Around 25 people, adults and children, joined entomologist Keith Porter and local botanist, Richard Jefferson for a hunt for mini beasts.
Before setting off, Keith demonstrated the use of insect nets, sweep nets and beating trays for collecting insects. We set off along the main north-south ride armed with this equipment and plenty of pots for collecting and identifying our catches.
Although butterfly numbers were down on last year’s walk, we still manged to see several species, including lots of ringlets, green-veined whites and a peacock. The silver-washed Fritillary was again evident but no individuals decided to settle on flowers so we were unable to see this gorgeous orange and brown butterfly close to.
We did though collect a wide range of other insects and spiders. These included lots of soldier beetles, which has the misleading name of ‘blood sucker’, various species of hover fly, an orange ladybird which has the unusual scientific name of Halzia 16-Guttata, an oak bush cricket, forest shield bug and a common blue damselfly.
With regard to flowers, we enjoyed the the drifts of meadowsweet along the ride and Richard pointed out the three species of thistle – creeping, spear and marsh – all of which are attractive to insects. The frothy creamy white flowers of meadowsweet have a sweet heavy scent and it was once used to flavour mead. We also spotted teasel coming into flower. This rather stately plant was very popular with bumble bees.
We also found corn mint in damp areas. The foliage has been described as smelling of a mixture of apples and ginger bread and, apparently, sprigs of this plant were once placed in corn stacks in Ireland to discourage mice!
The walk started well, as the leaders, Keith Porter and Richard Jefferson had been on a pre-amble and returned with a Purple Hairstreak – which although found in the wood is not something many of us had seen as they spend their lives right at the top of oak trees – so are difficult to spot!
We set off furnished with butterfly nets and sweep nets, which not only did the children enjoy – but the adults had great fun trying to catch butterflies and even more fun transferring them to the identification pots.
The star of the last years show returned this year – the Silver Washed Fritillary – a beautiful orange and brown butterfly, quite large and displaying perfectly for us to see. Someone then caught a White Letter Hairstreak, which is not particularly common, and the young feed on Elm. In addition we saw Brimstones (this year’s brood), Ringlets, Peacocks, Gatekeepers and Meadow Browns from the butterfly world – and then to top the afternoon off we caught a Brown Argus butterfly – recorded previously in the wood – but not seen before by those attending.
The bugs caught in the sweep nets included Shield Bugs, Lacewings, Soldier Beetles, 14 spot Ladybird, and a Bush Cricket, not to mention the large Spider!
With regard to flowers, we enjoyed the creeping Thistles which were full of butterflies, and this became obvious why when we smelt the flowers – just like honey! The Angelica flowers were full of Hoverflies as they are easy for insects to get nectar from due to their open flowers. We saw Ragwort – which although disliked by many is good for insects and home to the Cinnabar moth. There was also St John’s Wort – used as a medicinal plant, Meadowsweet and Spear Thistle.
Our thanks go Keith and Richard for a lovely afternoon, the weather was exceptionally good, and the walk was very much enjoyed by the 20 or so people attending.
Around twenty people joined local botanist, Richard Jefferson, on a pleasant evening for a short guided walk to look at spring flowers.
Before setting off, Richard explained why Bourne Wood is so rich in wildflowers. This is due to its large size, variety of habitats (woodland, grassy rides, ponds) and soils and its long continuity as a wood – it is ancient woodland!
We encountered a wide range of plants including many of the classic woodland species such as the iconic Bluebell, Primrose, Greater Stitchwort, Bugle, Yellow Archangel, Dog’s Mercury and Wood Anemone. The creamy white flowers of Wild Strawberry were found on the grassy ride margins along with Cuckoo flower. Its name derives from the fact that its flowering coincides with the Cuckoo arriving in Britain. Cuckoo flower is also the food plant of the caterpillars of the Orange Tip butterfly, often seen in the wood.
The highlight of the evening was the opportunity to look at the colony of the showy early Purple Orchid.