Mid July 2014 - Mid March 2015

Derek's Nature Notes Edition 13 - Mid July

This report starts off with a slightly earlier visit when I was doing an investigation on aphids, I came across some 7-spot Ladybird, Coccinella septempunctata, eggs, under a Blackberry leaf. These were quickly verified when, under another leaf, more eggs were actually being laid by the adult female ladybird.

Some ten days later the same leaves were inspected and revealed several 7-spot Ladybird larva, perhaps only 2-3 days old, and 2.5mm long. These larvae darken with age, and develop orange patches as they go through four instar stages, shedding their skin at the end of each one.

The next beast is thought to be one of the nymphal stages of a Ground Bug from the Family LygaeidaeDue to considerable variations in colour etc., this has currently not been identified further. (NEW)

Here is another Mirid or Capsid Bug, but this time probably an adult which has proved difficult to identify but thought to be Polymerus nigrita, one of several similarly marked species.(NEW)

About two weeks ago an image of a Froghopper appeared here in the notes, but not our commonest species which is Common Froghopper, Philaenus spumarius, but even this can vary considerably in its colour and markings.

The next image is of a small Dolochopid fly, Chrysotus gramineus with very rounded wings, commonly found in rough grassland. (NEW)

Yet another fly also proved difficult to ID and I have provisionally named this as a Muscid, possibly. Graphomya maculata, from a book now over 60 years old. My ID has since been confirmed (NEW)

Most of the Willowherb now appearing in the Wood is Rosebay Willowherb, but there are also a number of plants of Great Willowherb, Epilobium hirsutum, with its attractively coloured mauve-pink flowers.

Leaves of many plants offer good sunbathing spots for insects such as this Greenbottle, Lucilia caesar, which can be seen in good numbers at present.(NEW)

Surprisingly, like Elder, the leaves of Hedge Bindweed, Calystegia sepium, are often shunned by invertebrates, but the lovely pure white flowers attract a number of tiny flies and beetles.

Next up are two hoverflies, the first of which Hoverfly, Eristalis nemorum, seems to be quite common this year, which is not usually the case.(NEW)

The second is Hoverfly, Helophilus pendulus, one of several ‘footballers’ for the obvious reason, and one of three common species found in the UK.

Probably the best known Willowherb is Rosebay Willowherb, Epilobium augustifolium, which also has the colloquial name of ‘Fireweed’ as it spreads rapidly on derelict land.

One of the less common but very colourful shieldbugs is Eysarcoris venustissimus with its head, front of the pronotum and the triangle at the base of the scutellum, all a metallic magenta colour with bronze overtones. (NEW).

Very common at this time of the year on umbellifer heads is another of our Soldier Beetles, Rhagonycha fulva, sometimes known as ‘bonking beetles’ (see second image) for the most obvious of reasons

A special find on July 11th was a Longhorn Beetle, Agapanthia villosoviridescens. Until recently (2000) this had not been found north of Nottinghamshire, and in 2001 a colleague found and photographed a specimen at Potteric Carr where I have recorded it in subsequent years. This is a very dark specimen which more usually exhibits tiny tufts of orange hairs which complement the powder blue and black antennae (NEW)

There have been several sightings of the next species Nursery Web Spider, Pisaura mirabilis, and in this image the female is guarding her nest which is protected by silk threads.

In the second image the spiderlings, although not positively identified, are probably Pisaura mirabilis too.

A week or so ago we saw a nymph (instar) of a Mirid bug, Grypocoris stysii, and this image shows the colourful adult.

Yet another Mirid Bug is Leptopterna dolobrata which was noted a couple of weeks ago, with the tibiae and 1st antennal segment very hairy.(NEW)

Six species of butterfly were seen in one morning and these were Comma., Polygonia c-album (NEW). Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta. Meadow Brown, Maniola jurtina. Ringler, Aphantopus hyperantus (NEW). Small Tortoiseshell. Aglais urticae and Small White, Artogeia rapae.

Derek'sNature Notes Edition 14 - Late July

Since the last report, I have only managed a few visits to the Wood, and many of the previously reported species were again much in evidence, but going to the Central area after the DaNES visit, I did pick up a couple of species, the first of which being the Common Green Capsid Bug, Lygocoris pabulinus and the shot shows two males harassing a female on Hogweed flowers.

Alongside, on another Hogweed plant was a single Longhorn Beetle, Grammoptera ruficornis. This is one of our smallest and probably least colourful longhorn species, and easily overlooked with its dull, down-covered elytra or wingcases, but the first record here, (NEW)

Returning to the western end ’hotspot’, it didn’t disappoint, with a lovely specimen of a female Large Skipper, Ochlodes sylvanus, posing for its photograph. This species has recently also been seen near the Scout Hut.

The next item has not really been determined, but is a small caterpillar, possibly that of a .Sawfly spinning a cocoon in a curled Nettle leaf.

Walking up to the Picnic area, a slightly unusual plant with whitish flowers was seen amongst the Rosebay Willowherb growing in profusion here. This proved to be Common Hemp-nettle, Galeopsis tetrahit, agg., which more usually carries pinkish-mauve flower.

 

The second image shows a close-up of a flower which does show traces of pink.

A thistle head looked to have a spider sunning itself, but on closer inspection this proved to be yet another new species of Harvestman, Mitopus morio, an attractively marked female, together with a tiny red mite as a passenger! (NEW).

