Sunday, 29 April 2018

Early Spring Round-Up

Considering the 'beautiful spring weather' we've been having this post is mainly going to be a round up of last weekend, when the sun actually shone for a few days in a row! There are a few bits and pieces seen earlier in April and even before that, but very little. So different to last year especially for butterflies. In fact, on this very day last year I saw my 24th and 25th species of the year. This year I've seen only eleven! I'm going to split this round-up into three categories, plants, inverts and fungi.

Plants

It's been a bit of a slow spring on the botanising front too. I've seen a few nice bits and bobs which I've posted on my Twitter page mainly for #wildflowerhour. I hadn't seen anything new though. Well not until until last weekend that is, when Andy and I went back to Icklingham in Suffolk to see the very rare Spring Speedwell in flower, not really a new plant as such because we'd already seen it a year ago today in seed but they don't really count if they're not in flower. I'd been expecting it to be later this year due to the poor weather but was very surprised when it flowered bang on schedule. I'd been alerted to it being in flower on Tuesday April 17th and not wanting to miss it for a second year we were there looking at it on Friday 20th. 


They are tiny plants about 3cm high and you really have to be on your hands and knees to spot then if they aren't in flower. The flowers are bright blue and just 3mm across but are easily spotted when open. They are however the same size and colour as the flowers of the much more common Wall Speedwell which grows alongside, so it's a hands and knees job to check the upper leaves which as can be seen here are deeply divided into lobes.


Two Spring Speedwell plants and a Wall Speedwell plant (lower left).




Spring Speedwell - Veronica verna


There was a lot of this unusual lilac coloured Wall Speedwell in the area. Well I think it's Wall Speedwell that's what it keys out to except for the flower colour.

The smallest Blinks flowers I've ever seen!
Blinks - Montia fontana

Next morning we took a trip over the border into Norfolk and visited the road verge in Thetford where the other two rare Breckland speedwells grow. Namely Breckland Speedwell and Fingered Speedwell. Although I'd seen and photographed both species last year they were at a reintroduction site, the ones here being native at this site, which is just a small fragment of habitat left after the building of a large housing estate. Andy had seen them here some years before and warned me that they were very small at this site. They certainly took some finding!


Pink arrows point to Breckland Speedwell and blue to a Fingered Speeedwell. The blue flowers visible are Early Forget-me-not.


Breckland Speedwell - Veronica praecox
It was early in the morning and the flowers weren't open yet.


This Fingered Speedwell was quite a big plant at around 5cm tall.

 
Fingered Speedwell - Veronica triphyllos

On a visit to Wretton Cut Off I photographed a couple of plants too. Whilst there we also heard a singing Turtle Dove and saw and heard our first Cuckoo of the year. Oh yes, and at the Barton Mills Travel Lodge for the second year in succession I was serenaded by a Nightingale!


Spring Beauty - Claytonia perfoliata


Meadow Saxifrage - Saxifraga granulata 
With Hoverfly - Sphaerophoria sp.



 Crosswort on Ballard Down, Swanage, Dorset.


Crosswort - Cruciata laevipes 


Greater Stitchwort - Stellaria holostea
and  Hoverfly - Platycheirus albimanus


Wood Sedge - Carex sylvatica
Crab Wood, Hampshire


Thrift - Armeria maritima
This unusual deep pink coloured Thrift is in flower right on the roadside at Ferrybridge, Weymouth, Dorset.

Invertebrates

As I said at the start of this post I've only seen eleven species of butterfly so far this year compared to 25 by this day last year. In order seen they are:

1)  Brimstone
2)  Peacock
3)  Small White 
4)  Large White
5)  Small Copper
6)  Orange Tip
7)  Small Tortoiseshell
8)  Green-veined White
9)  Holly Blue
10) Comma
11) Speckled Wood

Not that I'm listing or anything! ;-)


My first butterfly photo of the year Peacock on soggy sallow catkins taken on the amazingly late date of April 11th.


Small Copper on Ballard Down 


 Comma 


Holly Blue

On Foulden Common in Norfolk I was lucky enough to get some photos of a pair of Brimstones in flight.




Brimstone


Also on Foulden Common was this female Dark-edged Bee-fly collecting soil to coat her eggs before she fires them into the nest hole of a mining bee.


At Wretton Cut Off we saw several of these Green Tiger Beetles that weren't green! Apparently they can be this bronze colour but I think it's quite rare, neither I nor Andy had ever seen one before.



Green Tiger Beetle (Bronze Form)



Wood Tiger Moth Caterpillar
I found this on Ballard Down way back on February 20th.


The bizarre looking spider Araneus angulatus at Crab Wood Hampshire.
Not a very good photo as I couldn't get both of her 'lumps' in focus! 

Fungi

After my find of Cedar Cup in Sidmouth earlier in the year we decided to try and find them at some other locations and were successful at a couple of sites in Salisbury back in March. 





Cedar Cup - Geopora sumneriana

Also in march I found some nice Scarlet Elf Cups in the snow by the River Sid.
 

Scarlet Elf Cup - Sarcoscypha cocinea

And staying on the snow theme I found Snowy Disco indoors on my windowsill! It was growing on a dead stem of one of my Pitcher Plants. They are a tiny cup fungus on a long stem and measure less than 2mm across!
   

Snowy Disco - Lachnum virgineum

We decided to try and find all the Morel Fungi this spring and were amazed when we found three species within just four days! We thought it was going to be much harder than that! Firstly we found Thimble Morel at Noar Hill, two days later we found more Thimble Morels at Foulden Common, Norfolk and later the same day Common Morel (not that common) growing along with yet more Thimble Morels, in North Norfolk, in exactly the same spot Andy had seen it ten years ago! Then the following day Semi-free Morel near Winchester in Hampshire. 


Thimble Morel - Verpa conica
On grassland at Noar Hill Hampshire


And in grassland at Foulden Common, Norfolk


And growing on a mossy bank under Guelder Rose in North Norfolk. And at the same site these Common Morels.




Common Morel - Morchella esculenta



Semi-Free Morel - Morchella semilibera
Chilcombe near Winchester.


Whilst near Winchester we visited Crab Wood to look for Anemone Cup. It took some searching but we eventually found some. This cup fungus grows on the underground tubers of the Wood Anemone and has a long stalk which is sometimes visible above the surface of the soil.




Anemone Cup - Dumontinia tuberosa

Finally, a visit to Copythorne Common reserve in Hampshire to look for Bog Beacon. We were a bit early I think as we only found a few but they were great to see non the less. A very apt name as they really do stand out a mile!





Bog Beacon - Mitrula paludosa