Archive for July, 2013

This bee is going to be just fine. As I looked at it movement was just starting, it would dry out and feed and be on its way. But having fallen asleep on the hogweed last night it was caught in a torrential downpour overnight. And there is nothing quite as soggy as a drenched bee,,,


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On the day that the Bug Walk let loose round Stoke Newington, (see the page about Wilmer Place), I found myself reflecting on what makes Abney so special for me. I think it comes down to moments when I see something for the first time. I always get an instant of ‘It looks just like that on the Telly!’ Just why I should think that what I see on the Television is restricted to this magic box in the corner of my front room I don’t quite know. It always takes my by surprise.

I had one of these instants recently. I came across Ectemnius cavifrons, a solitary wasp. It is a strange-looking critter, and something that I recognised as being a predator of hoverflies, among other flying species. Above it was a hoverfly, at least it was flying like a hoverfly, I didn’t get a look close enough to identify it. The hoverfly landed, and then suddenly the E. cavifrons swooped down on the hoverfly, flew to a nearby leaf with it and killed it. It then flew away with its prey. It took an instant for the capture and seconds for the kill. And it was just like it happens on the Telly. It was at least as impressive as any TV hunt and kill because of the aerial precision and deftness of capture. No wonder they are called ‘Mini beasts’.

Ectemnius cavifrons with prey

As long as the natural world is restricted to the box in the corner it is somehow more easy to walk away from. I need real live nature in front of me to ram home how amazing it is, how exciting and precious. A nature reserve in the heart of a big city is therefore doubly important as it is so easily accessed by so many people. The challenge is to explain all this to those who have no idea about ecology and to protect it for the future.


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The most fantastic growth of caps I have yet seen developed on a collapsed poplar tree.

The tree was degraded by Ganoderma australe from the ground to almost branch level, and in the hollow trunk at branch level Rigidoporus ulmarius. Ganoderma australe causes white rot, ie biodelignification of wood. Rigidoporus ulmarius causes brown cubical rot of trees, ie lignocellulose breakdown of wood. These are the two strengthening components of wood and without them the wood has degraded into a soft, spongy texture. Not surprisingly it collapsed.  The fallen trunk recently absorbed water and provided the perfect food for the Volvariella bombycina to grow.

The name Volvariella refers to a volva, a sac that the cap developes inside, which then breaks at the top as the cap grows out of it. The stem is without a ring. The gills start out pale, then become pink (rose), and eventually brown. The cap is covered in hairs, so ‘silky’.

It is a rare cap, with 314 records held at Kew for the UK.

Link to notes of Volvariella bombycina.

Link to photos of fungi and slimemolds 2013 in Abney Park Cemetery.

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In recent years this butterfly went into rapid decline. I haven’t seen it at all for a couple of years. At the moment there is an influx of these butterflies from the continent, and this morning there was one on the Buddleia near the Church Street entrance. Although it hasn’t opened its wings for me, this is definitely a Small Tortoiseshell, Aglais urticae. (Urtica dioica is the latin name for nettle, which the caterpillars of this species feed on). Link to photos of Butterflies in Abney.

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

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The Harlequin ladybird larva are distinctive – a black bug with a tapering black body and bright orangey flashes on either side, and 4 orangey spikes between them. In recent weeks the pupae have been sitting on the leaves, but now there are suddenly loads of adults out and about in a wide range of colours. Link to Insects etc photos.

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With bad news about butterfly numbers (the numbers of White Letter Hairstreak are down this year –  probably due to the prolonged cold spring), it is good to have a new butterfly in Abney. Tony tells me that he has seen one before, but it is unusual and not one I have seen. It was happily feasting on the privet towards the chapel. Link to Butterflies and Moths in Abney.

Ringlet Butterfly, Aphantopus hyperantus, 18.7.2013 (1)

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The sparrowhawks have two chicks this year. They look to be doing well at the moment. They are white fluffballs that are just too cute to be true.

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