Monday, 15 August 2016

So I like Thorns.

Dusky Thorn, Ennomos fuscantaria.  Hayes, 8 August 2016.
Dusky Thorn, Ennomos fuscantaria.  Hayes, 8 August 2016.
Yes, I like Thorns.  They are photogenic from any angle.  So here is a set of photographs of a single specimen, a Dusky Thorn in my garden light trap.

Dusky Thorn, Ennomos fuscantaria.  Hayes, 8 August 2016.

Dusky Thorn, Ennomos fuscantaria.  Hayes, 8 August 2016.

Dusky Thorn, Ennomos fuscantaria.  Hayes, 8 August 2016.
Dusky Thorn, Ennomos fuscantaria.  Hayes, 8 August 2016.

That's all!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Windy Woods


Oak tree by the railway path West Wickham to Hayes, 29 July 2016.
Oak tree by the railway path West Wickham to Hayes, 29 July 2016.
Oak trees are known for dropping branches unpredictably.  Where they grow near footpaths, site managers usually make sure that any overhanging branches are cut back, and you can see in this photo where that has been done.  But even though it has not been especially windy, a large branch has still torn itself away.

Fallen Oak branch by the railway path West Wickham to Hayes, 29 July 2016.
Fallen Oak branch by the railway path West Wickham to Hayes, 29 July 2016.
This is it, just behind the fence.  It might have fallen on or over the fence, or onto the railway just beyond the tree, or onto a train.  Oaks are unpredictable.

Scots Pine blown over by storm Katie at the edge of Woodland Way in Spring Park.  28 March 2016.
Scots Pine blown over by storm Katie at the edge of Woodland Way in Spring Park.  28 March 2016.
Of course, when there are high winds, all trees are susceptible.  This Scots Pine looked strong, but came down across a footpath during Storm Katie. 

Scots Pine blown over by storm Katie at the edge of Woodland Way in Spring Park.  28 March 2016.
Scots Pine blown over by storm Katie at the edge of Woodland Way in Spring Park.  28 March 2016.
The trunk has split.  Close examination showed signs of internal decay, a fungus infection that probably weakened it.

Scots Pine blown over by storm Katie at the edge of Woodland Way in Spring Park.  28 March 2016.
Scots Pine blown over by storm Katie at the edge of Woodland Way in Spring Park.  28 March 2016.
This is the inner face of a piece of one of the splinters, and that whitish substance is fungal mycelium.  Either it has taken advantage of an existing weakness, probably making it worse, or it has caused the weakness in the first place.

Danger during high winds is the reason why woodland walks are cancelled if it is too windy.

Later, I also saw this:

Fallen tree on Hayes Common, 28 April 2016.
Fallen tree on Hayes Common, 28 April 2016.
Clearly something big has come down on top of the fence, probably also a victim of Storm Katie, and has been partly tidied up. 




Saturday, 6 August 2016

Thorns.

Purple Thorn, Selenia tetralunaria.  Hayes, 30 July 2016.
Purple Thorn, Selenia tetralunaria.  Hayes, 30 July 2016.
I think that Thorns are the most photogenic of British moths, and the Purple Thorn probably the most lovely of them.   Here are some Thorns.  Some of them have probably been posted before, but it's worth seeing them together.

Early Thorn, Selenia dentaria.  Hayes, 4 August 2016.
Early Thorn, Selenia dentaria.  Hayes, 4 August 2016.
The Early Thorn comes twice a year, in April and May, and again in August and September.  This is because it can go through its complete life cycle twice a year.  Unlike other Thorns, it typically poses with its wings tight together above its back, like a butterfly.

Canary-shouldered Thorn, Ennomos alniaria.  Hayes, 20 July 2017.
Canary-shouldered Thorn, Ennomos alniaria.  Hayes, 20 July 2017.
The Canary-shouldered Thorn is named for the bright yellow furry appearance of its head and thorax.

Feathered Thorn, Colotois pennaria.  Hayes, 14 November 2015.
Feathered Thorn, Colotois pennaria.  Hayes, 14 November 2015.
The Feathered Thorn, a later arrival than most, likes to lie flat.

