It was planned to conduct a safari along the Greenway for our May ‘What’s About’. Following the weather events of April and early May, which had greatly suppressed our spring wildlife, one might have wondered if much would be found. But we needn’t have worried. Instead of a 2km, 1 ½ hour stroll, we only managed to get about 200m in 2 hours and were fully occupied with our discoveries.
Even at our gathering place in Strand Lane, some were lucky to observe a female Roe deer lying in long grass just a few yards away, most likely protecting a new fawn, else would have scampered off as soon as we were seen. A few moments later, a lady Fox wandered out a few yards in front of us and gave us a good looking over before nonchalantly wandering into the undergrowth.
By now the FSC Plant charts had already led us to Green Alkanet, Common Vetch, Cut-leaved Cranes-bill and Black Medic, but had us pondering over some Meadow Buttercups which had half-yellow, half-white petals. Teasel and Greater Lettuce plants were already reaching for the skies and both White and Red Dead-nettles were in great profusion, alongside Red Campion. And with great delight, we suddenly realised several of these plants playing host to the many sorts of insects we had all been waiting to appear this spring.
Both male and female Scorpion Flies put in an appearance; our first damselflies showed up – a pair of Banded Demoiselle being a most striking addition to our morning. Butterflies abounded, with Orange Tip and Peacock perhaps the most colourful among them. An interesting flying beetle was encouraged to land in one of our hands and transpired to be a magnificent Cardinal Beetle in its fine royal robe and black head. Green Drake Mayflies were numerous but their ephemeral nature was evidenced by several which seem to have died after laying their eggs in a large puddle. Unfortunately their off-spring will not develop for next season.
In the background numerous birds were uttering their amorous ditties: 3 Song Thrushes in particular were displaying their creative juices with repetitions of their favourite phrases to try and out do its nearby competitor. Wrens, Dunnocks, Blackbirds and Robins upheld the vocal abilities of the resident birds whilst travellers from Africa were represented by Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps. A keen-eyed member managed to pick out the lone Skylark on its high and lofty ‘perch’ up towards the clouds, its own poetic utterances clearly being created just for us!
More and more insects hove into view. Bees included Early Bumble Bee and Hairy-footed Flower Bee (and many that escaped identification) Hoverflies that permitted recognition included The Tiger Hoverfly and the Batman Hoverfly (the shape of the caped marvel being displayed at the back of its head!) A tiny, 3mm-long signal fly semaphored its presence to us by waving its dotted wings purposefully and good numbers of Common Cranefly could be seen, alongside its compatriot Tipula vernalis with its distinctive wing pattern.
Shield-shaped Dock Bugs were present and a distinctive Red-and-Black froghopper sat still long enough to be photographed. Among the numerous spiders, the Nursery Web Wolf Spider (Psaura mirabilis) was the biggest, several of them sitting motionless on leaf-tops, their front two pairs of legs held together to maximise the leap forward when prey appeared. At the other end of the scale was the minute 2mm-long Cream-backed Comb-footed Spider was noted.
Many other creatures were photographed by Roger Havercroft and will be identified from his images our Facebook Page. By the time the next What’s About occurs, who knows how many more plants and creatures will await discovery.