Wildlife diary in July 2017
4th July: How many butterflies this month?
July is always a very good month for butterflies and a walk around the main tracks today produced a list of eight different species - none of them very unusual and all quite easy to see without venturing off the main paths.
By far the most numerous were the dark brown, sometimes almost black, Ringlets. These were everywhere and seemed to be constantly on the move, very rarely alighting and allowing the ringlet of spots to be seen easily.
Next most populous were smaller, bright orange butterflies. These settled to bask rather more frequently, and when they perched they adopted the typical pose of skippers with their fore- and hind-wings held apart at different angles. Their wings were mottled orange and brown rather than a clear golden colour so that meant that they were Large Skippers.
But most impressively, every now and then a very large orange butterfly fluttered past. These were splendid Silver-washed Fritillaries which are just beginning to come into their flight season. As little as 5 years ago it was very rare to see these magnificent insects in Fineshade, but they have done really well in recent years. On some walks last year we saw more of these than any other species.
So how many different types of butterfly will be seen in Fineshade this month? Please can you help us create the list? If you go for a walk and record the species you see please can you let us know? - and we'd be very pleased indeed to publish your photos too. The butterfly recorder led a walk last year and found 18 species - that would be very hard to beat!
Also if you spend any time in the Wildlife Hide you could add the species you see to the growing list on the whiteboard. There are already some good ones there including the rather rare White Admiral.
For help with identifying and finding more about butterflies there's nowhere better than Butterfly Conservation's website.
You could enter all your Fineshade records in their 2017 Big Butterfly Count too. It starts on 14th July.
6th July: Food for free
Hidden away in Fineshade Wood there are wild Blackcurrant bushes - perhaps they became established when parts of the wood were farmed? It's always a rather difficult process to gather them because they are surrounded by nettles and brambles, but once they are safely home and cooked the intense flavour of the fruit makes all the effort and pain well worthwhile!
Meanwhile the other blacks, Blackberries, are swelling in profuse bunches everywhere in the wood. It will be at least another month before these ripen and are ready to pick but it certainly looks as if there will be a great crop this year! But for sheer intensity of flavour it's hard to beat the wild Blackcurrants,
10th July: Red Longhorn Beetle, again ... and again!
There has been another record of the rare Red Longhorn Beetle (Stictoleptura rubra). It was first found in Fineshade last August in Mill Wood and has turned up again this year in another part of the wood.
This is an introduced but naturalised species, the larvae developing in the wood of various conifers. The NBN gateway map here shows that the species is very scarcely seen in this part of the world though it occurs more frequently in East Anglia, with the bulk of its population within the Breckland. It has been spreading north and west in recent years and there have been one or two other reports in Northants.
It's a large beetle - nearly an inch long. This one is a female (entire body red) and was first noticed as it was flying clumsily through the grass at the picnic table alongside the track passing Dumb Bob Spinney.
7th August 2017
Another female turned up on the patio of one of the houses at Top Lodge on 7 August. It seems they are distributed throughout the wood.
17th July: Hundreds of tiny rare flowers
You normally have to look very carefully to find Lesser Centaury (Centaurium pulchellum) because it's absolutely tiny and it's also rare in Northamptonshire!
Last year, Friend of Fineshade Brian Laney, discovered it in the wood for the first time, and last week, on another of his regular visits, Brian located it again growing in a different location. This time he reckoned there were hundreds of the minute pink flowers, growing on the side of the lorry bay in Mill Wood - under the watchful eye of the Gruffalo. So if you want to see this little rarity just follow the Gruffalo signs south from Top Lodge. But when you get there please watch where you tread!
30th July: Butterflies - 24 species!
On 25th July we were delighted to find two more species for the July butterfly list: Small Heath (5) and a single Brown Argus
The previous week, while carrying out a check of Fineshade's Dormouse boxes Wildlife Trust volunteers led by Judy Stroud, added a 20th species to the list. Several delightful Common Blues were identified along the rides in North Spinney. They have been seen in various places in the wood since then.
Perdita Cawthorne had been really lucky to find a Clouded Yellow in the north-eastern part of Fineshade (the Assarts) on 17th. The county recorder Dave James says this is the only record in Northants so far this year. There were also freshly emerged Brimstones, lots of Peacocks and a single pristine Painted Lady. Three Marbled Whites have now been reported, all in different parts of the wood.
As expected, the Field Trip led by Douglas Goddard on 30th pushed the July species count still higher, with Purple Hairstreak being added to the list for the month.
Thanks to everyone for letting us know which butterflies they've seen. Here's the current list for this month. Have you seen any more?
Brown Argus, lurking in the vegetation of the field on the right on the way up to Top Lodge
Great picture from Lynda Peirce of a pair of Silver-washed Fritillaries. The male has his wings spread showing the four black lines - it's "sex-brands". These burst open during courtship showering scent scales over the female. She is below in this picture with her wings closed and showing the "silver wash" on the underside of the wings.
A heavily cropped picture of a freshly emerged White-letter Hairstreak - one of Fineshade's specialities. Two were seen on Wednesday on the clump of Elm trees that grow below the railway bridge on the single track road to Top Lodge: the trees' leaves are level with the bridge making this very tricky insect a little easier to see there.