Practical Ecology

Nature Switched On

 

 

 

 


in the Pyrenees

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                         a   S T A M M E R  project              

2007 September 29 & 30, Saturday & Sunday


September is a month of transition. The first half is usually still quite hot and dry while in the second half the autumn rains start to fall. This is what happened last year and was repeated this year. Its causes a remarkable change in the vegetation as the two photographs below show; the last one was taken only two weeks after the first.

 

 

 

 


 

It is almost something like a second spring when you see the fresh green grass sprouting (especially Bromus diandrus). This is probably what this couple of Polyommatus bellargus must have thought.

                      


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The lower north-east corner, looking south-east.
Photograph taken on 11 Sept 2007 17:32

The same plot on Sunday 30 Sept 11:14.

Two mating Polyommatus bellargus.
Sunday 13:45

 

 
 

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To the 8 waves of flowering plants that I mentioned on 28 July, I can now add another one: Odontites luteus. It's a hemi-parasitic annual plant that tinges many parts of the terrain with a nice yellow colour.

 
  Odontites luteus on the highest terrace.
Photograph taken on 11 Sept 2007 16:53.

Odontites luteus on the highest terrace, looking south-east.
Photograph taken on 12 Sept 2007 10:22

 
 

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For the pond the changes in September are also quite dramatic. Two weeks ago the water level was almost down to zero but only one heavy shower (according to the neighbours) was sufficient to fill it to the brim.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pond on 14 Sept 2007 15:17.
Looking north-west.
 

 
  The pond on Sunday 30 Sept 9:40.
Looking north-west.

Looking south-east.
 Sunday 9:35

 

Looking south-east.
Sunday 9:32

 

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Little by little the vegetation starts to fill the spaces at the border of the pond. Two weeks ago I embarked on an operation that could be called playing with fire. When we were walking on the bottom of an almost dried up lake of a dam, we noticed a nice little flower that was colonizing the shore resulting in a beautiful green carpet with the occasional yellow-white spots of the flowers. It belongs to the Verbenaceae family and resulted to be Lippia filiformis, a notorious invader from the tropics that has already caused desastrous effects on waterways in Australia. Nevertheless I decided to plant some specimen in and near the pond and in fact they almost immediately seemed to continue to grow. It seemed clear that they had found the same soil conditions as in the dam with its changes from wet to dry. In spite of a possible risk of a total take-over by this neophyte, I was seduced by the very low layer of green leaves and tiny white flowers which may help to keep the vegetation low around the pond. This not only maintains the aesthetics of the pond but also invites more animals to drink and bath. The risk of an invasion in the surrounding country is very low, given the prevailing dry soil conditions.

 

 
  South border of the pond.
Saturday 29 Sept 15:16

Lippia filiformis in the company of Portulaca oleracea on the border of the pond.
Photograph taken on 14 Sept 15:15.
 

 

Lippia filiformis.
Photograph taken on 14 Sept 15:14.

 
 

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There was a distinguished guest at the pond: Aeshna viridis, a relatively big dragonfly which makes quite a noise with its wings when flying. It was laying its eggs at the border of the pond. These eggs will have to survive the winter and also the larvae will have to survive one or two winters in the pond before becoming an adult. It is quite fussy about habitat conditions and this altogether explains perhaps the status of threatened species of this impressive insect. Its hunting larvae are more than welcome in the pond because I detected again a dense population of mosquito larvae.

 

This insect is still to be determined. Its abdomen (?) is so separated from the rest that you wonder if it really belongs to the body.
Ps. 11 Nov 2007: This insect is a species of Ammophila, a genus of caterpillar hunters which feed their larvae with paralyzed caterpillars.

 
  Aeshna viridis on the border of the pond.
Sunday 11:52

A caterpillar hunter on a dry Lomelosia stellata flower.
Saturday 14:59

 
 

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The Wasp Spider (Argiope bruennichi ) continues to amaze, too. This time with its cocoons the size of a 2-Euro coin that I discovered in the hay after cutting some areas with the scythe. I real work of art and I feel a bit sorry for having destroyed one but fortunately there appeared to be many of them. Normally these cocoons stay intact during the winter and the young spiders hatch in spring.

 
  Cocoons of the Wasp Spider on the doormat of the caravan.
Photograph taken on 13 Sept12:03

Opened cocoon of Wasp Spider.
Photograph taken on 13 Sept 12:05

 

Recently hatched spiders.
Photograph taken last spring.
(21 April 2007 13:20)

 
 

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After the first autumn rains many organisms come alive again, some making heaps others making holes. The first are clearly from earthworms whose work can not be underestimated but the latter have a more doubtful status. Their origin is not clear yet. First I thought they were from wild pigs but their groundwork is usually on a larger scale and now I am starting to suspect a badger, or a whole family of these miners (Meles meles). The droppings we found on several places might well as be from this animal and also some villagers have commented about its presence but to be sure I will have to be on guard during a night to catch a glimpse of this very shy animal. The holes in the ground can have their own value and I think that many annual plants, like the poppies in spring, are favoured by them. But especially this weekend the density of holes was getting a little bit worrying. I suppose that once we start to live permanently on the terrain this will become less of a problem.

 
Worm heaps on the central higher terrace.
Sunday 9:55
  Diggings of a badger?
Saturday 15:41

Dropping of a badger?
Sunday 10:03

 
 

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With the falling leaves of autumn some species reveal again their surprising structures.

 
 

Dried flowers of a thistle.
Saturday 15:24

Branch structure of the European nettle tree (Celtis australis).
Sunday 12:00
 

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Last August we paid a visit to the Ecocathedral of Louis Le Roy in the north of the Netherlands. For a visual report, visit Gallery 14 on my website.

 

introduction
floristic catalogue
faunistic catalogue
contact
index
gallery 1: 2006-2012
gallery 2: 2012-

map
>> 2007 Oct 13
<< 2007 Jul 28

 

 

 


 

  

 

 

 

 

 

Latest revision on:  13/11/2013