Next up were two hoverflies, the first of these being Syritta pipiens, which is relatively easy to determine as it has a slightly flattened body, indistinct abdominal markings and with greatly enlarged hind femorae

The second hoverfly is the mostly white and black species, Volucella pellucens with the wings carrying a dark ‘cloud’, another diagnostic feature.

Gillfield Wood has so far not thrown up many of the Parasitica so this rather poor shot is included which appears to be one of the Ichneumons, but extremely difficult to ID without a specimen and a microscope.

Hogweed plants, like many Umbellifers in flower at the moment, prove an irresistible magnet to the colourful, yellow and black Longhorn Beetle, Rutpela maculata, and there were two in the Picnic Area.

Some of the smaller Micro-moths are extremely flighty but this grass moth Agriphila straminella was enjoying the sunshine and allowed a reasonable shot, and was slightly more colourful than some of its drab cousins. This species was moth-trapped here two years ago.

 

Also sometimes very colourful, within a range of chestnut, brown, orange and yellow is one of the Mirid Bugs, Deraeocoris ruber.

This is a particularly vivid specimen, and is often to be found on nettles. It has a sucking ‘rostrum’, usually tucked away under the body, but clearly shown in the second close-up image (NEW)

Yet another new species isone of the Sawflies, Tenthredo arcuata agg. This is one of a small compact group, and the species name is suffixed by ‘agg.’ as they are impossible to separate from photographic images (NEW)

Returning to the middle part of the Wood, accessed from Totley Hall Lane, there were two or three groups of a quite striking grass at the edge of the Wood, known as Timothy Grass, Phleom pratense. This used to be widely sown by farmers as part of a mixed sward for cattle, but is not so commonly seen nowadays

At the western end, an eye has been kept on the few Ragwort plants, left by the Council’s cutting regime, and, pleasing to report, on 29th July there were three large Cinnabar caterpillars, Tyria jacobaeae still alive! These are very colourful, but distasteful to most predators, and have very long hairs.

On the same day an Earwig, Forfica auricularia, newly moulted, was noted and at this stage are a creamy, rather than a rich brown

One of the Spear Thistle flowers was covered in Mirid Bugs, Plagiognathus arbustorum, and in the bottom of the shot, a green bug which is in fact a late instar (nymph) of the same species before metamorphosis.

Derek's Nature Notes edition 15 - Early August

A few weeks ago, one of the small Dolichopid flies was found at the western end of the Wood, but the image wasn’t very good; however this time a pair of flies, probably Chrysotus gramineus , were pictured mating, and shows their rounded, iridescent wings very clearly.

 

Like many entomologists, there is a habit to look under leaves where many invertebrates hide to get away from natural enemies such as birds and this image shows an empty pupal case, not actually identified, but possibly that of one of the many case-bearer micro-moths,

Perhaps more interesting are the next two images of a Fungus Gnat, Sciara hemerobioides which abounds on some umbellifers in July. The females have an unmistakeable bright yellow abdomen.

The second image shows the much smaller and less well-marked male (these are rare and I have never seen one before), with their rather strangely shaped genitalia at the tip of the abdomen. Both sexes have very dark, almost black wings (NEW)

I know other people have seen them here but it was pleasing to note at least one Gatekeeper butterfly, Pyronia tithonus, a male with typically rich colours. Some observers know this species as Hedge Brown.

Around this time of year, several species of Shieldbug are coming to maturity and shows the Green Shieldbug, Palomena prasina, in its final instar larval form, before becoming a winged adult.

 

The next image shows another very attractively coloured Hoverfly, Volucella inanis. This is not a common species, and like the Longhorn Beetle in the last report is gradually moving north-westward across the UK. I found my first specimen in 2013 in a disused Sheffield car park. (NEW)

Another more unusual Hoverfly is, Neoascia podagrica with a very bulbous rear abdomen, and clouded cross-veins on the wings. Although widespread, I can only find one previous record in 1979 for Gillfield Wood.

On returning to the Eastern end of the Wood, my attention was drawn to three vivid splashes of a deep reddish purple which turned out to be closely packed flower spikes of Purple Loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria. which were on damp ground not far from the Brook.

The path here held another surprise and it was pleasing to see, hanging on to some herbage, a newly emerged male Southern Hawker dragonfly, Aeshna cyanea. It seems they are seen regularly here at this time of year, but they have not been definitively recorded previously.

Although not in an ideal situation for a clear uncluttered photograph of the whole insect, I did manage a close-up of the massive compound eyes which it uses for its quick darting flights along woodland rides.

Derek's Nature Notes Edition 16 - Early August

On 7th August, my own eyesight was supplemented by that of a younger naturalist and keen birder, who had never visited the Wood before, but is interested in the macro-photography of invertebrates. Pleased to say we had an excellent morning.

Our first species was the rather attractively marked spider Enoplagnatha ovata sensu lato, a female guarding her egg-sac in a rolled-up leaf. Sensu lato means it is difficult to determine with 100% accuracy.(NEW).

About a month ago an image of a Common Froghopper, Philaenus spumarius appeared in this column, but the latest photograph shows a more typical example, and it is interesting to compare against the Stinging Nettle hairs, which being made of silica, break off easily, releasing a dose of formic acid into the skin!

