Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)
Sat 24 - Sun 25 Sep 2005 Southend area (Part 2)
The leader of the Sunday expedition, Brian Wurzell, has made an extensive study of the galls of the Essex salt-flats. He has searched there for various saltmarsh galls which occur across the Channel in France and Belgium but were unknown in Britain, and has discovered several of these on the Essex coast and added them to the British list. Some of the things he showed us were extremely inconspicuous, and I'll try and stick to photos where you can make out which bit of the picture is the gall! Here goes...
You won't find either of these Sea Purslane mite galls in the British books, but you will in "Les Galles de France". Aceria obiones gives the inflorescence a reddish tinge and swells the fruit stalks (the upper left bit of stem is clearly swollen in the pic). Aceria brevipes merely makes the leaf pimples in the RH pic.
Two Orache galls that are in the book are Trioza chenopodii, left, a jumping plant-louse that rolls the leaves of Sea Purslane, and Stefaniella brevipalpis, a gall-midge that causes spindle-shaped stem swellings. This too is usually on Sea Purslane, but the one in the pic is on Spear-leaved Orache.
These are the remaining two in the book. On the left, the fungus gall Physoderma pulposum on Red Goosefoot. On the right is the leaf-roll gall of the aphid Hayhurstia atriplicis, on Fat Hen, not a saltmarsh plant but we found it anyway. So of the 4 possible goosefoot/orache galls we found all 6!
Three rust galls. Uromyces chenopodii on Annual Seablite - the discoloured patch on the centre-right leaf. Uromyces sparsus on Lesser Sea-spurrey, the brownish patch on the leaf that curves upwards in the bottom right. Finally Uromyces salicorniae on Glasswort, the brown scabs all over it. I did take close-ups of all these galls but here I prefer to show them as they appear on the plant. Not sure if the middle one is actually a gall; not all rust fungi cause galls. The first one is a gall and is in British Plant Galls. The third one is not in British Plant Galls but is a gall.
Two more Uromyces rusts. Uromyces limonii galling Sea-lavender; the powdery mildew Erysiphe limonii is also visible. Centre pic is Uromyces pisi-sativi on Narrow-leaved Birdsfoot Trefoil. This is apparently not a gall here but is one when on its alternate host Spurge. The RH pic shows Ergots galling what is probably Sea Couch.
Two rust-fungus galls on plants of the Daisy family. On Daisy itself is Puccinia distincta, and on Oxford Ragwort is Puccinia lagenophorae.
Three rusts that are not galls. Puccinia tanaceti on Mugwort. Puccinia cnici-oleracei on Sea Aster. Puccinia brachypodii var poae-nemoralis on Stiff Saltmarsh-grass.
Three insect galls. The monster Creeping Thistle stem swelling produced by the tephritid fly Urophora cardui, and the larva of the gall-wasp Phanacis caulicola inside the stem of Bristly Ox-tongue. This gall is not visible from the outside but Brian managed to find one first go. It only occurs in SE England and East Anglia. The third is something I was excited to see. The larval case of the Rush Moth is very common on Skye, and while looking it up I discovered there were a great many other Coleophora species that make similar larval cases on other plants, but I'd never seen any of them until now. This is the larval case of Coleophora salicorniae, on Glasswort (i.e the thin cylinder pointing to the left from the lower branch)
Why do I show so many galls and rusts and things that are only of minority interest, and often not particularly attractive to look at? Two main reasons (1) after going on an event like this I like to show all the species found so that anyone who attended will be able to see a pictorial record, (2) many of these are species that have few or no existing pictures on the web, and knowing how much I myself use the web to help identify things, I like to put up pictures to help others in turn. On this basis, a picture of some obscure rust fungus is of far more value than a photo of a Robin. An organised event of this kind gives me a unique opportunity to get these things identified by experts and thereby put up a picture that I know is what it claims to be (having said that, there is always the possibility of confusion and mistakes, especially when everything is happening so fast on these outings, so don't rely on my IDs and do tell me if you think any of them are wrong).
As I said at the start, this diary is unbalanced and wanders where it will. I happen to have been on 3 BPGS outings this year, basically because they had one in the north of Scotland, which is almost unheard of for any of these societies, and the rest followed from that. In future years I hope to go on outings with other societies, so the diary may end up with page after page of beetles or mosses or slugs...
This grasshopper was found in the grass beside the sandy beach at Shoeburyness; it must be a Field Grasshopper despite the short wings. Everything else is right for that species. The red rear abdominal segments and the orange tinge to the hind tibia show it to be a mature male. Possibly the wings were damaged by a predator, as their ends do look a bit frayed. On the right is Roesel's Bush Cricket, easily indentified by the cream-coloured U-shaped line. The ovipositor shows it to be a female.
I'd never heard of the Wasp Spider before, though you'd think something this dazzling would be a star of coffee-table books and TV wildlife shows. It eats grasshoppers, butterflies and large beetles. This is a female. The hole in the Hawthorn berry is caused by the caterpillar of the micro-moth Blastodacna hellerella, which lives inside the fruit.
24 Sep 2005 Esher
This was taken in very dark conditions; it is the remarkable Andricus aries gall on Oak, first seen in Britain in 1997 and now common in SE England. The gall-wasp larva causes the bud to grow these two long horns, not sure what their purpose is.
26 Sep 2005 Tunbridge Wells
Horse Chestnut under attack from the leaf-mining moth larva Cameraria ohridella and the Brown Leaf Mould fungus (Guignardia aesculi). The moth mines are the dull brown scalloped bits and the fungal effects are the vivid brown and yellow patches.
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer