Derek's Nature Notes 26 (Late March to mid-April 2015)
For various reasons there has been a suspension of my wildlife observations in this early part of the year, but work on this has now been resumed, however see first below.
FoGW members visiting the picnic area will note that an area of Bramble and Rosebay Willowherb roots have been grubbed out by a team of volunteers led by Andy Brewster under the direction of Chris Roberts the Council Ranger. The topsoil has been turned over and sown with a wildflower seed mix, provided by the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew. The seeds have been carefully selected for their suitability for the site and include, among others, Knapweed, Corn or Common Poppy, Cornflower, Lady’s Bedstraw, Meadowsweet, Ox-eye Daisy, Red Campion and Ribwort Plantain. Their flowers will provide some colour for the area and a source of nectar and pollen for a number of invertebrate species. Hopefully too, by disturbing the soil, this will have exposed seeds from what we hope is a dormant seedbank which had previously been crowded out by rough grass. Following last years’ strimming of the area, Chris hopes to have an early cut of the rank grasses which previously out-competed other less vigorous plants.
Until the last few days there has been a dearth of terrestrial insects on view so I decided to look under my feet, and spent some time sieving leaf litter which revealed a wide variety of microscopic species plus many small Rove Beetles, Centipedes etc., which can be easily missed as they shun the light and prefer cool, damp conditions. Some of these are shown in the following accounts made on several days’ observations. There are over 1000 species of Rove Beetles (Staphlinidae),in Europe, most can fly well, some are nocturnal, but all are predators and omnivorous scavengers.
As a photographer, I normally don’t have time to take specimens, which is why some of the names shown are ‘possible’ or ‘probable’, as definitive identifications can only be made by dissection. My first sieving venture produced a number of quite tiny, orange and black, tear-drop shaped Rove Beetles which I believe to be Tachyporus dispar. These are quite distinctive as most Rove Beetles are long and slender.(NEW)
The next specimen, from the same area, is a nymph (early stage) of a possible Lacehopper which a leading expert believes is Tachycixius pilosus, but at this stage impossible to determine until adulthood is reached. (NEW)
It is always pleasing at this time of the year to find the brilliant yellow flowers of Gorse, Ulex europaeus, and several small bushes can be found alongside the main path at the western end of the Wood.
In the same area are a number of coppiced Sycamores, Acer pseudoplatanus and I never fail to be fascinated by the beauty, shape and subtle colours of the emerging buds in the Spring, as shown in this image.
More sieving then produced a number of invertebrates living in soil or leaf litter. One of the commoner species to be found is the attractive Centipede, Lithobius variegatus, although not all centipedes have one hundred legs.
Leaf litter samples often produce dozens of tiny creatures which appear to ‘hop’ or leap about; these are Springtails with over 1500 species, so named because of the springing organ (furcula) on the underside of the abdomen. At rest, this is clipped in place but can be released, shooting the insect forward to avoid predators. One of the commonest Springtails is Tomocerus vulgaris, which this probably is, but new to our database. (NEW)
In the same sample of leaf litter were two more Rove Beetles, this time an all black common species Philonthus decorus, but not previously recorded here, and easily overlooked. (NEW)
On my next visit I looked at the stone wall bordering the site, and lifting one of the dislodged stones was a dormant Black Snake Millipede, Tachypodoiulus niger which we have found here many times.
On the same piece of broken down wall was an area containing several nibbled Hazel Nut, Corylus avellana shells, probably part of a Squirrels’ winter store.
Close by, on the ground, but now exposed by dead herbage was a stony area containing a cache of damaged snail shells where thrushes had used these as an anvil to break open the shells, to get to the succulent snails.
One that escaped was this juvenile Cepaea sp. Banded Snail, which as a juvenile is difficult to say whether this is a Brown-lipped or White-lipped species.
There are several Rowan trees, Sorbus aucuparia around here and the flower bud formation makes quite an interesting composition in the right lighting conditions.
Two days later I was back to sieving leaf litter under the pines near the picnic area and several more different, and longer, Rove Beetles turned up. Provisionally I think these are Othius punctulatus, but I am awaiting expert determination. (NEW)
Whist doing this, Andy Brewster brought me a specimen which he had dug up when grubbing up bramble roots and this was a different and very long yellow Centipede, Stigmatogaster subterraneus, with 83 pairs of legs which has been recorded here previously under its old name.
Derek's Nature Notes 27 (Late April 2015)
The last Sunday in the month promised to be warm and so it turned out with a number of aerial invertebrates taking advantage of the warm sunshine. These included five different Hoverflies, Eristalis pertinax, E.tenax, Melanastoma scalare, and Rhingia campestris, plus another which I was unable to identify. We have seen all these before so I have not included any images.
Several Bumble Bees were prospecting the Yellow Rattle flowers (see below), and I think this one is probably the Common Carder Bee, Bombus pascuorum, although it is easily confused with the Tree Bumble Bee B. hypnorum.
