Where photographs accompany the article click on it for a full size image, they are amazing.
Derek's Nature Notes Archived March 2014 - Early July 2014
Derek’s Nature Notes Edition 1 - March/April 2014
I first visited the wood in November 2013 and apart from finding a Common Green Shieldbug, I was delighted to see a pair of Weasel’s chasing each other on the main path at the western end of the Wood.
Since then I have joined FoGW and started recording a variety of wildlife and in four recent visits, have been very encouraged by my findings. For those who don’t know me, I am also a member and former President of Sorby NHS.
On my first recording visit I was astonished to find a rare Harvestman Megabunus diadema, only the second time it has been recorded in the Sheffield area, and a first for the Wood. As it is tiny and only 3/16” long, my photograph unfortunately does not do it justice and has been omitted. Several species of beetle were observed, including:
Also here were a few flowering heads of Yellow Archangel Lamiastrum galeobdolon which all should by now be in full bloom.
the Ground Beetle Platynus assimilis, another new record. Several unidentified Click Beetle larvae were found in various rotting logs, plus many Woodlice, mainly Oniscus asellus.
My next visit was a few days later to a different part of the Wood, and my first find was another new Harvestman, this time Platybunus sp. prob. triangularis.
In the Spring sunshine I couldn’t resist a shot of a fine group of female Hazel catkins, not always easy to see as they are so tiny.
On this warm and sunny day, I lifted a piece of dead conifer bark, and to my surprise a newly emerged, attractively marked Longhorn Beetle, Rhagium bifasciatum was found. This too was a new species for both the Wood and me.
Hiding in the same rotting log was a Carrion Beetle Silpha atrata, another good find.
Further examination of other logs revealed the Pill Millipede Glomeris marginata and Glass Snail prob. Aegopinella nitidula. Another snail found was the tiny Discus rotundatus.
Many of you will have noted some whitish hieroglyphic- like markings on Blackberry leaves. These are the Mines of a nepticulid Micro moth, Stigmella aurella whose larvae eat the inner flesh of the leaf, producing these ‘mines’.
A further two visits produced a second Carrion Beetle, and an as yet unidentified spider. In the central part of the Wood I uncovered what I think is a possible Leopard Slug, Limax maximus. I am awaiting confirmation of this, but if I am correct, it will be another new species.
Hawthorn leaves were emerging and the yellowish lichen encrusted twig exhibited some good examples of Xanthoria parietina lichen.
More log examinations produced two Millipede species, one being the Black Snake Millipede, Tachypodoiulus niger,
the other, Cylindroiulus punctatus, as well as the Centipede, Lithobius forficatus, all common, but probably new records.
Finally, among several species of fungi seen, I noticed a small growth of Wolf's Milk Slime Mould, Lycogala sp. currently pink, but this quickly turns to a dirty grayish-brown.
The over-riding feature of the last visit was the swathes of Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa, evident in various sectors on the site.
Derek's Nature Notes Edition 2 - Late April
On his return from Italy Derek has found time to give us a late April summary of his latest recording visits to Gillfield Wood.
Since the first edition appeared, it has now been established that the slug pictured was indeed the Leopard Slug, Limax maximus, and on a subsequent visit before Easter, found the Yellow Slug, Limacus flavus (pictured) under the bark of a fallen tree. Both of these species appear to be new to the Wood.
Searching again under bark, a large Ground Beetle was disturbed and this turned out to be Cychrus caraboides. Although again new to our species list this is a fairly common snail-killing beetle, and instead of ridged wingcases, these are lightly marked, the body is somewhat dome-shaped, and the head is very long in order to reach deep into snail shells.
In the same log was a group of four beetle larvae, but only three are shown in this image. These are saproxylic, i.e. associated with wood, and very difficult indeed to identify without dissection, at this stage of their lifecycle (but watch this space as an expert may come up with an ID).
Also, previously mentioned was an attractively marked spider, hibernating under another piece of bark. Some spiders too, are notoriously difficult to ID, but it is probably Amaurobius fenestralis as there are only two species in the UK, and the habitat was correct for this.
Another group of the Wolf’s Milk Slime Mould, Lycogala terrestre made quite a typical image, and this is included here for comparison with the single fruiting body shown previously.
Parts of the Wood were still carpeted with Wood Anemone, which prompted a little botanising, and there were several groups of Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage, Chrysosplenium oppositifolium, to be found not far from the Scout Hut at the Eastern end.
