14 Apr 2014

Where’s Brian?

After three visits to Lea Quarry the arrival of April heralded the commencement of our more concentrated programme of visits. The first was to Apley Woods where we were joined by three members of the Friends of Apley Woods. We are making two visits to this site and the Friends hope that any records that we make will help them in quest to achieve Wildlife Site status for the area. 

The weather was fair but cool, the only blemish beings a short sprinkling of rain in the middle of the day. Nine of us gathered at the gate of the “Iron Horse” and set off to explore the grounds of the former Apley Castle. To set the context here is a quote from the Apley Woods’ website (http://apleywoods.co.uk/)

“With its 56 acres of meadows, pools, trees and winding footpaths, Apley Woods are a fine example of a 19th century landscaped woodland.

“Records mention woodland on this site as far back as 1300. However, the present woods were largely created during the last 200 years as part of the ornamental gardens to the second Apley Castle, a Georgian mansion house built in 1792 and demolished in 1955.”

Many of the trees have yet to break out into leaf but there were plenty of spring flowers and conifers to enjoy as well as the sight of mating Common toads at the side of Apley Pool. Tawny mining bees were about as were shieldbugs. If you recall last year one of our target species groups was shieldbugs and finding them at this time of the year was like locating the needle in a haystack. Today we had five different species: Dock bug, Green, Hawthorn, Birch and Bronze. Three of those were the “Catch of the Day” when Stephen tapped a Box bush and all fell into his tray – and stayed there while we jostled to take photographs.

The excitement of it all was too much so we had to sit down and have lunch.

After lunch we continued our quest. We found the huge, rambling Western Red cedar and felt compelled, as countless others had been, to invade its inner space and climb and lounge around on its branches. It’s a hard life.

After this interlude we continued to meander and came across a Treecreeper nest which a bird was gallantly defending against all-comers. So the day was brought to an end and we went our separate ways.

Thank you “Friends of Apley Woods” for making us welcome.

Our next outing was our fourth visit to Lea Quarry. This time a whole football team (without substitutes) assembled in the car park of Edge Renewables. The weather was wonderful and those present watched aghast as I removed one of my many layers of clothing as I was too warm. (It may never happen again this year.) 

Our arrival was unexpected as our communication’s officer, who shall remain nameless, had been unable to contact Edge Renewables. His telecommunications sub-contractors had accepted his payment but used it to buy tickets to the Bahamas rather than provide him with the service he was expecting. No matter Edge Renewables still made us welcome.

This visit followed the pattern that has been established we proceed to the “Regeneration Area” as it has become known to us, to inspect the pit-fall traps and see what else is going on of interest then have a look around the site. 

The cry of “Bonking Beetles” (the editor may need to censor that phrase) usually means someone has found Rhagonycha fulva a medium sized slim red beetle whose whole reason for existence seems to be to seek out members of the opposite sex for the purpose of procreation without any regard for public sensibility or decency. Only this time it was Green tiger beetles Cicindela campestris. (Again the editor may need to censor this photograph.)

We also came across a piece of dead grass that moved. Fortunately the person I was with was convinced it was not a piece of grass and collected it. It turned out to be a Common groundhopper Tetrix undulata. It looks like a miniature grasshopper but they seem to be around early in the year whereas grasshoppers are seen or more likely heard later in the year.

At lunch we realised that one of the group, who shall also remain nameless, was missing! Frantic searching (actually quite laid back as we are all sensible(!) adults) eventually found him. As we discussed what had happened it became clear that he knew exactly where he was and it was the other ten that were lost.

We concluded the day with a good look at the patch of calcareous grassland close to the buildings that are on site. This included doing a two metre quadrat of the the grassland flora to try to determine how it would be classified.

Exhausted, warm and united we dispersed for our homes.

Ed: The sexual activities of many diurnal inverts (not forgetting promiscuous primroses) are well documented so no censorship necessary.