If you go down to the woods today
A couple of months ago I was camping down in the New Forest, which turns out not to be a forest, it’s a heath.
Today, I paid a first visit to Staffordshire Wildlife Trust’s Hem Heath nature reserve, which isn’t a heath, it’s a wood.
Nature can be really annoying, can’t it?!
Seems even Google got confused. I do like the sound of a nature ‘preserve’ though, as long as it’s low-carb.
Anyway, Hem Heath Woods is a lovely place, particularly verdant right now.
The woodland, which runs alongside a stretch of the West Coast Main Line railway adjacent to Trentham, is actually made up of four plantations, including one of ‘ancient woodland’.
“Although often referred to as Hem Heath, this woodland encompasses four distinct woods - The Oaks, Newstead Wood, Newpark Plantation and Hem Heath. The Oaks, at the southernmost tip of the reserve is an ancient woodland site. Records show that this part of the site has been woodland for over 400 years, although in the 19th century many of the mature trees were felled and replanted.” Staffordshire Wildlife Trust
For my visit, the mature trees provided shelter from the baking direct sun. The reserve is criss-crossed by ‘ridings’, paths through the woodland, highways for many invertebrates and birds. I enjoyed my slow photowalk through the woods in the dappled light of late morning and early afternoon.
Comparatively, against other recent forays to look for insects, there were lots of small critters about. I saw many Speckled Wood Butterflies, and a Red Admiral. There were many bee species whizzing from flower to flower, including bumblebees and honey bees. Hoverflies were abundant, damselflies too. On the ground, especially under generous piles of rotting fallen branches and trees, there were beetles and centipedes.
Blimey, places like this give me hope that we may be able to reverse the worrying decline in insect numbers, if we really put some effort in.
Of course, with such a mature population of inhabitants, there’s always the dearly-beloved recently-deceased to consider. Even invertebrates need the services of undertakers to stop the bodies piling up. Enter the Scorpionfly, Panorpa communis.
Scorpionflies rate among my favourite of all insects, and I’ve photographed them many times. Despite the ferocious look of the male’s scorpion-like tail, they’re completely harmless to us humans, they don’t sting or bite. They feed on dead insects, clearing away the corpses others leave behind.
The Scorpionfly I photographed today had just started work dispatching a dead fly. It looked like it was going to detach the deceased’s head and clear that away first. I guess insect undertakers have their own way of going about things.
Thanks for now,