I had promised to take Antony Wren around some local sites this morning on his sojourn out of deepest Suffolk and Richard Hanman’s report of Yellow Bird’s Nests at The Larches KWT reserve at Detling sent us off that way in the light but persistent rain.
We were shortly in almost the right spot but in the end Rich kindly popped down from Sheppey just to show us where to look for which we are both indebted.
There were two patches of this very odd plant under the Beech and Yew trees with their ghostly yellowy flower spikes pushing through the leaf litter like skeletal fingers in a bad zombie movie. Most were very small and the tallest, fully upright blooms were no more than six inches high. By choosing your spot carefully you could lie down and try your best to get some shots in the low light conditions.
|Yellow Bird’s Nest
|Yellow Bird’s Nest - (AW)
From here we headed around the woodland trails, trying to avoid the now very steady rain but there was plenty to look at with Broad-leaved Helleborines along the path edges in various states of flowering. Some were tightly shut and budded, others in full bloom and we even found one plant already going to seed with fat green pods. They were also incredibly robust with some specimens topping a metre in height. We saw two Wasps attending the flowers and both had pollinia adhered to their foreheads as a result.
|Broad-leaved Helleborine (AW)
|Wasp with Broad-leaved Helleborine pollinia
Amongst them we did find one odd specimen with far fewer, more evenly spaced flowers on the stem with much paler colouration with none of the burgundy tones. The lower broad leaves were also narrower and longer and the upper ones near the flowers longer and thinner.
|Broad-leaved Helleborine but an odd one
|Slightly different Broad-leaved Helleborine flower
Whilst sheltering from the rain Antony gave me a crash course (more of a crash and badly burn course...) in moth leaf mines. I was so wondrously out of my depth and the scientific names of the minute moth larvae that were creating wiggly leaf tunnels tripped off his tongue.
It is not a subject matter I have ever looked into but like any discipline it is simply a matter of time and application. Unsurprisingly most species are host plant specific. I was very impressed.
|Gracillaria syringella on Privet
|Phyllonorycter joannisi remains of pupal tent on Norway Maple
|Phyllonorycter lantanella on Wayfaring Tree
|Phyllonorycter quercifoliella on Oak
|Stigmella catharticella on Alder Buckthorn
|Stigmella tityrella on Beech
When the rain let up we wandered into a meadow strewn with swathes of gleaming pink Rosebay Willowherb, Marjoram, Wild Basil, Red Bartsia, Fleabane and Bedstraws. Unsurprisingly, despite the warm air, the butterflies were still staying out of sight but there was still plenty to see with Field and Meadow Grasshoppers, Dark Bush Crickets and Long-winged Coneheads hopping away as we walked through.
|Wild Basil and Red Bartsia
|Fleabane and Marjoram
|Dark Bush Cricket
|And the full pic of the female Long-winged Conehead with the huge antennae!
Several micro moths got Antony’s attention while I was able to pin down a little hoverfly as Melanostoma mellinum with a bit of luck and patience as well as finding a few other regular species.
|Aproaerema sp (AW)
|Pseudargyrotoza conwagana (AW)
|Endothenia gentianaena or marginana
|Six Spot Burnets
We followed the trail out of the meadow and up through the trees to the ridge line where another small glade had been enclosed with a dead brush hedge. Within it were the same flowers we had already seen but also a dominant number of tall plants with the Verbascum-like leaves and large numbers of as yet unopened Aster like yellow flowers with pinky undersides. Googling was required but quite correctly came up with Ploughman's-spikenard. Neither of us had ever heard of it let alone seen it before!
|Ploughman's-spikenard - Inula conyza
|Ploughman's-spikenard with Verbascum-like leaves
By following the damp yew ridge we popped out at a viewpoint looking back south west towards Mainstone but it was a dank and dreary skyline and that alone warrants a second visit soon.
We found our way back to the car via and interestingly steep chalk path, made all the more slippery by the rain, that failed to incapacitate two forty-somethings pretending that they were kids...
It was a short journey up the road to Strawberry Banks and the rain had even left off for the most part but it was still very grey. However all was not lost as we still managed to find Common and Chalk Hill Blues, four sluggish Andrena hattorfiana and amazingly two moth ticks for Mr Wren, both of which I had already seen this week with Pyrausta nigrata and Nemophora metallica (which I had been calling by its old name of N. scabiosella). There were also many Oncocera semirubella flicking trough the grass and they always seem to land with their heads facing down.
|Andrena hattorfiana (AW)
|Chalk Hill Blue (AW)
|Common Blue (AW)
|Common Blue (AW)
|Nemophora metallica (AW)
|Six Spot Burnet
Rather disturbingly some metal trackway has been laid through the meadow under the pylon line for forthcoming works I presume but their turning circle has flattened the biggest area of Field Scabious and undoubtedly butterfly eggs and larvae at the height of its glory as well as a host of other insects which is all the more worrying on what I believed was a protected nature reserve.
The rain was starting again so we skirted up alongside the wood passing my two (now weedy in comparison) Broad-leaved Helleborines and a little white flower that I saw on my other visits but never took a picture off revealed itself to be the delightfully named Squinancywort.
|Squinancywort - Asperula cynanchica
It was lunchtime and we both had places to be so it was back to mine for a cuppa and a quick garden tour where Antony could not resist finding some moth leaf mines before he headed back of to rejoin his family.
|Lyonetia clerkella on Crab Apple. I even saw the moth which was microscopic and white...