Nature Notes # 41
Umbellifers by the waters edge
On Saturday I had a walk along the River Weaver on Frodsham Marsh with Bill, looking for the Red-necked Grebe from its usual spot. A Common Tern flew lazily up and down the river making half-hearted stoops at fish but never completing its dives. It always surprises me how uncommon they are on the marsh. They should be breeding! As with most plants, different umbellifer flower at different times of year. I would guess that one of the reasons is so that they don’t compete for the insects that pollinate them. The grebe wasn’t to be found, but as I looked around I noticed the big white globular heads of a umbellifer at the bottom of the bank, almost hidden by the tall, rank grass. I recognised it from Poynton Pool but couldn’t remember the name. The flower heads were covered in insects. There were some more accessible ones further on, so as we would be passing them, I made a mental note to stop and look at them. They turned out to be Wild Angelica Angelica sylvestris, a waterside species and a magnet for hoverflies and bees.
It was nice to be stood by the water instead of up on the bank. There was also another umbellifer in flower next to the Wild Angelica. I’d almost missed it, the flower heads were so small, although much more numerous. I crushed a leaf and it smelt overwhelmingly like celery. Not putting two and two together I thought it may be Lovage which has a similar smell, but its flowers were yellow, not white like this plant. It was actually Wild Celery Apium gravedens, another lover of damp habitats including ditches and river margins with a mainly coastal distribution.
It’s been a relative poor year for dragonflies and damselflies. A bit of a mystery really, but maybe connected to the weather conditions in previous years when the larvae were developing, but I’ve no idea really. For the last two months the pools and scrapes have been devoid of these beautiful insects. Only during the last few days have some began to appear.
The Shooters Pools had a brilliant Emperor Dragonfly the other day and I’ve had distant skimmer which I am pretty certain was Black-tailed. On the Weaver path, a damselfly perched up briefly and I managed one picture only. It’s cerulean blue and black markings identified it as a Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum, which should have been everywhere but not this year.
Written and illustrated by Tony Broome.
Top image by WSM