On to March, and a host of new species are beginning to make themselves known as my college year progresses…this month you get the common nettle (Urtica dioica), garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) & pipistrelle bat species (Pipistrellus spp.)….don’t worry, I’ll explain the importance of the wildflowers…
Common Nettle (Urtica dioica) Photo Courtesy Of NatureSpot (See 3))
So, the common or stinging nettle is a plant you are probably familiar with; it is, after all, one of the most common and widespread wildflowers in the UK. It has no habitat requirements; typically it thrives on high nutrient waste ground or farm edges that have been fertilised to the point where little else can grow. The flowers appear from June to September though there are overlooked; far from the obvious blues, reds & yellows of other wildflowers the common nettle has spikes of tiny green flowers that droop like catkins.
Some specific benefits the nettle provides are that it is a larval food-plant for some beautiful butterfly species including (but not limited to) the small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) & the peacock (Inachis io). It also is one of the many vegetative species that make up the diet of the water vole (Arvicola terrestris), one of the rarest native mammals of the UK. In addition, if you want to try, taking the top leaves off of fresh growth can add more than a little boost to homemade soups or even teas! Be sure to wash it first though…
Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) Photo Courtesy Of NatureSpot (See 13))
This wildflower gets its name from the garlic scent released when you bruise/crush the leaves; it’s alternative name which I happen to love is Jack-by-the-hedge, derived from its association with hedgerows, although it in fact inhabits a wide range of habitats such as woodlands & waste ground. It’s main association that I’m aware of (but remember I’m just a student) is its relationship with the green-veined white butterfly (Pieris napi). This butterfly lays its eggs on the long leaf stems of garlic mustard (called petioles, hence the wildflowers scientific name of Alliaria petiolata). The garlic mustard by the weaver footpath is young, though it will begin to flower soon in April and continue through to June. Why not check out the petioles yourself this summer? Be careful about butterfly eggs though!
Common Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) Photo Courtesy Of NatureSpot (See 15))
So I began to hear pipistrelle species on the way back from college last night though it is impossible for my untrained self to tell them apart at present. There are three species of pipistrelle bat in the UK and they all inhabit Cheshire; they are the common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), soprano pipistrelle (P. pygmaeus) & Nathusius' pipistrelle (P. nathusii). Two are known to live nearby at Reaseheath College (the common & soprano pipistrelles). The usual method of survey for bats is to use heterodyne detectors which, in essence, translate the echolocation calls of bats to a frequency audible to the human ear. Pipistrelle species echolocate at frequencies between 45 - 55khz and this usually is heard through the detector as rapid wet ‘slapping’ sounds, though if they are approaching an insect the calls appear quicker and quicker through the detector because the echolocation calls are bouncing back a shorter distance between the bat and the insect. This can be heard as a 'tizzing’ sound and if you give this a go yourself you’ll have more luck over water bodies where more invertebrates live (midges, etc) that are suitable prey for bats.
Post over…..welcome to Spring!
1) My Previous Post On The Weaver Footpath Ecology: http://goodnewswildlife.tumblr.com/post/77196654864/a-little-bit-of-the-ecology-of-the-river-weaver
2) NatureSpot Homepage: http://www.naturespot.org.uk/
3) Common Nettle (Urtica dioica) Factfile: http://www.naturespot.org.uk/species/common-nettle
4) Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) Factfile: http://www.naturespot.org.uk/species/small-tortoiseshell
5) Peacock (Inachis io) Factfile: http://www.naturespot.org.uk/species/peacock
6) Water Vole (Arvicola terrestris): http://www.naturespot.org.uk/species/water-vole-0
7) Video Of Water Vole Eating Common Nettle: http://goodnewswildlife.tumblr.com/post/79331148363/the-water-vole-arvicola-amphibious-is-perhaps
8) The Botanical Society Of The British Isles (BSBI) Homepage: http://www.bsbi.org.uk/
9) BSBI Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/BSBI2011?fref=ts
10) UK Butterflies Homepage: http://www.ukbutterflies.co.uk/index.php
11) The Mammal Society Homepage: http://www.mammal.org.uk/
12) The Mammal Society Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/MammalSociety?fref=ts
13) Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) Factfile: http://www.naturespot.org.uk/species/garlic-mustard
14) Green-veined White (Pieris napi) Factfile: http://www.naturespot.org.uk/species/green-veined-white
15) Common Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) Factfile: http://www.naturespot.org.uk/species/common-pipistrelle-0
16) Soprano Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus) Factfile: http://www.naturespot.org.uk/species/soprano-pipistrelle-0
17) Nathusius’ Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus nathusii) Factfile: http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/nathusius_pipistrelle.html
18) Mammal Species List For Cheshire: http://www.record-lrc.co.uk/Group.aspx?Mod=Article&ArticleID=G00010006
19) Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) Homepage: http://www.bats.org.uk/
20) BCT Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/BatConservationTrust?fref=ts
21) Cheshire Mammal Group (CMaG) Homepage: http://www.record-lrc.co.uk/Group.aspx?Mod=Article&ArticleID=G00010001
22) CMaG Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/160643350676203/?fref=ts