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Friday, June 18, 2010

Wed 16th June 2010 - Afton Nature Reserve, Freshwater.

Our venue this week was Afton Nature Reserve in Freshwater, helping the rangers Nick and Richard with a variety of tasks. Again an excellent turnout on a beautiful warm and sunny day, it was a pleasure to be outside! The main task involved the use of wheelbarrows (as it generally does when the rangers are involved), and spreading five tons of limestone chippings in two separate areas to improve the access for users of the footpaths. Our next job was to cut back some areas which had overhanging trees and bushes; and finally cutting back the vegetation by one metre on the blind bend down Blackbridge Road, which is impeding visibility for road users, and clearing vegetation from the weir under the bridge to improve the water flow.

Carrie’s Nature Lesson

Lots of finds this week - the first is White Butterbur (genus Petasites) which are robust plants with thick creeping underground rhizomes and large rhubarb-like leaves during the growing season. Another name for many species of this genus is Sweet Coltsfoot. The short spikes of flowers are produced just before the leaves in spring, which are usually green, flesh coloured or dull white, depending on species. They are found in the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere, and prefer moist environments such as riverbanks, marshes and ditches.

Next was a heart and dart moth (Agrotis exclamationis), which is common in gardens and flies from late May to July. The brownish forewings each have a distinctive black dart-shaped marking and a rough heart-shaped one (see picture), giving the moth its name. The caterpillars appear from July to October, are smooth reddish brown with a fine dark-edged pale line down the back. Like many other moth larvae, they burrow into the ground to over winter in earthen cocoons then in spring they pupate before emerging as adults to complete their lifecycle.

Our last find was a Speckled Wood butterfly (Pararge aereria), which has brown wings with creamy-yellow spots and one black and white eyespot on the forewing and three on the hind. The undersides are patterned orange, yellow and brown. The species is common in woods, scrub and tall vegetation, and you can often see males perched in pools of sunlight or fluttering upwards in a band of sunshine. Females lay single white eggs and the caterpillars are bright green with faint, darker green and yellow stripes. Adults feed on aphid honeydew and are rarely seen on flowers, except early and late in the year when there are few aphids.

Many thanks to Carrie for the above. She has been on her hols for the last couple of weeks - so that is why there have been no blog pages.

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