Wood Ants massing in the spring sunshine

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.

Wood Ants massing on their nest, 13 April 2016

Wood Ants massing on their nest, 13 April 2016

‘THE NATURE OF WYRE – a wildlife-rich forest in the heart of Britain’

We are very pleased that our Wyre Forest Study Group’s BOOK ‘THE NATURE OF WYRE – a wildlife-rich forest in the heart of Britain’ has just been published this week by PISCES PUBLICATIONS, and pre-publication offer orders delivered in time for Christmas! This hardback is A4 in size and has 312 pages beautifully designed and splendidly illustrated with almost 700 photographs. With 24 different authors and 4 on the editorial team, this has been a labour of love by a team of local naturalists. It is the first comprehensive guide to the natural history of the Wyre Forest, and celebrates a very special area rich in biodiversity. The books are currently for sale online from Nature Bureau, Pemberley Books,  and NHBS. The book launch will be announced soon!

Oak Bush-cricket Meconema thalassinum

Jon Cartwright has sent these photographs of a female Oak Bush-cricket that he found at night on the 17 October 2015. You can see in the second picture that she is ovipositing into a crack at the base of this oak tree. This is a late orthopteran species that doesn’t mature until late July or August and appears throughout the autumn. We are keeping ‘last date’ records, but haven’t seen any in Wyre after the end of October….yet!

Female Oak Bush-cricket, Fastings Coppice, 17 October 2015 ©Jon Cartwright

Female Oak Bush-cricket ovipositing at base of oak tree, Fastings Coppice, 17 October 2015, ©Jon Cartwright

Dog Stinkhorn Mutinus caninus

We were surprised to see this Dog Stinkhorn fungus in New Parks recently. Over 60 ‘eggs’ were counted – they were smaller than those of the more commonly found Stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus), and looked a little like the eggs of a Grass Snake. The slime at the top of the stem contains the spores which are dispersed by flies that are attracted to the fetid smell.

Dog Stinkhorn, Wyre Forest, 10 October 2015 ©Rosemary Winnall

Silver-washed Fritillary, Argynnis paphia

This large and beautiful butterfly is one of Wyre Forest’s treasures. It can be seen flying in the forest throughout July where it can be spotted feeding on bramble blossom or sipping honeydew up in the tree tops. The courtship flight, with the male looping around the female is a delight to watch. After mating the female lays her eggs on tree trunks above violet plants in shady woodland. After about a fortnight the tiny caterpillar emerges, eats its eggshell and then spins a small pad of silk on which it hibernates until the following spring when it descends to the ground to search for violets on which it feeds. Mick Farmer has sent in this lovely photograph of 2 pairing on bracken.

Silver-washed Fritillary pair, Coppice Gate, 18 July 2015 ©Mick Farmer

Lily of the Valley

The Lily of the Valley plants in the Wyre Forest are in flower this week and are beautiful to see. There are large clumps in various parts of the main forest, but most of these are south of the Dowles Brook. They are also present in Ribbesford Wood and Rock Coppice. They are well adapted to a coppice cycle and reproduce vegetatively when light conditions are poor. Then, when trees are cut and light reaches them, they flower and produce their bright red berries.

Lily of the Valley, Shelf Held, 25 May 2015 ©Rosemary Winnall