Until I was reminded by Chris Measures, I thought that the 'Tuning Fork' Harvestman, Dicranopalpus ramosus was new to the Wood, but both he and DaNES had recorded this earlier in July. It has very long legs and these are always arrayed at right angles to the body. This and the ‘tuning fork’ palps make it stand out. Yet another species spreading across the country, and in fact I found the first specimen for Yorkshire, back in the early 2000’s (NEW).

Again, recently, another Harvestman, Mitopus morio was found, minus one leg and with a red mite as a passenger. This latest image shows a different specimen, from the same area, with four mites, and alongside the leg on the right, a batch of mite eggs.

Next a different Hoverfly, this time Meliscaeva cinctella (female), which is sometimes difficult to identify from a number of similar species, but it has appeared here previously.

Similar remarks apply to Hoverfly, Leucozona glaucia, a species I have been unsuccessful in photographing before (Gillfield Wood continues to amaze me with its diversity of flora and fauna.)

The next two images both depict Ichneumon Wasps which are parasitic species preying on caterpillars or other soft-bodied invertebrates is named as Ichneumon sp. as it is one of several similar species which are very active on flowerheads at this time of the year. Expert determination has been sought, but is still awaited.

The second species another Ichneumon, is thought to be a female Campoplegine, but again expert opinion has been requested before a definitive determination is made.

Next we have what is said to be a common homopteran bug but not previously recorded, and it is a tiny Leafhopper, Eupteryx aurata, which jumps like froghopper. Compare size to the nettle spine alongside. The main distinguishing feature is that leafhoppers have numerous spines on the hind tibiae(NEW).

We have recently seen the vivid chestnut coloured form of Mirid Bug, Deraeorcoris ruber, but this is the dark, almost black form on Nettle, see also the stinging hairs of the plant.

Quite striking against the unopened thistle flower buds is this yellow coloured Tephritid, or Picture-winged Fly, Xyphosia miliaria, with its clearly marked wings.(NEW)

Early in July we noted an adult of one of the shieldbugs, Eysarcoris venustissimus and this image depicts the vastly different final instar stage of its development showing the wingbuds.

This tiny Leaf Beetle, Cryptocephalus sp. is one of two almost identical beetles, one associated with trees and the other with low-growing herbage, and they can only be determined to species by micro-dissection which is why the specific name is omitted. (NEW)

Also new is this small but distinctive Micro-moth, Gracillaria syringella. The larvae mine the leaves of a number of plants, including Ash, and it is likely that this is where this specimen originated. (NEW)

Gillfield Wood has an abundance of Nettle Tap moths and this image shows an almost full-grown caterpillar on the prowl for food, out of its protective web of silk.

At the risk of boring readers of this column, another image, of the Harvestman, Mitopus morio is shown. This is a female infested with 17 mites. Paul Richards, an expert on this group, tells me that this species is particularly prone to infestation. However, a male, photographed six inches away, had none!

There is proving to be a wide variety of hoverfly species at GW, with new ones turning up on every visit, like this Hoverfly, probably Melanostoma scalare , but this is being checked.

Craneflies of various species are also quite numerous and this one has now been determined as  Tipula lateralis, not Tipula paludosa, as first thought.  

Finally for this report, we found another probable Parasitic Wasp, but it proved impossible to name, so the image has been forwarded to an expert to see if identification is feasible.

Derek's Nature Notes Edition 17 - Late August

Last week, Frank Botterill and Harry Beaumont ran two moth traps not far from the Scout Hut, and no doubt a report on this will appear later. At this time, I can only report on an Ichneumon wasp which was attracted to the Mercury Vapour light. The insect, which was not determined, was orange-yellow in colour, probably Ophion or Netelia sp. A Caddis Fly was also caught, but not identified in the poor light.

On a walk in this area several days earlier, several bright yellow flowers attracted attention, and these were Bird'sfoot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus. The plants were partly hidden due to the dense herbage growth.

Another plant where flowers were pushing through were those of Black Knapweed, Centaurea nigra agg. making a nice splash of colour.

It was pleasing to find another new species, this time the Cranefly, Tipula fulvipennis, again a wet woodland species with a distinctive spot in the centre of the wing.(NEW)

Some tiny (and I mean tiny). metallic bronze/green beetles were on the leaves of a Plum tree and these proved to be one of the Flea Beetles, Crepidodera fulvicornis. (NEW)

The next two flies belong to the group Dolichopodidae or long-legged flies which are difficult to separate. This one is a female, Dolichopus sp. (NEW)

Unfortunately, I missed this one, but it was imaged by my colleague. This is the Fly, Rhaphium sp. Dolichopodidae, which has a rather unusual antennal arrangement (NEW). Image © Alan Kydd.

Although seen previously, this is probably a better image of one of the Dance flies, Empis (Kritempis) livida, this is a female, easily confused with Robberflies.

One of several similar Sawflies, this is probably. Arge berberidis, nearly always found scurrying around on a variety of flower heads (NEW)

Again, something which has been reported recently these are Green Shieldbugs, Palomena prasina both in their final instar stage, although considerably different in size.

 

As usual, something of botanical interest catches my eye and Hedge Bindweed, Calystegia sepium, with an emerging bud, had an interesting shape and delicate colours.

