Snowdrops – are they thermogenic?

As you know: I like to write in my bullet/nature journal about the things I see. So that’s what I did this afternoon. To refresh my memory, I usely look at the pictures I made during my walks.

That’s why I had another look at the photo I made of the snowdrops last week. (I’m sorry: I have to use this picture from my last post again, as it’s the only nice picture I have of them…. :-/ )

I started wondering, why the snowdrops appeared from the snow as they do. Do they just grow and grow and that’s the reason why they are visible? Or do they produce some kind of heat, that makes the snow melt?

I had a little look around the internet and found this post. It says – amongst other things – that there are no scientific studies to prove that snowdrops are thermogenic.

Then I had a little discussion with my husband – who knows a lot about biology and chemistry etc.

So now I think, there might be several reasons. I have read, that snowdrops produce a kind of anti-freeze, so their cells won’t get damaged from the ice crystals during the frost. When it’s cold they start to produce glycerol, which protects their cells from freezing. I think this means that their sap can flow at temperatures below freezing. And that’s why they can appear through the snow.

And as their green leaves appear above the snow, they might absorb more of the warmth of the sun, than the white snow that surrounds it. So there develops a tiny microclimate, where it is a little bit warmer than its surroundings.

I am wondering now, if the water that is circulating inside the snowdrops – thanks to the anti-freeze – could also heat up the micro-climate. We had a discussion about that as well. On the one hand you could say that the anti-freeze doesn’t make the water any warmer, it just doesn’t freeze. On the other hand you might think that the water in the ground – which is then circulated through the snowdrop – might be a bit warmer than the snow itself. And maybe the tiny microclimate which is a little warmer can even reinforce this process………

Well, I don’t know if this makes sense……. Do you have an opinion or even real knowledge about this? But it was fun reading, discussing, and thinking about this ๐Ÿ™‚

Seasons

Long time, no see….. sorry for that :-/

Last week we suddenly had winter! I know lots of people who loved it. It was cold and we had loads of snow and later in the week, the temperature dropped even more, and it became really sunny.

I loved seeing some ice crystals…..

But I think it must have been hard on the animals. We even took our vermicomposter from the balcony into the kitchen, so the worms wouldn’t freeze.

The ducks on the river seemed all right – as far as I could see. But it was funny that the little grebe swam beside them looking like a duckling…..

But since two days it’s thawing …… and I’m really glad!! Before these cold, snowy days, I had the feeling that spring was already in the air. The birds had started to be more active, the woodpeckers had started their territorial drumming.

So I was glad to see the snowdrops reappearing through the snow today! ๐Ÿ™‚

Broadleaf plantain

This year I took part in a course in botany. At least we tried to make it a real course, but with all the restrictions because of Covid we couldn’t do it as planned. But: we went outside in small groups and had a close look at plants and learned some interesting things.

So, I really wanted to look at- and take pictures of – as many plants as possible. But one day last summer – when I went out for a walk with my camera to take some macro photos – I had some problems because the wind was blowing so hard my camera couldn’t focus on the small details of most of the plants as they were moving too much.

So I decided to have a closer look at the broadleaf plantain (Plantago major).

You might know them (depending on where you live). They grow low and have thick leaves and robust stems, so they are hardly swaying in the wind. Here there are lots of them and at first sight they don’t look interesting at all.

But when I took a closer look at the flowers, I started to find them fascinating! ๐Ÿ™‚

You can see how the pistils appear first:

Then the stamina appear – and I think they look beautiful, because of the colours of the anthers…..

Later they turn brown….

I also saw this little visitor – a Tachyporus obtusus ๐Ÿ™‚

I took these pictures end of July. And then kind of forgot them. But last week I had another close look at the broadleaf plantain beside the footpath and saw that they had developed fruits.

And this is how they looked inside…..

I think I enjoy these things more than the obvious beautiful things – these little hidden joys! ๐Ÿ™‚

Notebooks

So many people I greatly admire have used notebooks. I mean, it seems a logical thing to do in the past, as there were no cameras (or smartphones) to capture the things you saw or computers to note the things you thought. But these notebooks have always fascinated me.

For example the notes and drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, Alexander von Humboldt, Darwin and many more. Especially when I see the handwritten notes, it feels like I see something very personal of them – as if I can see them thinking.

