Friday, 13 June 2014

Urban Jungle: Life on a University Campus

Bristol University is, like many other universities, a city centre campus made up of numerous faculty buildings; tall concrete and glass structures filling the skyline above the city.  Below the skyline these buildings are interspersed with tarmac roads, paved walkways and brick walls.  You might think that it would be difficult to find a high diversity of wildlife living amongst this, but look a little closer and you can find an amazing array of species all exploiting the many small patches of habitat spread across the campus, from a single bumblebee on a willowherb growing through a crack in a wall, to a scurry of squirrels racing across the treetops with their mouths stuffed full of hazelnuts.

Around the campus, many of the grassy areas are regularly mown but sections are also left longer to provide habitat for insects.  

'Say no to the mow' 
The edges of this grassy area have deliberately been left longer for wildlife.

Amongst the grass and wildflowers numerous invertebrates go about their daily business.  The flies and bees foraging on the pollen and nectar from the wildflowers, the ladybirds preying upon the unsuspecting aphids while the Ichneumon wasps lurk in the  foliage below waiting for a poor unsuspecting host to pass by.

Fly feeding on a Buttercup
Fly resting on the buttercup leaves in the long grass
Ladybird searching for aphids amongst the foliage
Merodon equestris feeding on Cat's-ear (Hypochaeris sp.)
Tree bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) feeding on Common mallow (Malva sylvestris)
Just off the main road, Royal Fort Gardens is a 0.1 hectare oasis nestled amongst the faculty buildings.  For most of the day the gardens are calm and tranquil, and if you just sit quietly on one of the many secluded benches you won’t have to wait for long before the wildlife begins to make an appearance.

A Robin making short work of an earthworm
The resident squirrels can often be seen and heard chasing each other across the treetops 
Bombus terrestris foraging on Catmint 
Eristalis sp. feeding on an Asteraceae flower
Cuckoo spit from the Froghopper nymph hangs from the Lavender
One of many Mullein moth caterpillars (Shargacucullia verbasci) feeding on Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) 
A bumblebee (Bombus terrestris or lucorum) foraging on a dandelion 
'What's that coming over the hill ? I didn't notice the little fellow on the left creeping over the top of the Foxglove until the next morning!

If you’d prefer to keep moving, a short walk around the gardens can reveal the most wonderful flowering plants.

Japanese Iris (Iris variegata)
Mock strawberry (Fragaria indicia), looks much better than it tastes!
Stinking Iris (Iris foetidissima)
Common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii)

Within the gardens this small pond is teeming with life.  Dragonflies and damselflies dart back and forth above the water, pond skaters skim across the surface while bumblebees forage on the Iris’s around the edge.

The small pond comes alive when the sun comes up.
Cardinal beetle
Hoverfly on vegetation above the pond
Large red damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula)
Solitary bee resting on a Yellow iris (Iris pseudacorus)
Sawfly (Tenthredinidae)
A bumblebee reaches into a Yellow iris with its tongue to drink the nectar at the base of the flower.
Sometimes it pays to look up instead of down.  The conifer trees above the pond were full of pollinators especially bumblebees and hoverflies.  

 Hoverfly displaying its aerial prowess while checking me out from above.

Outside the garden is Cantocks Steps, the entrance to the School of Medicine. The steps themselves are just the usual paved slabs but either side has been sculpted into a wonderful arid garden and planted with a wealth of pollinator friendly plants.  As you walk down the steps you can’t help but turn your attention to the numerous pollinating insects flitting from flower to flower.

Cantocks Steps
A Common carder bee (Bombus pascuorum) foraging on Catmint
A Tree bee (Bombus hypnorum) on Catmint
This Turkish sage (Phlomis russeliana) provides a food source for the more specialist long-tongued bees such as this Common carder bee (Bombus pascuorum).  
And this Garden bee (Bombus hortorum)
But it also proved popular with the Harlequin ladybirds (Harmonia axyridis) and their larvae that covered the leaves and flowers in large numbers.
Helophilus pendulus 
A hoverfly rests in the shade
This bumblebee has had enough of me sticking a camera in its face and is telling me in no uncertain terms to 'back off'

1 comment:

  1. Hi
    just heard your contribution to the radio 4 programme. I wonder if you are familiar with my website which is based on my allotment, upon which i interplant flowers and herbs in walkways between the raised bed and in areas where hopes of success are not met!, perhaps because of slug damage or lack of germination.. The plot is awash with flowers and insects and i obtain great crops too!