On a Wyre Forest Study Group walk along Dowles this week there were many signs of spring in spite of the cold temperatures. Wild Arum and Bluebell leaves were pushing up through the leaf litter, a few brave birds were singing and hazel catkins hung decorously from their twigs in glorious yellow.
Mick Farmer spotted this Painted Lady in his garden in Bewdley recently, one of the first to be seen locally. It has flown north from its emergence site, probably in North Africa. This cosmopolitan migrant can arrive any time in spring or summer prior to breeding here later in the summer. Eggs are generally laid on thistles and the adults that result in this country show some southerly migration in the autumn.
On sunny days in May Pearl-bordered Fritillaries may be seen flying in Wyre. They are often difficult to track as they fly so quickly like golden jewels above the ground vegetation, but Roger Plant was able to get this beautiful photo of a female when the sun went in and it had stopped for a rest.
The Bluebells were delightful in parts of Wyre this year. Many were in flower in the middle of April and they lasted right through May giving us some beautiful woodland scenes.
This Bullhead (also known as Miller’s Thumb) was found underneath a stone in Park Brook. Closer inspection revealed its eggs attached to the stone. Apparently, in the spring the male makes a shallow hollow in the stream bed in which several females lay eggs. Then he guards the eggs until they hatch after about a month. He was certainly very amenable to having his photograph to be taken under water before we gently replaced his stone.
We are seeing Dotted Bee-flies around in Worcestershire this spring, with several records from the Wyre Forest area, and wonder if this is undergoing a range expansion. To distinguish this species from the more frequently recorded Dark-edged Bee-fly Bombylius major, wait until the fly has settled and look carefully for dots on the wings. The black hairs at the end of the abdomen are conspicuous even in flight. I have found this fly less easy to approach for photography than the obliging Dark-edged Bee-fly.
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.