Clewers Lane Nature diary


September 2013

A natural history of the Hedgerows and Gardens in Clewers Lane, Waltham Chase.

Words and pictures by Gordon Larcombe

Late August and early September have been very warm and sunny and the green colours in the Lane are beginning to give way to the yellows and reds of early autumn. Bullace fruits and Hawthorn berries are beginning to ripen on the trees:


BULLACES, CLEWERS LANE


HAWTHORN FRUITS, CLEWERS LANE

These fruits will soon attract the attention of the many forms of wildlife which feed upon them.

Early in the mornings, the Nuthatches can be heard chirping away in staccato fashion and the Robins are beginning to sing again to mark out their territories for the year ahead; however, their song is fairly quiet and not yet at full volume.

The past month has, once again, been mainly about insects, with large numbers of common wasps and greenbottles covering anything sweet-tasting. However, this handsome little bug is less common and you may not have seen one before. It goes by the name of Corizus Hyoscami – it is about 10mm long and is quite harmless as it tends to eat the seeds from dead seed-heads:


CORIZUS HYOSCAMI, CLEWERS LANE

Another small bug is this one below, which is called Deraeocoris Ruber and has been photographed on the flower of a fleabane plant:


DERAEOCORIS RUBER, CLEWERS LANE

Many moths are on the wing, some are daytime fliers such as this Magpie Moth, which has a wingspan of about 40 mm. Its attractive colouring means that it is sometimes mistaken for a butterfly:


MAGPIE MOTH, CLEWERS LANE

The Yellow Shell Moth is a weak daytime flier that dodges along the hedgerow and usually parks out of sight on the underside of a leaf. It has a wingspan of about 30mm:


YELLOW SHELL MOTH, CLEWERS LANE

This White Plume Moth will come to lighted windows at night, provided it can escape the attentions of the many bats which emerge for their hunting at around 8pm at this time of year. The moth is not as scary as it looks as it only has a wingspan of about 20mm:


WHITE PLUME MOTH, CLEWERS LANE

Butterflies are still plentiful, including this Speckled Wood, which was warming itself up on a sunny wall in the early morning, prior to flying along the hedgerows in the Lane. Wingspan is about 45mm:


SPECKLED WOOD BUTTERFLY, CLEWERS LANE

This tiny Holly Blue female was spotted laying her eggs on the flower buds of an ivy creeper The Holly blue has two generations each year and it is an unusual insect because it lays its springtime eggs on the buds of holly plants, whereas it lays its late-summer batch of eggs on ivy buds. Therefore the two generations of caterpillars feed on entirely different food sources:


HOLLY BLUE BUTTERFLY LAYING EGGS ON IVY, CLEWERS LANE

Ivy is a very valuable plant for wildlife in general as it provides food and habitat for birds and insects during the depths of winter when there is little else about.

Grasshoppers and Crickets can still be seen (and sometimes heard). The most common are the Common Field Grasshopper and the Speckled Bush Cricket. The colour of the grasshopper can vary from brown to green, and this can be confusing; however it is easy to distinguish the two species because the Cricket has much longer antennae and legs. Furthermore, the grasshopper frequently uses its wings when it jumps. These snaps illustrate the differences quite well:


COMMON FIELD GRASSHOPPER, CLEWERS LANE


SPECKLED BUSH CRICKET FEMALE (WITH OVIPOSITOR AT REAR), CLEWERS LANE


SPECKLED BUSH CRICKET MALE, CLEWERS LANE

Most of the hedgerow flowers have gone to seed by now, but here and there the tiny red flowers of the ground-hugging Scarlet Pimpernel can be spotted ( they open only on fine days between 8am and 3pm):


SCARLET PIMPERNEL, CLEWERS LANE

The much taller Sow Thistle is also still in flower:


SOW THISTLE, CLEWERS LANE

At this time of the year, you might spot a strange reddish growth on the wild roses. It is known as Robin’s Pincushion, and is actually a gall which is the nest chamber of the Gall Wasp – a tiny yellow and black wasp. Earlier in the year the gall is green and is often overlooked:



ROBIN’S PINCUSHION, CLEWERS LANE

Aneighbour reported sighting a Willow Warbler and it is possible that it is readying itself for its winter migration to the warmer climes of Africa and the Med. With the breeding season well behind them now, many species of small birds are fattening themselves up on the aging insects and ripe fruits in preparation for the forthcoming winter – either as residents who ‘tough it out’ or as migrants who undertake an arduous journey. Starlings are beginning to collect in groups as part of their communal strategy for survival, a sure sign that autumn is underway:


STARLINGS GATHERING, CLEWERS LANE

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