Hoverflies are very quick and difficult to catch in the right position but Hoverfly, Eristalis pertinax, presented a full-face close-up.

Other species were patronising bindweed flowers, one such being Hoverfly, a female Melanostoma scalare, which usually does not stay long enough to see the pattern of spots on the abdominal tergites through the wings.

The next species of Hoverfly, Helophilus pendulus is common, and probably familiar to all with its nickname ‘the footballer’.

Not so common, although they are here in some numbers this year is is another Hoverfly, Syritta pipiens. On close inspection they have very enlarged hind femorae which have a series of sharp spines on the underside.

Last but not least although it has been seen here recently for the first time is the Hoverfly, Volucella inanis. This is a particularly fine and colourful specimen.

At this time of the year, more spiders become noticeable as they grow and this attractively marked one is a Lesser Garden Spider, Metallina segmentata.(NEW)

More familiar perhaps, and easily identifiable by the large white cross on its back istheGarden Spider, Araneus diadematus, a considerably larger species, with colours varying from pale yellow to almost black(NEW). 

 

N.B. It seems quite strange that although both species are common, no previous records are in existence?

 

On several Hazel leaves was some brown discoloration which on closer inspection seemed to be a cocoon space for two pupae of possibly a micro-moth. Impossible to identify so I have taken a sample to see if this can be bred out, then returned to the habitat.

Lots of various seed-heads are now appearing and it seems worthwhile to compare some of these. The first is of Ragwort, Senecio sp. with its densely packed seeds.

Quite different are the delicate ‘parachutes’ contained in the seed-head of of Goatsbeard, Tragopogan pratensis which are very geometric and make an attractive picture,

Several references have been made to theTuning Fork Harvestman, Dicranopalpus ramosus, and this image clearly shows how it earned its name.

Yet another fly, this time the so-called Tiger Fly, Coenosia tigrina, a female (NEW)

This image is an unidentified capsule or cocoon. Two were found on Bramble leaves and have been circulated widely to experts who have been unable to make a determination although on capsule appears to contain a larva.---------------Any ideas out there, and no it is not thought to be a bird dropping?

This tiny, 5/16” long ‘looper’ caterpillar was seen and photographed on another Hazel leaf, but several experts have been unable to make a determination. It is probably that of a Geometrid moth.

Finally an image of the Micro-moth Argyresthia goedartella. Although the image doesn’t show this very well, when in bright sunlight the moth appears a bright golden colour. (NEW)

Derek's nature Notes - Edition 18 Early September

Since the end of August a lot has been happening and I was asked by CM to look at and photograph ant nests in the Picnic area. Both were under rocks but as soon as these were disturbed, the ants were usually too quick for my lens. Eventually, after about 100 shots (the joys of digital photography), one ant managed to stay still momentarily, resulting in this shot of a Black Ant, probably Lasius niger

On the same day, near the ‘A’ gate, a brownish insect was spotted, and on closer inspection this proved to be a predatory Tree Damsel Bug. Himacerus apterus. Its ‘rostrum’ or beak, usually tucked away under the head, can pierce human skin if handled.(NEW) 

The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is now upon us and it seemed apt to include a note on one of our Autumn fruits, the Bramble or Blackberry, Rubus fruticosus agg.

One of the larger and commoner Craneflies at this time of year, and recorded many times previously is Cranefly, Tipula paludosa.

Much less common, and possibly rare, is the tiny, but very attractive and colourful Cereal Leaf Beetle, Oulema rufocyanea, or melanopus. There are two species which occur in the UK, externally almost identical, and they can only be separated by genital dissection.(NEW) 

The next species is quite a bright orange Lauxanid fly Fly, Meiosimyza rorida, usually found in Autumn, nectaring on flowers. (NEW)

Another fly which has been featured previously is the tiny Picture-winged Fly, Sepsis fulgens, which this time remained sufficiently still to show a decent shot of its wings. 

Little is said in this column of the birds in Gillfield Wood, which is better left to the ornithological experts, but perhaps not everyone will have examined the beauty and symmetry of something as common as a  feather from a probable Pigeon, Columba palumbus, which are in moult at this time of the year

This year, in a number of areas Tar Spot fungus, Rhytisma acerinum, is prolific on Sycamore, Acer pseudoplatanus, showing the characteristic yellow halo encircling the ‘tar spot’. 

Yet another new Shieldbug has turned up, this time a spectacular bright orange early instar of Triolus luridus, the adult of which is a dirty bronze-green colour. Initially these larvae feed on plants, but later turn to eating small moth caterpillars. (NEW)

Not new, but included as comparison to the previous image, this time a 1st instar of the Common Green Shieldbug, Palomena prasina, which again is very different from the adult. This species has been commonly found in many open areas of GW this year.

This small caterpillar was crawling around inside the flower of Hedge Bindweed and is thought by experts topossibly be that  of one of our Plume moths, Emmelina monodactyla whose larvae feed specifically on this plant. (NEW)

Another find was a new species of Cranefly, this time considerably smaller and mainly black, with brown abdominal bands and distinctive dark wing markings. It is thought to be probably. Ptychoptera contaminata, and the image shows a pair mating.(NEW) 

This next species is one of our commoner Harvestmen, Leiobunum rotundum, and is usually abundant everywhere, but this is the first I have recorded here, although not a new record.

