It was a blustery day but the woods offered me protection from the swirling winds as I entered through the gate. The sense of peace and calm was immediate, although the noise of the gusts hitting the canopy quickly reminded me of the conditions outside. The sheltered corners enabled a few speckled wood butterflies to be on the wing, although it seemed that they did not want to travel too far lest they were transported to distant lands!
The woods now have a late summer feeling with leaf green being the predominant colour. The lighter vibrant greens associated with new growth are less obvious although they were clearly represented by the delicate coverings of the developing hazelnuts. Usually the squirrels get to these first by skipping through the branches above our heads but this time the wind had harvested the seeds early with many carpeting the woodland floor. I am pretty sure that the squirrels will not go hungry- there are plenty of other edible delights developing, including cascades of blackberries and large tresses of guelder rose berries high above the paths. These currently have a pinkish hue but will turn a deep red soon which makes them look very attractive, competing with holly berries to adorn our Christmas cards.
Beneath them, lining the grassy rides are a multitude of wildflowers of all colours. The complicated purple flower heads of the knapweed and thistles provide 5 star a la carte dining to the hoverflies and skippers. Their colours are complemented by the bright yellows of the st johns wort, vetchlings and buttercups. The yellow loosestrife flowers are particularly bright and cheerful- being at eye height makes them easier for me to admire their delicate petals. Of course they are too tall for my dog but she is content to look for and then paddle in those deep puddles left after the rain!
We had planned to drive to another local patch but it was such a beautiful morning we decided to do our bit for the environment and have a potter around the woods almost on our doorstep, thereby reducing our contribution to air pollutants. We were not disappointed with our decision, the sun was warm and there was no significant wind so butterflies were on the wing. Perhaps the most numerous were the ringlets- which I think is a pretty name for one of our less colourful varieties. It conjures up images of Jane Austin going to a ball in a demure yet stunning gown with her hair tied up in curls. At first sight our ringlets seem plain but, like most things, look more closely and admire the delicate white trim which edges the wing. On the underside we noted the prominent “eye spots”. The pattern of these is distinctive with a “missing” ring where number 4 should be so we have a line of three with a gap followed by another two. They are all like this- I really do not know why but it adds to life’s mysteries. We spotted several other species including commas, skippers and admirals. The orange of the commas was particularly vibrant glowing in the summer sun, yet another glory to enjoy.
We heard several families of tits moving through the canopy as the young keep in contact with the adults. There was also a family of nuthatches chatting to each other as they searched for their lunch, the fledglings seeming to have a similar though less strong call as the parents. We stopped to look at the wayside wildflowers but were distracted by the forceful presence of a large dragonfly. It appeared to be really big and powerful as it patrolled its patch and yet it virtually disappeared on landing, almost melting into the background with superb camouflage. I am not an expert but I wonder if it was a Brown Hawker as it was indeed brown! Like all dragonflies it has six legs but does not walk!
Satisfied again with sampling some of the remarkable wildlife in our local woods we set off to return home- somewhat to the disappointment of my dog who seemed to say that there were even more exciting things to find further along the path where she had spotted some of her friends!
Around 40 adults and children joined entomologist Dr Keith Porter for this popular event run by the Friends of Bourne Wood.
The weather was mostly warm but cloudy but nonetheless a wide range of insects and spiders were found by the group using various collecting equipment including nets.
One of the more exciting observations was that of a purple emperor butterfly flying around the top of an oak tree, although not everyone in the group spotted it! This large colourful butterfly appears to have only colonised Bourne Wood in the last few years and the caterpillars feed on goat willow or sallow. Other butterflies seen included large numbers of ringlet butterflies plus large skipper, gatekeeper, comma, meadow brown, silver-washed fritillary and a few people had a brief glimpse of a white admiral.
Of other insects, numerous common soldier beetles were in evidence – these orangy-red beetles feed on nectar, pollen and aphids and were particularly numerous on the flowers of hogweed. A range of different species of true bugs were also found, including the woundwort shield bug, the larvae of which feed on hedge woundwort and white dead nettle. The colourful 7-spot and 24 spot ladybird were also discovered.
A number of different species of spiders were collected but Keith explained that he wasn’t an expert and that there are numerous species in Britain (around 650 species) and identification is a very specialist job!
Some very long-legged spider-like creatures with a rounded compact bodies were collected in the nets. Although resembling spiders they were in fact harvestmen – a group distantly related to spiders that feed on insects but unlike spiders, do not spin webs.
Thanks are due to Keith for an interesting and informative afternoon.
Photographs Pauline Knox, Richard Jefferson, and Sarah Roberts
The weather forecasters predicted rain so we set off promptly, wondering what treasures the woods would reveal. The first was a fresh Speckled Wood butterfly, basking on a bramble leaf in the hazy sunshine. We thought that it was likely to be a second brood as the earlier specimens are now looking past their best. Another Speckled Wood passed by so our insect rose to meet it, dancing together in the glade. It may have been a female leading to a courting ritual but it was more likely to be a male as there appeared to be a battle of supremacy their flight paths twisting around each other like a Celtic pattern. More erratic than the red arrows but with masterful aerodynamic skills there were no apparent collisions! We are lucky to be able to enjoy the beauty of these butterflies. Other areas report a decline of their numbers but they still appear to be plentiful locally.
The spectacle of colour created from the swathes of bluebells has merged into a brilliant green carpet, interspersed by the bright yellows of the yellow archangel and delicate whites from the falling blossoms of the attractively named “Queen Anne’s Lace” plants.
When the children were small the arrival of visitors caused great excitement, even more so when they brought playmates and presents. The arrival of our summer migrant birds is accompanied by no such noise- they just seem to appear.
This was a new date and place for our normal Easter Trail – in our Community Orchard. This meant that those who had never visited the orchard got a chance to enjoy it and hopefully return at weekends when it is open.
We had quite a large crowd for our litter pick – around six McDonalds employees, and 16 members of the Friends of Bourne Woods or members of the public, plus children and dogs! The weather was much improved from earlier in the week with plenty of sunshine. March is a really good month to do a deep clean in the wood as the undergrowth has died back leaving litter which was previously hidden, suddenly visible.
I like Bluebells! Indeed, I should think that nearly everybody likes Bluebells! Of course, not to eat (this domain is reserved for the deer, badgers and squirrels of the wood) but to view – we can feast on the visual beauty of those spectacular blue swathes which epitomise a British deciduous woodland.