Sunday 19 August 2012

August in Little Linford Wood

I can report that this weekend has been the hottest of the year so far in sleepy north Buckinghamshire. Would this mini heatwave have an effect on the wildlife seen on my monthly sojourn to Little Linford Wood?

Not half!

For August, the visit was spread over two days; a few hours on Saturday afternoon and a similar time on Sunday morning.

The most obvious habitat feature in the woodland rides was the amount of Common Knapweed, Centaurea nigra. This plant is an excellent source of nectar and pollen for a myriad of invertebrates, its bright pink/purple flowers, reminiscent of a thistle head, being a magnet for butterflies, bees and hover flies.

The butterflies were fairly queueing up...

Small White, Artogeia rapae
Brimstone, Gonepteryx rhamni
A battered-looking Silver-washed Fritillary, Argynnis paphia
As well as the above species, there were Small Skipper, Thymelicus sylvestris; Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta; Peacock, Inachis io; Speckled Wood, Pararge aegeria; Meadow Brown, Maniola jurtina and Comma, Polygonum c-album.

Our Lass spotted a very late White Admiral, Limenitis camilla, which was foraging for the few remaining Blackberry blossoms that hadn't already turned to fruit.

From the western side of the wood, it was possible to look across the river valley to the centre of town. The numerous roads and housing estates lost amongst the trees and through the foreshortening of the photograph.

Theatre on the left, cinema and ski slope on the right
In the car park, which is in effect a woodland glade, about two dozen Migrant Hawker dragonflies were feeding in a mesmerising aerobatic display. With very little birdsong audible, the only sound was the rustle of dragon wings as the hawkers pulled incredibly tight turns in pursuit of their prey.

Occasionally, a few of their number would roost for a while in the surrounding vegetation, but the  heat of the day meant that they were very flighty and difficult to approach.

Migrant Hawker, Aeshna mixta, female
As we left the wood, down a farm track, a flash of white ahead alerted us to a Wheatear. A different type of migrant, one that has begun its return passage to Africa to spend the Winter in warmer climes. This seemed somewhat odd on the day that the UK hit 30+ degrees C.


holdingmoments said...

I visited here a few days ago, with Trevor, for the first time. Amazed at how many dragons were around the car park area. A jewel of a place.

Imperfect and Tense said...

It's odd, as on the face of it, there aren't enough water bodies in the immediate vicinity to support the number seen. I have this fruit-loop theory that the prevailing south westerly wind blows them in from the river valley. They land in the sheltered woodland rides, which are teeming with other insects, and decide to stay.