A number of butterfly species were on the wing, and there were at least two, Green-veined White Artogeia napi, clearly illustrating the under-wing veining from which the name derives.
Next up were two (I think) Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae, but these were flitting rapidly among the flowers, disappearing and then re-appearing, so I couldn’t be sure.
A solitary Speckled Wood, Pararge aegeria, also put in a fleeting appearance but was not imaged.
By now I was in a more damp shaded area and when I spotted movement I was pleased to image my first Cranefly of the year. This was Tipula (Acutipiula) vittata, one of the first craneflies to appear. I recorded this for the first time here last year, and the find was kindly determined by National expert John Kramer who is joining us for the Bioblitz in June,
I had spotted a small white butterfly about 50m away and I managed to creep up and image this and this proved to be a male Orange Tip, Anthocaris cardamines, searching for a mate on Cuckoo Flower. Rather than show the usual upper view, I opted for an image showing the unique colouration underneath the wings.
On the first part of my walk was a largish tree, on its side (Presumably brought down by the heavy snowfall earlier in the year). Now, it was a mass of white blossom, and not being much of a botanist, wondered if this might be (PGW433) Wild Cherry, Prunus avium? Chris Measures has now advised me that it is in fact a Damson. This therefore may be Prunus domestica subsp. insititia, but I’m not sure on this although it has to be some sort of ‘escape’.
As many members will have noticed, the Wood in many places is carpeted with Wood Anemones Anemone nemorosa. Most of these are white, but in many places small clumps of pinkish-mauve variants appear, as in this image.
Yellow Rattle Rhinanthus minor agg., is in profusion in some parts of the Wood, and provides an early source of nectar for many species of bees and hoverflies. It is a member of the Figwort family and receives its name from the rattle produced by the seeds when ripe.
Derek's Nature Notes 28 (Early May 2015)
Two visits were made to the Wood, on 8th May to the western end and on 10th May to the eastern end, both warm sunny mornings which resulted in 34 species of flora and fauna being recorded.
On the first visit near the ‘bus terminus, several plants of Cow Parsley, Anthriscus sylvestris agg, were showing the tiny white flowers of this common Umbellifer.
Dandelion, Taraxacum sp. is prolific and yellow swathes of this plant are everywhere this year, providing a good source of pollen and nectar for foraging bees, and hoverflies.
Turning over several Dock leaves revealed several clusters of bright yellow eggs laid by the Green Dock Beetle, Gastrophysa viridula, but no adult beetles were in evidence on this occasion.
The past twelve months have turned up several examples of the relatively uncommon Harvestman Megabunus diadema, and the second close-up image clearly shows the spiny ocularium, on the body which only this species possesses.
At this time of the year it is always pleasing to see the delicate pinkish-purple flowers of Herb Robert, Geranium robertianum, and several plants were peeping out among the vergeside grasses.
The first hoverfly to be seen was the slightly unusual Platcheirus albimanus, showng the greyish abdominal spots peculiar to this species. Unfortunately, this specimen had chosen a difficult location for photography.
Close by was a Dolichopidid or long-legged fly I didn’t recognise. However after imaging this and consulting with seven of the top UK experts, it is believed that it is probably Rhaphium crassipes. This ID has now been confirmed by Dr. Duncan Sivell, Curator of Diptera at the London NHM who is a specialist in this family.(NEW)
Turning over a dead log revealed what we believe to be a Dusky Slug, Arion subfuscus fuscus, uncommon, but it has been recorded here previously.
The same log also produced a Snake Millipede Cylindrioiulus punctatus, probably where it had overwintered.
Perched on a nettle leaf to absorb the sunshine was this spider, one of the hunting or Wolf spiders, possibly Pardosa amentata.(NEW). These spiders belong to the Lycosidae family, and another pair of a different but unidentified species are shown in the next image doing a courtship dance. The male is the smaller of the two.
My last find of the morning was the colourful Yellow Dung-fly, Scathophaga stercoraria, with its golden-furred abdomen. The photograph clearly shows the large tongue, used for sucking up its previously liquidised food.
10th May found me at the eastern end of the Wood where there was a good attendance for the Flora Walk, being led by Rebekah Newman. Before this started I was able to show several members a rather unusually marked Harlequin Ladybird, Harmonia axyridis f. succinea, with one wing-case red with black spots (normal), the other one orange with black spots.
The next three insects were hoverflies, the first being a male Syrphus vitripennis, almost
indistinguishable from the commoner S. ribesii. There were a number of the very common Eristalis pertinax, together with a female Melanastoma scalare, clearly showing the distinguishing, yellowish abdominal markings through the wings, not always easy to make out.
A number of pairs of Orange-tip butterflies were patrolling and I was lucky enough to find two small clumps of Cuckoo Flower, Cardamine pratensis on which they lay their eggs, but I was unable to spot these.
On this particular morning I must have counted some dozen or more, Green Shield Bugs, Palomena prasina, some mating as in this image.
