30 Days Wild – Day 17 – Butterflies and More

We have been doing butterfly transects at Blashford Lakes for some years now, I say “We”, what I really mean is that the volunteers have been doing them. I used to do transects myself on previous sites I have managed and thoroughly enjoyed doing them, an opportunity to go out on site for the main purpose of looking for wildlife, something I actually get to do rather rarely! In theory I have always been on the rota to help with the transects at Blashford, but as a stand-in, if someone else is unavailable. Well this week I have been called upon and as it was warm and reasonably sunny this afternoon I headed out.

It was not a classic butterfly day but I did see 26 butterflies of four species. Most notable were the five red admiral, I suspect they are new migrants as the weather is set fair for an arrival of migrants over the next day or so. Locally bred were meadow brown, common blue and speckled wood.

speckled wood

speckled wood

Whilst looking for butterflies it is inevitable that you will see other invertebrates, I saw six species of dragonflies and damselflies, several yellow-and-black longhorn beetle and lots of the larger summer hoverflies, especially Volucella bombylans and Volucella pellucens. 

Vollucella pellucens

Vollucella pellucens

Not all of the invertebrates were adult, I found a vapourer caterpillar feeding in the open, something they can afford to do, as they are protected by a dense coat of hairs which most birds will avoid.

vapourer caterpillar

vapourer caterpillar

Some things I cannot identify, or at least not accurately, one such is this digger wasp, I am pretty sure it is one of them, but which one?

digger wasp

digger wasp spp.

Some of the invertebrates were not insects at all, I came across a loose bit of bark on the ground and under it were several slugs, the familiar leopard slugLimax maximus.

leopard slug

leopard slug

This is the common native large slug in woods and gardens. However it is increasingly being overtaken in abundance by the green cellar slug, Limax maculatus. This is a species native to wood in the Caucasus area that was accidentally introduced some fifty years or so ago and is now spreading rapidly.

I

yellow slug

green cellar slug Limax maculatus

One plant that is oddly scarce at Blashford is honeysuckle, so I was pleased to see one of the few plants we do have growing well in magnificent, full flower.

honeysuckle

honeysuckle

Lastly a picture of a rare plant in Hampshire, but one that is quite common at Blashford, slender bird’s-foot trefoil, it is flowering abundantly just now.

slender bird's-foot trefoil

slender bird’s-foot trefoil

Quiet a “Wild Day” considering I was stuck in the office wrestling with report writing for quiet a good part of the day and also out doing path clearing for part of the day.

Advertisements

Thinning

Not a reference to the effects of advancing age but to today’s volunteer task on the reserve, which was felling some sycamore trees to open up some space. In places we have dense stands of very tall, thin sycamores which tend to over-top and then shade out other species. To reduce the negative effects of this we are thinning out a lot of the smaller trees, especially where they are growing amongst other species such as oak. It was the perfect day for felling, at least until the rain started, being cool, so I did not overheat in the protective chainsaw gear and calm, so the trees would hopefully fall where I intended them to.

volunteers clearing felled sycamore

Volunteers clearing away the upper branches of a felled sycamore

By the end of the day we had cleared quite a few trees, but the more we took down the more there seemed to be! At the same time there was a more open feel to the area so we must have done something. We did come across quiet a few small, self-sown hazel and even one covered in honeysuckle and these should benefit from some more sunlight.

the aftermath of sycamore thinning

the aftermath of sycamore thinning

I left a number of the stumps fairly high, this allows me to ring-bark the stump reducing the chance of it growing back, without using pesticide and also gives the opportunity to make some cut slots and holes to allow rot to get a hold and make habitat for various invertebrates.

Chainsawing for most of the day does reduce the chance of seeing wildlife somewhat, but not completely. Locking up the hides at dusk I was lucky enough to see both great white egret and bittern at Ivy North hide. I understand the yellow-browed warbler was again near Ivy South hide and out on Ibsley Water there were peregrine, Mediterranean gullyellow-legged gull and black-necked grebe, but no sign of the lesser scaup, perhaps it has moved to Blashford Lake where it spent much of its time last winter when it was here. At Woodland hide there was also a brambling reported, perhaps the same bird that Tracy saw yesterday.

walter in the reedmace

Walter hiding amongst the reedmace in the gloom of dusk

 

Butterflies, Flowers and the Dead

Although today was another mainly dominated by rain and yet more rain, it was also Thursday and so the rain held off until after the volunteers had finished work, as is to be expected. The task was pulling ragwort, yet again, but we will probably only have one more week to go before it starts to seed. In fact when we started work the sun was almost out an there were butterflies flying between the flowers along the lakeshore, they were mostly meadow browns and marbled whites, two species that will fly in dull conditions so long as it is moderately warm.

marbled white

The moth trap was very quiet following a rather cool night and as I was not in yesterday I will report on Tuesday’s catch, which did not make it to the blog. A couple of new species for the year were included, these being barred straw.

barred straw

Barred straw rest with their wings curled at the edges, presumably to try to look less moth-like when amongst appropriately coloured leaves. There was also a very fresh slender brindle.

slender brindle

Normally this time of year is dominated by insects and as a result lots of plants that flower now are rich in nectar to attract them as pollinators. Moths visit lots of flowers and some like honeysuckle attract species such as the long-tongued hawk-moths, such as elephant hawk-moth and the migrant humming-bird hawk-moth.

honeysuckle

Thistles are also very good nectar sources with the tall marsh thistle being especially popular with silver-washed fritillaries.

marsh thistle

Perhaps one of the most visited plant types are the brambles, they provide a good source of food for insects and the many micro species flower at slightly different times meaning they are available for a very long season.

hoverfly on bramble flower

Ragwort is also a very good nectar source for lots of insects and this is always one of the conflicts we face when deciding to remove it. A site like Blashford will always have ragwort, a long history of ground disturbance and as a result a huge store of seed must now be in the soil. We will only ever keep the amount under a degree of control and reduce the risk of spread onto neighbouring land. It is poisonous to stock, although usually they will not eat it when it is growing and there is grass available, in hay it is a different matter. On the way to today’s task we came across a headless linnet lying beside the path, presumably killed by a bird of prey, probably a sparrowhawk, apart from the lack of a head it was in good condition.

headless linnet

The recent rain has resulted in very high flows in the Dockens Water and this has shifted shingle banks and made and damaged various log jams.  I was inspecting one of the log piles when I noticed the wet log on top was covered in black fungi, they were deadman’s fingers, the picture is not great both because it was raining quite hard and due to the very deep shade.

deadman’s fingers

There are still very few birds of note to report, today’s highlights included a duck pochard on Ivy Lake, where there were also at least 47 mute swans. At the end of the day an adult common sandpiper on the small section of cleared shore in front of the Tern hide was pleasing as we spent a couple of hours removing the vegetation there last week.