National Garden BioBlitz 2015

The weather on Sunday 31 May wasn’t that great when we headed to Alastair’s garden in Colemans Hatch, though considering that the forecast had been truly awful it turned out better than expected.

The garden itself is within Ashdown Forest, has a pond and a (largely covered) stream through the middle of it, so has a variety of habitats and was an ideal candidate for exploring for the National Garden BioBlitz.

Picture of Scorpion Fly (Panorpa)

Scorpion Fly (Panorpa sp.)

A quick tour of the garden illustrated the great wildlife potential for the site. There’s Oak, Rowan, Apple, Mulberry and Hornbeam and lots of interesting corners for stuff to live. The plants clearly love it and we found Hedgerow Crane’s-bill (Geranium pyrenaicum), Hart’s-tongue fern (Phyllitis scolopendrium), Tutsan (Hypericum androsaemum), Hard-fern (Blechnum spicant), and Pignut (Conopodium majus), among other things, and several grasses and sedges (some of which I still need to key out).

There are mosses aplenty too, though we’ll need to go back to do those properly since we ran out of time; the epiphytes on the Apple and Mulberry certainly need to be looked at carefully.

Picture of Jelly Ear (Auricularia auricula-judae)

Jelly Ear (Auricularia auricula-judae)

With the rather damp and cold weather insects were in rather short supply, though the Tree Bumblebees (Bombus hypnorum) in the bird box were a bit active. The rather static fungi and lichens were a bit easier to track down, including Jelly Ear (Auricularia auricula-judae), Hypogymnia physodes and the rather neat little Cladonia coniocraea on the wooden fence. Even so, there are undoubtedly a heap of other lichens to record, and there will be many more fungi.

Picture of Cladonia coniocraea

Cladonia coniocraea

One other interesting find was this fungal growth on the bud of a Rhododendron. The fungus itself is Pycnostysanus azaleae, and the leaf hopper Graphocephala fennahi is likely responsible for its spread, though we didn’t actually see it.

Picture of Rhododendron Bud Blast (Pycnostysanus azaleae)

Rhododendron Bud Blast (Pycnostysanus azaleae)

Close examination of one of the Oaks turned up some leaf mines, which are caused by the moth Common Oak Purple (Dyseriocrania subpurpurella).[1]

Picture of leaf mine of Common Oak Purple (Dyseriocrania subpurpurella)

Leaf mine of Common Oak Purple (Dyseriocrania subpurpurella)

The most interesting activity was around the pond, and turned up a 3rd instar ladybird nymph in amongst the leaves, though unfortunately it can’t be identified with any more precision than the genus Harmonia, so it could either be the Cream-streaked Ladybird (Harmonia 4-punctata) or (more probably) the unwelcome Harlequin (Harmonia axyridis).

Picture of 3rd instar of ladybird, Harmonia

3rd instar of ladybird, Harmonia

The pond also revealed dragonfly exuvia, damselfly nymphs and several fish, one of which was probably a Rudd (Scardinius erythrophthalmus). Alastair also fished out a female Palmate Newt (Lissotriton helveticus), clearly recognisable since it had no spots underneath.

Picture of Rudd (Scardinius erythrophthalmus)

Rudd (Scardinius erythrophthalmus)

By the end of the two hours we’d found about 70 taxa, which wasn’t a bad total since rain had stopped play for a good portion of our visit, and then tea and cake distracted us further. We’ll have to revisit when the sun shines, but at least Alastair now has the beginnings of a species list for his new garden.

Picture of Hypogymnia physodes

Hypogymnia physodes

[1] See the very useful guides to identifying leaf mines: Brian Pitkin, Willem Ellis, Colin Plant and Rob Edmunds. ‘Dyseriocrania subpurpurella (Haworth, 1828).’ The leaf and stem mines of British flies and other insects. Web. 10 June 2015. <http://www.ukflymines.co.uk/Moths/Dyseriocrania_subpurpurella.php>; and ‘Eriocrania subpurpurella (Haworth, 1828).’ British Leafminers. Web. 10 June 2015. <http://www.leafmines.co.uk/html/Lepidoptera/E.subpurpurella.htm>

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