Thursday, 19 September 2013

Roving Records - Land East of the Railway Line: 18/09/13

My usual route

I was massively frustrated recently after misplacing the battery charger for my camera, then upon finding it and charging it up, the lens had jammed! The camera on my phone doesn't quite pick up the same fine detail and I swear the stress of an infuriating touch screen has knocked years off my life.

This took many attempts - my old camera would have got this in much finer detail

Plenty of European Garden Spiders (Araneus diadematus) were hanging about today and I got great views of a male courting the female and then mating. Frustratingly, my video came out blurry so I'm not bothering to post it. 

Picture of male and female after the event. Meeeh. 

Ok, melodrama over! Today was blustery but warm with lots of insect activity, so I took the opportunity to do a day's general wildlife recording. Walking through Upper Picketts Wood and towards Goat Meadow, the Great Spotted Woodpeckers were 'check-check'-ing and a group of raucous Jays were arguing (or perhaps just discussing something important).

Female Cranefly (Tipula paludosa) - the pointy bit on the end is the 
harmless ovipositer, used for laying eggs

Upon entering Goat Meadow it was Cranefly-City, with my every step sending them up in droves. I must confess here these things are not my favourite (particularly at night in my room) and are the one thing which makes my hairs stand on end. They do however provide a bounty of food for birds and other animals.

Speckled-Wood Butterfly basking in a sunny patch

Plenty of Speckled-Wood Butterflies were about too, making the most of the blackberries and the remaining flowers of Common Fleabane. I must have left it too late in the day to check the reptile refugia as nary a Grass Snake was to be found. A couple I lifted had recently-shed Grass Snake skins under them, which I was especially chuffed to find as I am collecting specimens for a classroom display.

Fragments of a sloughed Grass Snake skin - sadly not very intact

Off to the woodland strip ponds. The newt pond water level is exceedingly low and the Fat Duckweed now covers it entirely. Luckily, the invasive Australian Swamp Stonecrop plant (Crassula helmsii) higher up on the banks is finally dying off after treatment with Glyphosate. I will be keeping a close eye on it. 

Pond 4 is our newt pond; all of that green is Fat Duckweed

I found this Buzzard feather on the banks - another good find for the classroom collection.

The air was cooling down and the clouds had gathered in. Reaching the excitingly-named Pond 3, I poked around the muddy edges and was annoyed to see more pesky Aussie Stonecrop has come up...
(Crassula helmsii)These fine fleshy leaves will eventually form a dense mat, 
swamping out all other vegetation

I was looking around at some nearby deer tracks when I almost stepped on this large and groggy Grass Snake! She was possibly hanging around the pond for some juicy amphibians, but looked rather cold and was moving slowly.
My steel-toe boot wouldn't have done her much good

Round yellow eyes, a yellow neck-collar and disjointed black markings 
show this to be a Grass Snake

She kept very still so I took this short video and then moved slowly off, leaving her to get on with her day.

Carrying on into Horleyland Wood and along the power line ride, I saw a lone Comma Butterfly fluttering around the trees. A bright blue male Southern Hawker Dragonfly was also on the prowl, chasing smaller flies over the bracken. 
Power Line Ride

I finally reached Horleyland Wood Pond which is normally a hive of activity for insects and birds. This afternoon the wind had picked up and all was quiet. 
Well, except of course for the odd low budget aircraft passing by.


And the winner of today's most annoying plant is... Agrimony! (Agrimonia eupatoria) Its bristled seeds use hairy mammals (such as myself), to disperse it about the place. I feel so cheap...