Now Mayflies are an interesting species. They can be found in literature from Aristotle’s time. I think of them dancing in the balmy May air (somehow this May isn’t so balmy!). They have done so since time immemorial, as they belong to the same group of insects-Palaeoptera- as dragonflies and damselflies. Although, they can emerge anytime between Spring and Autumn, individuals tend to mature at once (called a hatch). They are a unique species, as they are fully winged in their pre-adult stage (subimago).
There were lots of mayflies to be seen on the Dragonfly and Butterfly survey. It was a much more successful day compared with the last one. All our damselflies have now emerged. The red-eyed were really easy to see on the lily pads of the river. I do like it when they stay still! There was also a clear view of a female broad bodied chaser, and the first green-eyed hawker was seen. Were these the highlight? Difficult to say, as we stopped off to count how many grizzled skippers were on the wing. At least 12 were counted and lots of brown argus in the same area. After the very dry summer last year which frazzled their food plants, this was really great to see and rather a relief.
The lakes are quiet. The young cormorants and herons are on the wing. The tern rafts are busy. 3 pairs of terns look as if they have nests amongst the black headed gulls. I suppose we should be grateful that the gulls are there. Overall, in the UK they have not done well with the Avian Flu with many breeding sites having been wiped out.
We have nightingales. At least one has been singing at the back of the sailing lake and at least 6 up at the north of Pumphouse Pit. Numbers look as if they are down from last year, but maybe they sing when no-one is around. That’s why it is always good to hear about your sightings. Were they successful breeding last year and is it that they have not fared well on their trips south and back again? If only we knew.
The cuckoo can still be heard, particularly down near the River Viewpoint. Lesser whitethroats have done well this year.
We’ve some more bat box checks and breeding bird surveys coming up. As most of these are off the main paths of the reserve, it is necessary to keep access open. Nettles are growing very quickly at this time of year! So, we have done an extra work party clearing the way. You are welcome to join in, both in surveys and work parties.
Some of you will have joined us in the survey of Dodder Fen, down near the River Viewpoint. Dodder is a parasitic plant. An interesting plant as it is one of the very few plants in the UK causing a gall. It tends to use nettles as it’s host plant on Paxton Pits, but often uses the carrot family elsewhere. Under a microscope see above how the dodder affects a nettle. Thanks Eddie Sutcliffe for this interesting photo.
Always something new to see.
Ann Thomas Volunteer with the Friends of Paxton Pits Nature Reserve.