Have you seen flying ants this year? I was sitting in the garden with family a couple of days ago and up they came. I expected to see the gulls come in for a feast, but no signs of them at all. Did you know that flying ants are called Alates? This is the nuptial flight of the common black garden ant (Lasius Niger) and the queens, once mated, chew off their own wings before making their new nests.

Now where are the gulls? Well, I did see one gull on the tern rafts yesterday. And were there terns? Well, yes, one on each of 3 of the rafts and a couple flying, but no signs of young yet. This time last year the young were in flight.

Terns may not be doing well this year, but the barn owls appear to be. There seems to be 2 nests on the reserve and one close by. This is probably because small mammals seem to have done well this year. We only had wood mice in the mammal survey in the drier areas of the sanctuary last year.  However, this year, we had several bank voles as well. This is a small vole with red-brown fur and some grey patches, with a tail about half as long as its body.

Bee orchids is something else that haven’t done well this year. One of our volunteers had a word with the Hardy Orchid society and apparently there seems to be 2 reasons. The first is that April was dry and the second that when they have a good year, which they did last year, the likelihood is that they will have a year or 2 with minimal flowering.

Fortunately, this year is a much better one for the butterflies.  However, the concern is that the dry weather we are now having is killing off their food plants, so will I be writing, this time next year, that 2023 is a poor year? Counting the number of species seen on the reserve, I reckon 25 have been seen this year. However, I haven’t heard of any reports of Essex Skipper.  Have you seen one this year?

The last wildlife survey took us to a new area at the end of the Redlands meadows. It turned out a great area for invertebrates. It was particularly pleasing to find a nationally scarce soldier fly, Odontomyia ornata, which was found for the first time on the reserve last year.

If you haven’t been into the Visitor Centre recently, you will notice some changes. Hope to see you down there sometime and remember, please let us know your Paxton Pits wildlife sightings, either by email to friends@paxton-pits.org.uk or write them in the sightings book.

Best wishes on this record breaking hot day.


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