Derek's Nature Notes Edition 3 - End April
A further visit to the Wood was made after Easter on 28th April and this produced some 14 additional records, with the emphasis on insects (flies), and molluscs. Of course, Bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, are now fully in flower, creating a blue haze throughout the Wood, so one of the first images was of a single flower spike.
The sun had become quite warm by mid-morning and this induced a total of five, Speckled Wood, Pararge aegeria, butterflies, to flutter around in the bright sunlight. They can be very wary and a slow approach needs to be made, in order to get a decent shot.
In a shaded spot, on a dock leaf, a small fly was seen, which didn’t seem familiar and this turned out to be a scathophagid or Dung Fly, Norellisoma spinimanum. My image originally caused some excitement among experts, when we thought it was a much rarer species, since disproved, but nevertheless it is a new GW record. Dung Flies, despite their name, are not always associated with dung, and indeed the larvae of this species bore into the stems of docks.
Back into the sunlight, and several muscid flies were sunbathing on Sycamore leaves. Two of these were flies with colourful orange wing-bases and these are known as Noon-flies, Mesembrina meridiana, again a new species.
There were two other flies making the most of the sunshine, the first of which was one of the black sawflies Dolerus aeneus.These are quite difficult to determine, but fortunately to the trained eye, wing patterns are very helpful, but not completely reliable!
At this time of year, usually on or around 25th April (St. Mark’s Day), the St Mark’s Fly, Bibio marci, can be found, often in swarms, but today only produced three examples. It characteristically flies around with its legs drooping.
All morning, there were many slugs and snails to be found, including several Black Slugs, Arion ater ater,
in addition to which were a number of the red form, Arion ater rufus, (PGW50), which does not seem to have been recorded previously here.
A largish snail was then spotted, and this proved to be the Copse Snail, Arianta arbustorum. This can easily be confused with the common Garden Snail, but is usually found only in woodland locations.
Common to all areas around Sheffield is the Brown-lipped Snail, Cepaea nemoralis, of which several were seen.
Two other new snails were the attractively marked Kentish Snail, Monacha cantiana,
and the Strawberry Snail, Trochulus striolatus, in the same area as some Wild Strawberry plants. Both of these species have not been recorded here previously.
Another invertebrate resting on a leaf was a large spider which I think may prove to be one of the hunting spiders, Pardosa sp. As has been explained previously, ID’s of spiders are very difficult and help has been requested to make a definitive determination, hopefully before this article is published.
Several hoverflies were in evidence this morning, and most, but not all were species emerging in early Spring of which Eristalis pertinax was the most common, together with one or maybe two, Eristalis tenax. Both are hive bee mimics, and sometimes difficult to separate on the wing. The former have mostly yellow legs, the latter primarily black legs, but other features need to be taken intio consideration..
Derek's Nature Notes Edition 4 - Early May
It is now the beginning of May and I continue to be astonished at the wide variety of natural history species, both plant and animal, to be found within the confines of the Wood. This week I began my foray at the eastern end and was immediately attracted to the lovely purplish-mauve flowers of Bush Vetch, Vicia sepium. Several plants were to be found, dotted around in a number of places.
Crossing down to the Brook, looking at various trees and plants, my attention was drawn to a Cranefly, Tipula vittata, hiding between two Holly leaves and exhibiting interestingly marked wings. This is a Spring species and associated with wet woodland as the females deposit their eggs in damp mud, so the habitat was ideal.
Back on open ground there were a couple of erect flower spikes, the pale flowers of which had a pinkish tinge, and proved to be those of Cuckoo Flower, Cardamines pratensis.
Close inspection of the leaves revealed one tiny butterfly egg, and almost immediately a pair of Orange Tip. Anthocharis cardamines butterflies, were noted to be patrolling this area, and several more were subsequently seen.
As usual, numerous flies of different species were basking on leaves, one of which proved to be an Anthomiidae sp. It was new to me and to the Wood, but another Dipterist expert was unable to determine it to species level.
Several Common Green Shield Bugs, Palomena prasina, were to be found, mostly on nettle leaves, and strangely, although is relatively common, it doesn’t appear in previous GW records?
Three different hoverflies were basking in the sunshine, and the first of these was a smallish, black species with wings folded back along the body. Pale abdominal markings seen through the wings determined this to be Platycheirus albimanus.
