Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Wildlife Watching in the Claise Valley in May

Orchids: May is peak season for many orchid species and only June will have more species flowering at once. Look out for Violet Limodores on the forest fringes, Tongue Orchids in damp Brenne pasture, Lady Orchids in the dappled shade and on east facing banks, Common Spotted Orchids by ditches in the pine forests and Besom Heath scrub - and many more. The orchid season has been delayed by 2 - 3 weeks compared to last year, and is likely to last longer because of cooler wetter conditions. Last year everything flowered and finished very early and quickly. I spotted my first Lady Orchid for this season only yesterday, and even the Early Purples have hardly hit their peak. Last year the Ladies came out on the same date as the Early Purples and the more precocious of the Early Spider Orchids.

If you see a huge ant in May it is likely to be this Carpenter Ant.
Butterflies: The first generation of lovely blue butterflies will be flitting about flower rich grassland at this time of year. You should see lots of Common Blues and on the chalky sites with Horseshoe Vetch flowering there will be the gorgeous Adonis Blue. Some of our most spectacular looking larger butterflies will arrive from warmer breeding grounds in the south and we will be treated to the sight of Swallowtails nectaring on the clover or Southern White Admirals checking out the honeysuckle. Some of our hardy overwintering locals will transform from caterpillars to butterflies in May too. The Glanville Fritillaries spent the winter as caterpillars in a communal nest around a Ribwort Plantain, and if they have survived the February cold we should see them on the wing in grassy places with plenty of wild flowers in May.

Bumblebees get busy in May...
Dragonflies: The first of the damselflies will emerge this month. Watch out for Common Bluetails, who happily fly in the cooler weather and will stay with us until the autumn. Other dragonflies have a very short flight period of only 6 weeks over May and June, like the Clubtails. They all tend to emerge together so for a month it seems they are everywhere, then just as suddenly they are gone.

...unfortunately, so do Common Cherry Fruit Flies.
Other insects: Finally, what would a post about May wildlife be without mentioning Mayflies! They will be rising from rivers and streams all over, shimmering in the sun, resting on the grass and bankside vegetation and once they have 'done their duty' and procreated, they can go on to provide a calorie boost for the fish and birds. To watch a charming little video featuring Mayflies click here (it's actually a Vodaphone ad!).

It was so cold, wet and windy in April that, as feared, I didn't get a chance to do my monthly butterfly survey. Even though we still need rain, after three years in a row of insufficient rain over the winter (2011 and 2012), spring (2011) and/or the summer (2010), let's hope we get some calm sunny days in May. However, the long term forecast is for this cool wet weather to continue throughout this month too. Statistically, May is the wettest month on average in the Claise Valley, but the rain is normally accompagnied by some days of sunshine and temperatures in the low 20s.



Pollygarter said...

Thanks for posting the Cherry Fruit Fly picture. I'll splat any I see!!

Remember, there is no such thing as a vegetarian option with organic vegetables!

Sheila said...

Don't know that I've ever seen
a mayfly. Strange creatures.

What about the blue butterflies
which emerge from the ant nests?

Susan said...

Sheila: The Large Blues don't emerge until June.

GaynorB said...

With your long range forecast I think I might be happy to be at work. I tell fibs too!

Great pics and information.

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