Sabre Wasp and Much, Much More…

Another commuting home walk. TBH wanted to take the quick route home over the golf course but I turned the other way round to the visitor centre at Leighton Moss. Standing on the duckboards peering into the dipping-pond I was startled by a movement almost under the wooden walkway. A splash and a wriggle and something which was gone almost before I had seen it. Surely a fish – but was it not too big to be swimming in this shallow reed-choked water? The water where I had seen the movement was clouded with mud but I watched and waited: the waterweed moved in an odd way, then a liquid gloop and large ripples – much bigger than the concentric rings around the pond-skaters – spread across the pool. I moved around to another vantage point and then another gurgling splash and the same frustrating half glimpse of movement. But wait – that stick hanging in the water…it has eyes! I don’t have much experience of fish beyond catching sticklebacks in buckets many, many years ago and so I don’t know what kind of fish this might be – I wondered whether it might be an eel?

I was headed for Trowbarrow quarry but before I got there I was distracted again, this time by a comma butterfly…

…and, as is so often the case, once I had stopped to take one photograph I began to notice more things around me – a large dragonfly flew past, then a couple of white butterflies. This peacock butterfly was sunning itself on the middle of the path…

…and a tiny frog crawled away from me and hid, rather imperfectly, on the edge of an old molehill…

On the notice-board at the entrance to Trowbarrow I could hardly miss this impressive creature…

…which I’ve subsequently discovered is a rhyssa persuasoria or sabre wasp:

Using highly sensitive detectors on her antennae, the female locates a horntail grub in a pine trunk and then, although her ovipositor is no thicker than a human hair, she drills through the wood to lay an egg on the grub.

So – is this wasp drilling here?

Speckled wood butterfly on a hazel leaf.

Trowbarrow was busy with climbers and carpeted with flowers, although not the ones promised on the notice-board…

.

From there my walk through the woods was accompanied by the calling of a woodpecker and by numerous flowers – many of which I haven’t been able to identify as yet.

This attractive mass…

…of five-petalled white flowers…

…and distinctive ring-tipped seedheads are on a plant with these…

…lobed leaves. I can’t find it anywhere in my books.

This plant is no longer flowering…

…and so I really don’t think I can identify it, but it looks like it might be interesting when it is next flowering.

It was certainly popular with spiders…

At first I thought that this was some sort of crane’s-bill…

…but then I noticed the seedheads which are all wrong for that…

…but they are attractive in their own right and must fairly rapidly decay to release the seeds within…

Considering the flowers, the seedheads and the leaves…

…together I’ve now almost convinced myself that this is musk mallow.

As a first step toward fulfilling my oft stated desire to get to grips with umbelliferae, however: I think that this very tall plant…

…with finely serrated leaflets…

…might be wild angelica…

Whilst this leaf, with a leaf-miner squiggle…

…is from hogweed.

I think that these two are harvestmen rather then spiders – note: one body part rather then two.

…but I can’t identify this bug on a chicory flower.

Wayside tractor.

This is yarrow…

…growing by the roadside like all of the remaining plants in this post.

The yarrow, with its deep, water-gathering tap roots, is one of the most persistent roadside plants. Its basal rosette escapes the mowing-machine as the cutting-blades used on grass banks and verges are set high. This means that only the flowers are lost, and the rest of the plant remains and grows again. Also, yarrows do not flower until after the spring cut and, when the autumn cut takes place, most of the plants are seeding. The species name millefolium, meaning ‘thousand leaf’, refers to the yarrow’s numerous feathery leaves.

The seedheads have an interesting structure too…

 Thistledown.

Nettle flowers.

Bumble bee enjoying tufted vetch.

As I finished the walk the light was gorgeous.

It was only a short walk, but if your eyes are open there is so much to see.

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Sabre Wasp and Much, Much More…

6 thoughts on “Sabre Wasp and Much, Much More…

  1. The white flowered plant might be gromwell Lithospermum officinale, I think I saw it in your neck of the woods a few years ago but haven’t seen it since. It has very hard seeds – Lithospermum = stony seeds – if that’s what it is. the next one down looks like valerian leaves and the next looks like a helleborine. I think you’re right about the musk mallow and angelica. Fascinating set of pictures.

  2. swanscot says:

    Wonderful photos of the plants and insects. All of them are superbly lit and crustal clear. If this is a nature reserve it may be possible to obtain a Flora Species list to help you identify unknown plants.

  3. swanscot says:

    oops that should say crystal clear.

    BTW I like you new blog theme. I like the grey background and would prefer that myself instead of black – or at least be able to choose from shades of grey/black.

  4. beatingthebounds says:

    Phil and Swanscot – thanks very much, your help is really appreciated!
    Phil – the white flowers and the leaves below were on the same plant so I don’t think that it can be gromwell, but I think that it is common valerian with white flowers so thanks.
    I hoped that the other was helleborine – I’ve long be aware that they can be found locally, but I never have found them, so hopefully next year I will find them a little earlier when they are still flowering.
    I’ve never seen a sabre wasp before – I was astonished!
    Swanscot – I like the new theme – the darker background does wonders for photographs.
    And it is a nature reserve, jointly owned by the RSPB and the BMC – I might ask at the visitor centre at Leighton Moss whether there is a flora list.

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