Little Thorn, Cepphis advenaria.  Oldbury Hill, 10 June 2012.
Little Thorn, Cepphis advenaria.  Oldbury Hill, 10 June 2012.
I saw this Little Thorn on a mothing trip to an old wood at Oldbury Hill.

August Thorn, Ennomos quercinaria.  Hayes, 25 July 2016.
August Thorn, Ennomos quercinaria.  Hayes, 25 July 2016.
The August Thorn sometimes also lies flat like the Feathered Thorn.

Dusky Thorn, Ennomos fuscantaria.  Hayes, 3 September 2014.
Dusky Thorn, Ennomos fuscantaria.  Hayes, 3 September 2014.
But the Dusky Thorn, like the pettiest Thorns, holds its wings cocked at an angle.  In fact I'll show that more clearly:

Dusky Thorn, Ennomos fuscantaria.  Hayes, 3 September 2014.
Dusky Thorn, Ennomos fuscantaria.  Hayes, 3 September 2014.
Like so!

But I will finish with another shot of my favourite.

Purple Thorn, Selenia tetralunaria.  Hayes, 30 July 2016.
Purple Thorn, Selenia tetralunaria.  Hayes, 30 July 2016.
In photography, it's easy for surrounding objects to reflect their colours onto the subject of the photo and distort subtle shades.  That's why I try to use neutral grey egg boxes in my traps.  Moths photographed inside my wooden trap or on pieces of bark suffer from this.  This last photo does not have a pretty background, but the clear plastic allows the true colours of the moth's wings to show up.  It's easy to lose that light mauve shade that gives this Purple Thorn its name.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Some Things To See at Keston Common

Bog Asphodel, Narthecium ossifragum.  Keston Common bog, 23 July 2016.
Bog Asphodel, Narthecium ossifragum.  Keston Common bog, 23 July 2016.
Masses of Bog Asphodel, in the bog, naturally enough.

Broad-leaved Helleborine, Epipactis helleborine.  Keston Common, 23 July 2016.
Broad-leaved Helleborine, Epipactis helleborine.  Keston Common, 23 July 2016.
A single small patch of Broad-leaved Helleborine by the roadside.

White Water-lily, Nymphaea alba.  Keston Ponds, 23 July 2016.
White Water-lily, Nymphaea alba.  Keston Ponds, 23 July 2016.
White Water-lily in the ponds, looking pure and beautiful.

Yellow Water-lily, Nuphar lutea.  Keston Ponds, 23 July 2016.
Yellow Water-lily, Nuphar lutea.  Keston Ponds, 23 July 2016.
Yellow Water-lilies in the same ponds.  Sometimes called Brandy-bottle from the shape of the fruit.

Cinnabar caterpillar, Tyria jacobaeae.  Keston Common, 23 July 2016.
Cinnabar caterpillar, Tyria jacobaeae.  Keston Common, 23 July 2016.
The yellow and black caterpillar of the Cinnabar moth, eating up a Ragwort, which makes it poisonous for potential predators to eat.

Water Forget-me-not, Myosotis scorpioides.  Keston Ponds, 23 July 2016.
Water Forget-me-not, Myosotis scorpioides.  Keston Ponds, 23 July 2016.
Water Forget-me-not on the margins of the ponds.

Branched Bur-reed, Sparganium erectum.  Keston Ponds, 23 July 2016.
Branched Bur-reed, Sparganium erectum.  Keston Ponds, 23 July 2016.
The flowers of Branched Bur-reed, also on the margins of the ponds.

Emperor Dragonfly ovipositing.  Anax imperator.  Keston Ponds, 23 July 2016.
Emperor Dragonfly ovipositing.  Anax imperator.  Keston Ponds, 23 July 2016.
And lots of Dragonfiles and Damselflies zooming around the ponds, like this Emperor Dragonfly which is laying its eggs.


