23 July 2013

Silver-washed fritillaries

There has been a strong emergence of these beautiful butterflies in the last few days.  Usually they occur in open, flowery rides and glades in different parts of BHW and seem gradually to be increasing.

Today they were along the lane from the Old Woodyard to Austford Farm (TQ789207 to TQ787201) and from there up the ride to TQ786202  They were also in the ride to the east of Holman Wood Field, TQ795202.  They are mostly patrolling males at this stage and fly to have a look at you, circling around the ride and among the lower branches of the trees.

So far this year though I have seen no white admirals, butterflies that are usually on the wing with the silver-washed fritillaries, and I would be grateful to learn of any sightings.

18 July 2013

Double flowers and dragonflies

I have visited the High Woods several times during the current heatwave and it is much quieter than usual.  Perhaps people are going to the beach instead.  However, there is plenty to see.  The woodland edges are rich with flowers and delicate grasses (as below: common bent, Agrostis capillaris., tufted vetch, Vicia cracca, and marsh bird's-foot trefoil, Lotus pedunculatus).

Common blue damselflies are very numerous this year and there are some interesting dragonflies.

Most summers there are golden-ringed dragonflies, Cordulegaster boltonii, often around some of the smaller, acid streams, one of the places they breed.

Today I saw a species I have not seen in the Woods for nearly 20 years, though it is a common enough in England and Wales: the  black-tailed skimmer, Orthetrum cancellatum.

Surprisingly hard to see when settled among twigs and grass.

A floral curiosity is growing by the gate to the Old Wood Yard.  There are a couple of plants of double red campion, Silene dioica, again something I have not come across before.

13 July 2013

Summer arrives

There is much to see in the woods at the moment in particular the summer butterflies that are starting to emerge.

Today on a walk my friend Dave Monk spotted a purple hairstreak butterfly sitting on birch leaves.

Its camouflage is good and it looks just like the ghost of a butterfly in the shadows, the lines on the underwings like the edges of leaves.

We managed to get it down and it sat obediently on Dave's hand before returning to the shelter of the trees.

Purple hairstreaks tend to stay up in the top of the canopy, but they sometimes come down to lower levels, particularly in hot weather.  The upperside is dark with blue/purple highlights.

Elsewhere one of the children on our walk spotted a mouse in the undergrowth.  Unusually it sat eyeing us for a while before scampering away.

Up in the Old Woodyard the corn sow thistles (Sonchus arvensis) are in flower now.  This is one of the few places in the High where they occur and the shaggy yellow flowers are larger and more showy than other British Sonchus.  Plants of this genus are said to have a particular affinity with pigs (hence 'sow thistle') and they are supposed to be effective if applied to wounds made by pigs: worth bearing in mind if attacked by a wild boar (very unlikely).  The bee is, I think, the white-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lucorum).