Signs of autumn are now everywhere, and around GW many fruits and berries are ripening, hence the inclusion of this close-up of Hawthorn berries, Crataegus monogyna which make a lovely splash of scarlet in the sunlight.

More berries are those of Rowan, Sorbus aucuparia, more orange in colour and with larger bunches. Already, as in this image, the thrushes and other berry-eating birds are eating from the tops of each bunch

Although many butterflies have been somewhat sparse here this year, this does not apply to the Speckled Wood which has had two, maybe three broods, as demonstrated by this pristine specimen, imaged on 7th September

We next have two flies, both of which were imaged in Badger dung pits where they appeared to be feeding on the excrement. The first is a colourful species with orange wing bases and legs and bright crimson eyes, Now determined as a Muscid, Phaonia angelicae

 

The next species of fly is longer and narrower with rounded wings and is another Dryomyzid Fly probably Neuroctena anilis, common in woodland at this time of year.

 

As readers will have seen by now, I am always fascinated by the beauty and form that can be seen everywhere in nature, even by such simple things as a single seed of Spear Thistle, Cirsium arvense, imaged against a darker background.

Recently featured on this page was a Lesser Garden Spider, Metellina segmentata, but this image gives a somewhat better impression as the spider sunbathes on a leaf.

Much earlier in the year an image was shown of larval ‘mines’ of a micro-moth on Blackberry leaves. This image shows similar, but possible mines of a tiny Phytomyza Fly, this time in leaves of Creeping Thistle. Cirsium arvense.(NEW).

Back in July (Edition 13), an image was shown of the large Nursery Web Spider, Pisaura mirabilis guarding its nest, and last week I imaged what appeared to be a strange very hairy spider in the same area. Both I and a local expert knew it but couldn’t put a name to it. We checked with the National Spider Recorder who pronounced that it was an immature Nursery Web Spider, P. mirabilis, with a distinctive white line on its back!!

Derek's Nature Notes - Edition 19 Mid September

Visits have been made to the Wood on several days since the last report, but it is noticeable now that Autumn is here, that wildlife action has dropped off somewhat, but there are still a few interesting things to see if you are quick.

The first image is that of a small, green, hairy caterpillar (unfortunately not identified), starting to make a cocoon on the underside of a Bramble leaf. It has made a mat of silken threads, to which the cocoon will be attached, before pupation occurs.(maybe NEW)

A month or so ago, many Muscid flies or Greenbottle’s, Lucilia caesar, were to be seen basking on leaves, but this specimen has turned bronze with age although there are still some green specimens around.

At the western end of the wood there are still a few Hedge Bindweed flowers and feasting in one of these was a Pinocchio Hoverfly, Rhingia campestris. These are known to associate with the much rarer Rhingia rostrata, and half an hour behind me on the same day, Derek Whiteley recorded the latter species, another first for the Sheffield area (NEW).No photograph available, but the main difference is, there are no dark edges to the abdomen.

Many Shieldbugs have been appearing this year, one of which is Troilus luridus, sometimes named colloquially as the Bronze Shieldbug, which has featured previously (see orange example in Edition 18) and, although colourful, is not as striking as some of its larvae(instars), as in this bright red and black specimen.

Snails have been imaged here earlier in the year, but this photograph depicts our Brown-lipped Snail, Cepaea nemoralis and two smaller possibly Discus rotundatus snails, with their distinctive striated marking.

The next two images feature the Common Green Shieldbug, Palomena prasina, with a sub-adult above and an early instar at the foot of the picture.

The second image is that of a newly emerged summer adult with dark wingtips. In the winter these colours become much duller, and a brownish red, returning to green in the spring.

Many insects are very difficult to determine from photographs, and hoverflies are a good example where diagnostic characters vary. Epistrophe sp. is a good case in point where I have previously identified E.grossulariae. However, it seems that this image is Epistrophe sp. but from certain characters, it might be diaphana, a rarer species, which would make a new hoverfly for the Wood. On close examination it appears to be a gravid female, about to lay eggs, and the thought is now that this is an aberrant E.grossulariae, .with non-typical black tergite bands.

Autumn is all around us and by the side of some pathways, particularly at the eastern end of the Wood, there are some bright scarlet egg-shape berries of Bittersweet, Solanum dulcamara. This is a member of the Nightshade family and of course poisonous!

 

Keeping on my botanical hat it seemed reasonable to picture some seeds and scales of one of our commoner native trees Silver Birch, Betula pendula. One of the seeds is in centre shot showing the filmy ‘wings’ to aid wind dispersal.

During this year, several species of Mirid or Capsid bugs have been recorded. Yet another is a dullish, but nicely marked species when up close, Capsid Bug, Liocoris tripustulatus, (NEW)

Possibly another new fly is this Muscid Fly, which has been sent to another expert for a final determination which should be available in a day or so.

