Goat in the meadow

At this time of year the nettles and brambles put on a spurt of growth around Blashford’s 8 kilometre network of paths so long term volunteer Geoff and I spent most of this morning making a start strimming back the path edges. We cleared the Ellingham footpath on the western side of Ellingham lake, strimmed back the growth in front of the woodland hide and in one of the areas the education team use with visiting groups.

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Geoff strimming

While we were out I flipped a log and found 5 small juvenile palmate newts.

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Juvenile palmate newts

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Palmate newts with hand for scale

But the highlight of the day was finding an enormous goat moth caterpillar, an impressive beast crawling about in the grassland of one of the meadows.

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Goat moth caterpillar

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Goat moth with 20p coin for scale

It was a huge individual about 10 centimetres long, after a few quick photographs on a nearby log we returned it to where we found in it the meadow. Goat moth caterpillar burrow into the trunks of deciduous trees often willows and birches, and fed on the wood.  The larvae often live for up to five years before pupating and so can become quite large. When they’re ready to pupate the caterpillars come out the tree they’ve been feeding on and burrow underground until they emerge as an adult moth usually in mid June – July. I’ve heard a couple of reasons why they’re called goat moths, one is that they have a strong goaty smell, having never smelt one I cannot confirm this, the other is that the caterpillars often feed on goat willows.

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Enormous goat moth caterpillar

On the bird front a few passage migrants were present on Ibsley Water today, including singles of sanderling, dunlin and ringed plover, 2 little ringed plover and 2 Arctic terns. Pleasingly the lapwing chicks from last week were still near Tern hide too.

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