Roger Plant captured this excellent photograph of a Common Lizard in Wyre recently. It has shed its skin and is trying to remove the last fragments from its head with its tongue. What a great shot! Lizards moult the thin transparent skin over their scales regularly throughout their life. They can live for 5 or 6 years and hibernate over winter. The males (which have orange/yellow undersides with spots) defend territories in the spring, mate in April and May, and between 3 and 11 black/brown babies are born in July.
This spell of warm weather has brought out many spring flowers in the Forest. Mick Farmer has provided this lovely photograph of Primroses.
In some sheltered places Common Hazel trees can now be seen in flower, showing that spring is just around the corner. The yellow pendulous male catkins are conspicuous and are often present in high numbers. The small delicate red female flowers have to be searched for as tiny red tassels protruding from buds, often on the same twigs as the make catkins. When the yellow pollen is blown onto the female flowers, fertilisation will occur, resulting in Hazel nuts in the autumn, so loved by squirrels, mice, and some birds.
This moth is one of 5 species of primitive Micropterix micromoths which are unusual in having chewing mouth parts with which they eat pollen. We don’t find Micropterix aureatella very often in Wyre, although it is probably overlooked at just 4mm long. This one was found feeding on hawthorn blossom, but we have also found them on Bilberry plants.
The much commoner Micropterix calthella is often seen feeding on the pollen of buttercups in May and June, sometimes several moths to one flower.
Mick Farmer has sent me his attractive photographs of a Brimstone moth (Opisthograptis luteolata) and a Brimstone butterfly (Gonepteryx rhamni) both of which were found in his Bewdley garden recently. The moth flies at night and there are 2 generations a year. The caterpillars feed on leaves of Blackthorn, hawthorns and a few other species, and they overwinter either as caterpillars or as pupae. The Brimstone moth caterpillars feed on Alder Buckthorn in the Wyre area so it is always worth planting one or two of these shrubs in your garden to attract this beautiful daytime flyer. The adults hibernate overwinter.
Wood Ants (Formica rufa) spend the winter months in a state of dormancy underground in their nests. Then, in the spring sunshine when the ground temperature is high enough, they can be seen massing together on top of the nest in large numbers as seen here. Their dark colour enables them to absorb the heat of the sun and when they return to the nest their radiated heat can warm the nest.
One of the most important nectaring plants for insects in the early spring is the willow (Salix spp). Male catkins and female catkins are on separate trees. Although only the males produce pollen, but types of catkins produce nectar which are eagerly sought by a range of insects, especially when the sun in shining! The catkins are just stating to open now in sheltered places.
Whilst on an early morning walk in Button Oak the shrill chatter of a family of Long-tailed Tits drew my attention to a gorse bush. It was soon apparent that there was a nest in the bush from which the youngsters were fledging one by one. I counted 6 flying into the surrounding trees, but managed to get a quick photograph of the last one as it left the nest.
This small inconspicuous plant grows along the quayside in Bewdley. It is only about 4cms tall and has 3 fingered leaf lobes from which it gets its latin name. It is an annual, flowering in April and May, and the white flowers have petals measuring only 2mm. The sticky leaves often have windblown seeds and hairs attached.
There are several places around the Wyre Forest where one might find small numbers of Wild Daffodils. These were seen recently along the northern edge of Eymore Wood where they spill out of the wood and into the adjoining field.