Community Wildlife Area – September 2020

View from The Wildlife Patch

Our second summer on the wildlife area has been interesting. The hedge plants that were put in in the autumn have survived the dry spring and summer and are growing well. The seeding of the meadow area was less successful as the winter was so mild there wasn’t enough cold weather to promote strong germination of the wild flowers. Hopefully another winter may help. The corn flower annuals did much better and made a colourful show as well as being a resource for the bees and butterflies.

The pond initially filled with life; newts, frogs various beetles and other aquatic insects soon moved in. However after the drought in April things seemed to go a bit flat. We had to constantly top up with tap water and maybe this didn’t suit the pond life. However recent heavy showers have brought the water level back up and it seems much livelier again. Interestingly I noticed a large tadpole swimming around in August, long after most have already turned into frogs and left the pond.

The pond has proved a great draw for dragonflies. At least four different species have been seen. In the early summer there were broad bodied chasers, the males of which are light blue. Then we saw four spot chasers, which are more sober coloured. Later on an emperor dragonfly turned up, and we were excited to see that this was a rare variety where the female is blue like the male instead of green. However she still has a green head and eyes. Now in late summer there are common darters there, a smaller species where the males are red. All these different species have laid eggs in the pond and it was fascinating to see the different methods of egg laying. The emperor perches on a plant stem and carefully places its eggs well below the water surface, whereas the chasers just place them onto weeds on the surface only briefly coming to rest. The darter just flicks its eggs onto the surface as it flies across above the water.

The larvae (nymphs) of the dragonflies will now be in the pond for a year or two before emerging as adults. During this time they will be fierce predators and will eat any of the other pond life, including no doubt each other!

We have clearly now got healthy colonies of several species of butterfly; the tortoiseshells are breeding on the nettles. The grass areas are being used by ringlets, meadow browns, skippers and gatekeepers, there are common blues on the medick and clover, and small coppers on sorrel and dock. This year however there have so far been no painted ladies despite our leaving some thistles for them.

Mark Newstead

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