Dandelions produced another two hoverflies. These were the ‘Pinocchio’ hoverfly, Rhingia campestris, and the image clearly shows the large prehensile tongue which enables it to reach deep inside many flowers for nectar.
Finally, as I was about two leave, two, Small Tortoiseshell, Aglais urticae butterflies appeared and were attempting to mate. The male even at this early stage in the season looked very ‘tatty’, and may have overwintered.
One of the larger and more striking black flies found sunbathing in the Spring, on herbage or Umbellifer flowers, is the Noon Fly, Mesambrina meridiana. It also has very strong orange wing bases as shown in this image.
Another typical ‘sunbather’ is the Nursery Web Spider, Pisaura mirabilis and I must have counted a dozen in as many yards. This is quite a large species.
Also sunbathing, but this time on the ground, I managed to spot at least two, Red Mason Bees, Osmia rufa in sunlit spaces on the woodland floor. (NEW)
One of the plants which we hope will be encouraged to grow in the newly created wildflower meadow is Ribwort Plantain, Plantago lanceolata with its tall flower spikes and elongated leaves.
On bramble, were several of the very colourful Sloe Bugs Dolycorus baccarum, probably unsurprising as the location was very close to the Blackthorn thicket.
Derek's Nature Notes 29 (late May 2015)
Gillfield Wood never ceases to amaze me in that on every visit, I find at least one new plant or animal species which has never been recorded there previously, and on my latest foray, six, or a third of my eighteen finds were new, plus two others which escaped close scrutiny for positive determination. I do hope that the day of the Bioblitz will be fine and warm to provide lots to interest the visiting experts.
Most members will by now have enjoyed the sight and heady scent of the carpet of Bluebells Hyacinthus non- scripta (I think this is correct, although I am not an expert!), which may be found the length and breadth of the woodland.
Probably our commonest Cranefly, is Tipula oleracea which should be abundant although I only found one on this visit, and the breeze may have kept others lower down in the herbage.
When the sun came out, two or maybe three Dance Flies Empis tessellata, were sunning themselves on leaves, but are more usually found on Umbellifer flowerheads. Their name derives from the fact that the males sometimes ‘dance’ in swarms, to attract the females.
Next up was one of the Flesh Flies, Sarcophaga sp. These are large ugly flies with big feet and in most cases very difficult to separate to species from a single photograph which doesn’t show all the necessary characters.
Several patches of the white star-like flowers of Greater Stitchwort, Stellaria holostea were on the fringes of the wood. These are very pretty in close-up, but difficult to image in the windy conditions.
A couple of editions ago I mentioned that the first batches of eggs of the Green Dock Beetle, Gastrophysa viridula had appeared on the undersides of Dock leaves, and today I saw both male and female adults, with the latter laying more eggs. This image is believed to be a male.
In many areas of the Wood, Cleavers are a very common plant, but today my attention was drawn to a small blackish caterpillar on this plant, but all attempts to identify it have failed. A collective best guess is that this is the larva of one of the Pyralid moths
At this time of the year the Yellow Dung Fly is frequently seen sunning itself on leaves, but this pair are actually two females trying to mate, and appear to be a similar species Scathophaga furcata, and are a more reddish-brown (NEW).
Another new fly was found prospecting on a bramble leaf, this time one of the Rose or Bramble Sawflies, Arge cyanocrocea. This is black and orange in colour with distinctively marked wings (NEW).
One of the more striking flies now appearing is the Scorpion Fly Panorpa sp. They can usually be differentiated by the wing patterning, but determination is not always conclusive. This is a female with the abdomen tapering, but the males have the distinctive scorpion-like tail.
Soldier Beetles, from the family Cantheridae, are quite variable but always exhibit bright colours, like military uniforms, and several species have been found at Gillfield. However, this one, Cantharis pellucida. does not appear on the database, but is very attractively marked. Unlike many beetles, the wing-cases are quite soft (NEW).
The next species is a Soldier Fly, probably Beris vallata, and not very colourful from above, but it has an orange abdomen and the wings are attractively shaded. The interesting thing about this species if you look closely just behind the thorax, there is a shield shaped structure with six spines, which is diagnostic of this genus (NEW)
Yet another new fly, this time a Tachinid Siphona sp. It is not possible to determine this to species level without microscopic inspection, but interesting nonetheless. (NEW)
Around the Wood can be found large clumps of White Dead-nettle, Lamium album. This is quite an attractive woodland plant with its white flowers which provide a good source of nectar for a variety of bees.
The White-lipped Snail Cepaea nemoralis comes in a wide variety of colour banding, depending on the habitat, and is common throughout the Wood.
Similarly, we see many species of Ladybird, and this is the 14-spot Propylea 14-punctata. These come in two forms, spotted or geometric as in this image of a mating pair.
Finally, back to botany, where I spotted this plant recently near the Scout Hut. It is a single plant of Pendulous Sedge Carex pendula. It doesn’t appear in any of our listings, so it could be a recent garden escape as they proliferate very rapidly (NEW)
Derek's Nature Notes 30 (Late May/early June 2015)
Things have been hotting up recently with numerous species occurring in decent numbers. One such is the Cucumber Spider, Araniella concurbitina which currently can be seen almost anywhere in the more open areas. Apart from the green colour there is a red spot at the base of the abdomen. This male has very clear leg markings.
