A Southern Hawker Dragonfly on the Butterfly Path, well away from water.. one of the most poisonous moths in Britain photographed.. another two sightings of an increasingly rare (for St Nicks) warbler.. loads more butterflies.. lots of juvenile birds.. and an increasingly rich flower meadow!
A very wet start to the month on the 4th June, but better after that. Sunny, or mainly sunny on the 11th and 25th, with a cloudy day on the 18th. Temperatures ranged between 11C on the 4th to 15C – 22C on the other three Wednesdays.
The weather ensured that butterflies were slow to show themselves at the beginning of the month, but by the end of June, in addition to those already recorded this year, Large Skippers were on the reserve together with the year’s first Ringlets which by the end of the month had emerged in large numbers. A Cinnabar moth (one of the most poisonous moths in Britain!) was seen and photographed on the 11th, near the Butterfly Path.
More damselflies began to appear, including Blue-tailed and Azure, not only around the Environment Centre pond but seen resting further afield on the reserve. One delightful find was a beautiful
Southern Hawker Dragonfly, which perched motionless for several hours in low vegetation far from the pond or the becks on the Butterfly Path. Young Hawker dragonflies emerge from the water at night, and, with the warmth of the dawn, fly up and sometimes far away to rest, lest their soft newly-emerged bodies and wings get damaged in the rough-and-tumble of dragonfly life around the pond.
The attractive hoverflies are not so numerous yet, but two more new species (for St Nicks) were seen in June: the strikingly-patterned Chrysotoxom festivium, and a bumble bee mimic, Cheilosia illustrata. Hoverflies will peak during July and August, and we hope to surpass last year’s total of 26 different species observed.
Bugs of various kinds increased during June, including Woundwort, Birch, Gorse and Parent Shieldbugs. In one silver birch tree several pairs of both Birch and Parent Shieldbugs were found mating. Unlike beetles and flies, bugs mate back-to-back. The Parent bugs were showing their parental care, the female gathering up her eggs and guarding them with her body, as noted in last month’s blog. Four species of plant bug were seen around the reserve, one of which, Grypocorus stysi, is pictured, being by far the most numerous and often abundant on the flower heads of Hogweed and on Nettle leaves.
Beetles included a number of different species of ladybird, including the pair of diminutive yellow 22-spot Ladybird pictured here by the Dragon Stones, ensuring the future of the species! In the same area a striking Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn Beetle was found, with spectacular antennae, as can be seen in the picture. At the same time and in the same place a caterpillar of the Six-spot Burnet moth was seen, and is pictured here, while a few yards away a chrysalis of the same species was found – so look out in next month’s blog for the first sightings of these lovely red-and-black day-flying moths. The adult moths are often found nectaring on Knapweed heads in the meadow area of the reserve.
The breeding season is in full swing, with both nest building activity and juvenile birds being seen. Juvenile Wrens were seen on the 11th, and a Wren carrying nest-building material near the Sluice Bridge on the 4th. Up to five singing Blackcaps and three calling Chiffchaffs were heard or seen on several days in the month.
There have been probably three successful broods of Long-tailed Tits on the reserve, with up to 8 juveniles being seen near the Dragon Stones. Other young birds seen included Woodpigeon, Robin (many, in different plumage states), Blue Tit, Great Tit, Dunnock and Mallard (thee latter probably bred in the nearby Hull Road Park).
Although there were two sightings of Whitethroat on the 11th and 25th, it does not seem that this species has bred at St Nicks this year. However, a sighting of four Song Thrushes, with two seen together at the Dragon Stones on the 11th, together with regular sightings, suggest that this species might have bred on the reserve.
Wet weather at the start of the month took species counts back into the low forties, but 62 were recorded in the last week – not including various items, mainly Asteraceae, still awaiting firm identification. The meadow is finally starting to repay the reserve team’s efforts with a much higher density of flowers among the grasses. There is nothing particularly unusual, but Red and White Clover, Hop Trefoil, Bird’s-Foot Trefoil, Meadow Cranesbill and Meadow Buttercups put on a fairly long-lasting display and are good for a wide range of insects including bumblebees and butterflies.
The Lime trees are at last coming into flower, and should be alive with bees in early July. Elder and Dog Rose have had a long flowering season this year and were still going strong on the last recording day of the month. Dogwood and Guelder Rose were out throughout the month, and the first Buddleia sprays were turning purple by the end. The Brambles are in full flower holding out hope of a bumper crop.
Observation of herbaceous plants took us from late spring to high summer. Path edge flowers such the smaller Cranesbills, Silverweed and Germander Speedwells lasted throughout June. Ox-eye Daisies and Salad Burnet have had an unusually long season but will soon be over. Goat’s-beard has been good, and is currently having a final flourish with its magnificent seed heads like aristocratic Dandelion clocks. Lesser Stitchwort among the Gorse and Lady’s Bedstraw behind the Cowslip patch have a relatively short season but should last well into July. The Creeping Cinquefoil covering the short grass around the Dragon Stones is at its best now but should continue sporadically for the rest of the summer, as will the Buttercups (see June Spotlight) and Hedge Woundwort. Tufted Vetch is looking spectacular with its long clusters of rich purple flowers, and closely related Meadow Vetchling, Ribbed Melilot and most recently Goat’s-rue are starting to open. Look out for the pea-like seed pods already starting to form on these and other members of the Legume family. Species coming into flower in late June include Common Poppy, White Bryony, Common Mallow, Meadowsweet, Blue Sow Thistle, Rosebay Willow Herb, Field Scabious and various members of the Thistle family. Several of these will continue well into autumn.
One or two plants are thugs even on a nature reserve: the opening flowers of Indian aka Himalayan Balsam and Hedge Bindweed spell more work for the Rangers.
Finally we look ruefully at our acres of grass. Without specialist knowledge, we lack the time to identify more than a tiny proportion of the species now coming into flower. If you’re a grass expert or a beginner in search of a specialism, do make contact!
Rabbits were seen on the 11th and 25th, but there were no sightings of Grey Squirrel. Puzzling!!