Thursday, 30 August 2012

Autumn approaching

An Article by Heather Martin

It's beginning to look and feel rather autumnal in the wood. Yellowed birch and poplar leaves are already fluttering down and the Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) berries are quite colourful.

Dragonflies hunting for prey perform aerial acrobatics around the clearings, also darting and swooping along the rides. When they perch to rest on the tips of branches, there's a chance to marvel at their beautifully patterned bodies and huge compound eyes. I managed to photograph a male Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) which can be identified by its orange-red abdomen and the two large yellow patches divided by a darker reddish-brown panel on the side of its thorax.

Also a male Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta).

Common spangle galls housing the asexual generation of the gall wasp Neuroterus quercusbaccarum are scattered liberally on the undersides of oak leaves. They will fall down into the leaf litter where they will spend the winter months, then in spring adult gall wasps emerge to lay eggs in the oak buds. These develop into green currant galls from which adults emerge in the summer, mate, the females laying eggs on the underside of leaves to start the whole cycle again.

There are nowhere near as many insects about now as there were a few weeks ago and this pale, delicate looking Oak Bush-cricket (Meconema thalassinum) was so well camouflaged on a leaf I almost missed noticing it!

Hunting for small insects amongst the foliage was a Spiked Shieldbug (Picromerus bidens) and it is possible to see the adults until November. The species usually overwinters as eggs.

This very hairy little Pale Tussock moth (Calliteara pudibunda) caterpillar was crawling across a chestnut leaf. The larva will grow slowly until October, then pupate to emerge as an adult next May.

Finally on perhaps a rather unsavoury but interesting note is a photo of a strikingly coloured Burying beetle - (Nicrophorus vespilloides) with mites attached to it. It appears that these may not actually be harming the beetle but merely hitching a lift. The beetle needs to lay its eggs in the corpse of a creature that it buries. The mites need to feed on the eggs and larvae of flies that might have found the prize first so the beetle provides transport and the mites consume the competition for the food source. Win, win situation!

All photos by Heather Martin (30/08/2012)

Monday, 20 August 2012


Well we could not have wished for a better day.

Compare and contrast with May 6th; (Butterflies, Boars & Beckley Woods) from frostbite to heatstroke, the sublime to the ridiculous.

I knew we were going to have a good day when as I set up the direction signs in the car parking area I saw a Peacock, a Silver-washed Fritillary and a Small Tortoiseshell before the event had even begun.
(Photo by Doug Neve, 18/08/2012)
Indeed the car parking area was a really good butterfly spot.
 (Photo by Heather Martin, 18/08/2012)

So Stuart Cooper led sixteen of us on a very enjoyable and informative butterfly walk around Beckley Wood.
(Photo by Heather Martin, 18/08/2012)

We also saw some Common Blue butterflies, quite a treat in Rother this year.

(Photo by Doug Neve, 18/08/2012)

The Brimstones are out and about too.

(Photo by Heather Martin, 18/08/2012)

And finally a Painted Lady, even less frequent than the Common Blue this year.

(Photo by Heather Martin, 18/08/2012)

So a big thank you to Stuart Cooper for leading the walk and the Forestry Commission for permission to park and access Beckley Wood.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Summer Butterfly Walk in Beckley Woods

Our next public walk will be in Beckley Woods on Saturday, 18th August meeting initially at 10:30am. See the (zoomable) map below for location details.

View Rother Guardians Summer Butterfly Walk in a larger map

The walk is intended to be a casual, guided wander around Beckley Woods looking for - and hopefully finding - some of our wonderful summer butterflies. We could see Silver-washed Fritillary, White Admiral, Peacock, Red Admiral and more. Plus, there are dragonflies galore! Much conservation work has been done in this Forestry Commission Wood, using funding from Butterfly Conservation, over the last few years and the results are beginning to pay off.

Children are very welcome - in fact, children are actively encouraged to attend. Dogs tend to frighten the butterflies (and sometimes other visitors), but are welcome as long as they are kept on leads. We look forward to meeting you.