Dance flies are also quite common, and this one is Empis (Xanthempis) sp. although it is difficult to go further into the ID without a specimen. This is a male, and several more, plus females were seen.
We were lucky enough a couple of weeks ago to feature Dolichopid flies. This is another, Dolichopus sp. and I am hoping the London NHM specialists will be able to provide an identity, although some of the distinguishing characters are on the underside. (Identification of many invertebrates is very difficult without voucher specimens)
The next specimen is much easier and is one of the Snipe Flies, Rhagio scolopacea. These can often be found sunning themselves on tree trunks, always facing downwards, giving them their nickname ‘Downlookers’,
Searching the undergrowth, I spotted a flash of yellow which on closer inspection turned out to be a tiny fly. Checking all my books and with some outside help it was established as one of the Grass Flies Chlorops sp. something I have not photographed before (NEW)
Also new was yet another of the very many Muscid Flies Hydrotaea sp. Again it is not possible to ID this to species level. (NEW)
Nettles are now flourishing and it was not difficult to find several examples of Nettle Weevil, Phyllobius pomaceus. When young they are covered with iridescent scales which make them look greenish or blueish in different light conditions
This visit took place on 27th May so that it was unsurprising to see several St. Mark’s Flies, Bibio marci . This species usually emerges on St Mark’s Day 25th April. They are very distinctive black flies with long rear legs which trail behind them when flying. They can often be seen around Oak trees in large swarms.
One of the smaller craneflies is the Tipulid, possibly Tipula varipennis which has wing markings, not easy to see in this image, sunning itself on a Birch tree. (NEW)
On the Damson tree at the eastern end of the Wood on 4th June, there were several metallic blue Flea Beetles. These we believe are, probably Altica lythri which I also found here last year.
Close by was another small and delicate cranefly with an attractively marked yellow and black thorax. This is thought to be Nephrotoma appendiculata or flavescens (NEW)
Strangely, although the next bug is a very colourful black and red Froghopper Cercopsis vulnerata, it doesn’t appear on the database yet is relatively common in the Sheffield and Doncaster areas. (NEW)
In a sunlit glade alongside the brook was a blue carpet of the very attractive blue flowers of Germander Speedwell, Veronica chamaedrys.
Another bushy shrub, and possibly just past its best is Hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna, with some of the bushes exhibiting cascades of the white headily scented flowers, set off by the pink anthers as in this shot.
Back to invertebrates and the photograph shows a male Scorpion Fly, Panorpa sp. eyeing an unidentified Froghopper for its lunch.
Finally as I was packing up my camera, I caught a flash of red on one of the plants. Closer examination was well worthwhile as it proved to be another of our Soldier Beetles, a common species, Cantharis rustica , but previously unrecorded here, and this time with a distinguishing black mark on the pronotum (NEW)
Derek's Nature Notes 31(Early June 2015)
Looking back at my last report it would seem that I had somehow omitted one of the more uncommon Hoverflies, sometimes called the Greater Bulb-fly, Merodon equestris I had found and photographed on 5th June. This is rather furry and easily confused with a small bee. The adults feed on the pollen and nectar of flowers but the larvae attack the underground bulbs of such plants as Bluebell.
On my next visit to the Wood I noticed two small greenish bugs on nettles, and on close examination I felt they were late nymphal or instar stages of a Mirid Bug, Calocoris alpestris. To prove the point, I took some nettles and one of the bugs in a rearing cage, and two days later I was delighted to find that the nymph had transformed into an adult Calocoris alpestris which in fact I had logged here on the same date last year.
Right next to the car I noticed quite a small spider basking on a nettle leaf, and on this occasion I had with me, spider expert Bob Merritt and his opinion was that this was Philodromus sp. but as we didn’t take the specimen, this was as far as we could go, but new nevertheless. (NEW)
A couple of days previously, Bob had made a longer visit to record for the Bioblitz event which he was not going to be able to attend (but see below), and showed me a specimen of a Stream Lacewing, Osmylus fulvcephalus which he had identified and as you will see the wing venation is very attractive and complex. (NEW)
During Bob’s stream survey, he found a number of the very interesting and attractive Water Crickets, Velia caprai, easily overlooked as they scud around on the surface of the water, although they have previously been recorded here.
Anticipating bad weather for the Bioblitz, I made a recce on 12 June, in the piece of Wood immediately opposite Dyson’s factory, an area I had not previously visited, and was delighted to find a Slender Groundhopper, Tetrix subulata, not in its usual habitat of open ground, but on a Dock leaf! (NEW)
I then went down to the ‘bus terminus and on the trunk of a Silver Birch, found a tiny spherical snail, and Robert Cameron identified this as a juvenile Cepaea nemoralis, which are very common here.