The Capsid Bug, Lygus rugulipennis, is somewhat similar to Liocoris, but has a much richer chestnut brown appearance.(NEW)

A very small, delicate Cranefly, common at this time of year, but easily mistaken for a Mosquito is Tricyphona immaculata, which has not been recorded here previously.(NEW). Chris Measures and the writer are attending a Cranefly Identification Workshop, this coming weekend when we hope to hone our ID skills. The Workshop is being given by National Recorder John Kramer, to whom I owe a huge debt of thanks for helping me with Gillfield Wood specimens.(NEW)

We have seen some very bright instars of Shieldbug, Troilus luridus, but the quite common Hawthorn Shieldbug, Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale, has a late instar, which is also bright red, but the adult is mainly green with red shoulder extensions and a red tip to the abdomen. For some reason, this is previously unrecorded here. (NEW)

Finally, another plant which is just about hanging on and giving another splash of autumnal colour is Tufted Vetch, Vicia cracca, again mostly at the eastern end of the Wood

Derek's Nature Notes - Edition 20 Late Sept to Mid October

 

We are now well into Autumn, and accordingly wildlife activity has started to drop off, particularly for invertebrates which are susceptible to cold and wet weather. This may therefore be the last full report for 2014, which for the writer has produced well over 350 records since March, of which some 152 (43%) appear not to have been recorded previously in Gillfield Wood.

Some of you may know that a new ‘glade’ area has been cleared near the SW boundary of Pheasant Wood Grid Ref. SK311789 which Chris Measures took me to on 26th September, where we recorded the first thirteen entries in this report, four of which were totally new records. It is still quite shady, and it may be necessary to remove more arboreal growth, in order to allow sunlight to reach the glade floor. This will encourage growth of more flowering plants and grasses.

As is usual in a new area, I try to explore beneath the bark of rotting logs and the first thing that came to light was some immature fungi. Mycena galericulata, or Common Bonnet showing the finely striated stipe (stem) of this species. Nothing was visible until the bark was carefully removed, but they would no doubt have emerged from cracks in the bark at a later stage.

The same log produced a Flat-backed Millipede, Polydesmus angustus, and a centipede, which escaped before being identified.

Chris by this time had wandered to the other side of the glade with his butterfly net, but quickly returned with an interesting Spider, Linyphia triangularis . This took some ten minutes to photograph as it persisted in running around and wouldn’t pose in what was very poor light. (NEW)

Another log was explored and this revealed a couple of un-branched spikes of Xylaria hypoxylon, Candlesnuff or Stag’s Horn Fungus. More frequently it is branched, from which the name derives.

Further along the log was a multitude of tiny brown ‘eggs’, some of which were breaking open to reveal a brown powder, and looking more closely it seemed to be one of the Myxomycete fungi (Slime Moulds). An expert has suggested this as probably Leocarpus fragilis. (NEW)

A black beetle was hidden under some more bark but became very active when disturbed and was identified as a Ground Beetle, Platynus assimilis, and another had been seen 100m away some two months or so ago.

One of the slugs which appears everywhere in Gillfield Wood is the common Black Slug, Arion ater ater. It can be found in a variety of habitats.

Looking under the bark of any dead log may be found any one of several species of Woodlouse, Oniscus asellus, and this probably the commonest species.

Small snails too, find the cool and damp conditions in rotting logs to their liking, and one of these is the Discus Snail, Discus rotundatus with the whorls showing a distinctive striated appearance.

Another small snail, but very different in colour and appearance, is the sometimes almost translucent, but also very smooth and shiny Oxychilus allairius, the Garlic or Glass Snail. The body is very dark, even black, but as its name implies, when disturbed this snail emits its distinctive odour of garlic.(NEW)

A close relative of the Black Slug, and just as commonly found here is the Large Red Slug Arion ater ater rufus, almost indistinguishable on visible inspection from the Dusky Slug, Arion subfuscus.

Because the Tuning Fork Harvestman, Dicranopalpus ramosus has been mentioned frequently in the past few months, only its name is included for record purposes in this area.

Finally in the glade, under some more dead bark was a clutch of Snail eggs, but the species was not determinable without trying to breed these out.

Early October brought me back to the western end of the Wood, and on the 2nd, I was fortunate to find the very elegantCranefly, Erioconopa trivialis, determined for me by my friend and National Cranefly expert John Kramer. (The previous week, Chris Measures, Dave Gash and I had attended a Cranefly Workshop, but I was still unable to work this species through the excellent keys!) (NEW)

My next find was an excellent specimen of Common Earwig, Forfica auricularia. This was a female and judging from the size was about to lay eggs, these are yellow and usually laid under dead bark in a rotting log. Earwigs are good mothers and guard the eggs until they hatch, licking them to keep them clean and moist.

Another spider I hadn’t seen at GW before is Theridion sp. this is a female , but when disturbed to get a better view, she dropped off into the undergrowth, never to be seen again. Interestingly at one stage she was interacting with a male Lesser Garden Spider which at first skewed my identification (NEW)

Most of the deciduous trees at the western end of the Wood, carry on their trunks, patches of a black-spotted greyish -green growth, usually oval or roughly circular in shape. These are growths of one of the attractive Lichens, Lecidella eleachroma, when seen close-up.(NEW)

At this time of the year when leaves are starting to drop, it is easy to spot features like these next years’ undeveloped male Hazel catkins Corylus avellana, which in the Spring will expand and produce pollen.

