Another very hot day, Rob and the Farlington volunteers were working over at Southmoor removing ragwort and spear thistle, I had intended to be with them but got called away to try to find the cattle at Swanwick which had been reported missing. in fact they were there, just being lethargic and hiding in the best shade they could find, as I said in yesterday’s post counting, or indeed even finding, cattle can be harder than you might imagine!
I did make it over to Southmoor for a couple of hours and progress son removing the ragwort was very good and the main field is now more or less free of it. The change in this field since the Wildlife Trust took on the management is extraordinary, it started as a long grass field with a dense thatch of dead grass and huge areas of dense creeping thistle and stands of ragwort. It now looks like a grazed permanent grassland, still with along way to go, but on the way to being a real asset as a bit of shore side grassland habitat. The grass was alive with butterflies again, in fact it got so hot that many of them left the grass to rest in the shade of the hedges, I found this marbled white doing just that on the path along the northern side of the reserve.
I had to go over to Farlington to check on the cattle and do the butterfly transects. It was very pleasing to find 4 small tortoiseshell on the transects, they have been almost rare for several years, a remarkable change from their status as one of the most familiar of all butterflies in my youth. I also saw a good few small skipper and my first Essex skipper of the year. The biggest change over the last week has been the large-scale emergence of gatekeeper, in fact I probably missed quiet a lot of them as many were hiding from the heat on the shady side of bushes, one traveller’s joy covered bush had at least eight perched on it, all with wings closed.
On the north-east wall I found a stem of cuckoo pint full of berries, they will turn red as they ripen.
I am pleased to say I also found all the cattle, although those on Main Marsh did need the use of the telescope.
I will end with a few pictures from Hookheath yesterday that I was unable to post. This pair of small skipper had been on along chasing flight before landing and sitting still as though trying to decide if their relationship was going anywhere.
The answer, by the way, seemed to be nowhere as the female flew off strongly leaving the male alone. As well as the butterflies here were a good few six-spot burnet moth on the wing.
One of the reasons it is such a good place for insects in the large amount of flowers everywhere. There are large stands of hogweed, knapweed, bird’s foot trefoil and lots of others including some spikes of betony.