In the same place, on the day of the Bioblitz, I found another new snail, this time Trocholus striolatus with the second image showing the very deep umbilicus on the underside (NEW).
Finally, two images of a Cucumber Spider. Without microscopical examination we have to call this one Araniella sp. but I would like to think of this as Araniella opisthographa. It is a male and in the first of the images you can see the large palps which look like eyes (the six smaller real eyes can be seen towards the front of the thorax) (NEW).
Unfortunately, on the day of the Bioblitz, the heavens opened and it poured with rain until lunchtime making things extremely difficult for entomologists. However Stuart Crofts, with Chris Measures and others were able to carry out a stream survey and came up with several new species. Similarly, Robert Cameron and two intrepid members of the British Conchological Society, also came up with some good records. I am pleased to say that Bob Merritt visited on another day and found 45 new spider species for the Wood. Derek Whiteley also has more than 100 specimens to work through. Other specialists have also provided me with lists and I know of at least three other experts who are hoping to visit later this week so I am optimistic of some good final results.
On behalf of FoGW, many thanks to everyone for all your efforts and submission of valuable records.
Derek's Nature Notes 32 (Mid-late June 2015)
Time seems to have flown since the compilation of the last report, not helped by the somewhat windy weather, and work associated with the Bioblitz which will be reported on at a later date as various surveyors/experts have visited the site, and records are still arriving in various formats.
At the Baslow Road entrance I have been keeping an eye on a rather straggly cruciferous plant with yellow flowers, and taken images at different times. Much discussion has taken place with Ken Balkow the Sorby botanist and after poring over various books we are now convinced that this is, Hedge Mustard, Sisymbrium officionale and at least three plants are in the area close to the gate, and may well have been there for some time. (NEW)
On Goat Willow at the eastern end of the Wood were several galls caused by a small Sawfly, Eupontamia pedunculi, showing as small eruptions on the surface of leaves. (NEW)
Close by, was a perky looking fly which visually suggested that it was yet another Dolchopodid Fly Argyra diaphana, readily identified by an expert entomologist. (NEW)
Surveying for Craneflies with my friend John Kramer on another day near the Brook, I came across a plant with this rather pretty yellow flower which is Yellow Pimpernel Lisimachia nemorum. This doesn’t appear on any of the databases (either GW or SBRC) so it appeared to be new. I have since had discussions with CM who tells me that someone carried out a survey some time ago, and found this, but to date has not submitted records of his work. (NEW)
Tom Higginbottom kindly visited as part of the Bioblitz and found some forty species of gall on a number of host plants, the majority of these being new records. One such is, Andricus seminationis, caused by a tiny Gall Wasp on male catkins of Pedunculate Oak (Photograph© Tom Higginbottom) (NEW)
At this time of the year we can often come across many of the small but attractive Longhorn Moths Nemophora degeerella. This image shows a male of the species which has the longest antennae of any British moth. The female antennae are much shorter and sturdier.
Yet another puzzle-------Micro moths are a pain and I photographed one recently. We think it is one of the Tortricids, probably Epinotia sp., but despite checking with several local Yorkshire specialists no definitive ID was forthcoming, so images have been sent to the London Natural History Museum for their opinion. (NEW)
Larvae or caterpillars are quite often difficult to determine, and a dozen or so small specimens were found on decimated Hogweed leaves. It is likely that they are the larvae of one of the leaf beetles, Chrysomelidae, so I am attempting to rear these to maturity in order to determine the ID.
Again near the ‘bus terminus, several Sawflies, Tenthredo mesomelas are appearing, these are quite large, attractive green and black flies which move quickly across the leaves and flowers, making them difficult to photograph.
Another large fly which initially caused an identity problem was a Tabanid or Horse Fly, sometimes called a ‘Cleg’ in the farming world Haemotopota pluvialis, as there are two virtually identical species. The defining characters are the markings in the discal cell in the middle of the wing, also the antennal shape. Interestingly, the last time this species was recorded at Gillfield was in 1974, by my old friend, the late Bob Warburton.
We have seen several so-called ‘Dance Flies’ recently, and this one Empis livida, has not been previously recorded this year, although it should be common.
Rowan trees near the entrance are all showing evidence of mite infestation of their leaves exhibited by white blotches. These again are galls, caused by a tiny mite Eriophyes pyri.
Harlequin Ladybirds, Harmonia axyridis f. succinea are also appearing regularly, and this mating pair are in a good position to show the size difference, also the head markings.
This month has again proved quite fruitful for new species, so I was delighted to spot another of our Soldier Beetles Cantharis nigra which is less colourful than some of the other species which are mostly carrying some red marking on the head or eleytra.
Gillfield Wood is a ‘hotspot’ for flies of many species, some less interesting than others, but this colourful yellow species with strongly marked wings is thought to be a Tephritid Fly, Xyphosia miliaria, but this is being re-checked by another expert.
Mirid Bugs are common as soon as the weather warms up so I was not surprised to see a pair of Leptopterna dolabrata on grass stems prior to mating. This is a fully winged male, the females often have no wings or they are much shorter.