The second, more attractively marked species has proved to be more of a puzzle, but provisionally this has been noted as Scaeva selenitica, but confirmation is awaited from the UK’s leading expert, but in any event this is expected to prove another new species.
The third hoverfly is probably Syrphus ribesii, but as the markings are somewhat a-typical, a second opinion has been requested for this also.
Another group of flies which were around in good numbers, was one of the a Muscidae, this being a mating pair of Morellia sp. Again, because there are a number of very similar species, these are virtually impossible to determine without the use of a microscope or dissection.
Several of the colourful, but common Yellow Dung Fly, Scathophaga stercoraria were perched in prominent positions on leaves of various plants in several areas of the Wood.
Today I found two specimens of another hoverfly about 100m apart. When these finally settled it was immediately apparent that these were the ‘Pinocchio’ Hoverfly, Rhingia campestris, so-called because of their long proboscis which they use to access nectar and pollen from deep flowers like Bluebell and Red Campion, both probably common here.
In a marshy spot, there was quite a concentration of Large Bittercress, Cardamine amara, Although at first glance, the small white flowers seem plain and unattractive, closer examination with a hand lens reveals it has very pretty purple anthers.
Derek's Nature Notes Edition 5 - Mid May
It is now mid-May, and two visits were made this week, one at the western end, the second to the East of the mid-section. On a lovely sunny day, near the Bus Terminus, the first sighting was of Carrot Fly, Psila sp. but determination to species level was not possible, although a new record
Grazing on algae visible on a Birch trunk was a young Common Footman moth caterpillar Eilema lurideola, which feeds on algae or lichens rather than herbaceous plants.
Common at this time of the year, and usually found sunning itself on leaves is the Dance Fly, Empis tessallata, another new species,
as is the Green Dock Beetle, Gastrophysa viridula, the image showing a gravid female on Dock (Rumex), which they can decimate very rapidly.
Readers may recall that on one of my first visits I photographed the Harvestman, Megabunus diadema, but I rejected the image. This one is much better and shows the distinctive ‘crown’ of seven spines, situated on the back, just behind the eyes
Very common, now that nettles are rampant is the small, but attractively marked Nettle Tap Moth, Anthophila fabriciana.It can be found for most of the year, but surprisingly doesn’t appear in the records.
Talking about nettles, there are some excellent typical, bright orange examples of Puccinia urticata, Cluster Cup Nettle Rust Gall to be seen.
Another sun-lover is one of the Snipe Flies, Rhagio scolopacea, which tends to seek out large leaves on which to rest.
Yet another new species, together with the Hunting Spider, Pardosa saltans, many colour variations of which can currently be found on paths and in low herbage around the Wood
Late in the morning I came across this tiny, colourful green caterpillar which is that of the Winter Moth, Operophtera brumata, found feeding on Hazel, and again not previously recorded, although it is a common species
On the second visit, I was accompanied by Joan Egan, a Sorby colleague and a member of the British Bryological Society, with the intention of looking for mosses and liverworts. One of the first species seen was in fact a Lichen, Cladonia coniocraea, on an old Hornbeam log, but seemingly there are no previous records.
Down by Totley Brook were two or three small clumps of Snakeskin Liverwort, Conocephalum conicum.
On the muddy banks, small concentrations of another Liverwort, this time Pellia epiphylla were in evidence, and this is another new find.
Mosses and Liverworts can be loosely divided into two types, namely Epiphytes, which obtain no nourishment from the substrate, bark, stone etc., on which they are found, and Saprophytes, living on the ground, or decaying matter. They are attached by anchoring structures called rhizoids, and nutrients are obtained from the atmosphere through the leaves. Both types are represented in the following list, and although most are inconspicuous, many are very attractive when viewed under a lens.
The first moss is Common Smoothcap. Atrichum undulatum, which appears in several areas.
Next is Swan's-neck Thyme Moss, Mnium hornum, again fairly common.
Another, commonly found species is Long-beaked Water Feather.Moss , Platyhypnidium riparioides,
as is the common Feather Moss, Kindbergia praelonga, (NB. this is the latest name).
The following five species (four illustrated), do not appear in any records and are assumed to be new to the site. First is the Rough-stalked Feather Moss, Brachythecium rutabulum (probably overlooked previously)...
......and this is followed by the Wood Bristle Moss, Orthotrichum affine...
