Friday 4 July 2014

Week 24: A Novel Use of Nettles & Family Wagtail

The first week of July and yet, applying my mind is like trying to rouse a tiny dormouse, snuggled up in a downy nest, seeing out the winter. That is to say, the creative juices have run dry. I’m adopting the less is more approach when it comes to words and will perhaps rethink things from week 26 onwards. By that point, the project will have been going for 6 months and might be worth tweaking/reworking/abandoning. Who knows.

Ok, first up, it’s a female Banded Demoiselle.

This one was fluttering around the common nettles by the river, east of Station Road on Harding's Moor. At one point it looked as though it was ovipositing some 15 metres from the river (pardon?!). That had me scratching my head until someone suggested that perhaps the Demoiselle was using the bristles on the nettle leaf to clean itself. That made perfect sense, especially when I noticed that apart from the mating claspers (cerci) and ovipositing appendages (stylus), the damselfly had a foreign object hanging from its rear end (nice!)!

After the Broad-bodied Chasers, I’ve seen an additional 3 species of dragonfly this week on Trust land. A few Emperors (river Bulbourne, Gadespring cress beds and Preston Hill pond), a Southern Hawker around Fishery Moor and a Common Darter (photographed, left) at the Preston Hill pond.

Most noticeable this week, though, has been the number and variety of butterflies out and about. Marbled Whites, Commas, Small Tortoiseshell, Meadow Browns, Ringlets, Red Admiral and Small Whites to name but a few. Add to that, Small and Large Skippers out in good numbers now. I have attempted a Skipper ID comparison (below) from photographs taken at the Brickworks this week.

Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris) (left); Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus) (right)

3 Key Differences
  1. Size (wingspan): Small Skipper 27-34mm; Large Skipper (male) 29-34mm, (female) 31-36mm. Their wingspans overlap but the Small Skipper is noticeably smaller in the field.
  2. Shading on the wing: Large Skipper - dark shading/patterning on forewing
  3. Antennae: Small Skipper - orange/brown rounded tips; Large Skipper - hooked tips. I’ve not found an Essex Skipper (yet) so don’t have to worry about that!
Up on Further Roughdown, I came across a pair of mating Ringlets (Aphantopus hyperantus). Their larval foodplants are grasses [Cock's-foot (Dactylis glomerata), Common Couch (Elytrigia repens), False Brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum), Meadow-grasses (various) (Poa spp.) and Tufted Hair-grass (Deschampsia cespitosa)].

And, near Old Fishery Lane, a Gatekeeper butterfly (Pyronia tithonus) was warming itself, perched on nettles. This is another species that relies on grasses as larval foodplants [Bents (various) (Agrostis spp.), Fescues (various) (Festuca spp.) and Meadow-grasses (various) (Poa spp.). Common Couch (Elytrigia repens)].

Early on in the week, Monday, I think it was, I was walking across Station Moor when I suddenly heard the distressed calls of a Grey Wagtail. I looked up to see a Sparrowhawk lazily flying south, carrying something in its talons. The diminutive Grey Wagtail was in hot pursuit as if its yellow go-faster-stripes were sufficient protection against such a predator. I did wonder if the Sparrowhawk had made off with a young Grey Wagtail. Anyway, on Thursday, I was able to get back to the area and was pleased to discover that, whatever had been going on with the Sparrowhawk, it had not prevented the Grey Wagtail pair from successfully fledging at least 2 youngsters this week by the Fishery Road canal bridge. I’ve put together some video footage of the parents and one of the fledglings. It was a task and a half to capture significant moments when the wind wasn’t gusting and making the footage unusable. Some clips are a little ropey (to put it mildly!) but hopefully that doesn’t detract too much from enjoying the events.

Finally, this week's Oak photograph.

1 comment:

Martin Parr said...

Thats a superb Banded demoiselle shot!! Excellent!