Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The dance fly Rhamphomyia longipes

Now that summer proper is here more insects turn up in Wbx. This morning I noticed the green bottle Eudasyphora cyanella and a male of the small dancefly, Rhamphomyia longipes, which settled on a leaf from the burgeoning sallow log. As can be seen, these are predatory flies and it is in the subgenus Aclonempis mainly by virtue of its long proboscis.

The small aphid under the leaf in the top photo looks at some risk, but the fly paid no attention to it.

The species is fairly common in the British Isles and there are several records from East Sussex.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

What made the holes?

This morning there were two beak-sized holes between the sallow log and the western edge of Wbx.

One was larger than the other and both were of a conical shape that indicated they were likely to have been made by some large bird - a jackdaw or magpie maybe. It was not clear what they might have been looking for and it will be interesting to see how long they remain identifiable as holes, though I don't suppose there will be rare plants growing in them as in the grykes in limestone pavement.

Slugs or snails now appear to be getting up onto Wbx and they have started to eat the clover. Yesterday's bud has gone, so they obvioulsy made a bee-line (or slug line) for that.

Friday, June 16, 2006

White clover in bud

After some five months of growth from seed, the plant which I think is white clover, Trifolium repens, has, since Sunday, produced a bud. It looks like a green pine cone lying on the ground and will need to turn upright before the flowerlets start opening.

To one side some of the leaves have been eaten, I suspect by a slug or snail and this is the first time this has happened.

This clover has grown so well it is now covering a substantial area of Wbx and beginning to swamp some of the smaller plants. Some management will soon be necessary.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

White clover spreading

The plant that grows more rapidly and vigorously than anything else is what I think is white clover, Trifolium repens. It appeared in February and is now expanding rapidly though, unlike the groundsel, it shows no sign of flowering.

It is hot and dry every day at present, so I water the windowbox regularly with rain water. I often reflect how unlike any ‘wild’ microclimate conditions in the box are. In winter the soil freezes right through and it dries out rapidly in hot weather then gets a tropical downpour from a watering can in the evening. Nevertheless, it seems to support a range of quite common plants that grow fairly normally.

Groundsel, Senecio vulgaris - more seed

Several of the groundsel flowers have now produced seeds and I managed to photograph this one before the they all blew away in the soft summer wind.

I still cannot work out why the groundsel and the clover grew so quickly earlier in the year when it was cold, often frosty, when the numerous seedlings that have germinated since the warmer weather started are so slow in progressing during the current 'good growing weather' - they look healthy enough, just slow.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Shooting sallow

The sallow log, though planted in the windowbox upside down has produced three fat shoots, all on the north side of the log. They thrust out from the bark at an angle of 45 degrees like the arm of a green man carrying a green grenade. "Don’t mess with me, the embodiment of nature" they seem to say.

I counted the number of volunteer seedlings today – there are nearly 40 and of many different species, but they grow very slowly. I also noted a Sarcophaga flesh fly on the rim of Wbx and a rove beetle making its way towards the sandstone rock.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The shining sweep

There are now many seedlings scattered right across Wbx and they appear to be of many different species. They are mostly very slow to grow, unlike the Trifolium and the groundsel that came up in January and early February. The groundsel has already flowered and set seed and the trefoil (white clover, I think) is starting to spread by runners.

There is also the little Japanese maple tree which, with nourishment from its seed, produced two cotyledons and two true leaves but though the cotyledons are fading now there is no sign of any further development.

Some of the patches of green scum that appeared in late winter have now turned into very small tufts of moss and in the cool, damp weather so far this summer are developing quite quickly.

Insects continue to turn up from time to time and the latest was a larva of the shining sweep moth, Psyche casta, in its caddis-like case of dead plant stems and other bits and pieces (see picture above). These often remain in exactly the same place for months when the weather is cold, but this one which started at the southern edge of the eastern Wbx rim, had moved yesterday, about half a metre northwards, then disappeared. The males hatch out into proper little moths, but the wingless females remain in their cases.