It now really seems as though summer has arrived. The rise in temperature and bright sunlight are encouraging a bit more insect activity, although not yet as much as I would have hoped. On the butterfly front I’ve recently seen red admiral, meadow brown, speckled wood, small white and large white.
Three out of the first four visitors today were asking about dragonflies on the reserve. Good numbers of damselflies including azure damselfly, common blue damselfly, blue-tailed damselfly, red-eyed damselfly and large red damselfly are out at the moment. Emperor dragonfly and scarce chaser have been seen and a female broad-bodied chaser was seen hanging up on vegetation around the small pond behind the education centre.
I always think of dragonflies as being superb aeronauts with almost magical powers of flight to hover, dart and even fly backwards or upside- down, so it was a bit of a shock to find a golden-ringed dragonfly floating in the water in a ditch, looking as though it had met its end. Rescuing it was relatively easy and it crawled off of my finger onto a tree stump,where it slowly dried out before flying off.
The general consensus of opinion seems to be that the poor weather last year is responsible for the dearth of butterflies and moths, this year. Whether (weather?) this is the case or not, there has been a decline in the numbers of moths coming to the light trap. Last night there were some 24 individual moths representing 16 different species, not a large catch for what is probably the peak time for moths. Among the catch were a privet hawkmoth and an eyed hawkmoth.
Probably the most eye-catching of the rest was this buff ermine
A constant fascination, to me, is the way that all animals and plants have an instinctive, in-built knowledge or awareness of the passage of time and the changing of the seasons. Only by this mechanism are they able to co-ordinate the synchronisation of, say, all plants of the same species coming into flower together. As I was wandering around earlier, opening up the hides, I chanced upon a fine display of flowers on several groups of sedges – I think!! ( Some of you will know that my botanical knowledge is somewhat selective and when it comes to ‘grass-like’ stuff rather suspect!) Well whatever they are their flowers, although only yellow-green are really quite delightful in close-up.
Much of the vegetation on the reserve is of the green variety, so it’s always nice to see a splash of colour. Today one of the more obvious plants ‘on parade’ were the flowers of red campion, with their characteristic swellings behind the petals, they are almost unmistakable. But, having been caught out recently on plant names, I thought I’d check. It’s only when you bother to look up some of these things that you find that even some of our common plants have interesting connections in folk-lore and fascinating biology. The scientific name for red campion is Silene dioica. Silene comes from Silenus, in Greek mythology, who is the ‘drunken, merry god of woodlands’. The second part of the name dioica, refers to ‘two houses’ and refers to the fact that each plant has flowers of only one sex so that two plants are needed for pollination and seed production.