!!November Rain!!

Time slipped for us during November. Sitting inside, looking out at the neverending rain. Following on from our recent blog (29th October), we are keen to avoid damaging the soil structure during wet periods and have mainly restricted our movements to the concrete path.

Despite this, we did get around to adding 9 species to our overall Garden list. Some we have known about for a while and just needed photographs, others came as a nice surprise.

The presence of Groundsel, recorded on the 18th November and perhaps one of the most common annuals of disturbed ground in Great Britain, came as no surprise. This plant popped up in a crack in the path and was setting seed before we even noticed it.

Groundsel 18th November 2022

It was nice to finally add the genus Daphnia, having known a species of this genus lived on all the ponds. These water fleas, as they are often known, required adding a new Class to our species list, the Branchiopoda. If you’re not sure what a water flea looks like then see the short video below. These are the organisms some people like to feed to their tropical fish and exist in countless numbers in many ponds. Note those three green blobs you can see inside the creature are embryos.

27th November 2022

Snails did well this month, with our Garden list jumping from 5 species to 7. The first is the pretty looking Kentish Snail, Monacha cantiana which we hadn’t noticed before, or at least not differentiated from other species (left below). The second was that very common pond snail we all see from time to time. A little dark brown/ black jobber shown below and belonging to the genus Physa. We are not entirely sure which species it is but suspect it’s Pyhsa fontinalis.

Kentish Snail 17th November 2022
Physa spp 27th November 2022

One reason we have shown the underside of the Physa species is to point out something peculiar about this genus. If you pick up a snail and have the spiral pointing upwards and the opening of the shell facing you as in the Physa image above, in nearly all species the opening will be on the right hand side of the animal (termed dextral). In Physa species the opposite is true, and the opening, as you can see, is on the left (termed sinistral).

Note: If you happen to chance upon the shell of a usually dextral species with a sinistral shell, then it may be worth keeping the shell as this can be very rare, 1 in 100,000 some sources suggest, depending on species.

Not to be outdone, the aphids also registered two new species, both we believe belonging to the genus Uroleacon. The first we spotted on an oxeye daisy on the 16th November, it looked rather lost and without purpose, we are unsure of the exact species (left below). The second we think is likely Uroleucon jaceae and this we were particularly interested to see.

One of our project objectives is to entice species to the Garden and although most gardeners wouldn’t want to attract aphids, we are not most Gardeners. A further aim is to encourage new species to become resident with us, which we may well have done in this instance. This species has never been recorded in the Garden before and are only present on account of the knapweed we grew from seed, the aphid is known as the Large Knapweed Aphid (right below).

Uroleucon spp – 16th November 2022
Large Knapweed Aphid – Uroleucon jaceae – 16th November

The next species, just like our recently announced 500th species, isn’t one we have seen ourselves, but have recorded due to the presence of it’s Gall. Have a look at the image of the Cleavers plant below…

The whorl of leaves is typical and as kids we probably all remember pulling out bunches of this plant and flinging it onto the backs of our parents/dog/friends where it stuck like velcro. Now note the top leaves as shown below. These leaves seem almost wilted, curled in and deformed. This is a very common occurrence and we always thought of this as the plants natural form (if we are honest, we never really thought of it at all!). Yet in reality it’s very distinctive of the presence of Cecidophyes rouhollahi, a very common Gall Mite.

Cecidophyes rouhollahi – A Gall Mite – 1st November 2022

A great find down the microscope whilst scanning a clump of decaying leaves was a True Bug (Hemiptera) of the genus Scolopostethus. Although we cannot be sure which species, we would guess Scolopostethus thomsoni due to the colouration of the antenna (segments one and most of two light while the rest are dark).

Scolopostethus thomsoni– 18th November 2022

We end our new species additions, once again looking down the microscope on the 16th November 2022 at the amazing little Proraphorura armata. This springtail is totally blind, and lives in the soil / leaf litter / compost bin, feeding on fungus…

Note the total lack of eyes. We often view a very similar looking species with eyes, and are currently awaiting a copy of the Field Studies Council key to identifying British Springtails so we can confirm it’s identity. In fact we think we may have at least another three species of springtail photographed, ready to figure out once the Key arrives.

New species were not the only surprises, we’ve had some more late flowering. Take a look at this white campion, which decided on the 22nd November to flower for the first time…

…and this young forget-me-not, flowering for the first time in the wetland area. The flowers will be blue once open.

A couple of old fungi friends turned up. Jelly ear appeared on a rotting log by the wildlife hotel and turkey tail has popped up in a couple of new locations, but frustratingly still no grassland fungi.

As 2022 comes to a close we know we have a good number of species observed which we haven’t as yet been able to identify. We could well be spending most the winter surfing the internet or hitting the books, trying to identify some of the more difficult species we have come across.

DC: 04/12/2022