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Haslemere Natural History Society. Wildlife News. Observations in the Haslemere area - week ending 9/6/24

Several observers noted the activity of Great Spotted Woodpeckers (pictured by A Swan), which were conspicuous and noisy in woodlands and in gardens, where they were aggressively monopolising feeders: it seems that breeding has gone well for them this year and they have many mouths to feed. Visitors to Thursley Common were disappointed that the Red-backed Shrike was a no-show, but Woodlarks, Tree Pipits, Reed Buntings, Redstarts and a Hobby have been seen there this week. The Tree Pipits were exhibiting their characteristic display of singing while ascending and then “parachuting” down with stiff wings. There were reports of good numbers of Nightjars on local heaths, but these must have struggled to find flying insects during the rather cold nights.

Early Marsh Orchids were at their peak at Thursley. A wet meadow closer to the town has Common Spotted Orchids (with dark magenta hoop marks on narrow flowers) and Heath Spotted Orchids (with pink stipples on broad flowers), but also hybrids between the two, with a wide range of mixed characters. It seems that fertile hybrids arise only rarely, but when they do, “back-crossing” with both parent species can happen. Pyramidal Orchids are very common on the chalk downs, but they are increasingly found in apparently random places in our area, presumably where the soil pH has been artificially raised.

Most insect-pollinated flowers spread their pollen randomly on the furry bodies of bees or other insect visitors, but orchids have a more specialist mechanism. Orchid pollen is held in club-shaped structures called pollinia, at the base of which there is a quick-setting glue that is released when touched. This is placed at the entrance to the nectar tube, so that a visiting insect takes with it one or a pair of pollinia when it withdraws, which it may then transfer to the next plant it visits. They are often stuck on the head of the insect in an ideal place to make contact with the stigma of another flower, with little wastage. A bee resting on an orchid this week was found to have numerous pollinia adhering to its head, testifying to the success of this contrivance.

In warm spells during a rather cool week there were some firsts of the butterfly season: Meadow Brown, Large Skipper and Silver-studded Blue. There were only a couple of mild nights for moths; highlights were the intensely green Blotched Emerald, the uncommon Great Oak Beauty and the rare Alder Kitten, appearing in a site for the 3rd consecutive year, hence proving that they are breeding locally for the first time. Dragonfly numbers are being kept down by the cool, breezy weather, but a Golden-ringed Dragonfly was found: a species which needs fast-flowing streams for its larvae.

(These observations and photos have been compiled principally from postings by Haslemere Natural History Society members to the Members’ Facebook group).

Wildlife Sightings



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