Sunday, 24 July 2016

I Don't Need No ... Chlorophyll


Myxomycete, Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa.  High Elms Country Park, 19 June 2016.
Myxomycete, Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa.  High Elms Country Park, 19 June 2016.
If you think about plants that are not green, have no green leaves and do not need sunlight to make their food, you might think of fungi and perhaps slime moulds (Myxomycetes).  Actually, though, neither of these can really be called plants. 

Myxomycetes eat all sorts of tiny things, including bacteria and fungus spores, and most of them slurp around as a sort of mobile jelly until they settle down and put up spore-bearing organs like those shown here.  You can see the jelly form in this photo too.

Pale Stagshorn, Calocera pallidospathulata.  High Elms Country Park, 23 May 2016.
Pale Stagshorn, Calocera pallidospathulata.  High Elms Country Park, 23 May 2016.
This one is a fungus.  Athough it looks rather like the Myxomycete and lives in the same sort of place, on rotting wood, it is not any sort of close relation, just as, for example, dragonflies and swifts are not closely related even though they both fly around snapping up insects. 

But there are also quite a few true plants that do not have any chlorophyll.  They are parasitic, leeching off the root systems of plants that do get their energy from the sun.

Common Toothwort, Lathraea squamaria.  High Elms Country Park, 24 March 2016.
Common Toothwort, Lathraea squamaria.  High Elms Country Park, 24 March 2016.
Here is one, the Common Toothwort, that comes up early in the year in old woodland.  It is usually associated with Hazel. 

Common Broomrape, Orobanche minor.  High Elms Country Park, 19 June 2016.
Common Broomrape, Orobanche minor.  High Elms Country Park, 19 June 2016.
There are also a whole group of Broomrapes that parasitise various plants.  They are not very common, and this is the only one I have seen locally.  I think it's the Common Broomrape, which parasitises a range of plants.  It was certainly in amongst a mixed group.

Yellow Bird's Nest, Monotropa hypopitys.  High Elms Country Park, 20 July 2016.
Yellow Bird's Nest, Monotropa hypopitys.  High Elms Country Park, 20 July 2016.
This is another parasite, but at one remove.  It feeds off fungi which in turn are linked to tree roots. The fungi provide minerals and basic food substances to the trees, and the trees provide sugars to the fungi.  Then the Yellow Bird's-nest grabs its food from the fungi.  SOmetimes you can trace a tree's roots by looking at the growth patterns of this plant.

I used to wonder how it got its common name, but this year I saw a mature flower:

Yellow Bird's Nest, Monotropa hypopitys.  Closeup of flower.  High Elms Country Park, 8 July 2016.
Yellow Bird's Nest, Monotropa hypopitys.  Closeup of flower.  High Elms Country Park, 8 July 2016.
And it became less of a mystery.

All these so far have been seen at High Elms Country Park this year.  This last example, below, was photographed in the same park a couple of years ago.

Bird's Nest Orchid,  Neottia nidus-avis.   High Elms Country Park, 29 June 2013.
Bird's Nest Orchid,  Neottia nidus-avis.   High Elms Country Park, 29 June 2013.
Not to be confused with the Yellow Bird's-nest, though it often grows near it - as it does here - this is the Bird's Nest Orchid.  It is also associated with tree roots; Beech, in this case.

As you can see, most of these plants are yellowish and sickly-looking.  But they are actually bursting with health, which makes one woonder about the state of their victims!

Friday, 15 July 2016

Lullingstone Butterflies

Small Skipper, Thymelicus sylvestris.  Lullingstone Country Park, 4 July 2016.
Small Skipper, Thymelicus sylvestris.  Lullingstone Country Park, 4 July 2016.
A few butterflies that I saw in Lullingstone Country Park, all on differently coloured flowers.  It was a sunny morning and I saw dozens flying around the meadows. 

The Small Skipper above is a male.  The diagonal mark on the wing is known as the sex brand, and it's the origin of its pheromones. 

Common Blue, Polyommatus icarus.  Lullingstone Country Park, 4 July 2016.
Common Blue, Polyommatus icarus.  Lullingstone Country Park, 4 July 2016.
This Common Blue, conversely, is a female.  Female Common Blues are often brownish, sometimes nearly all brown except for a blue tinge to the body hairs.  The males are always a bright blue, so at least the name is partly right - unlike the Small Blue butterfly, in which both sexes are always completely brown.

