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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Wed 3rd June 2015 - Brading Down.

Carrie's Photographs.

Mark's Photographs.

Cuckoo Spit.

This substance is actually produced by the nymph stage of the Froghopper.  These young bugs mix air with the sap from plants which they've eaten and then excreted to generate the foam.  It is used as a defence mechanism against predation.  The timing of all of this just so happens to coincide with the return to our shores of the Cuckoo. (So now you know!)

As I was preparing the opening sentence for this blog, it suddenly struck me what a strange language English is - I was going to write "Today we went up the Downs...." how that would sound to a foreigner??? Anyway, we all headed off to Brading Downs for the first of our Ragwort pulling sessions. As per our Pesky Plant Pulling last week, it is still early in the season for the plants so they are quite small which makes them hard to spot. To add to our problems, there is a very similar plant that grows in the same area which we were told NOT to pull - so each plant had to be examined carefully before deciding if it was friend or foe. Trying to eliminate as many Ragwort plants before they get a chance to really establish themselves should reduce the amount that we have to deal with later in the year (a sort of a pre-emptive strike!) we will see...! Any plants that showed signs of eggs, caterpillars or moths were left alone. Fortunately, the rain and gale force winds that we had on Tuesday had moderated considerably and we had a sunny day with a pleasant cooling breeze - nice. The Downs are always a popular GG venue and today was no exception - it was very well attended.
Yet another one of our GG members has decided to emigrate across to North Island - hopefully she will be reading this blog to keep up with our weekly adventures. Moving to the mainland reminds me of the story of an elderly resident from West Wight who was asked "What do you think of the mainland"? His reply was " I did go over there, once, had a look around and then I caught the next boat back home"....!

Carrie's Nature Finds.

Our first find was some very pretty common bird’s foot-trefoil.  One of its common names is  'Granny's Toenails' which gives an instant impression of the claw-like seed pods of this abundant and sprawling species.  Other common names include 'Butter and Eggs', 'Eggs and Bacon', and 'Hen and Chickens' which refer to the egg-yolk yellow flowers and reddish buds. It is very widespread and found in all kinds of grassy places from lawns to downlands, roadside verges to heathlands, and flowers from May to September. It is a member of the pea family, and its yellow flowers appearing in small clusters look like little slippers.  These are then followed by seed pods that look distinctly like bird's feet or claws.

Our second find is what my Dad used to tell me was cuckoo spit, and I was fascinated as a small child at the thought of cuckoos being able to spit! It is actually a froth created to help protect the developing nymphs of froghoppers.  The nymphs drink more plant sap than needed for growth and health and the undigested excess is then blown out of the back end producing the froth, which hides them from predators.  Froghoppers (Philaenus Spumarius) are between 4 and 12 mms depending on species, and commonly found throughout the UK from April to June in woodland edges and grassland. The name comes from the appearance of the insect when viewed from above, which is quite frog-like, and this similarity is enhanced by the insects ability to jump incredible distances.

Thanks to Carrie and Mark for their contributions.

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