This week I have enjoyed the warm weather and been able to have a really thorough look in the different meadows of Fishlake Meadows…here’s some of the things I’ve been up to and seen this week.
Day 8: A warm and muggy Friday, wasn’t the most ideal weather for strimming the barge canal path, nor was the vast amount of grass pollen, however the path looked much better afterwards and I did see a wonderful and very fresh scarlet tiger moth. There have been a lot emerging over the last week and I was able to get a photo of one on Sunday that still needed to stretch its wings fully. Females favour laying their eggs on nettles and comfrey, there is a lot of comfrey at Fishlake Meadows which is likely why there are lots emerging at the moment.
Day 9: I had a day off so I spent some time in my garden, and noticed that a bee had emerged from one of the canes in my bug hotel. All the tubes that have been used are by red mason bees, as the ends are sealed with mud. You can just about see a small pile of yellow pollen in the circled tube, this has been left by the female when she laid the egg as food for when the young hatches. The female is able to decide what sex the egg will be as she lays the eggs, males usually hatch first so male eggs will be at the front of the tube and females towards the back. Each tube is likely to hold several eggs, all with some pollen to eat when they hatch, the female then puts a mud divider in and lays another egg with pollen until each tube is full and finished with a final mud seal.
Day 10: I was back at Fishlake Meadows with volunteers doing some butterfly and dragonfly transect training, despite it being quite warm we didn’t see any butterflies. We still saw lots of exciting things, including a “woolly bear” caterpillar of the garden tiger moth. Plus a huge number of peacock butterfly caterpillars, on their food plant the common nettle. When the caterpillars hatch out, they spin a silk web and feed on nettles, growing and moving together. When they are nearly fully grown they begin to spread over a wider area.
Day 11: I stuck with the lepidoptera theme with a spot of this beautiful chrysalis at the edge of the Barge Canal path. After showing Bob the photo, he quickly identified it as a comma butterfly chrysalis. It looks very much like a shrivelled up dying leaf, but with a closer look it’s very beautiful and holds the white markings that give the adult butterfly its comma name. It was a very hot day and we had a walk for HIWWT members, luckily managing to get some shade as we went.
Day 12: With help from a couple of volunteers I carried out a habitat assessment of some of the different meadow areas of Fishlake Meadows. The idea of these surveys are for us to keep an eye on how the habitat changes over time, therefore we record desirable and undesirable species, amount of tree and scrub cover, bare ground and leaf litter cover. It was an ideal day for this, being much cooler than yesterday, but still bright and sunny. As we surveyed Ashley Meadow, we came across this beautiful, double headed southern marsh orchid. If you look carefully at the orchid on the left, you can see that the 2 flower spikes are coming from the same stem.
Day 13: A wonderful, male swollen thighed beetle sitting very nicely on a bindweed flower, this makes a great background to show off the colour and form of the beetle. The male displays very well where it got its name from…it’s bulbous thighs. The females and males are easily told apart as the female doesn’t have the swollen thighs. Other names for the swollen thighed beetle are thick-legged flower beetle and false oil beetle.
Day 14: I was at Blashford Lakes helping with the Tuesday volunteer group, we were raking up bramble and grass which Bob had cut earlier in the week. Whilst having a pause and leaning on my fork, I saw this very freshly emerged emperor dragonfly. It is Britain’s bulkiest dragonfly and will often come and inspect you whilst patrolling its territory. They are quite often seen eating on the wing and even in flight their beautiful colours can be picked out, green on the thorax of both sexes, males have a blue abdomen and females green.
Next week the weather looks pretty good so I will be getting out as much as possible. In fact a new sweep net has arrived for surveying at Fishlake, so I will spend some time seeing what I can find with that.