Small Tortoiseshell, Aglais urticae.  Lullingstone Country Park, 4 July 2016.
Small Tortoiseshell, Aglais urticae.  Lullingstone Country Park, 4 July 2016.
I only saw this one Small Tortoiseshell, feeding on a Field Scabious.  It was the most colourful butterfly of the day.

Marbled White, Melanargia galathea.   Lullingstone Country Park, 4 July 2016.
Marbled White, Melanargia galathea.   Lullingstone Country Park, 4 July 2016.
On one of the meadows, these Marbled Whites were everywhere.   I also saw Meadow Browns and Ringlets, but didn't get any photos; and I saw a few Fritillaries.  Lullingstone is known to have Dark Green Fritillaries, but I could not get close enough to tell the species, and they never seemed to come to rest, even though I blundered around the grassland for 15 minutes following them.  I finally took this blurry shot below, which is enough to show that my object was a Fritillary, but not which species.  This is just a slice of the photo.

Grassland with flying Fritillary.  Lullingstone Country Park, 4 July 2016
Grassland with flying Fritillary.  Lullingstone Country Park, 4 July 2016

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Leybourne Lakes, Mid-June

Grassland at Leybourne Lakes, 16 June 2016.
Grassland at Leybourne Lakes, 16 June 2016.
I have posted pics from Leybourne Lakes a few times.  It's a varied and very pleasing environment.  Although it's often busy near the car park, it is much less so once you get around to the other side of the lakes - which are not all that large, really; I can walk around them in an hour.

The top photo shows a low flat area next to the lakes.  It is mostly typical grassland, that is, some grass and a great many wildflowers.  The tall plants in this shot are Wild Teasels.

Creeping Cinquefoil, Potentilla reptans.   Leybourne Lakes, 16 June 2016.
Creeping Cinquefoil, Potentilla reptans.   Leybourne Lakes, 16 June 2016.
Just past that scene is this carpet of yellow Creeping Cinquefoil.  There are also splashes of purple Selfheal and bright red Scarlet Pimpernel.

It's not all lovely, though.  I found a dead rabbit that had been scavenged by birds.  I won't show the photo!

Yellow-wort, Blackstonia perfoliata.  Leybourne Lakes, 16 June 2016.
Yellow-wort, Blackstonia perfoliata.  Leybourne Lakes, 16 June 2016.
I usually find this bright yellow flower on the chalk.  It's unusual in the way the stems appear to grow right through the middle of the leaves.

Horseradish, Armoracia rusticana, in flower.   Leybourne Lakes, 16 June 2016.
Horseradish, Armoracia rusticana, in flower.   Leybourne Lakes, 16 June 2016.
This is uncommon.  I have seen Horseradish on this site before, but not in flower.  It doesn't usually flower in this climate and instead has just a display of broad, dark green leaves. If you chew them, they bite back.

Water Figwort, Scrophularia auriculata.  Leybourne Lakes, 16 June 2016.
Water Figwort, Scrophularia auriculata.  Leybourne Lakes, 16 June 2016.
Water Figwort likes damp soil and often grows actually in the water's edge, like this.  Ditches suit it, too.

Car park with European Rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus.  Leybourne Lakes, 16 June 2016.
Car park with European Rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus.  Leybourne Lakes, 16 June 2016.
I arrived while the car park was mostly empty and there were several rabbits mooching around.  I couldn't get close, though.  They moved away if I tried.

Field Madder, Sherardia arvensis.  Leybourne Lakes, 16 June 2016.
Field Madder, Sherardia arvensis.  Leybourne Lakes, 16 June 2016.
There are wildflowers even in the grass of the car park - this Field Madder was one.  The flowers look white from a distance, but are actually a light mauve.

I have read that the word "mauve" was invented for the first ever aniline dye, which was produced in the mid-19th century.  But that is not correct.  It was indeed the name applied to that dye, but the word comes from the French for Mallow, and originally meant a much more saturated purple than this light shade.