Small Copper

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I spent some time in Gosforth Park nature reserve at the beginning of last week while the weather was still good. The bird life was fairly quiet, with the birds getting on with the breeding season but insects were abundant, especially mosquitoes!

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It seems that the butterflies may be a week or two behind where they were at this time last year and that goes for some of the flora as well. However this Small Copper was a nice find amongst the buttercups and hawkbits by the screen hide.

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A few orchids were thrusting their way up too, like this Common Spotted Orchid. I also managed to see the single spike of Coral Root Orchid which is currently showing…nice!

A disconcerting walk

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What’s wrong with this picture?

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Or how about this one?

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Perhaps it has something to do with this?

These pictures were all taken last weekend close to where I live, in the fields which separate Monkseaton and Murton. What was disconcerting was the almost complete lack of invertebrate life, either on the tracks which bisect the fields or above the crop itself.

Both the venerable old crab apple and the swathes of yellow dandelions that line the track were devoid of life, despite the warm spring sunshine and the fact that these plants should act like beacons to insects at this time of year.

This isn’t the first time I have noticed the lack of biodiversity on my immediate doorstep but it was perhaps the first time the sterility of the local environment really sunk in.

That’s not to say that Murton Gap, as the fields are known, supports no wildlife: Skylark can still be heard over the fields, one or two farmland birds can be unearthed if you look hard enough, Curlew – Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List – sometimes form winter roosts here and foxes rove between Shiremoor and Monkseaton after dark.

But the farmland is a shadow of what it must once have been, of what it could be if it was managed with more sensitivity, or even left to its own devices.

This was the second time in three weeks that I have seen the field being sprayed. This may not have been insecticide but when a crop is often sprayed more than a dozen times with insecticides, fungicides and herbicides, one has to wonder about the effect on the environment.

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The two large fields closest to Monkseaton form a large part of the area likely to be developed for housing under the North Tyneside Local Plan. Whilst it would be defamatory to suggest this area were being willfully damaged because of this, it is clear to see this farmland could be far better managed for wildlife than it currently is.

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It pains me to look out onto green space that has been so needlessly degraded and whilst perversely, conversion to housing may eventually result in some recovery in biodiversity, by then so many species will have vanished from here forever.

Dingy Skippers

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Friday lunchtime saw me at Havannah nature reserve in search of Dingy Skipper butterflies and I was not to be disappointed! In the same spot I first saw them last year, there were at least three on the wing or feeding on Bird’s Foot Trefoil.

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They are small and very moth-like and with their low, skipping flight are quite unobtrusive but I love the subtle patterns, particularly on the forewing.

Once again, I was struck by just how good the Havannah reserve is for invertebrates and not just butterflies; there were a number of different types of solitary bee foraging close to the butterflies which were unlike any I have ever seen. I will have to get the field guide out and see if I can some photos next time…

Butterflies

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With the weather getting a bit warmer again there have been some butterflies back on the wing. This Large White was perched high up in a tree last week but allowed a photo before lifting to dual with another Large White.

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And then this beauty was a real surprise today, flying over my shoulder close to home – the first Painted Lady of the year. No excuses made for the slightly out of focus shot…just look at the exquisite patterning on the under wings!

Speckled Wood

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There were quite a few butterflies on the wing in the warm weather today, including this new Speckled Wood at St Nicholas Park nature reserve.

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I tried to capture some pictures of the Whites that were flying everywhere but they don’t seem to settle for very long in the middle of the day.

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It should be time for Orange Tips quite soon so I fingers crossed for some decent weather…