Of rainbows, moths, lichens, cowslips, rooks and insects – Saturday 13 March 2021
It has been a cold, frosty and windy week but occasional spells of sunshine and showers have produced some magnificent rainbows (image 1).
It has been relatively quiet in the moth trap but special this week have been Oak Beauty moths Biston strataria (image 2). They certainly are beautiful and one of the commonest moths around in Hampshire at the moment (they are the third most commonly recorded moth in the county this week over the past decade). Their stick-like larvae feed on oaks and other deciduous trees and I will be looking out for them later in the year.
It was good to see Mary Shotter’s article in the March Steep and Stroud Newsletter on the lichens in the Steep churchyard. Ash trees are also good for lichens and when covered in the Common Orange Lichen (Xanthoria parietina) provide some bright colour in the wintry countryside. These lichens (image 3) are growing on an ash tree on the south side of the Winchester Road about half way along to the A3 junction. They can also be seen on ash trees on the edge of the village green a short distance east of the bus shelter. I read that the yellow chemical xanthorin is thought to be produced as a defence against UV radiation, allowing these lichens to grow on exposed walls and rocks and open grown trees.
Walking east along the Winchester Road and on the verge just before the roundabout, I found my first Cowslips of the year (image 4). These may be survivors from wild flower plantings when the A272/A3 junction was first constructed and provide a fine spark of yellow below the young ash trees here.
Walking our footpaths we can see that Rooks that are actively building their nests (collectively as rookeries) at the tops of our taller oaks (image 5).
Finally Mary found this Black Lacewing Nothochrysa capitata (image 6) on our kitchen wall. Most lacewings are green, but this one looked a little different and indeed this is one of our less common species and may not have been recorded in our area before.
What else has happened this week. We have at least two Wrens roosting in one our nest boxes and we can watch them return to the box just as it is getting almost too dark to see. It was a surprise and delight to have a Barn Owl fly over our garden towards the village green and when Mary and I watched it hunting for several minutes before it was off. Finally, we have laid fresh hay under our wildlife tins and were so pleased to find a Bank Vole taking up residence.