This week’s warm weather and visitors in need of exercise and fresh air gave me the perfect excuse for another walk up to Quarrington Hill to see whether there were any obvious developments in the vegetation on the new spoil heap. The short answer is there were not! The topsoil has the same green tinge as last month and the vegetation is largely dominated by brassicas and the same mystery rosettes.
However, a few new plants are starting to appear alongside these – there are leaves of Spear thistle, Scarlet pimpernel and Cow parsley. It’s reassuring that the site doesn’t look like it’s going to be quite such a monoculture as I’d feared.
Cow parsley leaves (Anthriscus sylvestris) and Scarlet pimpernel (Anagalis arvensis) leaves
The most exciting find of all though (you can tell it’s February!) was a tiny creeping buttercup in flower – my first of the year. Who knew the sepals were so hairy?
Creeping buttercup, Ranunculus repens
Walking back down the hill there was more in flower beside the path and, though it’s cheating a bit, the Common Field speedwell and Daisy flowers just out were too striking to ignore!
The day’s other delight was the Kestrel hovering above, keeping a watchful eye on me as I hunted for plants on the new spoil heap. I thought it was a good sign that some kind of small creatures are living amongst the new vegetation but I now read that kestrels use their ability to see radiation at the ultraviolet end of the spectrum to help them locate voles, which lay UV-reflecting scent trails of urine and faeces. Apparently they are particularly useful at this time of year when the vegetation is short.
Viitala, J., Korplmäki, E., Palokangas, P. & Koivula, M. (1995). Attraction of kestrels to vole scent marks visible in ultraviolet light. Nature. 373: 425–27.