Of course: I’m not like them in any way, but still….. I like to write in a notebook myself ๐Ÿ™‚

I have also been watching a lot of videos about bullet journaling. (I know: it is a very loooooooong way from Leonardo, von Humboldt and Darwin to the videos about bullet journals….. :-/ ) (If you don’t know what a bullet journal is, here you can find some information.)

One day I decided to give it a try. But after a few weeks I lost interest, because it looked like to-do-lists in a notebook, which isn’t very interesting at all ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

After some months I gave it another try, and decided to do it differently. I wanted to write down more about things I had read or seen. And then I saw Stephen Moss on the SelfIsolatingBirdClub (if you want to watch all the episodes (not only with Stephen Moss): you can find them here). And he talked about nature writing – about how people can write about the things they see and experience in nature. And that’s what I started doing in my bullet journal (this and the “normal” bullet journal things).

First I just wrote that I had seen a hare in the field, or heard some kind of bird. But this summer I wrote more and more. And I started to notice more things, because it’s one thing to see something and another to write it down (you have to find out how it’s called, or at least describe it).

I have been doing something similar some time ago with drawings, but that is even more time consuming. But I do add some small drawings to my notes.

(sorry, but it’s in Dutch…..)

So now I sometimes feel like a real explorer ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ˜€

How about you? Do you also like notebooks? Bullet journals? Do you do some nature writing?

Update on mummified aphids….

Last time I wrote about the mummified aphid I had seen on one of my walks, remember? The one a little wasp had used to lay its egg in?

Isn’t it funny how you see more of the things you have learned about? You hear something you have never heard of, and after that it seems like it pops up everywhere.

So that’s what seems to have happened today (or maybe it’s just the time of the year, where this occurs ๐Ÿ˜‰ ): I saw another mummified aphid. But this time I was determined to find one with a little hole in it. Because that would indicate, that the wasp had hatched. And tada……. there it was:

Can you see the how the wasp has made something like a little lid to get out?

I feel with the aphid but still think this is really fascinating!

Have you ever seen this? Or something similar? Or something that isn’t similar, but is still fascinating?

Mummy

I think I might have found a mummy on one of my latest walks! ๐Ÿ™‚

But let’s start from the beginning. I had been on one of my regular walks through the little forest in the neighborhood and had seen lots of insects and some birds.

Then I saw something sitting on a leaf of which I thought it was a tiny snail.

But with the help of the macro lens of my camera (which I often use as a kind of magnifying glass) I recognized it had a little head and feet…..

I still didn’t see what it was and thought it might be a tick. But after counting it’s feet I realized it only had six, so couldn’t be a tick because that would have had eight feet.

Then my husband suggested it must be an aphid. And he was right!

If you look carefully you can detect that it has two cornicles. These are tubes on the back of it’s abdomen, through which it can secrete droplets of defensive fluid. (I know: it’s really hard to see on this picture….. :-/ )

So I thought: Well, that’s it. It looks a bit weird, but it’s just some kind of aphid….

But yesterday I listened to a podcast. (Did I mention that I LOVE listening to podcasts!) It was a podcast of Roots and All – it’s a gardening podcast and I can really recommend it. Sarah Wilson – the presenter – was interviewing Val Bourne and she talked about how having a garden without using pesticides allows a lot of insects to live in your garden. They then help the gardener to create a healthy garden, because one insect is the predator of the other and so they can establish a kind of natural balance.

And in this interview she mentioned that some tiny wasps lay their eggs inside aphids, which then mummify. The larva of the wasp eats the aphid from the inside and after a while makes a little round hole to leave the mummy of the aphid.

I directly thought about this weird aphid. I checked it with some help of google and I really think this must be a mummy….. Wow!

I’m always surprised about what you can find….and learn……. Next time I see such a mummy I will look if I can find one with a hole!!

Crane fly

Now that the temperatures are rising there are more and more insects flying around. And I love to take pictures of them ๐Ÿ™‚

So last Sunday I saw this beautiful crane fly sitting on a plant in the little forest here in the neighborhood.

First I only saw it from its side, but later I noticed it has quite beautiful wings.

