m out on one of my wanders, I spot it, the very first black berry. Will it still be a little sour and will it flood my mouth with those delectable full fruit flavours of perfect ripeness?
Here in Britain they are called brambles, in my New Zealand homeland we called them blackberries and, in scientific terms, they are all grouped together under the unprepossessing name of Rubus fruticosus agg. Agg stands for aggregate, as in a grouping together of a range of very closely related biological organisms, because Rubus fruticosus includes a myriad of hybridisations. But, whatever you call them, for me they are one of the things I most love about late summer and, yes, I have already eaten my first yummy blackberries of 2016.