Sunday, May 12, 2013

Electrifying times

Eight days in Snowdonia has not helped me increase my TQ1960 tally (although it has helped push the PSL upwards a touch) so I was keen to 'hit the square' and find a few new species. Unfortunately for me, the weather was keen to hurl rain earthwards for the duration. Welcome home, lol.

I'm amazed just how much the greenery has grown in just a week, Norway Maple seedlings were obvious now, do they always come up later than Sycamore seedlings? No idea. Common Ragwort and Wood Speedwell were suddenly noticeable as were Agrimony and Redshank (the plant, not the bird).

Blake's Pond is looking lovely with the surface covered in Common Water-crowfoot. I'm going to have lots of fun here as the year progresses, this is the only decent water body in my square and it is a particularly rich and diverse pond despite being less than third of an acre in surface area, often much less during dry summers (remember those?) A big surprise was a patch of large basal leaves which are Lily-of-the-Valley, completely new to the square! I even tackled a couple of flowering grasses and added Rough Meadow Grass and Sweet Vernal Grass to the tally (the latter doubly-confirmed by my wife's nose. She reckoned coconut and incense instead of vanilla, but close enough. My sense of smell is pathetic. Gorse and dead fox I can do, but that's about it).

One other difference to the site is the annual presence of a herd of conservation cattle to Epsom Common. Whilst I was in Wales they have arrived. There are now three grazing areas, one of which is slap bang in the middle of my recording square. For anyone not too sure, I can thoroughly recommend high-stepping over the electric fence whilst being rained upon and getting an electric jolt through your left knacker. Getting zapped again before you can throw yourself off just heightens the fun. Always a thrill and I simply can't recommend it enough...not! Even better, the five yearlings in this grazing area followed me around like a herd of frightened puppies, I had to repeatedly shoo them away. Then one leapt (yes leapt!) a low branch and charged at me. Poxy stupid animals, I hope they settle in quickly. The only good point was adding Yellow Dung Fly to the list courtesy of their wet, sloppy pats.

Additions, all from Epsom Common, are as follows:

501 - Norway Maple - small seedlings now in leaf and identifiable
502 - Yellow Dung Fly - several on fresh cowpats
503 - Common Ragwort - I now recognise the basal leaves!
504 - Wood Speedwell - couple of nice patches found
505 - Redshank (the plant) - couple found in a verge
506 - Agrimony - lots of basal leaves by Blake's Pond
507 - Common Water-crowfoot - keyed out straight to this, Blake's Pond
508 - Lily-of-the-Valley - a big spreading clump, Blake's Pond. New for the square!
509 - Sweet Vernal Grass - flowering commonly
510 - Rough Meadow Grass - flowering commonly
511 - 14-spot Ladybird - one on nettles
512 - Acalitus rudis (mite) - common on underside of fresh birch leaves (LIFER)


  1. Ah, I see you found the trap we set for you when you were away. Clearly should have set the voltage higher!

    Good to see you back anyway. Quick question - I see things that look superficially like Yellow Dung Fly - are there any similar species to key out or can I just have them if they "look like the ones in Chinery"?

  2. Male S.stercoraria are field-identifiable. If the antennae are plumose and the pteropleuron (shoulder region of the thorax) is hairy it's stercoraria. Females are very similar between the species and are microscope jobs. As an aside, I'd suggest washing your hands after handling dung-loving flies ;)

    Dave Gibbs (dipterist extraordinaire and probably the rightful No1 PSLer in Britain) told me the above ID features so take it as gospel.

    1. Brill, thanks. Time to go hang around the horses...