Monday, 30 June 2014

Gone for a Walk

This is a great time of year for anyone interested in wildflowers.  Last night we saw Mark Schofield on Countryfile (see blog-post below) showing Ellie Harrison, who happens to have a degree in ecology, the wildflowers on a Lincolnshire road verge.  While much is made of flower meadows on the Chalk and Lincolnshire Limestone where the poor soils reduce competition from grasses and vigorous herbs that dominate some of our prettier flowers, there can still be plenty to look at along the road-verges, tracks and footpaths wherever you are.

I've just been for a short walk along a bridleway near my house on the Coastal Marsh.  The fields are growing wheat, barley and rape but the dyke banks and path edges are a profusion of flowers, even in this nutrient-rich environment.

I spotted Viper's Bugloss, Meadlow Vetchling, Tufted Vetch, Meadowsweet, Creeping Tormentil, Bird's-foot Trefoil, Lesser Trefoil, Common Knapweed, Great Willowherb, Pineappleweed, Mayweed, Red and White Clovers, Poppy, Common Mallow, Field and Hedge Bindweeds, White Campion, Hemp-nettle and Dog Rose. There was nothing especially rare, but we need to appreciate the commonplace.  Actually, there's nothing too commonplace about seeing these flowers growing together in profusion on a warm summer's evening.
Biff Vernon

Photo: Robin Drayton  via Wikimedia Commons


BBC's Countryfile programme came to Lincolnshire this week and featured Mark Schofield of the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust describing the significance of the Life on the Verge project to wildflower conservation and plans for the Trust's newly acquired land at the old Woodhall Spa airfield adjacent to Kirby Moor Reserve.  The programme can be viewed again for the next few days on BBC iplayer.

And here's something for next Sunday:

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Fir Hill Quarry

On Friday 20 June 2014 the Louth Area Group had a field meeting at Fir Hill Quarry.  

Claire Weaver from Natural England gave us an informative “interactive evening” following the story of the Lincolnshire Wolds from the formation of the Chalk, through the ice age, the era of woolly mammoths, early man with flint tools, the introduction of farming, the Romans, and through medieval times to Enclosure. On the way we examined chalk and flints, handled a replica Bronze Age sword and identified wild flowers. Lovely weather - a pleasant evening!
Ruth Gattenby

The picture shows an abundance of Hogweed in bloom but below this grows a rich assemblage typical of chalkland flora.  It includes Pyramidal and Common Spotted Orchid, Cowslip, Agrimony, Kidney Vetch, Lady's Bedstraw, Wild Marjoram, Bird's-foot Trefoil, Eyebright, Bladder Campion, Rough Hawkbit, Herb Robert, Hedge Woundwort, and, in the shaded entrance path, the Wood Sedge, Carex sylvestris.

A profusion of ash seedlings suggests a possibility for a volunteer working party next winter to do a little scrub clearance, lest the quarry becomes wooded rather than a refuge for the chalk meadow flora.
Biff Vernon

Common Spotted Orchid, Dactylorhiza fuchsii 

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Cuckoo Spit

I was reminded by the Springwatch programme that the 'Cuckoo spit' we see on plant stems is produced by a tiny aphid-like insect called a Froghopper (Philaenus spumarius) which hops a considerable distance when disturbed. In fact, it is actually the nymphs which live in a protective frothy mass of bubbles. The adult is a champion jumper and is able to leap 70cm into the air - a greater feat than the flea and similar to a human jumping over a tower block! Adults mate back-to-back, and the subsequent nymphs go through a number of stages. Both adults and nymphs feed on plant sap using specialised, sucking mouth parts.
Ray Woodcock

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

A New Ecosystem

Often when visiting nature reserves or other wild places we enjoy the biodiversity and marvel at the complexity of the ecosystem.  But it can also be interesting to study a location with such a poor flora that, after a few minutes, one can be confident that one has seen every plant species.  The beach from the south end of Sutton-on-Sea to Sandilands is sand recently accumulated with the help of the Environment Agency's beach nourishment programme.  Over 15 million cubic metres of sand have been added to the Lincolnshire beaches over the past 20 years.  For a review of this work and plans for the future see "Adapting to Climate Change on the Lincolnshire Coastline through the Lincshore Beach Management Scheme" by Andrew E. Rouse et al.

Marram Grass, Ammophila arenaria, established itself in this area a few years ago and last year the Environment Agency planted a lot more with the hope that a natural-looking dune system would build up, protecting the hard sea defences at the infamous Acre Gap, where a major breach occurred in 1953.  It has been growing rapidly this spring and small but developing dunes are now a feature of beach, the mat of Marram roots stabilising the sand and the shoots trapping more wind-blown sand to increase the dune height.

The Marram has now been joined by three other species, able to colonise the somewhat protected sand surface.  Sea Sandwort, Honckenya peploides, now loosely covers several patches of ground of a square metre or more.  There are also occasional specimens of Frosted Orache, Atriplex laciniata, and Prickly Saltwort, Salsola kali.

It will be interesting to watch the area and see what else establishes itself over time.

Sea Sandwort, Honckenya peploides

Frosted Orache, Atriplex laciniata

Prickly Saltwort, Salsola kali

Friday, 6 June 2014

Damsel in Distress

Sunday 1st June 2014, at Rimac, Jane Woodcock took this gruesome picture of mating Common Blue Damselflies, Enallagma cyathigerum, trapped in a spiders web and being eaten by the spider.

Here is a rather beautiful film made by Colin Green, just five minutes long, but showing many of the species to be found at Rimac.

There's more information about the Saltfleet-Thedlethorpe National Nature Reserve here and from the Fieldfare Trust, promoting countryside access for the disabled.