Heavy lorries have returned to the quarry to haul gravel. This means that there will be heavy traffic on the concrete road for a month. Sadly, it does not mean that the quarry is re-opening; they are simply selling off the stock-piles from their yard.
I often stop people and ask them what they have seen. "Not much" they often say, looking at me accusingly. I guess I'm supposed to provide more amusement for them. The truth is that there is always a lot to see at Paxton Pits and if you look carefully, you will find something you have never seem before; even if you are an expert. It might be a bird or even a mammal, but mostly it will be something small; perhaps a plant or an insect. Think macro!
Despite the cool weather there has been a vigorous growth of vegetation, especially the foliage on our bushes and trees. I have never seen the scrub habitat, on which so many of our birds are dependent, looking so thick. It is harder to see the birds, but that's a good thing for them, making nests more difficult to find by predators such as magpies and jays. So, we have the habitat, but what about the food?
|14 spot ladybird.|
When they do emerge they fall prey to several kinds of waspsn and even other bees. He found the corpse of one of these predatory bees (less than 1cm long) and brought it back for me to photograph. You can see it has big, butch, white, hairy hind legs, like the St Mark's fly. We think it is a rare animal; a solitary bee called Sphecodes spinulosus. (Predators are always outnumbered by their prey, so they tend to be rare by comparison.) Perhaps it is a first for the county? But is it actually a mining bee? It is the same colour as many of the mining bees. I'm guessing that, if you mimic your prey, you can get really close before they recognise you as an enemy ......Fascinating.
At ground level the vegetation is really lush at the moment, dominated by crucifers (members of the cabbage/mustard family that have four petals on each flower). Winter-cress normally grows by water but, because it has been so wet, it seems pretty widespread this year. You can eat the leaves, but they are bitter. However there is a cultivated variety used in salads.
In my next blog there will be news about the "Shrinking Pond". I promise.