Finally for this report, there were two pairs of quite a small Shieldbug, Eysarcoris venustissimus. These are known as Bronze Shieldbugs, or Woundwort Shieldbugs as they favour this plant.
Derek's Nature Notes 33 (early to mid-July 2015)
The first thing to report on is the mini-Bioblitz which took place around 13th June. The weather was extremely inclement but eleven surveyors made visits close to the date and amassed a total of 439 records, and of these some 273 (62%) were new species for the Wood, an extremely good total. There are still a few species to be determined, so the number of new species will probably rise in due course. Some new finds were what might have been expected but there were numerous ‘Local’ status species, and others fitted the RDB or Rare categories. One such was found by Alan Lazenby and is a Click Beetle, Athous subfuscus where there are less than 20 previous UK records. Outwardly, it is almost identical to A. haemorroidalis, which I have recorded several times, the only difference being the richer chestnut red elytra or wing-cases.(Unfortunately we have no photograph of the specimen)
On my several recent visits, I have noted, but not specifically reported on, the following butterflies ;- Comma, Red Admiral, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Large and Small Skipper, Large White, Ringlet, Gatekeeper, Speckled Wood and Meadow Brown. Last week, Chris Measures spotted a White-letter Hairstreak(another first for the Wood), also an Elephant Hawkmoth near Entrance 1.
Near the Scout Hut there are masses of Birdsfoot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus with its bright yellow flowers, and this also appears in some other parts of the Wood in open areas.
At the other end of the Wood, I noticed a small dark brown bug on a nettle leaf. This is an instar or nymph of one of the plant-sucking Mirid bugs, Polymerus nigrita. Adult recorded last year.
Close by, a number of Ringlets, Aphantopus hyperaptus were sheltering low down in the grass out of the wind, and despite the light conditions, a decent shot was possible.
In the Picnic Area, recently sown with a wildflower mix, several Corn Marigolds, Chrysanthemum segetum, were already attracting numerous flies, and a few bees (NEW)
The verge next to the conifer plantation held several recently emerged Foxglove spikes Digitalis purpurea which are very attractive with their deep pink-purple flowers.
Next up were two hoverflies and the first of these is in a genus which can’t be visually split to species so we have to say that these are, Sphaerophoria sp. Nevertheless, this is a very attractive hoverfly.
Much commoner, although so far this year, less have appeared, is the ‘Marmalade’ Hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus, often coming over from the Continent in large swarms.
On a number of moth-trapping nights the Peach Blossom moth has appeared so it was interesting to find one of the larvae of this species, Thyatira batis on its bramble foodplant.
Another moth which is frequently trapped here is one of the many so-called Carpet moths. This one is the Silver-ground Carpet Xanthorhoe montanata which looks in pristine condition and has probably only just emerged.
My next find was a tiny red ant, crawling around on newly emerged thistle flowers. I thought this was probably the common Red Ant, Myrmica rubra, until I put this onto the computer, and it appears to be, Myrmica cf. ruginodis, with two sharp ‘thorns’ or spines at the rear end of the thorax, but no-one seems to know their purpose. (NEW)
A few days later at the eastern end of the Wood there were a number of Satyrid butterflies including four Small Skipper, Thymelicus flavus, and this image clearly shows the long tongue which they use to extract nectar from flowers like Red Clover.
Finally, there were one or two plants with small purplish flowers which from the smell of the leaves were those of Water Mint Mentha aquatic.
Derek's Nature Notes 34 (Early to mid-August 2015)
This edition starts with an update on the wildflower meadow recently created at the Picnic Site. The weather hasn’t been ideal, but Corn Marigold is flourishing, and other species noted by the writer, have been Cornflower, Chamomile, and Poppy. However the main plant to appear is Common Hemp-nettle, presumably from a dormant seedbank, disturbed when the Willowherb was grubbed out. It will be interesting to see what next year brings.
The first image shows a small section of the wildflower plot.
Perhaps one of the most striking flowers, now sadly lacking in English wildflower meadows is the Cornflower Centaurea cyanus which may have been previously recorded, but doesn’t appear in the SBRC database. (NEW)
The second species with only one flower visible is that of Common Poppy, Papaver rhoeus.
This image shows a close-up of the flowers of Common Hemp-nettle, Galeopsis tetrahit
In the same area there were isolated plants of Black Knapweed Centaurea nigra agg. which are always attractive to butterflies and other insects.
Chris Measures, on his walks around the Wood, has this year encountered five White-letter Hairstreak butterflies Satyrium w-album in four separate locations, an excellent find, and I am yet to see one here!. This species is particularly attracted to Bramble, but it can be found in association with several other flora (NEW) (this image is © CM)
The next species was an interesting one as I first encountered this rather dark reddish-brown spiky bug which is the 5th or last instar of the Mirid Bug, Deraeocoris ruber.
