So I spent a little time today taking portraits of amphibians, as you do… I was translocating great crested newts from a site proposed for development and ended up capturing large numbers of smooth newts and toads as well as the great cresteds. I collected the amphibians together and then took them to the receptor site which had been created to provide them with habitat in the long term. As I went to release them, I was struck by the variety of individuals within the same species.
The variation is probably down to a range of factors such as diet, age, maturity, condition, sex or simply genetic variation; and ranges from obvious differences such as colour down to quite subtle differences in patterning or facial structure.
I took the opportunity to take a few ‘portraits’ to record some of these individual characters. It is a lesson which nature constantly re-iterates – look a little closer and you will always see more than at first meets the eye.
The Botanical Society of the British Isles (BSBI) runs an annual ‘New Years Plant Hunt’ which invites people to record species in flower between 1st and 4th of January. The aim is to find as many species in flower as you can within a 3 hour period. This is partly for fun but will also provide a dataset which could be used to compare trends between years and potentially geographical differences too.
My effort was a little poor as I only had a lunch break to hunt in but I managed to find 9 species in flower on the edge of Grantham. Surprisingly, the majority of records were from amenity grassland (lawns) and roadsides rather than the more species rich habitats at the Hills and Hollows to the south-east of the town.
My list was as follows:
Daisy (Bellis perennis)
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale agg.)
Shepherd’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)
Field speedwell (Veronica persica)
Gorse (Ulex europaeus)
Annual meadow grass (Poa annua)
Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)
Common chickweed (Stellaria media)
White dead-nettle (Lamium album)
All of the species were long-flowering rather than early specialists. A long flowering species can be found throughout the year such as dandelions, daisy and gorse – the old saying goes that ‘when gorse is out of flower, kissing is out of fashion’.
There are a range of species which selectively flower early in the year and can be found flowering as early as January – this includes species such as winter aconite, winter heliotrope and dog’s mercury. None of the species I spotted fell into this category.
Flower colour is a project I am exploring this year and it seems a good opportunity to consider the distribution of flower colours in January. Three of the species I found were white, four species are yellow, one species is green and one species is blue. This well reflects the colours of January flowers where white and yellow dominate; followed by green and blue; with pink and purple trailing at the back. For more information on this project, follow the Caratinoid&Betalain twitter feed or take a look at the Flower Colour UK blog.