A quick account of an afternoon spent exploring brownfield and recording wildlife at North Shields.
Poking through the rubble heaps and disused car parks of brownfield sites has become a personal hobby of late. Not only are these sites phenomenal for wildlife, but many offer a rare look at what would happen if nature was permitted to reclaim our towns and cities. One of my favourite areas of local brownfield can be found at North Shields, and inspired by a visit last year, I thought I’d take another look this weekend…
One of the main reasons for my visit was, unsurprisingly, ladybirds and surveying the site I was pleased to encounter a good variety of species. Some, like the 22-Spot Ladybird (Psyllobora vigintiduopunctata) were to be expected while others were a tad more exciting. Adonis’ Ladybird (Hippodamia variegata) is a scarce species in our region and one commonly associated with dry, rocky sites such as this. It was also interesting to note the inconspicuous ladybird, Rhyzobius litura, and nicer still to spot eight Water Ladybirds (Anisosticta novemdecimpunctata) around a small pool forming on the tarmac of an old car park.
The interesting ladybird larvae shown below may turn out to be 11-Spot Ladybird (Coccinella undecimpunctata), a pretty elusive species up here.
Forgetting ladybirds for a while, a quick look at the other insects out and about proved worthwhile. Butterflies didn’t disappoint with eight species on the wing, the best of which being Dingy Skipper, Small Heath and some fresh-looking Common Blues. Several day-flying moths were seen too including Hummingbird Hawk-moth, Cinnabar and Narrow-bordered Five-Spot Burnet.
Elsewhere a few other interesting beasties recorded here included Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn, quite the impressive beetle, the soldier beetle, Cantharis rufa, and the bug, Leptopterna ferrugata. Not a bad haul!
The other great thing about brownfield sites such as is often the plantlife. Rubbly, disturbed places such as this often sportian interesting mix of elusive native species, adventives and aliens. North Shields is no exception and clearly having timed my arrival perfectly, the common plant species were putting on an fantastic display – large patches of Black Knapweed, Oxeye Daisy and Mouse-ear Hawkweed interspersed with Wild Mignonette, Weld, Common Toadflax and a whole manner of lovely things.
Perhaps the most interesting observation of the day came from the sheer abundance of Melilot observed during my visit. Indeed, everywhere I looked this attractvive yellow plant could be seen in abundance. Opting to look closer at this, three species were revealed. By far the most common of these was Ribbed Melilot; though a smaller patch of the far rarer Tall Melilot was also discovered. Next, a small area nestled between spoil heaps revealed a nice patch of White Melilot – not a plant I see very often.
With far too many plants seen to cover in a single post, I think it would be best to focus instead on a few highlights and for me, an abundance of delicate Fairy Flax was nice to see, as was a large area of White Stonecrop adorning the tarmac of a former road. Yellow-wort is another scarce species that thrives on brownfield sites and it was good to see plenty of it throughout my visit. Narrow-leaved Ragwort, an invader from South Africa, provided a touch of the exotic.
Orchids were few and far between but I stumble across a few fading spikes of Northern Marsh Orchid while just outside the site, some rather lovely Bee Orchids were not to be scoffed at.