Friday, 17 August 2018

Woodland floor

Very windy today, and everywhere is still very dry. To avoid the gusty breeze which threatened to turn my sweep-net inside out I spent an hour or so in the woodland at Foxhill Farm, working my way through twiggy litter. Sadly the section visited contained little other than pine and sycamore, neither native here.
Almost 100% rather young sycamore trees. Below Newnham Windmill.
There were pines and oaks at the woodland edge. 15 August, 2018

I was surprised to find a rather dozy Hornet, Vespa crabro, in the litter and even more so when I found a second one a few metres away. What were they doing there? Apart from their size the amber projections at the rear of the thorax make them easily distinguished from 'true' wasps, which belong to the genus Vespula.

A hornet was concealed beneath twiggy leaf litter.
Foxhill Farm, Badby. 15 August, 2018

Also in this litter were Violet Ground Beetles, Carabus violaceus. Handsome they may be, but these carnivores, at about an inch long, are formidable predators, hunting slugs and insects at night.

To find the Violet Ground Beetle beneath litter is more understandable.
Foxhill Farm. 15 August, 2018
I secured a number of spiders but, with the exception of the rather odd-looking Harpactea hombergi, with its pale, tubular abdomen, there was nothing new to the site.

At the woodland edge the acorns on oak trees have been severely under attack by the cynipid wasp Andricus quercuscalicis, an insect, first recorded in Britain in the 1960's, which causes 'knopper' galls. Indeed, a quick survey failed to reveal any acorns not affected.

Knopper Galls are currently a problem for the oaks on Foxhill Farm.
15 August, 2018
The galls in many cases more or less enveloped the acorn. One or two Sessile Oaks occur in the area and their acorns are apparently rarely attacked; I must check this out.

Butterflies have apparently had rather a good year, but today the windy conditions meant that I saw very few. A Specked Wood briefly alighted on a hawthorn leaf but that was about it.

This Speckled Wood was on the lee side of a woodland patch.
Foxhill Farm, 15 August, 2018

Chris was at a birthday 'do' with her friend Julie Ferguson and I set off to pick her up, well content. All in all, it was a successful visit.

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