It’s all starting to feel a bit autumnal here this week! Wind and rain and lots of dead leaves blowing around the car park. Berries are also everywhere! Rowan, hawthorn, bramble, guelder rose – they’re all laden! I was told by someone when I was small that a bumper berry crop is a sign of nature preparing for a hard winter ahead. I don’t know how true that is.. Of course, there could just be a good crop because we’ve had an amazing summer!
We have quite a few guelder rose bushes growing in the car park. It is a favourite food plant of the privet hawkmoth caterpillar – a really impressive beastie! I have been scanning the bushes throughout the summer hoping to find one but with no luck, until Monday (hurray!) when a very nice couple showed me one they had found crossing the road up near the farm. Our largest resident hawkmoth, it overwinters underground as a chrysalis, and emerges as a moth the following summer. The adult hatches with no mouthparts – its sole purpose is to find a mate and produce the next generation!
Privet Hawkmoth caterpillar, taken by me
There is a large oak tree growing over the Visitor Hut, and as the wind has picked up, this has kept us under a constant shower of acorns, twigs and dead leaves. There have also been a few more unusual looking bits dropping down - oak galls. These are caused by gall wasps which lay their eggs in the oak tree.
Knopper gall, taken by me
The Knopper gall egg is laid in the growing acorn which then distorts, protecting the grubs growing within. The more complex the shape, the more grubs there are developing inside. First found in the UK in the 1960’s, this is now one of the most common of all the oak galls.
Spangle gall, taken by me
Spangle galls are yellow to begin with and eventually turn red. They are attached to the leaf by a little stalk; when the gall matures it will drop from the leaf and overwinter in the leaf litter. In spring an all female generation appears, already fertilised. These lay eggs in the oak buds, producing ‘currant galls’ on the leaves and catkins. Male and female gall wasps emerge from these, mate, and lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves in summer. These then develop into spangle galls, and the process begins all over!
Kingfishers have started to appear outside Shipstal hide, and the flock of spoonbill has increased to 10! Redstart, wheatear and whinchat have been seen on Coombe heath, together with large flocks of meadow pipit passing over. Wasp and raft spiders are still around in good numbers, particularly on and around Coombe pond. Look out for the egg sacs of the wasp spiders – these will be fairly close to the spiders on their webs and can reach impressive sizes! This one was almost 3cm across
Wasp spider egg sac, by Michael Wilson
Sightings from the raptor weekend on 7th-8th September were brilliant, with osprey, buzzard, hobby, marsh harrier, kestrel, sparrowhawk, merlin and peregrine all spotted!
If you’re caught by the abundance of wild food available at the moment, why not come along to our Wild Food Foray on Sunday 29th September (booking essential). For more details please see: http://www.rspb.org.uk/events/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-323956
It won’t be long before the sika deer begin their rut – no sign of it as yet! We’ll be having special viewpoints out at the reserve 10-4 every Sunday in October with volunteers on hand to keep you up to date with what’s going on and answer any questions. Turn up anytime throughout the day. For more information see: http://www.rspb.org.uk/events/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-353487
Great blog post Laura with some good photos.
Great info. thanks Laura :-)
It has been an extraordinarily good year for galls hasn't it - fascinating things. I think the 'silk button spangle gall' has to be my favourite.