Resting on a nettle leaf was what I thought was a Nettle Tap moth, but closer examination and a photograph revealed one of the Owl- Midges, Pericoma fuliginosa, with a very ‘furry’ appearance. (NEW)

There are still quite a variety of flies to be found, usually sunning on a leaf. A good example is a Muscid Fly, Phaonia basalis (was angelicaea)

As is usual, there is great difficulty in determining Ichneumon flies or wasps to species level without an actual specimen. This is particularly true when the specimen was only 3/16” long, as in this case where all that can be said is that it is an Ichneumon Wasp, one of the large Ichneumoninae family (NEW)

Turning over leaves as I often do, I was rewarded to find some patches of the Ascomycete Phyllactinia guttata - Hazel or Powdery Mildew. These are colourful tiny fungi which look particularly attractive when examined microscopically, which is necessary to effect a determination. (NEW)

Normally found near water, as the nymphs are aquatic (this was photographed some 100m from Totley Brook) is the rather elongate Stone Fly, Leuctra fusca, is yet another ‘first’. (NEW)

Finally, as the season draws to a close there are still a few hoverflies around, but they have lost their brightness and colour as demonstrated by this ‘Marmalade’ Hoverfly, Episyrphus balteatus which has become much darker with age, although an undamaged specimen.

Derek's Nature Notes - Edition 21 Early November.

Inclement weather has kept me away for a couple of weeks but on a dry and bright day on 9th November, I was pleasantly surprised to find one or two items of interest at the western end of Gillfield Wood. On my visit I turned over a few logs and dead branches in the Plantation and my first find was an Oysterling, Crepidotus sp.

These are small, whiteish, fan-shaped, sessile fungi which manifest themselves at this time of the year on dead twigs, in small colonies as in the second image.

I love the rich colours of Autumn, produced by the breaking down of sugars in leaves, ideally after some frosty mornings and Blackberry leaves often make an attractive picture with a variety of orange, red and yellow patterning.

I then noticed under the conifers near the picnic area, some larger grey fungi, in small groups containing a variety of young and old specimens of what turned out to be Clouded Agaric, Clitocybe nebularis. Again this is a common species at this time of the year, sometimes forming rings of the fruiting bodies.

Retracing my steps, I then happened on a larger dead log, partly covered in moss, and turning it over, this revealed some young specimens of Sulphur Tuft, Hypholoma fasciculare. When mature, this fungus produces large clumps of fruiting bodies with sulphur-yellow caps.

Many trees are now largely bare, except for some of the young Hazels, still retaining their green leaves, and this enabled me to spot several tiny (3/16”long), lime-green and yellow Leafhoppers, Typhlocybinae sp.These are impossible to separate to species level without micro-dissection, but the image clearly shows the tibial spines on the hind legs which distinguishes them from the similarly shaped froghoppers.(NEW)

Another, larger dead log then caught my eye, and carefully stripping away a small piece of bark, this revealed a torpid Club-tailed Snake Millipede, Cylindroiulus punctatus. This is often coiled into a watchspring shape, and is reluctant to move if the weather is cold

The other end of the log looked even more interesting as the mossy covered bark was peeling away, and lifting this produced a scurry of activity, revealing some twenty, or maybe more beetles of two species, the first of these being a Ground Beetle Platynus assimilis which was in the majority with maybe 18 specimens.

The log was shared with two or three Carrion Beetles, Silpha atrata, and the final image shows the latter species on the right of the picture. From this can be seen the different patterning on the elytra (wingcovers).

Checking images is always worthwhile, and on re-examining the second image in this report, a number of tiny disc-like structures became evident alongside the larger fruiting bodies of Crepidotus sp. They were obviously of fungal origin and Steve Clements was of the opinion that these were an Ascomycete, one of the many Glasscups, probably Orbilia sp. These are sometimes difficult to determine as they are reluctant to produce spores unless conditions are perfect.

Derek's Nature Notes 22 (Mid-February 2015)

Like many warm-blooded mammals, I tend to hibernate over the winter months, basically because very few invertebrates are stirring to present themselves in front of my camera lens!

 I have however been up to the Wood on a couple of occasions and as you will have seen from the News section of our website, a lot of work has been done in the Picnic Area where the Rangers and volunteers have cut back the rank grasses to ground level. A large section of Bramble and Willowherb has also been cut back and at the next Conservation morning, the rootstocks of the former will be grubbed out, and we are hoping the disturbed earth will allow some different plants from the dormant seedbank to emerge and provide some colour and flowers for nectaring insects during the warmer months. As the vigorous grasses start to re-grow there will be another early cut to give other emergent plants a chance, and any bare areas will be seeded with an appropriate mix of seeds which are being provided by Kew gardens in London  from the National Seedbank.

Another area where work has taken place is also near the western end of the Wood and the two accompanying images clearly show how these can provide some shelter for small mammals, invertebrates etc., from various predators, both avian and terrestrial. Many invertebrates require dead and rotting wood in which their larvae can feed and develop, and when the next tree thinning takes place, a number of triangular log piles will be created which will gradually rot away, but in the interim will provide invaluable food and habitat for some of the smaller creatures in the Wood.

Derek’s  Nature Notes 23 (late February 2015)

I ventured out, on a cold Sunday morning to give the more active volunteers support in their task of consolidating the brash piles at the western end of the Wood. I busied myself by inspecting some of the dead timber and was rewarded straight away with a fine specimen of the bright orange, Wrinkled Crust fungus, Phlebia radiata.

Having photographed this, I turned round and noticed small clumps of another, blackish fungus on a tree trunk. This appears to be a Hypoxylon sp., which I hope to identify next week with the help of Steve Clements.

