Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Summer unfolds in Kentle Wood

 Sumer is i-cumen in,
Lhude sing cuccu...

                                                                                           Anon. 13th century

Summer is a-coming in, but, if the cuckoo has sung loudly, I haven't heard it (nor do I recall hearing it last year either). However Kentle Wood was loud with the repetitive but pleasant song of willow warblers when I visited it on the eighth of June. The raucous screams of a pair of jays provided a stark contrast.

Cherries are a-ripening at kentle Wood, Daventry.
8 June, 2015

For many birds the next few weeks should be bountiful as the cherries are ripening and a heavy crop looks to be forthcoming.

Other shrubs and trees are coming into flower and their fruit will prolong the feast.

Dog Roses were in bloom at Kentle Wood.
8 June, 2015

Most obvious among the shrubs are roses. The Dog Rose, Rosa canina, (surely Rupert Brooke's 'English unofficial rose') is already being visited by many insects but as the flowers have no nectaries they are only there for the pollen.

To go slightly off topic, when I served with the R.A.F. in Gibraltar I was very fortunate to have unlimited access to the herbarium of A.H.Wolley-Dod. Anthony Wolley-Dod had been an army officer in Victorian times but, with the outbreak of World War One he volunteered, at the age of 51, to serve again in the army. With the rank of Lieutenant Colonel he was posted to Gibraltar and it was there he compiled the herbarium which I frequently consulted. 

Back in England he made an extensive study of the Dog Rose, recognising over 60 varieties and forms. I have to say that I have made no attempt ever to identify these forms - nor do I intend to. Whatever, they are all beautiful and, though they lack any significant scent, our countryside would be much poorer without them.

A bee (Bombus humilis?) visits bramble flowers at
Kentle Wood. 8 June, 2015

Also in the rose family are brambles. The photograph shows Rubus fruticosus, known to us all for its fruit - blackberries. As I have said before this species has been divided into a myriad of 'microspecies', with one author recognising 368 of these. It makes the Dog Rose appear quite a simple plant! Whatever the microspecies they are very attractive to bees and other insects.

Bumble bees were working the bramble blossom. I am a tyro when it comes to these creatures so I made no attempt to identify them. It would have meant capturing one with ultimate fatal consequences so I was content to watch it.

No one would call the flowers of  Buckthorn spectacular.
Kentle Wood, Daventry.  8 June, 2015
Photographed in bright sunlight and with the image enlarged, these flowers of Buckthorn, Rhamnus catharticus, look rather obvious but in fact they are only about 4 millimetres across and can easily be overlooked. Cathartic means cleansing and my old copy of Potter's Herbal suggests that a preparation of the berries is useful for 'cleansing the bowels'. One of its old names is Purging Buckthorn. Birds eat the fruits and their laxative effects presumably help with seed dispersal!

Oak Marble galls at an early stage.
Kentle Wood, Daventry.  8 June, 2015

'Fruits' were also present on oak trees, except that these currant-like structures are really galls. They are caused by the wasp Andricus kollari. They will swell and later harden to form the familiar Marble Galls seen on oaks across Britain.

The sawfly, Tenthredo mesomela, loafing on foliage.
Kentle Wood, Daventry, Northants   8 June, 2015

Related to wasps are the sawflies. These can be very tricky to identify and are I claim no expertise with this group. Some are, however, quite distinctive. This one is Tenthredo mesomela, a widespread species whose presence in Kentle Wood came as no surprise. Sawflies differ from wasps in having no obvious 'waist' and are generally regarded as being more primitive.

Xylota segnis is a striking hoverfly (when it spreads
its wings!)  Kentle Wood. 8 June, 2015

This insect may appear broadly similar to the sawfly but in fact it is quite unrelated. Sawflies bear four wings; this fly has only two and is therefore one of the diptera. To be more precise it is a hoverfly, the species being Xylota segnis. It would not alter its pose so the distinctive amber belt across the abdomen is not evident in this picture. 
Harlequin Ladybirds come in many forms.
Kentle Wood. 8 June, 2015

With 'sumer i-cumen in' insects abounded but I will allow space for only one more species. The picture appears to show two different ladybirds mating but in fact they are both Harlequin Ladybirds, Harmonia axyridis. This is a highly variable species and here the female is the variety conspicua whilst the male is variety succinea. 

New species are now making their appearance in rapid succession and I am going to have a busy couple of months ahead. It's a tough life!

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