Thursday, 15 September 2016

Kentle Wood - mid September

It is the third in a succession of blisteringly hot days but lately I've been busy so, hot weather or not, I grabbed the chance to get out and stretch my legs - somewhere not too far.

So, Kentle Wood it was. Limited but convenient, and you never know...

Here and there an odd clump of hogweed, Heracleum sphondylium,  was in flower. Even on a dull day it will receive a few insect visitors but in these temperatures there was almost a queue forming, the commonest, by some distance being the hoverfly Syrphus ribesii, a very common wasp mimic.

The hoverfly Syrphus ribesii on hogweed. Kentle Wood,
Daventry. 15 September, 2016

Brambles are now heavy with fruit and as these 'berries' (each is really a cluster of drupelets) become over-ripe they too will be popular filling stations, especially for certain flesh flies. A fine comma butterfly, Polygonia c-album, was on bramble foliage, basking in the sun. Common they may be, but I am always pleased to see one.
Comma butterfly on bramble foliage, Kentle Wood, Daventry.
15 September, 2016

The comma-shaped mark is on the underside of the wing and a little further on I was able to find another specimen, this time on hazel foliage, showing not only this distinctive mark but the curiously ragged edges of the wing, giving the insect something of  a 'dead leaf' appearance.
Comma, showing the marking from which it gets its name.
Kentle Wood, Daventry, 15 September, 2016

I strolled on with the sun burning the back of my neck. In the planning of Kentle Wood the decision had been made to leave an area of grassland in a central position. A good idea, since flower-rich grassland is becoming an increasingly uncommon habitat but the planning has so far failed to deliver. A lack of management has allowed the area to become covered in rank grasses, primarily False Oat Grass, Arrenatherum elatius. This coarse grass is abundant all across Britain, with only the Scottish Grampians and a few similar mountainous areas free of it. It certainly does not need an area of potentially valuable land set aside for it.

A proper management scheme would involve several mowings, with the cut grass being taken away. This would remove much of the soil's fertility and coarse, aggressive plants would disappear. The area could then be seeded with a proper mix of meadowland flowers, plants able to survive in nutrient-poor conditions. Left as it is the land will gradually become invaded by shrubs such as hawthorn and the opportunity will have been lost.

I pushed on yet further, reaching the far end of the wood and beginning my return journey by a different route.

I idly lifted a couple of largish stones, finding nothing beyond a few woodlice and carefully replaced them, but then found a much bigger slab of ironstone. Would I be able to shift it? I did my Incredible Hulk bit and turned it over revealing a couple of specimens of Crested Newt, aka Warty Newt, Triturus cristatus, the largest of our three British newt species.  There is, as far as I am aware, no open water within a mile or so of the spot where I found them but they are known to travel overland for considerable distances.

Great Crested Newt at Kentle Wood, Daventry, Northants. 15 September, 2016

The crest at this stage is hardly spectacular. Once the creature has developed sufficiently to leave the water it will spend about four years on land and only return to its birthplace when sexually mature. It is only then that the crest develops. Until then it is represented only by a ridge along the back, clearly shown in the second specimen.

I was left with a problem. Should I risk rolling the stone back in place and risk crushing the newts? I decided to leave it, reasonably confident that they would creep under it later.

Nearby a couple of shieldbugs were on foliage. The Woundwort Bug, Eysarcoris venustissima, is only 5-6 millimetres long but is a smart little insect. Common, but always nice to find.
Woundwort Shieldbug, Kentle Wood, Daventry. 15 September, 2016

The second bug was considerably larger. This was  Palomena prasina.  It is one of our most commonly recorded shieldbugs, not just because it is widespread but, at up to about 14 millimetres, it is quite large. Strangely, records suggest that it was quite uncommon in Victorian times, so it appears to have greatly increased its abundance.

How it gets it name of Green Shieldbug I have no idea!

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