A natural history of the Hedgerows and Gardens in Clewers Lane, Waltham Chase.
Words and pictures by Gordon Larcombe
The hedgerow and trees have burst into leaf rather early this year and, as a consequence, it has not been easy to spot the bird life. Never mind, the early leaves and blossom have encouraged the bugs and insects to put in an early appearance and there are plenty of them around. This male Orange-tip butterfly was out in the sun, feeding on a Forget-Me-Not flower when I spotted it. The female of the species does not have the orange tips and, from above, looks like a small white butterfly.
MALE ORANGE TIP BUTTERFLY, CLEWERS LANE
There are many types of shield bug in the lane, most of which feed on vegetation. They pass through several stages of growth, called nymphs, before reaching the adult stages. Here are some that were out in the warmth of the May sunshine:
GORSE SHIELD BUG, CLEWERS LANE
HAIRY SHIELD BUG, CLEWERS LANE
The Hairy Shield Bug used to be known as the Sloe Bug.
MATING PAIR OF GREEN SHIELD BUGS, CLEWERS LANE
This mating pair will have over-wintered in leaf litter and are now producing eggs which will hatch into nymphs before becoming adults themselves.
SQUASH BUG, CLEWERS LANE
The Squash Bug has a diet comprising fruits and seeds and also overwinters in leaf litter. The nymphs are often found on dock plants.
Fourteen-Spot yellow ladybirds seem to be quite numerous this year and here is a pair doing their best to ensure that they remain numerous:
FOURTEEN SPOT LADYBIRD PAIR, CLEWERS LANE
Members of the wasp family have been out and about too. Here is a picture of a Hornet chewing on wood in order to pulp it for use as nest material:
HORNET, CLEWERS LANE
Hornet is a member of the wasp family; however it is much larger than the common wasp and appears to be brown and dark yellow rather than black and bright yellow. Thankfully, it is usually much less aggressive than the common wasp and rarely bothers humans unless attacked. Hornets build their nests in the hollows of decrepit old trees and have suffered a population decline across the country. However, they have been a regular presence in Clewers Lane for the past ten years at least, and this may be because their nest sites have been left undisturbed.
The Ichneumon wasp is another member of the wasp family that leaves humans alone. This is fortunate because it lays its eggs in other living insects such as grubs and spiders. The eggs then develop into new wasps by consuming the unfortunate host.
ICHNEUMON WASP, CLEWERS LANE
The wasp is about two centimetres long with a very narrow-waisted abdomen and long antenna.
Around this time of the year, the little Bee flies appear, especially on blossom rich plants. Although they look somewhat beelike in colour and texture, they are actually flies. They search for nectar with their permanently extended proboscis which is almost as long as the body. You can just make out the proboscis in this snapshot of a bee fly at rest.
Bee flies are parasitic nesters which inhabit the nests of solitary bees.
BEEFLY, CLEWERS LANE
Spiders can be scary when they are fully grown, but when they are very young, they are quite charming. Here is a nest of spiderlings just before it disperses. Each spiderling is a couple of millimetres across and will soon cast off into the wind on a single gossamer thread to start its own life from wherever the wind takes it.
SPIDERLINGS, CLEWERS LANE
This funny looking creature is a nettle weevil. Only about a centimetre from tip to toe, it feeds on nettles, especially the roots. So if you don’t like stingers, love a weevil!
NETTLE WEEVIL, CLEWERS LANE
The bullfinches have been feeding their young. Here is a picture of a male collecting seed, allowing us to see the patterns of greys, blacks and whites on his back.
MALE BULLFINCH, CLEWERS LANE
Unfortunately, one of the local hedgehogs was killed in the lane by road traffic. Magpies very soon found the corpse and began the process of recycling.
As one creature departs, others arrive and this picture is of a Mistle Thrush collecting nesting material for what is probably its second brood:
MISTLE THRUSH, CLEWERS LANE
The Mistle Thrush is much larger than the Song Thrush and is easy to distinguish from its smaller relative. It is also called the Stormcock as a consequence of its supposed habit of singing loudly from the trees after a storm has passed by.
And finally for this month, to a beautiful but fairly insignificant plant which started flowering in May – the Scarlet Pimpernel:
SCARLET PIMPERNEL, CLEWERS LANE
This small, ground-hugging plant is difficult to spot unless the sun is out. The flowers, which are about a centimetre across when open, close up when there is no sun and they also shut by about three pm in any weather. In Folklore it was thought that this habit was evidence of the plant’s ability to predict the weather and also to indicate time, so it became known as Poor Man’s Weatherglass or Shepherd’s Sundial.