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Summer summary: what's been spotted in the woods.

Over June and July we have continued monitoring changes in the woods, recording butterflies, insects and flora as part of a long term study of how the woodland changes along side our woodland work. That includes coppicing and ride management - the widening of the main tracks. Both allow light in to the forest floor and should kick start a cycle of new flora, insects and birds which feed on them.


On the insect transect, the survey conditions each month were the same, 22° and full sun with not much breeze. But the results were rather different. In July there were 47 butterflies of 7 species recorded; in Juneand just 12 butterflies of 3 species. The most common by far was the Meadow Brown in both months. The June transect did have some excitement: a Hummingbird Hawk Moth by the woodyard, a Beautiful Demoiselle in the swamp, and five stoats, including three kits.



Hummingbird Hawk Moth: credit @ Thorsten Denhard
Hummingbird Hawk Moth: credit @ Thorsten Denhard

Also recorded were the genera of plants in flower in each of the 7 sections in the mile long transect, to give an indication of food availability for flower-visiting insects. Identifying the genus was to save time with difficult identification during the survey so as not to distract from spotting the insects, and because there is less diversification within a genus, i.e. brambles, dewberries and raspberries (all Rubus species) have the same food availability for insects. Each genus’ abundance is measured using the DAFOR scale, commonly used in ecology, where five categories from dominant to rare indicate the scale of each species as a nectar source. However, many flowers might not be good nectar sources or may be specific to different types of insect.


Measuring the flower abundance goes hand in hand with the insect counts and will give good data to assess the woodland management and the change in habitat quality in the different sections. As we continue with our coppicing and ride management, we will increase the light to the verges along the track. More light means more flowers and more food for pollinators.


Plant surveys in Finch’s Coppice don’t show much at this point, except that in coupe 1, cut last year, there are a lot more nettles and sticky weed than in the uncut coupe 2. Both these species indicate a high nutrient load in the soil. Hopefully, the cutting of the coppice and removal of material should help reduce the soil nitrogen.

New plants for the woods are:

Melilot

Groundsel

Bistort

Pineapple weed

Charlock

Charlock
Charlock: credit @---Tico---

And finally two White-letter Hairstreak butterflies, the caterpillars of which only feed on elm trees, have been seen on the main track but have not shown up on transects.


We will keep you updated on new finds, with the next report in the spring.

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