....and Elegant Bristle Moss, Orthotrichum pulchellum clearly showing the pale orange spore capsules.
Next is an epiphytic Cushion Moss, Ulota crispa, showing the crisped and curled leaflets before re-hydrating. A few days earlier, Joan with another colleague, found a single specimen of Cryphaea heteromalla on a head-high branch. This has been rare but is now re-establishing itself, but imaging proved impossible.
Finally, on another mossy log, I spotted an unusual looking club fungus, which proved to be Xylaria longipes, Dead Moll's Fingers. The little clubs were about 25mm in length and had a fawn tip, but when I had previously found the species elsewhere, they were completely black. Other items of note were Cuckoo’s calling at each end of the Wood, also a Tawny Owl calling from pines at the western end.
Derek's Nature Notes Edition 6 - Late May
On 20th May the visit was planned to investigate and photograph a nest of ants which had been disturbed during re-building of the stone boundary wall in the picnic area. Unfortunately the weather was rather dull, the ants were too quick and rather tiny, but another attempt will be made on a better day. At first glance they looked to be Formica fusca, but I can’t be sure.
Amongst the grasses in this same area were a number of Click Beetles, Athous haemorrhoidalis, a fairly hairy species, which are known to jump in the air and emit a loud ‘click’. They can also right themselves if laid on their back, and do not appear in our records.
Another new species is yet another Cranefly, this time a female Tipula vernalis, which emerges in the Spring and is quite common amongst grasses and low herbage.
An interesting Fourteen-spot Ladybird, Propylea 14-punctata was then seen. It was bright yellow and black and the image shows the geometric form, but variations ranging from pure yellow to black-spotted may also occur, but strangely it has not been noted here before
Oak trees look at their best in early Spring, and this is the time to look for Currant Galls on the undersides of their leaves or on catkins. These are caused by the larvae of a tiny wasp Neuroterus quercusbaccarum. When adults emerge later in the year they mate, laying their eggs on the leaves, which become spangle galls, these then fall to the ground, with parthenogenetic (unfertilised) females emerging the following Spring to start the cycle once more.
At this time of the year, one of the prettiest flowers is that of Herb Robert, Geranium robertianum, bringing a flash of bright pink to grassy areas.
Next up was a rather non-descript greyish caterpillar, found on a thistle leaf, which proved difficult to determine, but my colleague Ian Heppenstall thinks, and I agree, this is probably a Noctuid Moth caterpillar, Dark Arches, Apamea lithoxlaea. The adult moth has been recorded here, but the larva would have been expected to be near the roots of grasses. It possibly may have been picked up by a bird and then dropped.
One of several black sawflies which are difficult to identify is Tenthredo livida, but the giveaway here are the white tips to the antennae. These are continually waving, making photography nearly impossible. This one took some 30 shots. This too is a new GW record.
Close by were several Soldier Beetles, Cantharis pellucida. There is a similar all red species which should appear on umbellifers shortly. Again this appears to have been overlooked as a record previously.
One of our larger spiders is the Nursery Web Spider, Pisaura mirabilis. They typically lay flat on a large leaf in sunlight, and this is a female guarding her egg sac which is underneath her body.
Although not a very good shot because of low light, I decided to image a Sycamore, Acer pseudoplatanus flower cluster, from which the ‘keys’ will later develop.
Derek's Nature Notes Edition 7 - Early June
There are several Nettle patches in this area, prime spots for many species and the first of these was the tiny Mirid or Nettle Bug, Liocoris tripustulatus. This is a brownish species with yellow patches, but can vary considerably.
At this time of the year I am always pleased to see the bright, rich red of the Cardinal Beetle, Pyrochroa serraticornis, a very attractive beetle with spectacular antennae, which has been recorded previously, but only one was seen today, often on nettles, but this one was on a grass stem.
Still exploring the nettle patches, a whitish caterpillar was in clear sight, although it had cocooned itself in a partly rolled leaf in characteristic fashion. It was very similar to a caterpillar reported on recently but this one proved to be that of the Mother of Pearl moth, Pleuroptya ruralis, the adult of which has been recorded previously.
The next beast I have spotted here twice recently, although it eluded my lens, is the wasp mimic, but actually a Conopid Fly, Conops quadrifasciata. Two specimens were seen, and Its larvae parasitise Bumble Bee nests. Adults are often found on Umbellifers and Composites
Several species of Cranefly were amongst the herbage, but this one seemed a little different and it proved to be a female Tipula lunata, which has not been recorded here before.
