A brief lunchtime wander on the heathland proved to be delightful with many insects enjoying the warm weather and the bare sandy patches that have been created around the heath. After being bombarded with bits of pine cone by a squirrel who was munching happily at the top of one of the pines, I wandered down the heathland zig zags where every bare patch of sand was covered in small volcano-like mounds of sand. Our wasps and bees have certainly been active...I found green-eyed flower bees, and at least 2 species of digger wasps (Cerceris arenaria & Cerceris rybyensis) the former preys on weevils and the latter small mining bees. Investigating all of the burrows were stunning ruby-tailed wasps - the females lay their eggs in the burrows of digger wasps and mining bees and , when they hatch, they eat the larvae of the host wasp or bee. An Ammophila caterpillar hunting wasp was also on patrol. It's a dangerous world out there!
Down to black pond and I was treated to lovely views of several emerald damselflies - my first of the year.
Photo by Russ Tofts
Patrolling the pond itself were a couple of Emperor dragonflies, a four-spotted chaser, several common darters and a number of azure damselflies.
Back up to the woodland edge along the back of the car park and I switched my attention briefly to birds - families of goldcrest, treecreeper and nuthatch were all vocal and active and the pair of spotted flycatcher are also still present. Out into the car park to admire more miniature volcanoes and my first pantaloon bee of the year. The female of the species sports fabulous furry ginger pantaloons!
Pantaloon bee by Pete Hughes
A little later on I popped out onto the wetland trail to add some new plants to our raised pond in Fattengates courtyard - water crowsfoot is good for pollinators, hornwort and curly pondweed are all oxygenators. The Yellow Flag Iris and Branched bur-reed are emergent species and will be good for dragonflies to emerge and perch on. The water lily will be good for pollinators and create some cover.
As I was planting these out a Broad bodied chaser dragonfly perched on top of the willow bundle placed to aid their emergence...
The zig zags were busy with butterflies and I saw many meadow browns and a scattering of ringlets and large skippers. Also a comma, red admiral and painted lady. Also recently spotted on the butterfly front, albeit not by me, are purple hairstreak and marbled white.
Into the wildlife explorer meadow to see if any new species were in flower - the first Common Knapweed flower, glorious meadow cranesbill and a lovely patch of Lady's bedstraw. I was distracted by my wildflower hunt by a large beetle flying nearby. I managed to track it down as it paused on one of the bug-hunting logs - a Hornet Beetle Leptura aurulenta, quite an uncommon and localised species to the southern counties.
My final task was to check the Great Mullein plant near the play area which has steadily been decimated by a brood of Mullein Moth caterpillars. These wonderful creatures are now almost little-finger-sized!
I'll be putting on a moth trap tonight - can't wait to unpack it in the morning!
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