My attention then turned to one of the larger and older dead logs. This was covered in moss, but carefully lifting the thick bark I found one of the Ground Beetles, Platynus assimilis in a semi–torpid state. This is a species which is very common throughout the year in Gillfield.

Exploring a little further revealed a much more active Striped Centipede, Lithobius variegatus, and because of the dull weather, the image is slightly blurred due to the rapid speed of this invertebrate, which too is quite common here.

By this time my hands were frozen and just as I was about to curtail my visit, I noticed some male Hazel catkins, Corylus avellana, telling us that Spring is just around the corner. If you look carefully you will also see one of the buds with red female styles showing in this shot.

I managed to find another more prominent female flower bud, but these are somewhat difficult to spot as the tiny red styles usually appear a few days after the male catkins are seen. Hazel is a monoecious tree, meaning that both male and female reproductive organs are found on the same plant.

Many of the trees in this section of the Wood carry small colonies of various Lichens on their trunks and this shot shows the close relationship between Xanthoria parietina (yellowish), and the greenish-grey of Physcia  tenella, both very common here.

Derek's Nature Notes 24 (Early March)

I next visited the Wood on 4th March in company with Steve Clements and Chris Measures, primarily to look for fungi, and working from the eastern end, early finds were several groupings of the Blushing Bracket Fungus, Daedalopsis confragosa, on a fallen Willow. This fungus will turn a reddish colour when cut or bruised, hence the name.

We then walked to a more wooded area, and exposing some dead bark we encountered examples of Crystal Brain Fungus, Exidia nucleata, and in this image, another tiny ball-shaped fungus, as yet unidentified, but one of the Ascomycetes.

Several examples of the interesting fungus Witch’s Butter, Exidia glandulosa were found on a number of dead branches. This is a jelly fungus with butter-like consistency and a shiny, greasy surface. It is in fact edible.

A number of other fungi were found on this visit, but all need microscopic examination before they can be accurately determined, and details, together with images will appear shortly, together with other species recorded by Steve.

Turning over dead bark and exploring mossy logs is always fruitful and on a dead stump I exposed a large yellowish slug in hibernating mode. This is certainly one of the Limacus sp., probably flavus or maculatus.

Dead Hogweed stems often shelter a wide variety of overwintering invertebrates, and today was no exception with the appearance of a Millipede. This is either Polydesmus angustus (most likely), or coriaceus.

Paul Richards, the Sorby arthropod expert, also visited the site in late February as promised, and came up with a further three new species for the Wood. The first of these was the tiny (3mm) Moss False Scorpion Neobisium carcinoides, found when sieving leaf litter. These, like many tiny invertebrates are often overlooked, but are probably quite common (NEW). Image © Paul Richards.

Again easily overlooked because of its small size (3.5-5mm) is the Ground Beetle Trechus obtusus although it is considered common in this area and is frequently found in leaf litter(NEW). Image © Paul Richards.

The third new species is a Millipede Cylindroiulus britannicus, found usually under dead wood bark, or in leaf litter, and this is somewhat similar to C. punctatus, but with a pointed rather than a blunt tail, and they are often found together. No image available (NEW).

Finally, Paul found yet another example of a species I discovered for the first time last year. This is the small, but interesting Harvestman Megabunus diadema. Although not easy to see, it has a small coronet of spines on the top of the cephalothorax or forward part of the body. Image © Paul Richards.

Derek's Nature Notes 25 (Mid- March)

As indicated in the last edition of Nature Notes, determination was still awaited for a number of the fungi found during our foray on March 4th. A total of 31 species, the majority being micro-fungi were logged, mostly from the eastern end of the Wood. Of these, 13 or nearly half of the specimens had never previously been recorded at Gillfield which clearly demonstrates that the area is still under-recorded, one of the reasons for the planning of a mini-Bioblitz on Saturday 13th June.

Many tiny fungi and slime moulds do not readily lend themselves even to macro-photography, and for this reason only four more of the species discovered have been illustrated although some are very beautiful when viewed under a X10 lens. Nevertheless, all will be logged on the species database.

The first of the latest set of images is that of a small Discomycete, Hymenoscyphus vernus, this is about 7mm across, is yellowish-brown, usually found on a variety of rotten wood, but sometimes on similar substrates.(NEW)

Next is the very aptly named Dewdrop Bonnet Hemimycena tortuosa, only about 3mm across the cap, but when fresh it is covered in tiny ‘dewdrops’ from whence the name derives (NEW).

There are a number of Porecrust fungi, usually found resupinate on dead logs and this is one of the Rusty or Cinnamon Porecrusts Phellinus (Fuscoporia)sp. with its rich chestnut brown colouration.

Last but not least is the Split Porecrust Schizopora paradoxa forming mass aggregations of the white fruiting body, again on dead wood. A second image has been included here as towards the bottom of the picture is one of the silvery grey Springtails, Tomocerus vulgaris. This is named after the springing organ or furcula, somewhat like a tuning fork, situated on the underside of the tail. When disturbed by a predator this enables the insect to spring forward, sometimes several inches, to escape.

This site is sponsored by the Cross Scythes Pub, Restaurant and Hotel. For luxurious accommodation, fine dining or just a quiet drink with friends in the heart of Totley, visit our website at http://www.cross-scythes.com or call (01142) 236 0204