More breeding bird evidence, including juvenile Blackcaps.. 10 butterfly and 18 hoverfly species.. meadow now carpeted with colourful flowers (and the flower that looks like a bee!)
Temperatures stayed below 20C on all the Wildwatch Wednesdays. Sunny intervals and light breezes for the first two Wednesdays. The final Wildwatch of June – the 28th – had continuous rain, but 12 hardy souls stayed out for nearly the whole two hours!
The Whitethroat, seen and heard throughout May, was still present on the 7th and 14th –heard, not seen. A male Blackcap was feeding three juveniles by Osbaldwick Beck on the 7th, and this species was recorded throughout the month, with a maximum of four seen / heard on the 14th. Chiffchaffs were also present throughout the month, with three heard on the 14th.
A Kingfisher was briefly seen at Tang Hall Beck on the 7th by the Kingfisher Culvert, with three or four juvenile Long-tailed Tits also seen there on the 21st. Up to two Song Thrushes were heard throughout the month – even in the pouring rain on the 28th!
Our resident species, such as Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Dunnock, Robin (one juvenile by Osbaldwick Beck on the 21st), Wren (vociferous on every day), Blackbird (three juveniles by Osbaldwick Beck on the 21st) and Woodpigeons were recorded each week. Goldfinches and members of the Tit family were only seen infrequently during the month.
Overhead, Sparrowhawk and Common Gull (the latter not so common!) were seen on the 14th.
Two fewer butterfly species than in May, but three of them – Large Skipper, Meadow Brown and Ringlet were the first of the year, bringing the year’s total so far to 15. Adult Ringlets suddenly emerged in mid-month and by 21st they seemed to be everywhere. Speckled Wood have been notable this year for their numbers, and we expect these attractive chocolate-and-cream butterflies, who love dappled sunshine and shade, to be around until October. The month of June usually sees a dip between 1st and 2nd broods of Large and Small Whites, and so it proved this year, with no sightings of either species on June Wildwatch days. The attractive orange Skipper butterflies are the subject of a recent Spotlight in these blog pages, as is the migrant Painted Lady, not yet seen at St Nicks this year.
Several moth species were recorded (including a few so far uinidentified): Six-spotted Burnet, Silver-ground Carpet, Silver-Y, Straw Dot, grass moth Crambus lathoniellus, the larva of a Green Silver-lines, and White Plume Moth – see photo, a first record for St Nicks.
Damselflies increased in number, with Azure, Common Blue and Large Red well seen on most weeks. A brief glimpse of a dragonfly on 21st looked like a Southern Hawker. Several delightful and delicate Lacewings Chrysopa perla, pictured in last month’s blog, were again seen in June.
True Bugs are appearing around the reserve in much greater numbers now. Of the five species of shieldbug seen (Birch, Common Green, Gorse, Parent and Woundwort) the Parent Shieldbug provided the greatest interest, as can be seen in the photos. Unlike other shieldbug species, female Parent Shieldbugs – as their name suggests – stay with their eggs and young until the young are grown enough to feed and fend for themselves. A female was found on 14th June sheltering a clutch of eggs, and by the following week these had hatched into 1st instar nymphs, still guarded by their mother. Other bug species included large numbers of the strikingly-patterned plant bug Grypocorus stysi, a few Common Flower Bugs Anthocoris nemorum, plantbug Deraeocoris ruber in red and black forms and two groundbug species: Nettle Groundbug Heterogaster urticae and Birch Catkin Bug Kleidocerys resedae. Common Green Capsid bugs Lygocoris pabulinus were frequently seen on flower heads, and grassbugs of several species included Stenotus binotatus, Leptopterna dolobrata and Leptopterna ferrugata. Common froghoppers Philaenus spumarius were present as both nymphs (‘cuckoo spit’) and adults.
Beetles seen in June included abundant Harlequin Ladybirds, Seven- and Ten-spot ladybirds, more soldier beetles Cantharis rustica as pictured in last month’s blog, Black-headed Cardinal Beetles, False Blister beetles of the Oedemera lurida species, a dead Lesser Stag Beetle and on 14th June a sudden flush of Garden Chafers Phyllopertha horticola around the reserve. Two amazing Longhorn Beetle species were seen: Yellow-and-Black Longhorn Rutpela maculata (pictured) and on a scything day on the reserve the beautiful Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn Agapanthia villosoviridescens.
We couldn’t quite match May’s total of nineteen hoverfly species, but June’s seventeen included six not seen in May (15 of them on one morning alone). One of these had not been recorded at St Nicks before: Helophilus trivittatus, a relative of the strikingly attractive ‘Footballer’ hoverfly Helophilus pendulus frequently seen. The additions to May’s list were this H. trivittatus plus Melangyna cincta, Sphaerophora scripta, Syritta pipiens, Volucella bombylans and Volucella pellucens. ‘Marmalade’ hoverflies Episyrphus balteatus are now on the reserve in considerable numbers. This is a partially migrant hoverfly from Europe and was somewhat scarce on the reserve last year. This year they are making up for it. This and a black form of Volucella bombylans are pictured – the latter a clear bumblebee mimic, as its name suggests. The year’s hoverfly total so far now stands at 25, six of them new records for the reserve.