Early in the year, several ground beetles turned up as new species. One of these was Platynus assimilis and another was found a couple of days ago in this new image.
Not new, but fairly unusual, having been recorded only once previously was a Hoverfly, Platycheirus sp. poss. P. scutatus. A definitive ID was not possible due to a dusting of pollen and wing reflections
Although Totley Brook is some 100 yards from the Picnic Area, it was pleasing to see a pristine Large Red Damselfly, Pyrrhosoma nymphula, sunning itself here on a nettle leaf. This species prefers lakes or ponds, but will use slow-running streams if necessary.
On the sunny ride, alongside the pines, I noticed on another nettle leaf, what I thought was a smallish, black Longhorn Beetle which turned out to be (I needed an experts’ opinion), Grammoptera ruficornis, again new to the Wood.
As was the very common Nettle Weevil, Phyllobius pomacea which, true to its name was also on nettle. This species is covered in bluish-green scales, which easily rub off, so older specimens may appear black.
A week or so ago, the Robber or Dance Fly, Empis tessellata was noted and a further example was seen today, again partly dusted in pollen due to its forays onto flower heads.
When looked at closely, Sawflies can be very attractively and interestingly coloured, as can be seen from these two examples, common at this time of the year, but new species for Gillfield. These are Tenthredo mesomelas,
and Tenthredo temula. The adults are mainly pollen feeders and visit a variety of flowers.
Also common at this time of the year are Scorpion Flies which feed on dead animal matter, fruit etc. using their distinctive ‘beak’. This image shows a female Panorpa communis, with quite a pointed end to the abdomen. Males have the more descriptive scorpion-like appendage. Yet another new species for the Wood
This image is a slightly different view from an image also published recently. This is a Snipe Fly, Rhagio scolopaceus, sometimes referred to as the ‘Downlooker’ Fly, due to its habit of perching on a suitable branch to look down for its prey, as it is a carnivorous species.
Last but not least is the very attractively marked Wasp Beetle, Clytus arietis, which is in fact a Longhorn and another wasp mimic. It is commonly found scurrying around on sunlit leaves, but not previously recorded here for some reason.
Derek's Nature Notes Edition 8 - Mid June (1)
Two brief visits were made two days apart on 6th and 8th June, at either ends of the Wood and the following were found and photographed:-
Several heavy showers meant that the herbage was very wet so it wasn’t surprising to find two Brown-lipped Snails, Cepaea nemoralis, taking to the Birch trees and browsing on the algae to be found there, rather than having to contend with boggy conditions underfoot.
Bumble Bees were very active on emerging Blackberry flowers and the first species found was Bombus pratorum, one of some 22 species to be found in the British Isles. This one is a ground nester, and fairly widespread, but can easily be confused with other similar species. (NEW)
Newly found in the UK in 2000 is the Tree Bumble Bee, Bombus hypnorum, which as its name implies, nests in trees, but is equally likely to be found in gardens, and will often take over Tit boxes to build nests.(NEW)
Many of us try to give a wide berth to the next species which is the Common Wasp, Vespula vulgaris, but on close inspection they are colourful and attractively marked insects.
Unlike Herb Robert which is found in many locations, it was pleasing to see another member of the Geranium family, Cut-leaved Cranesbill, Geranium dissectum, with delicate blue anthers when looked at in close-up.
Another invertebrate trying to keep dry was the Common Earwig, Forficula auricularia of which several were found in the tops of Common Ragwort. This image looks to be of a gravid female, soon to lay eggs which she will guard until they hatch.
Rosebay Willowherb, Epilobium sp. is currently prolific in many places in GW, but in some areas is infested with metallic blue Flea Beetles, Altica lythri, one of many similar Leaf Beetles (NEW).
A very delicate species is the Green Lacewing, Chrysopa perla. The eggs are laid singly on thin stalks and their larvae feed on aphids, then camouflage themselves using the victims’ empty skins.(NEW)
Everyone by now must have heard of the large alien ladybird which only appeared in the UK in 2003. This is the Harlequin Ladybird, Harmonia axyridis whose larvae are predators and voracious feeders. It came via the Continent although it is an Asian species originally introduced into Canada to control plant pests. There are now a number of varieties and the illustration shows one of these, f. succinea.(NEW)
There are some 33 species of British Shieldbugs, some of which have been recorded in GW, but not the relatively common Hawthorn Shield Bug, Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale. This is extremely similar in colour to the Birch Shield Bug with which it can easily be confused.(NEW)
The next three species are all hoverflies which some of you may have seen when walking. First is Myathropa florea, which has a nickname the ‘Chinaman’ because of the image of a face which can be seen on the dorsal surface of the thorax, although this specimen is not a very good example.
