Sunday, 27 September 2015

Kentle Wood - and the nights are drawing in

When I was given the go-ahead to do a survey of Kentle Wood I envisaged submitting an interim report in the late autumn/early winter. There could be a few weeks of recording left but I like to grab what fine days there are to crack on with it. At Byfield Pocket Park, a much smaller area, I have recorded 126 vascular plants and 547 invertebrates, so at Kentle Wood there is a long way to go.

Conditions were lovely when I set out although a heavy dew was making the grass sparkle in the bright sun. A Great Spotted Woodpecker, Dendrocopos major, drew my attention with the loud chip-chip of its alarm call and I soon picked it out high in an ash tree - too far away for a decent photograph. A little further on and a Green Woodpecker laughed at me as I sought to find in the thick foliage of the surrounding oaks.

Smooth Spangle Gall. Kentle Wood, Daventry.
26 September, 2016

The oaks, young though they are, continue to reveal galls. In addition to those noted in my previous blog, Neuroterus albipes was found on the underside of a leaf. Known as the Smooth Spangle Gall it is the responsibility of yet another cynipid wasp. The colours can vary considerably, but the one photographed is typical.

Andricus grossulariae on oak at Kentle Wood, Daventry.
26 September, 2015
Far more spectacular is the gall of Andricus grossulariae. It grows from an acorn to produce this cluster of blunt, radiating spines. I need hardly mention that it is the work of another species of cynipid wasp and there were at least a dozen on one oak. The NBN (National Biological Network) Gateway map shows only two records for this species, one in England and one in Wales, but it is in fact far more common than that.

Syrphus ribes at Kentle Wood, Daventry.
26 September, 2015

The sunshine was bringing out insects in droves, including this hoverfly. I got a little excited at first, noting a weak dark stripe on the rear leg, suggesting it was the rare Syrphus rectus. I then realised that I was looking at the tibia, not the femur; it was the very common Syrphus ribesii.
The same species on dandelion. Kentle Wood, Daventry.
26 September, 2015

For insects seeking nectar the choice has become very limited. This is, of course, where gardens are so valuable, extending the season by weeks. A little ivy was found at the north end of the wood, and will be shortly in flower, otherwise there are a few dandelions, as shown...

Goat's Beard at Kentle Wood, Daventry.
26 September, 2015

...and this neat Goat's Beard, Tragopogon pratensis. There was also a scattering of the untidy and sprawling Bristly Ox-tongue, Picris echioides, offering nectar but with very few visitors as far as I could see.

Of course, not all insects require nectar; some, such as dragonflies, are carnivorous. I was pleased - though not particularly surprised - when one darted past and obligingly perched on a clump of grass just in front of me. This lack of surprise was because, although Kentle Wood is at some distance from suitable water, dragonflies are powerful fliers and will make considerable journeys in seek of suitable breeding habitats. (Their nymphs are, of course aquatic.)

With surprising ease I gently netted the dragonfly and it sat compliantly while I photographed it. I was anxious for decent pictures because I planned to let it go and needed clear photographs for identification purposes - sadly I am a tyro when it comes to these beautiful creatures.

A dragonfly sits in my net. Kentle Wood, Daventry.
26 September, 2015

Five families of dragonfly are to be found in Britain, largely separated by tiny differences in the wing venation, but in this case study of the wings was unnecessary. 

A close-up helped to establish its identity as a Migrant Hawker.
Kentle Wood, Daventry. 26 September, 2015
The combination of a late summer flight period, the size, the hairy thorax and general coloration showed that it was a Migrant Hawker. This is a widespread species in our county so its presence in Kentle Wood should not have been a great surprise. But as I have said, it was pleasing nevertheless. Despite the name it does not migrate but is resident here.

And that was about it. At the far north of the reserve I found a young Horse Chestnut tree, perhaps the result of a casually discarded 'conker',  and a small, scruffy clump of Hedge Woundwort; both were new records for the wood. My walk to the Braunston Road had been 3.5 miles and I had the return journey to make - in very hot conditions; I turned on my heel and somewhat wearily retraced my steps.

Hedge Woundwort. Kentle Wood,
Daventry. 26 September 2015

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