What a lovely sunny morning! Just right for a walk around the block – though for me that block is usually five-miles around. I’ve been walking this route for some 25 years, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t new things to be seen, or old things to be appreciated.
A peacock butterfly fluttering around was quite unexpected. It should have been hibernating, but may have been disturbed, or just confused by the 11Celsius temperatures and sunshine.
On the hedgebank nearby were a few holly Ilex aquilifolium bushes – not big enough to be called trees. Although the berries have now mostly been eaten by thrushes, the thick, shiny, spiny leaves are usually sufficient to ID this evergreen species.
With holly, you often get two records for the price of one. Search the leaves and there is a good chance of finding the evidence of the holly leaf gall. It’s actually a mine, rather than a gall, and sometimes you’ll see where the grub of the fly Phytomyza ilicis has burrowed through the leaf tissue. On this example, the hole near the edge of the gall is where the adult fly emerged in early summer. Because holly retains its leaves for more than a year, the signs of the fly can also be seen all year. The national recording scheme will only accept records accompanied by a photo (which I only discovered when some of my records were rejected) so please remember to take a photo.
A small plantation lies on the other side of the hedgebank, and in some of these there were patches of sticks on the bare branches. These aren’t the remains of large bird nests or squirrel dreys, but something called witch’s broom. I suppose they do look a bit like untidy broom heads, and they are often found on birch trees which is what brooms were traditionally made from. It can also look like mistletoe from a distance, but mistletoe is always green and is quite scarce in Pembrokeshire. Actually it is more of a gall, extra growths of twigs caused by various organisms, including fungi, oomycetes, insects, mistletoe, dwarf mistletoes, mites, nematodes, phytoplasmas, or viruses and they are not yet fully understood. With so many things causing it, witch’s broom is something that generally can’t be accurately recorded.
Several types of ferns grew along the hedgebank, and the easiest of these to recognise was the hart’s-tongue Asplenium scolopendrium. Those leaves can be up to 20inches/50cm long and are usually bright shiny green. Like other ferns, they reproduce by spores rather than seeds, and those spores are made in the linear sporangia on the underside of the leaves.