St Nicks

Centre for nature and green living

Wildwatch: 24th July 2013 – Fun among the nettles

Weather: hot, humid, mainly sunny
Observers: Amanda, Cliff, Declan, Janetta, Kaye, Linda, Maigen, Mike, Tracey

In similar conditions to last week’s, except possibly even hotter and more airless, birds continued to be hard to find, one or two plants are experiencing a very short flowering season, but there were clouds of butterflies and small insects.

Small Skipper

Small Skipper

The build-up to autumn is well under way with abundant seed-heads and immature fruits.

Invertebrates: It was impossible not to see butterflies. Small Skippers and Ringlets were everywhere. Large, Small and Green-veined White were plentiful but rarely sat still long enough to be differentiated. Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper were present but in much smaller numbers, and Mike spotted a couple of Commas. The afternoon over-55s walk found a single Peacock feeding on Buddleia, but neither group found a Blue species.  We saw several 6-Spot Burnet Moths, and found Cinnabar Moth caterpillars on Ragwort.  Other invertebrates included

Green Lacewing

Green Lacewing

Green LacewingBurdock Gall Fly, Greenbottle, Flesh Fly, and Soldier Beetle sp which seem to favour nettles as mating sites. Two with particularly good names were the Marmalade Hoverfly and a small Mirid Bug with the oversize name of Dryophilocoris flavoquadrimaculatus.

Mirid bug....

Mirid bug….

We managed to identify Common Carder, Tree and Red-tailed Bumblebees.  Janetta spotted a new gall on rose leaves, which turns out to be a smooth pea gall caused by either of two species of Gall Wasps. It seems that we need to rear the wasps to find out which….

Plants:  The Lime flowers are already starting to wither and form seed-heads.  Buddleia in full flower looks slightly incongruous in a wild setting, but is an excellent nectar source.  The high summer plants are almost all fully out.  Rosebay and Great Willow Herb, Tansy, Burdock, Mugwort, Blue Sow-thistle, Teasel, Common Knapweed, Creeping Thistle and Welted Thistle will have a fairly defined flowering period.  Yarrow and Hedge Bindweed  are likely to last till till the first frost. Spear Thistle is plentiful but slow to come into full flower.  We looked in vain for Musk Thistle, which might have fallen victim to essential maintenance on the Tang Hall Beck path, but were pleased to see a fine stand of Great Mullein on the reserve boundary opposite the old and dead patch.  Enchanter’s Nightshade is out along Osbaldwick Beck, along with a few late Ox-eye Daisies, Shepherd’s Purse and Hedge Mustard. Silverweed and Cinquefoil can still be found on some of the grass verges, and we were pleased to find White Bryony and Musk Mallow.

White Bryony

White Bryony

Things got really exciting when three of us decided we had to see some Figwort that Cliff had found on a solo expedition.  The snag was that it’s about half-way along the unofficial Tang Hall Beck path amid head-high nettles.  We confirmed that most of these are not Urtica Galeopsifolia (i.e. they do sting) but found our target, which Janetta confirmed as Water Figwort.

Water Figwort

Water Figwort

En route we also compared Prickly and Smooth Sow-thistle and loitered about looking at insects, but we did make it back to base before armed search-parties were sent out.

Mammals and Amphibians:  Linda saw three Grey Squirrels and a Rabbit.  After lunch, Amanda and Declan found a Smooth Newt lurking in a compost heap.

Birds:  several of today’s twelve species were reported by Linda from a solo expedition down Osbaldwick Beck – she saw Robin, Whitethroat, a Dunnock feeding two fledglings, and heard a Wren. Kaye heard a Blackcap in an early walk in the same location. Bullfinches were heard several times but not seen, and Amanda drew attention to a cruising Sparrowhawk. Blackbirds were the only species seen regularly – one male Blackbird considerately depositing the remains of Bird Cherry berries on a bench. Even Wood Pigeons and Magpies were a rare sight, though the former were heard crooning in the mid-day heat. The three nettlebed survivors enjoyed watching a Song Thrush trying to add a couple more items to a large beakful of food for nestlings. The prize of the day, and a reserve first, goes to Cliff who in the course of an early tour heard then saw an Oystercatcher flying over.  You simply never know with birds!

 

26 July 2013 | Categories: Wildwatch | Tags: figwort, Hoverfly, lacewing, mirid bug, moth, Whitethroat