Close by were a number of adult Mirid Bugs of this same species D.ruber with their rich chestnut colouring (it’s rather like the tale of the Ugly Duckling)
The next image unfortunately un-named, is one of the many ‘Looper’ caterpillars to be found at this time of the year, and is probably that of one of the Geometrid moths.
Several days later, at the eastern end of the Wood, were several hoverflies, Leucozona glaucia, nectaring on the umbels of Hogweed. Like many insects they are sexually di-morphic and the differences can be seen with the eyes separated in the female in the first image, which also has wider blueish bands on the abdomen. The second image shows a male, with narrower banding and the large eyes meeting in the middle of the head. Quite a striking species.
Commonly found almost everywhere at the moment, is the Froghopper Aphrophora alni, usually brownish, but can be variously marked in paler colours.
We tend to overlook such common plants as grass, but with Timothy Phleum pratense, the flower can look very attractive when producing pollen.
Although not certain, it is thought that this very hairy Tachinid Fly is probably Eriothrix rufomaculata, but confirmation is awaited, and the name may change. (NEW)
The next image is of an Ichneumon fly or wasp, notoriously difficult to ID without dissection, but it is possibly Diplazontae sp.(NEW)
An excellent find was this interesting looking narrow-waisted Conopid Fly I believe to be Physocephala rufipes and confirmation is awaited. The adults are nectar feeders as the image shows, but the larvae parasitise Bumblebee nests (NEW)
Feeding busily, and very active was this small bee, again very difficult to identify from photographs, but it is likely to be a Megachile sp.(NEW)
Surprisingly, no records exist for grasshoppers although it is understood that they have been heard from time to time. This one (unfortunately minus a leg) is the Common Green Grasshopper Omnocestus viridulus, and was found in the new wildflower meadow (NEW).
A firm favourite with many is the very colourful Small Copper butterfly Lycaena plaeus. This one is in pristine condition and probably newly emerged, feeding on Corn Marigold.
Yet another Mirid Bug is the rather drab Plagiognathus arbustorum, which has been recorded at several sites in the Wood both this year and last.
A hoverfly which has not been recorded here since 1981 is Cheilosia illustrata with a dark wing cloud and distinctive black face, but it can easily be confused at distance with other species.
Finally for this report, when photographing the last species, I didn’t notice that a very tiny Pollen Beetle had crept into the picture. It is Melagithes sp.but we can’t get closer than that.
Derek's Nature Notes 35 (late August to mid September 2015)
First an apology to followers of Nature Notes as almost a month has passed since the last edition. This is due primarily to wet and/or windy conditions making macro-photography difficult to say the least.
However, the new wildflower meadow has continued to thrive, and more flowers have appeared and attracted flies, beetles, bees and butterflies. Also here, now the grass has been cut again, a second species of grasshopper, this time the Common Field Grasshopper, Chorthippus brunneus has turned up. As the name implies, this is a browner and quite a variable species, as the very next day, an almost black specimen was seen but not photographed(NEW)
Finally, the male of a third species; an Ichneumon with an orange waist Alomya debellator (NEW). I am grateful to Bill Ely of Sorby NHS for his expert identification skills of the three Parasitica named above
A couple of days earlier, on a rare sunny day at the eastern end of the Wood, I encountered several Ichneumon wasps feeding on Hogweed. The first of these was an Ichneumon Wasp Cosmoconus sp. very attractively marked in bright yellow and black which like most similar species, parasitise caterpillars of other insects.(NEW)
The next species is another Ichneumon, Lissonota (Lissonota) variabilis, which is larger and although not a clear image, does show the long ovipositor which the female uses to insert her eggs into the prey.(NEW)
One of the commoner species to be found at this time of the year are shieldbugs, and I counted some fifteen early instars of the Common Green Shieldbug Palomena prasina, basking on a variety of plants. Later instars would show rudimentary wingbuds, but none can be seen here.
At the other end of the Wood several craneflies were showing, and this was one of several Tipula fulvipennis, which are quite large and somewhat ungainly when flying.
Harvestmen too are prolific at this time of the year, and the image shows a particularly well-marked specimen of a female Leiobunum rotundum, one of our commoner species.
One of the more colourful flies to be seen at the moment, are similar to the dungflies, but are in fact from a small group known as Dryomizids. They are bright orange, with red eyes and prominent bristles on the thorax and abdomen. This one is Neuroctena anilis.
Some quite tiny bees have been observed recently on Ragwort and other flowers, and as these are notoriously difficult to ID in the field, I took a specimen and passed this to Dr. Michael Archer, another leading UK expert (also a Sorby NHS member). This was identified as a male mining bee Lasioglossum calceatum which feeds on flowers, but nest holes are made in steep banks.(NEW)
I have been keeping an eye on several Dog Rose bushes where leaves were being rapidly devoured by tiny greenish caterpillars, but as they grew it became obvious that they were the larvae of the orange and black Rose Sawfly Arge pagana, which we see fairly frequently here.
The next image shows a small scar on the rose stem where the female sawfly cuts into this to deposit two parallel lines of eggs; in this instance, probably 17.
