Saturday, 30 April 2011

Barnes Wood Skipper Event 2011

Well for a start, we could not have picked a better day.

I had good auguries from the very beginning as I saw a Grizzled Skipper in the area adjacent to Footland Wood car park as I waited for people to arrive.

So fourteen of us then headed off into Barnes Wood to look for Dingy and Grizzled skippers.

We didn’t have to wait long. Eagle-eyed Richard Penney spotted the first of the Grizzled and Dingy Skippers along a sunny ride and we soon saw skippers in all the usual locations.It is there! At the centre. Click to enlarge.

In fact, by the first half hour of the event everyone had seen both a Dingy and a Grizzled Skipper. As we then walked on to the second location we were able to take in more nature.
Dave Monk, our local beetle enthusiast, soon spotted a red headed cardinal beetle on some bracken.

There were also dragonflies, damselflies and no doubt due to the heat of the day, this little pond formed by a heavy vehicle rut had us all mesmerized.
On a slightly sadder note we observed this poor Grizzled Skipper with only one wing. Apparently this can occur when the insect’s blood fails to inflate the wing correctly and the wing dries out before it has formed properly.
On the way back Lynn Jenkins confirmed that I had indeed heard a nightingale in the oak wood.

Finally we made our weary way homeward.
So a big thank you to all who came today and made this event so enjoyable.

Jim Barrett

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Good Old Forestry Commission

Spring has been busy in Vinehall Forest and has worked its transformational magic.
A rowan tree in flower near the B2089 entrance; [click picture to enlarge]

The rowan tree, or mountain ash, has berries which are very rich in vitamin C and they provide excellent food for blackbirds and thrushes.

Dingy and grizzled skippers are now out and feeding from bugle flowers along the rides.
Picture by Katie Walker
Picture by Katie Walker

These butterflies always seem so small when they first emerge and it takes a while for me to get my eye in at the start of the season.
Bugle also provides nectar for bumblebees as shown here with Bombus pascuorum
Picture by Katie Walker

The first brood worker bumblebees of Bombus terrestris have also emerged and they seem tiny too, I saw one that was no bigger than my thumbnail.

This is usually the muddiest part of Barnes Wood but it is currently as dry as a bone. Yet the trees and wild flowers are showing no sign of drought stress and seem to be growing as vigorously as ever.

The place to be for birdsong is along the oak wood avenue in TQ7520.

The Chiffchaff and the Nightingale are currently engaged in a song duel along this ride. Their songs can be heard by following the links below.
Nightingale at RSPB

Chiffchaff at RSPB

Dragonflies are also on the wing; this I believe, is a young broad bodied chaser.[Click picture to enlarge]

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

A New Site for Butterflies

Marline Valley in Hastings is a SSSI consisting of ancient woodland and lowland meadows. The site is owned by Hastings Council and managed by Sussex Wildlife Trust.

The brilliant news is that a piece of adjoining land, originally earmarked for development by the council, has now been added to the nature reserve. This 3-4 acre plot has great potential for rare wild flowers to thrive, such as Dyer's Greenweed and Grass Vetchling. Grizzled Skippers are in the next field, so should be able to spread into this one.

Last Sunday, the Hastings Conservation Volunteers under the guidance of Owen Johnson, who manages the Marline reserve for the trust, started working on the site, taking out trees and shrubs in order to prevent the land turning into woodland and hopefully turning it into a promising site for butterflies and other insects.

With ever more land being fragmented and churned up for housing, roads and infrastructure for human needs, isn’t it great that sometimes, very occasionally, bits of nature are given back to other species?

Susanne Whiting

Thursday, 7 April 2011

First Sighting

We may have the first sighting of Small Copper for the whole county here in Rother this year. Today Katie Walker has recorded Small Copper at Darwell Wood; the first one seen in Sussex last year, was at Wilmington on 23rd April.
There are more spring flowers and shrubs out at Darwell too. What could be more springtime than bluebells? Greater Stitchwort. I heard somewhere that the Anglo Saxons were responsible for many plant names ending in “wort”. Wort means “root” and the plant was thus named for medicinal purposes. “Stitch” is what you get from running around too soon after dinner, not that I do much of that these days, and the root of this plant is the cure. What I need now is “napwort” to get me a bit active after dinner!Blackthorn, apparently named from the dark bark of its branches. This shrub is a valuable source of winter food for birds and its thorny branches are well suited for protecting birds' nests. Hawthorn, which is found in two varieties, Common Hawthorn and Midland Hawthorn that may be distinguished by the shape of the leaf. All pictures by Katie Walker.

Spring Butterflies

The spring butterflies are now out in numbers here in Rother. Katie Walker has been recording Orange Tips, Peacocks and Brimstones at Darwell for the last couple of weeks, and today I recorded nine Orange Tips, five Peacocks, two Brimstones and a Holly Blue in Barnes Wood. The Orange Tip’s foodplant, Cuckoo flower, is now flowering along the rides. The violets are prolific too. Today I saw this nice little clump of plants sheltering behind a small log. On closer inspection I noticed quite a little plant community here, with honeysuckle and possibly common dock also. I have noticed queen bumblebees flying around the woods and my garden for quite a while. Today I was (just about) quick enough to get a photograph of Bombus terrestris in Barnes Wood and Bombus lapidarius in my garden. Thanks to Katie Walker for the Orange Tip and Peacock photographs.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Learning by Doing

So today I was lucky enough to be over at Cadborough Cliff near Rye, on a section of the 1066 Country Walk. A couple of weeks ago at a BC Rowland Wood work party I met a chap called Roy Wells who is a recorder for the Sussex Botanical Recording Society. Back then I arranged to meet up with a group of SBRS recorders, including Roy, to get an insight into the valuable work they do, recording the wild flowers of Sussex. I had a very productive and interesting day. It is one of the pleasures of life to watch skilled artisans applying their trade, be it a spin bowler finishing off the tail end or a potter throwing a ceramic vessel on a wheel. I tell you, the SBRS recorders know their stuff.

And that’s not all; Roy also finds time to record butterflies. We saw Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies galore today. I also saw numerous species of bees.

To finish off the day we visited the Historic Camber Castle site near Winchelsea. So my heartfelt thanks to Roy Wells, Judith Linsell and Mathew Berry for a grand day out.