30 Days Wild, part 2

Continuing the daily account of my interactions with the natural world in June…

Tuesday 16 June

A gorgeous morning, and some nice patches of Heath Spotted-Orchid (Dactylorhiza maculata) on the edges of the tracks among the bracken on Ashdown Forest at the moment.

Wednesday 17 June

Another sunny day. The bog near where we live is drying out, the Spagnums on the edges are barely recognisable compared with how they were a week ago, and the bracken is gaining in height by the day. However, the wet gully is still wonderfully wet.

Thursday 18 June

Nice view towards East Grinstead. Last summer I was on a guided walk by the archaeologist Vivienne Blandford, who showed us how to recognise the vestiges of the army training on Ashdown Forest during the First World War. In addition to camp kitchens, rifle pits and trench systems (not all of which were filled in), you can still see the tank tracks. These are often worth looking at for signs of colonisers, such as mosses, as well as ground beetles.

Friday 19 June

A short walk around the golf course to try to locate some of the rarer plant species that have been found there in the past. I didn’t find any of them, but did see some Arrow Bamboo (Pseudosasa japonica) which hasn’t been recorded around there before, and also a large patch of a plant that I didn’t immediately recognise. It turned out to be Climbing Corydalis (Ceratocapnos claviculata) and was obviously the patch recorded in the Flora of Ashdown Forest.

Picture of Wood Club-rush (Scirpus sylvaticus)

Wood Club-rush (Scirpus sylvaticus)

Saturday 20 June

In Petts Wood today, or rather a garden in the place called Petts Wood, not the actual wood. Even so, there were lots of bees, Harlequin and 14-spot Ladybirds, as well as the Broad Centurion fly (Chloromyia formosa), and these galls on a willow caused by the sawfly Pontania bridgmanii.

Picture of Sawfly gall Pontania bridgmanii

Sawfly gall Pontania bridgmanii

Sunday 21 June

There are bits of Ashdown Forest that always surprise me. It is hard to believe that this spot with its banks of trees up to the horizon is only half a mile from the A22.
View of Ashdown Forest

Monday 22 June

I didn’t manage to leave the house today, which inspired me to think about what species I have recorded in the garden, and within the house itself. The house was newly-built about 13 years ago, and the garden is quite small. To begin with it was a bit of a desert, and we didn’t even seem to get any birds. That has certainly changed, but the list is not long (maybe 52 species in total), primarily because I’ve never systematically recorded here. So, we have the odd situation where I’ve recorded the fungus Melampsora euphorbiae and the rather lovely moth Large Ranunculus (Polymixis flavicincta) but not a Blue Tit. Time to start recording a bit more seriously at home, I think.

Tuesday 23 June

Another walk around Tablehurst Farm, on the look-out for plants that we’ve not recorded there yet this year, and for any insects that I might have a passing chance at identifying. The first insect was the dance fly Empis tessellata, closely followed by the soldier beetle Cantharis livida. On one hedgerow, both Dog Rose (Rosa canina) and Field Rose (Rosa arvensis) were growing alongside each other so the different style lengths could be easily noted. Some of them also had the bright orange fungus Phragmidium mucronatum growing on their stems.

There was also a rather large sawfly among the roses, which is in the family Pamphiliidae; it’s a pity these are so hard to get to species. [1 July: now confirmed as Pamphilius gyllenhali]

Picture of Sawfly (Pamphiliidae)

Sawfly (Pamphiliidae)

Wednesday 24 June

A gorgeous sunny day, part of which was spent sitting on a beach reading Jonathan Bate’s biography of the poet John Clare. Nice.

Thursday 25 June

In London today with few opportunities to look at nature, though scanned the plant life from the train to see what was growing. Lots of Broad-leaved Everlasting Pea on the trackside at TQ33276720 as we passed through Selhurst in south London.

Picture of Broad-leaved Everlasting Pea (Lathyrus latifolius)

Broad-leaved Everlasting Pea (Lathyrus latifolius)

Friday 26 June

The morning dog walk took me up near the Ashdown Forest visitors centre, so we ended up having a look at the wonderful bog near there. It is full of sundews and Sphagnums, with a dusting of cotton grass. A couple of spikes of Bog Asphodel are in flower but in a few days there will be dozens of them.

Saturday 27 June

Another walk at Tablehurst farm, continuing the recording of the kilometre square TQ4335, mostly around the edges of the reservoir. Tom Forward showed me lots of dragonflies and damsels I’d not seen before: Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) and Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans), and also noted the Iris Flea Beetle (Aphthona nonstriata) and Water Ladybird (Anisosticta novemdecimpunctata) on the Yellow Iris.

Picture of Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata)

Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata)

Sunday 28 June

At Dungeness for a couple of days, with glorious weather and no wind. What a fabulous place, with a heap of gorgeous plants and lichens on the shingle, and even a Humming-bird Hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) in the pub car park.

Monday 29 June

Up the coast a few miles is Greatstone, where we had a quick stop and enjoyed the almost deserted sandy beach, plus the lovely dune system with Large-flowered Evening-primrose (Oenothera glazioviana), Prickly Saltwort (Salsola kali), Sea Sandwort (Honckenya peploides) and much else.

Tuesday 30 June

Home again in the baking heat, and barely left the house, though plenty of opportunity to key out most of the species from the long weekend, and so ends 30 Days Wild. That’s been rather fun.

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