Sunday, January 24, 2010

Campion miner

I noticed today that two or three leaves of the red campion (Silene dioica) had been mined by what turned out to be larvae of the agromyzid fly Amauromyza flavifrons.

20100124 Vespa Agonopterix South View 010

The fly larvae clearly find red campion leaves more palatable than rabbits do as these mammals seem to leave them strictly alone.

This is a new record for Emthree and only the third on the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre's database.  However, I suspect the species is actually quite common in Sussex.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hungry birds

Today I noticed that some of the lichen/moss sward on the top of Butterfly Rock was missing and I found these patches of fairy cup lichen, Cladonia pyxidata, lying higgledy piggledy on the ground.


Ellie egg fungi Metre 015

Undoubtedly they had been cast aside by hungry birds searching for insect larvae.

It is often written that Cladonia pyxidata is, or was, used as a cure for whooping cough.  This seems to originate with John Lightfoot who wrote in his Flora Scotica (1777) "A decoction of this moss is sometimes given by the vulgar to children to cure the whooping cough but the good effects of it are not supported by proper testimonies.".  However, under the rubric pyxidatus he included what sounds like several different species of Cladonia which he called 'common cup-moss or lichen' (lichens in the 18th century were thought to be kinds of mosses).

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Diffugere nives again

20100115 Metre snow 003The snow is melting, the blackbirds are singing again. There was a non-stop pattering of water to the north of Emthree as the snow on top of the garden hedge melted.

The ground is now patterned with snow patches as it thaws. With their irregular curving shapes they create a highly distinctive landscape, but not one that is much admired or loved.

The old wooden pole that the black bryony has climbed for the last six years has broken near its base, perhaps under the weight of snow and Submespilus Pit is full of cold water.

Judging by the evidence below, the birds must have been eating some of the berries.

20100115 Metre snow 004

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Brambles crushed by snow

The very heavy snowfalls since the 1 January have deposited a considerable weight of material on trees and bushes.

20100112 Metre snow crushed bramble hedge

In the picture above the snow has crushed the bramble hedge along the south of Emthree, reducing it from chest height to knee height.

No doubt it will bounce back to some extent after the thaw, but it will have to grow up to chest height again and its general configuration will be permanently affected.  Ultimately it should be thickened and strengthened.

Snow, if and when it comes, is an important part of the natural dynamic, not only altering the shape of trees and shrubs but often breaking off branches large and small to provides homes on the ground for invertebrates and fungi, and tears and tree-holes above for the species associated with those.

The cold and snow will also, no doubt, reduce numbers of birds and animals with all sorts of poorly understood knock-on consequences.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

A hard winter

We had snow before Christmas and it has been lying continuously since New Year's Day.  On most days we have had additional snowfall and it has been blizzarding here on and off all day with more forecast tomorrow and for several more days at leastSedlescombe Killingan snow 004 

This, of course, should be quite beneficial to most wildlife, though the birds in our garden are looking cold and hungry.