The second is one of our commonest hoverflies, Eristalis pertinax, often hovering at head height around people in sunlit woodland areas.
Lastly, we have the more unusually coloured white and black Hoverfly, Leucozona leucorum, with its distinctive black wing ‘clouds’.
Another new Sawfly is the colourful, but somewhat dumpy, Rose Sawfly, Arge pagana, the larvae of which will later strip the leaves of Dog Rose. (NEW)
Maybe a year or so ago, myself and expert colleagues would have happily named this Muscid Fly, Polietes sp. P. lardarius or P. meridionalis, simply as P. lardarius, but a new species has now been added to the British list, namely P. meridionalis. The only difference is the colour of a tiny spiracle or hole in the side of the thorax (I must take more side views!)
Often seen crawling around on pollen-rich flower heads at this time of the year is the Common Green Capsid Bug, Lygocoris pabulinus, one of a number of similar species which can often be determined by the colour of their leg spines.
Derek's Nature Notes Edition 10 - Mid June (3)
This visit was to the eastern end of the Wood where all the herbage and grass is growing very rapidly but on at least two plants my eye was drawn to bright lime-coloured blobs, which turned out to be Cucumber Spiders, Araniella cucurbitina. This is one of our smallest orb-web spiders which spin their webs across a single leaf.(NEW)
A sure sign of early summer is the appearance of Dog Rose, Rosa canina agg this with its pollen-rich stamens is a magnet for a wide variety of flies, bees and beetles, although so far I have not found many bushes
In open areas, quite large quantities can be found of Greater Stitchwort, Stellaria holostea, with its delicate white flowers which bear looking at in close-up.
Another flower, abundant now in many locations is Hedge Woundwort, Stachys sylvatica: the two-lipped, open mouthed flowers are a deep beetroot purple colour marked with whitish blotches.
It is pleasing to see, amongst a proliferation of the more common white variety, numbers of Red Clover, Trifolium pratense, Beloved of bees and other insects because of its rich nectarines, which can only be reached by certain species
Several nettle patches contained evidence of the small Cecid midge, Dasineura urticae which cause galls on the leaf veins of Nettle, purplish on the upper side as this image, and pale green on the underside
Although Plantains are not uncommon at GW, most seem to be Greater, or Ribwort species, but this one seemed slightly different and may well be Hoary Plantain, Plantago media, but perhaps better qualified botanists might take a look.(NEW)
Considerable quantities were seen of one grass, Yorkshire Fog, Holcus lanatus, with its delicate purple, feather-like flower heads.
Several Flesh Flies, prob. Sarcophaga carnaria, were noted, sunning themselves on leaves. This is in fact a male, but accurate identification to species level can only be made microscopically.
The next, rather dumpy species is another Fly, Minettia longipennis, which wouldn’t pose and only allowed a fleeting shot, but is included here as (NEW) to GW.
As some of you will know the alien Harlequin Ladybird appears in a wide variety of forms and this one is Harmonia axyridis f. spectabilis, being mainly black but with large red blotches on the elytra or wing-cases.(NEW)
In some of the damper areas there have been several stands of the very colourful Yellow Iris, Iris pseudacorus over the past few weeks, and these are now starting to develop their large seed pods.
Probably the most exciting find on this visit was a rather strange fly which, after referring to an expert friend was determined as one of the Soldier Flies, Chloromyia formosa, this was a female with a bright brass coloured thorax and a blue metallic looking abdomen. They are nectar feeders and their larvae develop in humus rich soil or decaying vegetable matter. (NEW).
Derek's Nature Notes Edition 9 - Mid June (2)
This report starts with another image of one of our commoner insects, the Common Earwig, Forficula auricularia, which is currently showing itself in various parts of the Wood, usually near flower heads, but this one was resting and quite photogenic.
