30 Days Wild – Day 3 – A Herd of Elephants

I was at Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve today after a couple of days off. We had a volunteer work party in the morning but before we started I checked through the moth trap, although the catch was quiet good there was nothing too surprising, although I was pleased to see my first peach blossom of the year, no picture though as it flew off. There were several hawk-moths including a group of three elephant hawk-moth on one egg box.

a herd of elephant hawks

a herd of elephant hawk-moth

There were also a few species of prominents including a pale prominent, they all get their name from the small raised point on the folded wing, presumably an adaptation to break up their outline and make them look less like moths. For a moth, not looking like a moth is very useful as birds love to eat moths, so lots of moths either hide away or just try to look not like moths. The pale prominent does this rather well.

pale prominent

pale prominent looking like a dead bit of plant stem

Our volunteer tasks were giving the outside of the Education Centre a was down and having a clear-out of the tool store, both much needed tasks, if not exactly conservation work. At least we should be able to find most of the tools and equipment now and the building does look a lot smarter for a wash.

I checked the hemlock water dropwort around the centre pond at lunchtime for visiting insects, the flowers are a very good nectar source. There were lots of hoverflies and a few beetles including a wasp beetle, a yellow-and-black longhorn beetle and a red-headed cardinal beetle.

red-headed cardinal beetle

red-headed cardinal beetle

What’s in My Meadow Today?

By the time I got home most of the meadow in my garden was in shade, but it was still making its presence felt. The grasses are flowering and their pollen is blowing in the wind as every hayfever sufferer will know. Grasses do not rely on insects to carry their pollen from one flower to another to achieve fertilisation, they just release huge clouds of pollen into the air to be carried to another flower. This saves on the need to produce nectar as an inducement to insects, but does mean that a lot of pollen has to be produced.

flowering grasses

flowering grasses – much of it Yorkshire fog

Many trees use the same method, resulting in allergic reactions for many in spring.  Pollen deposited in peat and similar wet habitats has allowed us to look back in time and work out what the dominant vegetation cover was in the distant past. It turns out that although there was rapid colonisation of the UK by tree after the end of the last Ice Age the nature of the cover changed over time. One tree now generally rare, the small-leaved lime, was abundant at one time and it turns out that elm have seen several rises and falls in abundance, perhaps indicating previous outbreaks of “Dutch” elm disease.

The tiny garden pond does not have many plants, but one it does have is lesser reedmace and it is now flowering and also sheds pollen into the wind, the pollen is produced by the male part of the plant, which here is the upper part of the flowering stem.

lesser reedmace flower

lesser reedmace flower

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What’s This Ear then!!

A slightly frustrating day, I’d planned to give a few minutes of my attention to adjusting the lock on the Tern Hide. The problem is that all the recent hot dry weather has caused the wood to shrink a little, just enough to mis-align the lock with the striker plate – on Thursday the door would not stay shut.  This morning there didn’t appear to be a problem, but I thought I’d have a go at moving the plate a little downwards to free things up a bit.  Having assembled all the tools I thought I’d need and toddling across to the hide i then found – isn’t it always the way – that I hadn’t packed a chisel, which I would need to pair away some wood to make the necessary adjustment!!! Ho hum. Looking more closely, however, I realised that even if I had a chisel, by moving the plate downwards the top screws could not be put back. Time to re-think!!!

The second frustration for the day was, earlier today, not being able to upload pictures for this posting. A situation which has now been resolved, but has meant a later posting and a slightly shorter blog.

Well so much for my caretaker role.  As far as the reserve and its wildlife go, things are a little more cheerful. The early overcast conditions gave way to very pleasant conditions and dragonflies and butterflies in abundance. The buddleia is nw doing its stuff and Sheila counted eight Peacock butterflies on just one of our buddleia bushes at one time.

Peacock on buddleia

Peacock on buddleia

Despite the somewhat cooler and wetter conditions overnight, I’m pleased to say that Jim’s dire prognostications about the state of the light trap weren’t realised and there were some interesting moths. A new one for me, despite the fact that the field guide I normally use indicates that they are common throughout the U.K. was this Peach Blossom.

Peach Blossom

Peach Blossom

Another slightly unexpected find was this Herald, a moth which I have seen before, but usually in springtime. I’d always thought that the name was in some way meaning a ‘herald of spring’ as they re-emerge from hibernation in March.

Herald

Herald

One of the strangest named moths are the ‘ears’, there are a number of different ones, but I’ve only ever seen these, with their rather distinctive white markings

Ear moth

Ear moth