Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Drumboe Wood


Whilst Ards is a rare, ancient, coastal forest, Drumboe is perhaps even more unusual: it's an old woodland in a central urban setting. Shops, main road, schools, church, hotels and a GAA football ground are no further than 100 m. distant and thousands of people pass it every day with no idea of the rich biodiversity just a stones-throw away.

This shot show shows the River Finn with Drumboe to the left:

River Finn: Drumboe to the left and Ballybofey to the right
The woodland is maintained by Coillte, and the management plan shows a strategy of at least partial replacement of Spruce with native broadleaf trees when the conifers are harvested.

I only had time for a quick visit, but I managed to find a few interesting specimens:

Scleroderma citrinum is a common earthball with a surface criss-crossed with sharp grooves which will eventually act as fault lines for the skin to split along when the fungus is ready to disperse its spores. This specimen is about the size of a golf ball:

The earthball Scleroderma citrinum

Phycopeltis arundinacea is an algal infection that looks very much like a fungal rust:

Phycopeltis arundinacea on Ivy
I find it mostly on Ivy, but I have also found it on other plants with shiny leaves, most often Rhododendron.

Lycoperdon pyriforme is one of the more common puffballs in this area. They can often be seen to form long rows, seemingly growing on the ground, but they are actually following the line made by buried dead wood:

Lycoperdon pyriforme
Leafy liverworts are very often mistaken for mosses, but their habit and form are very different. I spotted this specimen (sample shown about 8 cm across) and suspected it was something I hadn't seen before:
Liverwort growing with moss in damp bank
I took a sample back to the microscope and saw that it has two tiers of leaves (large ones on top and small ones below). The presence of underleaves is unique to liverworts, although not all species have them. This microscope shot of a single frond (12 mm long) shows the view from underneath:

Calypogeia neesiana
It keys out in a couple of keys to Calypogeia neesiana, which is new to my Species list.

This shot shows two mines of the micromoth Stigmella aurella on Bramble:
Two mines of the micromoth Stigmella aurella on Bramble
These mines usually grow quite long, so they are usually found at a maximum of one per leaf; perhaps the second egg was laid by a different female. Each mine progresses quite normally from its starting point, but they eventually meet just left of centre. The mines then become very confused, with much to-ing and fro-ing in the left part of the leaf before they separate and at least one has matured safely (top left). I'm not sure what happened to the second, though.

Bumblebees have historically been summer-nesting species, with the queen making her nest from March onwards. But in recent years, southern queens of Bombus terrestris - the Buff-tailed Bumblebee - have been observed gathering pollen in autumn and they have successfully created winter nests. Presumably we have reached a critical temperature due to warming, since winter nests are common on the continent.

Yesterday I spotted a queen gathering pollen from the Lavatera in my garden:

Queen Bombus terrestris gathering pollen 29/10/2012

This is quite a surprise. I knew of southern specimens trying to establish a nest at this time, but it's not something I would have expected to see this far north. Granted, we did have a few days of sun, but I tend to think that she isn't confused and has decided that it's worth a try this year. So here is a rash prediction, based on a single queen bumblebee: "Mild winter ahead".

5 comments:

acornmoon said...

I hope your mild winter prediction comes to pass and I hope and pray that your ash trees will be safe from the deadly fungus which has arrived in England.

Toffeeapple said...

You always manage to find things of interest and there is mostly a 'first' in each post, well done.

I do hope your prediction is correct, I should hate another winter like the last three.

As to the Ash tree situation, I am surprised that any needed to be imported since they are as numerous as weeds, here in my bit of Buckinghamshire.

Gill said...

A fascinating post, Stuart. "Phycopeltis arundinacea is an algal infection that looks very much like a fungal rust" - certainly does, I'd have been fooled at least at first glance. From its name you'd expect it to be on reed-like grasses....

Lovely shot of the bumblebee. I have to disagree with the other comments - I'd much prefer a hard, cold winter with plenty of frost to kill off bugs (so long as it's sunny). I hate damp, grey, mild winters.

The import of ash trees is yet another proof that the world has gone mad, and doing everything "for economic reasons" is an unsustainable and very stupid way of going on. Sometimes I despair... I can't help feeling that somewhere down the line Nature will fight back. Earth and life will survive, but Homo sapiens?

stuart dunlop said...

My problem with the bumblebee is that I don't have any winter pollen in my garden. February is the earliest that the willow pollen will be around, and that's not in any great amount until March/April. Winter Heliotrope is about 2 miles away, with some heather about 1 mile distant and small amounts in nearby gardens. Now I feel guilty for not having any Mahonia....

Ash trees: I'm sure we're going to lose many trees, although the current story from Denmark is that 90% of trees are infected, but many are surviving, but weakened (and therefore susceptible to a secondary attack over a number of years). The main thing is to ensure that any interim planting of replacements for dead trees consists of native trees, rather than introduced species.

I wholeheartedly agree that 'profit' or 'business' is too often seen as our priority. As I mentioned in a letter to The Times recently, the main problem is that wildlife doesn't have a vote.

Leif said...

The microscope photo is not Calypogeia neesiana. It is Diplohyllum albicans. What the photo above this one shows is impossible to see, but it looks like it might be something else.