Sunday, 29 May 2011

Caterpillar Masterclass

This weekend we had a 'Caterpillar Masterclass' up at Brede High Woods, hosted by Dr Patrick Roper, an expert entomologist.

We met in the car park just off the B2089.

where Patrick demonstrated how to use nets for catching bugs and caterpillars

including how to get a closer look at the bugs you've caught!

There was also this neat gadget, which folds out...

and then you can hold it under a branch you're knocking on, to see what falls out of it:

Anyway, we all had a great morning wandering round the woods looking for bugs...

We did find caterpillars, and other things too, like pupae:


and a Hazel Leaf Roller:

There were lots of opportunities for us to stop and quiz Patrick, and several group members had useful knowledge on a range of wildlife subjects.

I think Patrick's highlight of the day was not a caterpillar or bug, but this Bird's-nest Orchid, as it was the first time he'd seen one - the rest of us had never even heard of them! Although it looks like it's dead, it's not - it just hasn't got any chlorophyll, and lives by taking nutrients from a host plant, via a mycorrhizal fungus.

Anyway, don't forget to check out the Sussex BC website, where future events are advertised:

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Woodland Event

This morning eighteen of us assembled at the top of Mill Wood to begin Sussex Butterfly Conservation’s Spring Butterflies and Wildflowers event. We were guided around the Woodland by Mike and Tracy and we were shown the results of the fantastic conservation work Mike and Tracy have done over the last couple of years.It was great to see the woodland in springtime, as for many of us our only previous experience of this woodland had been BC volunteer days in the winter.We saw Peacock, Green-veined white, Brimstone and Common blue butterflies, as well as longhorn and speckled yellow moths. We also saw many dragonflies and damselflies.
We had a special guest appearance from Sussex BC’s Michael Blencowe who showed us how to search for Orange-tip eggs and caterpillars on Garlic Mustard plants, and who’s Moth and Caterpillar ID skills proved invaluable to the event.We also learned from Tracy how woodpecker pellets can reveal much about their diet.
We saw lots of Caterpillars and Sawfly larvae.And we learned much about the history of the woodland and the surrounding countryside from John Roberts who worked in these woods in his youth.

Finally, I was mightily impressed by a wooden bridge made from materials sourced in the woodland. So all in all, a very enjoyable day, and held in more good weather as well.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Magnificent Meadows

On a recommendation from Dawn Brickwood of the High Weald Landscape Trust's -Weald Meadows Initiative, I have been walking the Public Footpaths and Open Access areas adjacent to the Beech Estate meadows in Penhurst CP, to the west of Battle.

For a start, the scenery is terrific.

The fields are strewn with buttercups, oxeye daisies and sweet vernal-grass.
The bridleways and paths are lined by hedgerows creating a great habitat for wildflowers and grasses.
For example, growing along a shady section of the bridlepath verge is this distinctive grass, Wood Melick.
Yet these unimproved meadows are not over awed by grasses, which gives other plants a chance to thrive. This meadow contains an abundance of trefoils and vetches.
Which is great news for my favourite bumblebee (one of the easiest to identify), Bombus lapidarius, and a host of Common Blue butterflies.
I also saw this rather nice little flower which I believe is Common Milkwort.
Finally on some swampy ground adjacent to the bridleway I noticed these aquatic horsetails which are either water horsetails or marsh horsetails.
Please visit the High Weald Landscape Trust website to find out more about our magnificent Sussex meadows.
High Weald Landscape Trust
Weald Meadows Initiative

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Splendid Spring

The warn, dry weather has been good for the invertebrates with many early sightings this year.

Heather Martin sent me this photograph of a sawfly larva. I thought this might have been a caterpillar when I first saw it, but Heather did a little research and has narrowed it down to one of the three Oak Sawfly (Periclista) species that are found in the South East of the UK.Picture by Heather Martin

Heather also recorded the micro-moth Eucosmomorpha albersana in her woodland near Northiam and this sighting has been verified by the County Recorder. This is the first record of this moth in East Sussex for over twenty-five years.

Eucosmomorpha albersana at UK Moths Website

Speckled Yellow moths are flying about in numbers now, Katie Walker photographed this one in Darwell Wood. Common Blue and Small Heath butterflies are popping up all over the place too.Picture by Katie Walker

Katie also took a photograph of this magnificent looking Damselfly which I believe could be "Beautiful Demoiselle" Calopteryx virgo, though C.virgo looks more green than blue in my copy of Chinery.Picture by Katie Walker

The worker bumblebees are out in force, the one pictured here is probably Bombus lapidarius which have a preference for Bird’s-foot Trefoil.Picture by Katie Walker.

To conclude then, a picture of a plant, Bush Vetch. This plant appears to be very popular with the ants, as every time I have seen this plant there have been a few ants crawling over it.Picture by Katie Walker

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Dave does it again!

With his regular visits to Brede High Wood Dave Monk has come up trumps again and discovered a moth believed to be previously unrecorded in Sussex.

Dave had quite a red letter day yesterday (May 4th) when he observed;

Hysterophora maculosana : Bluebell Conch
The adults of this moth fly in May and June and the larvae feed on the seeds in bluebell capsules

Cochylis atricapitana : Black-headed Conch
Two generations of this moth fly in May-June then again in August. The larval foodplant is ragwort. (We are still awaiting confirmation from the County Recorder for this moth).

And finally…..(Drum roll, Fanfare, Chorus-line, Fireworks)…

Lampronia flavimitrella:
Believed to be previously unrecorded in East Sussex (VC14); this moth flies in May and the larval foodplant is Bramble and Raspberry.

Very nice finds Dave. Good work.

All photos © Dave Monk