Poor old Gilbert is getting restless. Despite the fact that there is more interest in wildlife than ever before, it seems that most of the so-called conservation organisations are losing interest in species. Instead they prefer to babble on about landscape scale conservation and ecosystem services (whatever they are). Could this be because most of their staff don't have any knowledge about species if they don't have four legs?
This is my attempt to encourage an interest in good old-fashioned natural history.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Aliens on the island

A friend wanted to see the stick insect Bacillus rossius which occurs on Hayling Island so I arranged to show him where I had seen it in previous years. He couldn't make it till lunchtime so in the morning I went to the east coast of the island. I wanted to look for Dwarf Eelgrass Zostera noltei which I have not seen before. The usual traffic chaos held me up and the tide was rising rapidly when I arrived but I had a fairly precise grid reference so I was able to find the plant quite quickly - a good thing as another 15 minutes or so and it would have been in water over wellie depth.

Dwarf Eelgrass with close-up of leaf showing notched tip
Another thing that I wanted to do whilst at this site was to look for the larval cases of Coleophora aestuariella and C. deviella on Annual Sea-blite. A friend and I found both these species new to Hampshire back in 1996 but I have never been back to look for them since. I found C. aestuariella quite quickly but a search throughout the area of our original find produced no deviella cases. By coincidence, the friend with whom I made the original find, also visited the site a couple of days later and had the same results. It is of some concern that neither of us could refind deviella but it was much scarcer than aestuariella in 1996 and it is to be hoped that it can be refound in future years.

Coleophora aestuariella larval case
 I went off to meet my friend but he was running late so I had a look for the alien escape Cock's-eggs Salpichroa origanifolia which is well known in the area. I saw a likely looking patch of plants and headed towards it but before I got there I almost trod on another garden escape which I had not seen before; Pink-sorrel Oxalis articulata.

My friend had now arrived and we spent some time searching the bramble patches around the beach huts for the stick insect. Sadly there were none to be found, with a few Knot Grass Acronicta rumicis larvae being the only herbivores seen.

Knot Grass larva
We moved to Sandy Point where I was able to show my friend the scarce Sea Knotgrass Polygonum maritimum.
Sea Knotgrass
 Despite having been in this area on numerous occasions, I had never previously noticed that there was a Monterey Cypress Cupressus macrocarpa sapling just a few metres away. Having found one, we then proceeded to find several more. It's amazing how blind you can be.

Monterey Cypress sapling
Finally we walked down to Black Point where we found several Spanish Broom Spartium junceum bushes, another alien plant that I have not seen previously.

Spanish Broom

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