A group of six made up the party: John, Jolyon, Brian, Graham, Kevin and I. The weather was kind to us and things looked promising. Our first target was the acid grassland to the east of the reserve. Studded with hawthorn and gorse, it is a scarce habitat in our county. Foolishly I was wearing a short-sleeved shirt and I was soon being attacked by horseflies (Haematopota species). All I examined were female Haematopota pluvialis, the females of which need a blood meal prior to egg-laying. Naturally they want to give their offspring the best possible start in life and, as I have blood of particularly high quality, I was a prime target. Fortunately I can take the pain.
John drew my attention to a smart Marbled White, Melanargia galathea, nectaring on thistles. It isn't a rare insect but in some years it can be rather scarce, so I was pleased see it.
|Rutpela maculata at High Wood and Meadow.|
6 July, 2014
Not far away, on hogweed, was a longhorn beetle, Rutpela maculata. The patterning on the elytra (wing-cases) is rather variable but there is no mistaking this striking - and fairly common - insect. (In older books this is Strangalia maculata.)
|Gorse Shieldbug, Piezodura lituratus.|
High Wood and Meadow. 6 July, 2014
I made for the gorse bushes as I was hoping to record the Gorse Shieldbug, Piezodora lituratus, but had almost given up hope - having beaten several bushes - before a specimen dropped into my net. It is not uncommon and I had previously recorded it elsewhere, such as Bradlaugh Fields in Northampton.
I yearned for some sheep droppings. A flock is kept there to keep down some of the vegetation but either they had not grazed in the area I visited or they were severely constipated. There were to be no dung beetles on the day's list.
|Common Spotted-orchid at High Wood and Meadow Reserve. 6 July, 2014|
There was compensation on the form of a very neat specimen of the Common Spotted Orchid. Dactylorhiza fuchsii. It is as well that the sheep were grazing elsewhere or this would soon have gone. Fortunately all orchids are perennial so the plant would have survived to flower next year. The three-lobed lip is typical but the markings are a little reminiscent of the Southern Marsh Orchid, Dactylorhiza praetermissa. But it is without doubt D. fuchsii.
So, to the woodland...
|The blister-like mines of Phyllonorycter coryli|
at High Wood, near Preston Capes. 6 July, 2014
The understorey consists largely of hazel and I was not surprised to see that some of the leaves had been mined by the Nut Leaf Blister Moth. It is one of those tiny moths, known as micro-moths, with a disproportionately long name - Phyllonorycter coryli. This is very widespread and most hazel shrubs, including even those in my back garden, harbour some.
A very handsome scorpion fly sunned itself on a leaf. I had time for a photograph but it then took to the wing before I could net it. I was slightly relieved as it was a female and, although not difficult, they are a little tricky compared to a male. I am 99% certain that it is Panorpa communis but have not included it in the list of the day's finds.
Here and there, in the ground-flora, grew Yellow Pimpernel, Lysimachia nemorum. This charming plant is thinly scattered in Northamptonshire, being known from just 33 of the vice-county's 133 five kilometre squares, generally in damp woods.
|The mine of Amauromyza flavifrons on Red Campion|
High Wood, nr Preston Capes, Northants 6 June, 2014
Another member of the ground-flora, but demanding sunnier spots, was Red Campion, Silene dioica. Some of the leaves were being mined by a fly, Amauromyza flavifrons. This is a widespread fly and will attack not just this plant but several of its relatives including White Campion and Ragged-Robin.
Although the group had gathered specifically to study the diptera (two-winged flies) of the site I concentrated on other groups of insects. The other five members are very competent dipterists and had little need of input from me. Instead I recorded 10 true bugs, 1 micro-moth, 7 beetles, 1 harvestman and 1 spider - plus a handful of diptera.
The walk back to my car took me past a field of oilseed rape and, glancing down at the leaves, I noticed an interesting blotch.
|The blotch-mine of Scaptomyza flava|
near High Wood, Preston Capes,Northants.
6 June, 2014
It turned out to be a mine formed by the larva of Scaptomyza flava, a two-winged fly belonging to the Drosophilidae family. There are relatively few records of this insect nationally. I suspect it is not rare but either it is overlooked or records are not submitted.