Most of us are gardeners and will be familiar with the ubiquitous green and black aphids infesting roses, but perhaps will not have noticed the slightly larger, Common Nettle Aphid, Microlophium carnosum which might be green, pink or brown as shown; if the latter, I am expertly advised that they may be dead as they are subject to parasitoid and fungal infections.(NEW)
One of the first signs of early summer is the appearance of Foxglove, Digitalis purpurea in many open woodland areas, with its flowers giving a splash of vivid purple against a green backdrop.
A recent report showed an image of a gravid Green Dock Beetle, Gastrophysa viridula (a below) but this one is pictured in the process of laying eggs, and the next image (b below) features one of her egg masses, laid on the underside of Dock leaves. Egg-laying may extend over a period of time as this larva (c below) shows, as it was photographed on the same day, yet is almost full-grown and ready to pupate and produce the next generation. Since this note was written, one of the egg masses has hatched, producing many tiny 1/16” larvae which devour their egg cases as shown in the image.(d below)
(a) (b) (c) (d)
Green Lacewings, Chrysopa perla are being observed throughout the Wood and gravid females such as this, lay their tiny eggs at night, hung on a thin stalk, either singly or in groups, usually close to aphid populations. The larvae are voracious predators and use the dead skins of their prey as camouflage.
Unfortunately, this specimen of a Silver-ground Carpet Moth, Xanthorhoe montanata is slightly damaged, and examples have been moth-trapped here previously. Carpet moths are all very similar and sometime difficult to tell apart.
The excuse for including another shot of the increasingly common Harlequin Ladybird, Harmonia axyridis f. succinea is because it is a better shot, but also it shows clearly, two Stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica, spines,
as does the next edge-on shot of a leaf. These glass-like sharp hollow tubes are very brittle, being made of silica and contain Formic Acid under pressure, which is released as they enter the skin and break off, causing irritation and sometimes a rash.
At this time of the year there is usually a vast influx of hoverflies from Europe, many of which are Episyrphus balteatus often known as the ‘Marmalade Hoverfly’ because of its thick and thin abdominal stripes. This year I have seen very few so far, but this may be due to wind direction and weather generally.
Nettles feature prominently in all of these reports as they are a fantastic habitat for numerous invertebrates, but a good find this week was a late instar or nymph of the Mirid Bug Grypocoris stysi the name of which has recently changed from Calocoris stysi.
For comparison purposes an adult is also shown so it is worth keeping an eye open for this very pretty bug.(NEW)
Also appearing now is the Prickly Sow-thistle, Sonchus asper usually solitary, but bringing a splash of lemon yellow to path and track verges.
Noticeable too this year, are good numbers of a green Sawfly, Tenthredo mesomelas. These are quite shy and any sharp movement will cause them to drop off a leaf into the undergrowth, making photography difficult!.
Also numerous is the Scorpion Fly, Panorpa communis this is a female, showing its rather fearsome-looking ‘beak’ with which it deals with prey. Again, the species has very good eyesight and is alert to sharp movements..
At each end of the Wood, many Yellow-barred Longhorn Moths, Nemophora degeerella have been much in evidence, either ‘dancing’ in the sunlight, or resting on leaves. This is a male, and the species has the longest antennae of any British moth. The antennae of females, is much shorter, making identification easy.
Derek's Nature Notes Edition 11 - Late June
My perambulations have continued, now bi-weekly, as there seems a never-ending source of invertebrate material, but with some repeats like this Snail, Arianta arbustorum . This one, unlike the last, is a juvenile, and sometimes difficult to ID
Butterflies, except for Speckled Wood have been quite disappointing but today a Green-veined White Artogeia napi made an appearance and allowed a good view of the greenish veins on the wing undersides(when flying, they look like any white butterfly).
The next patch of nettles produced a beautiful Peacock, Aglais io (note the recently changed scientific name), but I couldn’t be sure if it was egg-laying.
This year, there has been a proliferation of ‘Cuckoo-spit’ insects, most of which in fact are the Common Froghopper, Philaenus spumarius. However, this one is a full-grown specimen of another froghopper, Aphrophora alni, characterized by a ‘pitted’ texture of the head and body, but still presenting a frog-like appearance.
The next small, shiny fly, Sepsis fulgens is quite distinctive, but its wings are rotating like a windmill and never still, making photography extremely difficult (NEW).
A somewhat larger Dance Fly, Empis livida was nectaring on Ragwort, and the image clearly shows its long sucking proboscis, used for this purpose. It tends to run around on flower heads, from which its name derives.
