Tuesday, 29 January 2019

A January walk around Ranscombe Farm, Kent

There's not much to photograph in the way of wildflowers at this time of the year, but without doubt, any walk will throw up something of interest. Here's what I found on a short walk here this day.
Most of last year's wildflowers are now history and the spring plants are beginning now to come into flower such as this Hazel tree.

Corylus avellana  

The next few photos are the seed heads of last year's wildflowers.

Common Knapweed
Centaurea nigra agg.

Greater Knapweed
Centaurea scabiosa

Traveller's Joy
Clematis vitalba

 These multi coiled seeds belong to Lucerne. A very similar seed is the closely related Sand Lucerne but their seeds only have 1 to 1.5 coils.

Medicago sativa subspecies sativa

 The numerous black berries in a pyramidal clump belong to Wild Privet. In this plant, some have fallen or been eaten by birds, mice etc.

Ligustrum vulgare

I noticed several fungi too; this was a large bracket fungi.

Hairy Curtain Crust 
Stereum hirsutum

Cramp Balls
Daldinia concentrica

The seedpods and leaves showed this yellow flowered crucifer to be Hoary Mustard

Hirschfeldia incana

An unusual plant to see at this time of the year was Common Gromwell. This one had flower buds and frost damage to the lower leaves! Although it is fairly common on Kent chalk turf, it is largely absent from many counties even those with plenty of chalk.

Lithospermum officinale

It was nice to see my first wild Primrose in flower of the year.

Primula vulgaris

The cold weather can stress plants which can lead to the leaves becoming discoloured and red is a common colour for such stress victims!
These leaves come from an unhappy Bramble. Bottom left are the leaves of Barren Strawberry which will flower in the next few weeks.

Rubus fruticosus agg.

Some nice views of the farm; rare plants such as Corncockle and Broad-leaved Cudweed live in this field below.

In the woods to the right of the next photo was a path leading you to several Early Purple Orchids and Bluebell copses. Sadly, this has now reverted to scrub and developing woodland with brambles and needs clearance again for them to be seen again.

A Dandelion and a Common Field Speedwell behind it
Taraxacum agg and Veronica persica

A solitary Red Clover
Trifolium pratense

Ranscombe Farm is well known for its Man Orchids that can be found in the car park. There are plenty more to be found in the woodlands from May onwards as well. Of course, at this time of the year, only rosettes can be seen.

Orchis anthropophora

I was here for less than an hour which shows that there are always things to see, even in the depths of winter.

Take care

Monday, 28 January 2019

#Ourworldisworthsaving - Part 9 - Breathtaking Brilliant Bugs and other assorted Insects

This title is a hashtag that I picked up on Twitter that I first saw from a fellow naturalist, @Britnatureguide 
It dawned on me that posting a selection of 4 photos once a day with this hashtag on twitter was an excellent way to engage the public with what we have in our countryside and thus what we also have to lose with thoughtless, profit driven developments and intensive farming the main culprits for endangering our wildlife. Other factors for decline incude poor management and neglect of the environment. For example, mowing road verges before wildflowers set seed; leaving cuttings behind that enrich the soil and favour thuggish species sich as nettles and hogweed; undergrazing or neglect  allowing scrub to grow and outcompete rarer wildflowers such as orchids and gentians; overgrazing, leading to no plants setting seed; and so it goes on. Add to the above climate change, drought; flood, nitrogen deposition, eutrophication of freshwater and more, and it seems inevitable that we are going to destroy many species to the point of extinction, both here and worldwide.

I have not just included rarities in my selection. Common species are declining so fast that in a generation they will be under threat as well, we need to start appreciating and valuing all species.

Change is the only way this will be slowed or stopped and awareness is the beginning of change. I hope I can contribute to this awareness with these posts and my blogs. The intention is not to write about each species, but to let the photo do the talking.

As such, the following is a selection in sets of 20 of bugs, and assorted insects that I have photographed over the last 5 years. I hope you enjoy the selection and that if nothing else, it makes you think a bit more about the environment. I have split this into a series of blogs in order to best showcase each type of life form, this is the final part.

Bugs, Grasshoppers, Crickets and Flies

1.  Rambur's Pied Shieldbug

2. Tortoise Shieldbug

 3. Denticulate Leatherbug

 4. Gorse Shieldbug

5. Potato Capsid Bug

6. Birch Shieldbug (final instar) followed by adult form


7. Bishop's Mitre Shieldbug

8. Cabbage or Crucifer Shieldbug (both sexes)

9. Mayfly

10. Bee Fly

11. Four Spotted Orb Weaver (on my hand)

12. Wasp Spider

13. Great Green Bush Cricket

 14. Roesel's Bush Cricket

15. Meadow Grasshopper

 16. Tiger Cranefly

17. Scorpion Fly (harmless)

18. A Funnel Spider

19. Weevil - Curculio venosus

20. Crab Spider

Of course, there are far more species in the UK than those featured but I hope those shown inspire you to appreciate the beauty of nature and spread the word for conservation.

This was the last in my series of our world is worth saving blogs. I have tried to show you a good cross section of the wildlife that I have come across in the recent few years that I have been into botany. Go out into your local area and see what wildlife you can find, both flora and fauna; admire it; be fascinated by it, but above all, do your best to then conserve and protect it from destruction, development or death by neglect.
Take care