Alongside this bush was another Dog Rose, and more larvae were seen, but these, although typically sawfly like, were distinctly different, and proved to be (with the help of Guy Knight at Liverpool Museum) another new species of Rose Sawfly for the Wood Allantus rufocinctus (NEW)
More spiders are appearing now that autumn is with us, and one of the first is a member of the Tetragnathidae, namely Metellina sp. but impossible to name to species level without the specimen.
Some other spiders can be named with certainty and one such is the Nursery Web Spider Pisaura mirabilis. This juvenile, basking on a leaf was one of many seen on the same day in a localised area.
A butterfly, once rare, but now quite common here is Speckled Wood, Pararge aegeria, providing a count of maybe ten or twelve individuals, some in pairs, even this late in the season, feeding on ripe blackberries.
A fly we see quite frequently is the Noon Fly Mesembrina meridiana, although each female is said to only lay five eggs in a season, on cow dung. Easily spotted with its bright orange wing-bases, this one was feeding on ripe blackberry fruits.
Only one other butterfly was seen on 13th September, and this was a rather tatty Green-veined White, but two Southern Hawker dragonflies were perching high up out of camera range due to the wetness of the lower herbage.
Derek's Nature Notes 36 (late September 2015)
After some two years fairly intensive recording on the site it is not surprising that it is becoming more difficult to find species to record, given that the weather plays a part, making macro photography difficult in windy conditions. However, even in the thirteen species reported on in this edition, four are new to the site. In addition to this, John Kramer, National Cranefly Recorder, kindly re-visited Gillfield again on 27th September, and with the help of some of our own, and Sorby NHS members, managed to find another eleven species of Autumn craneflies, bringing our cranefly total to 58 species, or 17% of the British List---------not bad for a small woodland.
Starting on 19th September, I found and photographed this rather strange looking beast, which is the instar or one of the larval stages of yet another plant or Mirid bug Pentilius tunicatus. This was found on Hazel, one of its preferred food plants (NEW)
At this time of the year much of our wasp population can be found feeding up on ripe blackberries. This is the Common Wasp Vespa vulgaris, but any of our seven or eight social wasps might be found enjoying the same food source.
This year there seems to be quite an abundance of the Common Froghopper Aphrophora alni which has been reported previously, but this specimen seemed to be well-marked and worth noting..
During the course of the survey for craneflies at the Eastern end of the Wood, I looked around for other species, and came up with a fairly common but distinctive Hoverfly. This is a male, one of the Sphaerophoria sp., impossible to ID to species level without dissection.
Quite a nice find, only some ten metres from the Brook, and resting on a leaf, was this Caddisfly. It puzzled me for a time, but Stuart Crofts identified it as a male Drusus annulatus, a species he has noted here previously.
Chris Measures netted a number of Harvestmen, at least three of them being the ‘Tuning Fork’ Harvestman, Dicranopalpus ramosus which seem to be plentiful here this year.
This next shot is of another common harvestman Leiobunum rotundum which refused to be cooperative and face the camera, Another species, Mitopus morio, escaped the net, so this remains unconfirmed.
Also netted by Chris was a superb specimen of the Hazelnut Weevil Curculio nucum. Uncommon in Vice-county 63, but relatively abundant in the South of England where I have found it many times.(NEW)
A few days earlier, and I had forgotten to include this at the beginning of this report, I spotted at the other end of the Wood, a tiny Leafhopper which we think is probably Edwardsiana sp. Apart from the clear ends to the soft wings, leafhoppers are distinguished from froghoppers by the numerous spines on the hind tibiae, which can easily be seen. (NEW)
Yet another tiny (4mm) species of micro-moth is the Horse-chestnut Leaf Miner, Cameraria ohridella, and is this year quite common in the Wood, yet only appeared first in the UK in 2002. Its presence can be easily spotted by the ugly brown blotches on leaves of the host tree, caused by the mining larvae, and is now considered a pest species. (NEW)
Found on the same Horse Chestnut tree, perfectly still, and beautifully camouflaged, was this caterpillar of the Peppered Moth Biston betularia. The moth itself comes in two forms, speckled (normal), or black (melanic), both of which the late Frank Botterill has moth-trapped here several times
Exceedingly common at the moment are numerous colourful nymphs (instars) in various stages, of the shieldbug, Troilus luridus. Many are striking in their red, metallic and black colouration, and are easily spotted as they move around the leaves of plants. At this stage they actually can predate moth and similar caterpillars.
Finally, for this edition, one of our very common Orb-web spiders, the Garden (or Cross) Spider Araneus diadematus . This has the distinctive white cross on the abdomen of the larger female. Not so commonly seen are males which are smaller as in the top of this image, with a less striking cross.
The Wood is currently turning up many different species of Mirid Bug, this one Heterotoma planicornis, being quite common, but longer and with differently shaped antennae. Although basically a plant feeder, this species has a predatory streak as can be seen by the dead fly alongside,(NEW)