Weather: short but heavy showers clearing to sun; breezy
Observers: Amanda, Carrie, Cliff, Kaj, Kaye, Linda, Mike, Paul, Tracy
The reserve is looking increasingly autumnal, with far more seed heads than flowers, and fruits ripening on a range of trees. The birds are still skulking, but the insects (like this one) are amazing.
Mowing was in progress in the meadow and adjacent areas, which confined us to the west side of the reserve – but there was so much to look at that we couldn’t have got round everywhere.
Birds: Linda, Kaj and Paul went off with the double hope that a juvenile kingfisher might already have adopted our becks as its territory, and that if so they might see it. No luck this time – but they did report male and female Blackbirds, Robin, Dunnock, Blue tit, Great tit and Long-tailed tit. They noticed Swallows overhead, heard a Wren, and were fairly sure they heard a Sparrowhawk. They weren’t absolutely certain about a Chiffchaff sighting, but elsewhere Cliff and Amanda stalked a bird making a contact call which certainly was a Chiffchaff. The other group noted Wood Pigeons, Magpies, and two Jackdaws on treetops on the reserve boundary. House Sparrows on the Centre feeders brought the group total to 14, and Kaye struck lucky when a couple of Bullfinches flew across the path as she walked home. Not a bad total on a late summer day without Ian!
Mammals: Linda’s group saw two Grey Squirrels. Evidently they’re just playing hard to get.
Plants: the Thistles and Willowherbs are building up to a spectacular display of parachuting seed heads, but all except Spear Thistle are still flowering here and there. Tansy, Knapweed, Burdock, Teasel, Mugwort, Ribbed Melilot and Buddleia are likewise going to seed rapidly, but there are still flowers to be found. Yarrow, Hedge Bindweed, Field Scabious, Cinquefoil, Red Bartsia, Woundwort, Soapwort and of course White Dead-nettle carry on regardless. Many other flowers can be found, though they tend to be on isolated plants that are either hanging on after their main season or having a second flush. These include Self-Heal, Scentless Mayweed, Dandelion, Rib-wort Plantain, Red and White Clover, Hop Trefoil and Groundsel. Bird’s-foot Trefoil was along the main path in the morning before the mowers got to it – but it has time to make a come-back. Meanwhile Brambles, Rowan berries and various Plum sp are ripening, “keys” on Maple and Ash are very obvious, the squirrels haven’t launched an attack on the Hazel nuts yet, and there is going to be a good crop of Acorns.
Invertebrates: Six of us went in search of small creatures. The early rain, which suppressed the butterflies and sent us for a few minutes to shelter in the Centre, didn’t seem to curtail the activities of other insects. Just outside the Centre we were treated to a Green Shieldbug, several day-flying moths and a number of hoverflies. During the morning ten species of Hoverfly were spotted, from the slim-bodied Sphaerophora scripta to the plump and striking Volucella pellucens. It’s a shame that (unlike butterflies and moths) so few of the 260 British hoverfly species have popular names but the aptly-named “Marmalade Hoverfly” was seen everywhere on the reserve, and the tiger-like Helophilus pendulus was almost as abundant. Along the way, mostly among the Dragon Stones, we saw a number of Leaf hoppers,
Ichneumon Wasps (the females with strikingly long ovipositors, probably Pimpla species which lay their eggs in butterfly and moth caterpillars), Predatory Wasps and other bugs and flies. When the sun finally came out the butterflies emerged and, staying at the Dragon Stones we were treated to bright Common Blues, Gatekeepers, Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells, Green-veined and other Whites, Speckled Woods and Small Coppers. Ringlet butterflies which in recent walks had been abundant were today very scarce. A strikingly fresh-plumaged Red Admiral delighted us, but we failed to see any Painted Ladies.
Finally, an unusual shieldbug was caught, and later identified as a Gorse Shieldbug.