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Butterfly Walk - Maidenhead Thicket, 22nd July

…. well, it was supposed to be, but the weather pretty much put paid to that. But were we downbeat? Not at all, as 15 hopefuls joined our hunt in Maidenhead Thicket this Saturday, the promised rain duly catching us up halfway through. But we instead found ourselves immersed in the miniature world of numerous mini-beasts, netted and potted for identification throughout the walk.

The younger eyes among us found many-a bug and creepy crawly, ranging from millipedes (which didn’t stay still long enough for us to count their legs) to day-flying moths such as Willow Beauty (which actually looks a little drab to be honest), to the Dunbar (which has a light brown band across it, hence the name), the continental Silver Y (yup, has a silver letter Y on its side), and the eponymous Spindle Ermine which was in good numbers and happy to land on just about anybody! Many a Spindle bush had been transformed to a silken tent as the thousands of this moth’s caterpillars consumed every leaf a few weeks back.

Roger, Jonathan, Hristo and John were deafening everyone with camera shutters as anything that moved quickly found itself in a digital sub-world, ready to emblazon our record of the event. (thanks guys). Shieldbugs were represented by Forest and Green species, both in their final adult form and in their totally different ‘instar (or juvenile) phases. ‘Mirid’ Plant Bugs of various types were duly netted, including the lanky green Megaloceroea recticornis ‘grass bug’ looking for some pitiful lesser critter to suck the juices out of!

Ladybirds were, for a change, mainly of the native 7-Spot variety, tho the larvae of the predatory invasive, Harlequin Ladybird was captured in the net. A dainty (3mm) Picture-winged Fly (possibly Herina lugubris) ran the gauntlet around the rim of the net, showing its spotted wings with which it flashes semaphore messages to its colleagues, in a language yet to be discerned.

Andrew spotted an ivory-coloured Crab Spider (hardly a brilliant camouflage in the majority purples and greens around us) munching on an unsuspecting bee! We found another spider species hiding in a tent! This was the Nursery Web Spider which creates a purse of webbing halfway up a plant in which to lay and tend her eggs. Being one of the Wolf Spiders, her hunting is wolf-like, chasing across the ground or foliage, rather than depending on a capture web. But we also found the funnelled web of the Funnel-web spider, which will have been waiting at the entrance to dash out across its circus-netting in the event of dinner turning up.

So, we did not see that many butterfly species (Green-veined White, Ringlet, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown and Silver-washed Fritillary, plus Red Admiral in the café whilst having scones!), but we were royally entertained around the entire route with a host of other woodland creatures. We are most grateful to our hosts at Stubbings for allowing the use of their carpark for this interesting sortie into woodland wildlife. Do join us again for the next one!

Andrew Padmore and Brian Clews

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