Next up was the rather unusual Hoverfly, Merodon equestris, because like the Eristalini tribe, one of the wing veins has a distinctive down-pointing loop, a helpful diagnostic feature.
A much smaller fly then appeared and this seems to be a Dolichopodid Fly, poss. Chrysotus gramineus, but it is difficult to be sure without taking a specimen (NEW).
On an adjacent leaf was yet another but larger Dolichopodid Fly, which it is believed is possibly Dolichopus sp., but not identifiable to species level as dissection is necessary(NEW)
Whilst photographing the previous species, a large bush caught my attention, and this was Hazel, Corylus avellana with numerous nut clusters rapidly developing, where I had photographed female flowers earlier in the year.
Around me were several patches of thistles which I had observed for maybe two or three weeks, the first of which was the ubiquitous Creeping Thistle, Cirsium arvense,
and close by was the rather more striking Spear Thistle, Cirsium vulgare with its large globular flower heads.
Chris Measures had directed me to a secluded glade close by, and there were perhaps ten or so plants of Marsh Thistle, Cirsium palustre, and the three make an interesting comparison of their flowers.
Returning to insects, I was unable to identify the next species a Muscid Fly, Phaonia tuguriorum, female, which Adrian Pont, a national expert of Muscidae, determined for me. (NEW)
Oxford Ragwort, Senecio squalidus is now starting to flower in several locations, but so far there is no evidence of the Cinnabar Moth whose larvae find this plant irresistible, but it still makes a pleasant splash of colour.
Squirrels, Sciurus carolinensis, have not been much in evidence recently but the image shows what must surely be Squirrel activity in the area of the pines near the western end of the Wood.
Finally, another puzzle, but is a nymph or instar of a possible Mirid bug, which is awaiting expert determination.
Derek's Nature Notes Edition 12 - Early July
In a recent report I mentioned a quiet glade where I found several plants of Marsh Thistle, but at the same time noticed probably two Beech trees, Fagus sylvatica, which were literally loaded with its bristly nuts or ‘mast’. I have since read that this is a fantastic year for this species.
At the western end of the wood, more specimens of Ragwort were examined and these produced a number of very tiny, 1/8” long Brachonid Wasps, believed to be Alysiinae sp. These parasitise larvae of several Dipteran flies.(NEW)
On Nettle yet again, were two or three Capsid Bug nymphs, originally thought to be Common Green Capsids, similar in shape and colour, but now identified as possible Closterotomus norwegicus. (NEW)
Several small Flower Bug nymphs, Anthocoris nemorum were on Blackberry, preying on aphids. They are quite vicious little blighters, and at the end of this report, readers will note the result.
Yet another new species of one of the larger Craneflies was a female Tipula fascipennis with distinctively marked wing patterning and veins, often a helpful feature in identifying members of this group.(NEW)
The next fly is thought to be a Muscid Fly, probably Phaonia angelicae with a fairly distinctive olive-green colouration. (NEW). This has since been confirmed definitively
The next species of Hoverfly, Epistrophe grossulariae is easily confused with like members of the Syrphini tribe, but from other images of leg and wing features, identification was possible.
Harlequin Ladybirds, Harmonia axyridis, have featured several times recently, but readers may not be so familiar with their larvae with their black and orange markings and spiny tubercles on the dorsal side. At this stage, it is impossible to visually identify the actual ‘form’ they will take after pupating.
Another Muscid Fly, Spilogona denigrata, is very similar to others, but the distinguishing feature is shown in the heavily clouded wings. (NEW)
At this time of the year, many bugs are becoming visible as adults, but I was lucky to find this mating pair of Mirid Bugs, Leptopterna dolabrata. They are grass bugs and the wingless female is larger and less colourful than the male. (NEW)
Recently, at the other end of the Wood, I found a Soldier Fly, Chloromyia formosa, and my second specimen was imaged today, and features a close-up showing the hairy eyes. These hairs are thought to have a sensory and proximity function.
Except for extermination, Aphids do not feature prominently in our thinking although they are interesting when viewed in close-up. In the UK alone there are more than 500 species and Blackberry Aphids, Microsiphum funestum, are one of several other similar green species. The image shows probably three stages in their life cycle. (NEW)
Finally, I was able to image Blackberry Aphid predated by Flower Bug nymph, Anthocoris nemorum which clearly shows the piercing beak or rostrum which it uses to suck out the aphids’ internal juices.