Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Basking in sunshine

An Article by Heather Martin

It's not just us humans who enjoy being out and about in the glorious weather we are experiencing at the moment!

Small clouds of Orange Underwing moths (Archiearis parthenias) have been fluttering around the tops of birch trees in our wood.
Occasionally in the afternoon they come down to rest on the ground.
This Peacock butterfly (Inachis io) spent several minutes basking on a log pile.

Hearing the sound of hoverflies buzzing close by is synonymous with the arrival of warm Spring days to me. Towards late afternoon this Tapered Drone Fly (Eristalis pertinax) was content to rest motionless on the wall of our log shelter. The first generation appear to be much hairier than those that emerge later in the year.

Nearby sat a Bee-fly (Bombylius major) so called becuse of its furry appearance. The insect sucks nectar through its long, rigid proboscis and makes a high-pitched whine as it hovers in the sunshine. It is a parasite of solitary bees and wasps.

A Case-bearing beetle larva belonging to the leaf beetle Chrysomelidae family, was spotted climbing a birch trunk. It's 'mobile home' is made from its own faeces.

The larva of this Taleporia tubulosa moth wasn't going anywhere, safely enclosed in a case produced from fragments of sand, bark or lichen bound by silk, attached to a hornbeam trunk.
We found a handsome green and brown Diaea dorsata spider hiding in a dormouse nestbox - not everything likes to sunbathe!

And finally, Barren Strawberry (Potentilla sterillis) plants have begun to bloom along the tracks through the wood.

All pictures Heather Martin 26/03/2012

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Botanical Quest

Today I accompanied the Sussex Botanical Recording Society on an expedition to find a particular species of fern.

We searched for it in Mansbrook Wood near Dallington where it had previously been seen.

We were also on the look out for other species that had not been previously recorded and I photographed a few of the highlights.

Glaucous Sedge (Carex flacca) is fairly recognizable. The undersides of the leaves are characteristically bluish-green, hence the common name.

Another new species for me was Common Water-starwort (Callitriche stagnalis). Unlike duckweeds whose leaves are free floating, Starwort leaves are anchored by a network of stems.

We found the fern we were hoping to see. Hay-scented Buckler Fern (Dryopteris aemula). This fern prefers damp, humid habitats such as those found adjacent to woodland streams.

This next photo shows some of the leaf detail. Identification is not entirely straight forward and requires a hand lens for accuracy.

Dwarf Gorse (Ulex minor) was another plant I was unfamiliar with until today. It often likes woodland rides that have been rabbit grazed.

Somewhat off topic, but I did like this old wall that can be seen from the path in Purchace Wood (adjacent to Mansbrook Wood). I was impressed by the strength and resilience of the old arch, despite some of the foundation having been washed away.

Finally, I also saw a few butterflies in the warm sunshine today, a male Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) and many Commas (Polygonia c-album).

Monday, 12 March 2012

Warm sunshine, flowers blooming, insects flying - it must be Spring!

An Article by Heather Martin

Wood Anemones (Anemone nemorosa) are starting to flower across the woodland floor.
Moschatel (Adoxa moschatellina) has heads made up of five yellow-green flowers, four facing outwards at right angles and the fifth facing upwards which gives the plant its other common name - Town-hall Clock.
The face of spring!
Early Mining Bees are now in evidence throughout the wood. Apart from a few species they are very difficult to positively identify but this (Andrena haemorrhoa) with its distinctive foxy-brown hairy thorax and black abdomen was spotted resting on a log.
Also basking on a nearby log pile was a Common Lizard (Zootoca vivipara) that had emerged from hibernation. It is sometimes called the Viviparous Lizard - viviparous meaning bearing live young, because the baby lizards are born in egg sacs that break during birth.
The frogs have been busy producing clouds of spawn in the seasonal pond.
A pair of Long-tailed Tits (Aegithalos caudatus) are in the process of building a nest at the edge of a bramble thicket. It is made of lichen, moss and feathers and when completed will be the shape of an upright rugby ball, with a small round entrance near the top.
No sooner have leaves emerged than something starts eating them! These mines in Honeysuckle leaves are the work of (Chromatomyia aprilina) , a fly from the family Agromyzidae. They can be identified by the pale green puparium visible on the underside of the leaf.

All pictures by Heather Martin 12/03/2012

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Moths of early March

An Article by Heather Martin

On the 1st March with the local weather forecast promising us a mild, mainly cloudy night, Rodney and I took the moth trap to our wood to see what might be flying about. Jim joined us for the evening. Well, the moon and the stars shone brightly and the temperature rapidly plummeted so we didn't expect to record very much but were pleasantly surprised to achieve a total of 14 different species before 11:00pm, when the thought of home became too tempting!
The photos were all taken by torch or lamp light with varying degrees of success.

The Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasi) is commonly found throughout Britain in woodland, March - May.
The Small Quaker (Orthosia cruda) is especially common in wooded areas across southern Britain, February - May.
This Twin-spotted Quaker (Orthosia munda) has a pair of dark spots on its wing which makes it easy to identify but they can be much paler or missing altogether, March - April.
Orange antennae give the Yellow Horned moth (Achlya flavicornis) both its English and scientific names. March - April.
March Moths (Alsophila aescularia) were by far the most numerous species to be found in and around the trap. They were all males because the females are completely wingless. Rodney and Jim searched the surrounding tree trunks for females but failed to find any. February - April.

The male Small Brindled Beauty (Apocheima hispidaria) has a very hairy thorax. The female of this species is also wingless. February - March.
And finally, two moths with rather more pattern on their wings - Spring Usher (Agriopis leucophaearia) (February - March);
and the strikingly marked Oak Beauty (Biston strataria) which is common in woodland in March and April.

For more on moths in Sussex please visit the Sussex Moth Group Website for lots more information.

All Pictures by Heather Martin, 04/03/2012