Many other fly species (Diptera) were seen during the month, including the striking Tachinid fly Tachina fera (see photo). Also pictured is a Thistle Gall Fly Urophora cardui. We have often seen the galls they cause on Creeping Thistle Cirsium arvense plants around the reserve, but this is the first time the adult fly has been recorded. Other gall-causing flies seen were Xyphosia miliaria (thistles) and Tephritis bardanae (Burdock). Many of these tiny gall-causing flies have attractive picture-wings. There is evidence on hogweed leaves of Hogweed leaf miner fly Phytozoma spondylii. Soldier Flies included Broad Centurion Chloromyia formosa and Murky-legged Black Legionnaire Beris chalybata. Other flies recorded were a Dagger Fly species Empis tessellata, Stilt-legged flies Micropeza corrigiolata, Thick-headed flies Sicus ferrugineus and many other common flies. We saw Arge pagana Rose Sawfly in a number of places and many Tenthredo sawflies. Another strikingly orange-red sawfly was found to be a pregnant female Tenthredopsis nassata. Numerous bumblebees of 6 or 7 species were seen, several ichneumon parasitic wasps and a rather alarming-looking parasitic wasp Gasteruption jaculator, not before recorded on the reserve.
Spiders were often seen carrying or guarding egg sacs, notably Nursery Web Pisaura mirabilis keeping watch over their nursery tents, some with eggs and others with newly-hatched young. Wolf spiders Pardosa amentata seemed everywhere, the females carrying large pale egg sacs. A scarce Crab Spider, found moribund on a path, was almost certainly Xysticus bifasciatus not recorded before at St Nicks. Green Cucumber spiders Araniella cucurbitina sensu lato were found in several places, some guarding yellow egg sacs.
Elder had a long flowering season and lasted throughout June. The long, nectar-laden flower heads of Buddleia and the small starry clusters of Lime flowers opened mid-month, but conditions on Wednesday mornings didn’t allow either Wildwatchers or butterflies and bees to appreciate their scent. With luck the Buddleias will last into autumn.
The obvious highlight of the month was the sight of recently cleared areas bright with Common Poppy, Corncockle, Wild Carrot, Cornflower, Corn Marigold and a Chamomile sp. As several of the names suggest, these are traditionally flowers of arable land. They are annuals which seed themselves freely, but most of the seeds lie dormant for years unless the soil is disturbed. Just one of the patches also produced Sun Spurge and Greater Bird’s-Foot Trefoil. The latter is a perennial, but isn’t in its ideal habitat so it will be interesting to see if it manages to establish itself.
A less conspicuous highlight was a solitary Bee Orchid. There are undocumented memories of this beautiful but unpredictable species in a different area in the early days of the reserve, but only one other Wildwatch record, in yet another location. They seldom come up in the same place in consecutive years, so we have three areas to monitor but can’t discount the possibility that they could turn up in any similar habitat.
For long serving Wildwatchers, there was just as much delight in looking at the meadow. Years of carefully targeted management are showing clear results. Where there was once very little but rough grass, there is a carpet of White and Red Clover and (Common) Bird’s-foot Trefoil, interspersed with Tufted Vetch, Meadow Vetchling, a Meadow Cranesbill species, Lady’s Bedstraw, Knapweed and the occasional Meadowsweet. On the other side of the path, Ribbed Melilot is doing so well that it will probably need to be thinned.
To leave room for a bumper invertebrate section, suffice it to say that everywhere else the usual suspects of high summer emerged during June, shooting the weekly counts into the high fifties even in pouring rain. Among them, Brambles, Bindweeds, Rosebay Willow Herb, Common Ragwort, Creeping Cinquefoil, Yarrow, Hedge Woundwort, three species of Thistle, the budding heads of Teasel and the dreaded Indian Balsam are impossible to miss. Goat’s Rue, Bush Vetch, a St John’s Wort sp, Yellow Flag Irises, Goat’s Beard, Yellow Loosestrife, Field Scabious, Blue Sow Thistle and Common Mallow are easy to see in their more localised spots. Lower-growing Purple Self-heal, the small greenish yellow domes of Pineapple Weed, climbing White Bryony, Enchanter’s Nightshade along Osbaldwick Beck and Hedge Bedstraw in the Butterfly Walk are more easily overlooked but well worth looking for. Many of them will continue through July and beyond.
There seem to be a number of juvenile Rabbits on the reserve, and this species was seen on the first three Wildwatch Wednesdays. Grey Squirrel was only recorded on the 7th.
All photos were taken at St Nicks during June 2017.