I’ve learned – by asking “Cranefly Recording Scheme” on Twitter – that it’s called Epiphragma ocellare. They told me it’s a woodland species.

Have you ever taken a close look at the head of a crane fly?

And at its thorax (that’s the part below the head)? I’ve tried to paint it, but it looks all bumpy :-/

Later I learned that all the parts have names. That seems logical, but I hadn’t thought about it……

My next goal – okay, ONE of the next goals ๐Ÿ˜‰ – for the coming weeks is to examine the heads of insects more closely!

Update on the insect hotel – and some reflections…..

You might remember my post about the insect hotel we made for our balcony last year? And now – 2 or 3 weeks ago – we saw that some of the bees must have hatched, because some holes that had been sealed, were now open. But I hadn’t seen the bees themselves…..until last weekend: finally I saw one leaving one of the holes ๐Ÿ™‚

My husband has also made some new bee hotels. This time he combined wood, with some clay – both with holes – and put this in a nest box for birds from which he had removed the front.

I hope the bees will like this place too!

I’m so glad nature is just doing its things in these frightening pandemic times…….

I don’t know about you, but for me it also means I have loads of free time, because – at the moment – I only work about 1/3 of my normal hours. And it’s kind of weird: normally when I work full hours, I always think, that it would be great to have more time for all the things I like to do. I thought I would do lots of reading, exploring, writing one blog post after the other. But it seems like it doesn’t work like that for me. The less I work, the less I seem to do in the rest of the time. Maybe I need a certain amount of workload and stress to function optimal?

How about you? Do you live in a lock down at the moment? How are you coping? Do you also have loads of time and what do you do with that? Or maybe you just have lots of stress and anxiety?

It’s also weird how in this time lots of people – including me – seem to depend so much on the nice things we see in nature at the moment. How important nature is – I already knew that, and so will you I guess. I think I should really use this time to learn more about nature AND about how to protect it…..

Barklouse

Some weeks ago, I suddenly received a parcel with a book. First, I was surprised – but also a bit irritated, because I didn’t know who had sent it……

It was a surprise gift from my sister: a book about mosses, written by Robin Wall Kimmerer: “Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses” (the same author I have written about some time ago).

I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s a really interesting book. And it’s the perfect time of the year to look for and at mosses, because they are thriving in this kind of wet weather.

(No, this post is not about mosses….. (maybe another time) ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

So, when I went for a walk I started looking for them and found some nice ones on an old dead tree. But when I started to make pictures of the sporophytes, I noticed this little insect crawling around.

You can imagine it was quite small – I could hardly see it. So it was good I had my macro lens on my camera…..

First, I thought it was a really small fly. But people on Flickr and Twitter told me it is some kind of barklouse. Someone suggested it could be an Ectopsocus species, maybe petersi. But who knows?

I have read somewhere that barklouse have segmented abdomen. I think you can see that on this picture (but maybe it’s too small :-/ ):

Here you can see it in action…..

I think it is beautiful, especially the wings!

Mini terrarium

Remember the little springtails I found in the water of the vermicomposter I wrote about in my last post? After first just throwing them in the pots of my balcony plants, I suddenly thought it might be interesting to watch how they live……

So I made a mini terrarium. I took a plastic box which formerly contained some chocolates I got for Christmas and put some earth and leaves in it, put some fabric over it and …… voilรก: a terrarium! ๐Ÿ™‚

At the left with the fabric and on the right with a plastic lid I use when I really want to watch them.

But watching them is still quite difficult……they are sooooo tiny. The best thing I can do is using my camera with the macro lens.

So there are springtails as I expected….

I also made a video of an springtail which is “grazing” on the (tea) leaf I put in the terrarium. You can watch it here.

But can you see the even smaller creature on the right? I’m not sure what it is. I couldn’t even count it’s feet on the picture. So I also made a video of these. You can watch it here. And if you look closely you can count 8 feet. So they aren’t insects. Maybe the are mites?

Look at it’s “hair” ๐Ÿ™‚ And I’m not sure what is this pimple on it’s back……

I also found this dark critter……

I’m not sure if it also is a springtail as it looks a bit different…..

So if you know something please comment!

I think I will continue staring at the life in the terrarium a bit longer…….