Wild @ Rivers - August 2014

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Diary Entry by Charmaine Cooper


Wild Teasel

This month the birds have been quiet and hiding as they recover from the intensity of breeding and lose their old worn out feathers. As they build up their reserves and develop new feathers they are vulnerable to predators and seek shelter in dense bushes and shrubbery. After a few years absence the Wild Teasel has returned to the Nursery scrub. The reddish-pink flowers on the spiny oval heads tower above the other vegetation and attract the attention of several wild bees. As the flowers wither the prickly head remains throughout the winter and Goldfinches will actively seek out the seeds retained in the spiky head. Beneath the Wild Teasel are the straggly stems of the Wild Basil with its tiny pink flowers that group together in dense whorls. The Wild Basil is a member of the Mint family, as is the Wild Marjoram that is still flowering in the scrub. Deeper into the scrub the purple flower heads of the Michaelmas daisy are blooming.


Speckled Wood Butterfly

Volunteers are busy working on the removal of the Common Ragwort from an area of the orchard’s meadow as it threatens to cover the meadow and exclude other wild flowers. The yellow daisy like flowers of the plant are attractive but its leaves are highly toxic to horses and cattle. The plant is a favourite food of the black and yellow striped caterpillar of the Cinnabar moth. As the volunteers work on in a back breaking task Dragonflies and Damselflies dart across the grass and a Brown Argus butterfly is admired as it settles briefly on the Ragwort, before flitting away. The pulled Ragwort is collected and removed and the volunteers leave the meadow satisfied that an area is cleared of Ragwort. The meadow becomes quiet and an opportunistic Kestrel hovers above seeking the small mammals and insects disturbed by the volunteers.


Large White Butterfly

Rain has returned to the orchard and the Jays screech amongst the apple trees as a Green Woodpecker flashes through the branches. Wood Pigeons and Collared Doves sit forlornly on the wires that cross the meadow as the rain cascades down.


Cricket

Butterflies return to the orchard after the rain. A Red Admiral butterfly darts across the open space between the apple trees, while a Small White butterfly chases a Speckled Wood butterfly along the hedgerow. Territorial disputes end and the Small White settles to feed on the purple flower head of the Scabious plant and the Speckled Wood basks on the weathered sign below the notice board, where it is joined by a large Cricket. The orchard is buzzing with insects again and Crickets and Grasshoppers are heard singing in amongst the tall grass and Knapweed.

August has passed quickly and the time has come for the grass to be cut. The sweet smell of freshly mown grass fills the air as swathes of grass and seeding wild flowers fall beneath the blades of the mower.


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