Posted by: Ross Gardner | October 11, 2011

Autumn Air

The outdoors most definitely has the feel of autumn about it.  Momentarily confused by temperatures in the mid-twenties, the October mildness is edged with change.  Not just the changing leaves on the trees, the hedgerows becoming laiden with fruit, or the changes we notice with the birds that move among them – siskin among the alders rather than chiff chaff, or the billowing of starling flocks over the fields in place of careering swallows.  There is a more fundamental change, almost in the quality of the air itself.

Certainly for me it signals a change in work.  The latter days of September herald the beginning of the main bulk of the grassland management at Meadowfield Nature Study Centre.  A time of much brushcutting, raking and the moving of heaps of cut grass, for the benefit of greater habitat, plant and invertebrate diversity.

Picromerus bidens - a predatory shield bug. Copyright 2009 Ross Gardner

Aside from whine of the brushcutter disc or mower blades, this essential work always throws up a one or two moments of wildlife interest.  This is the time, for example, when I am very likely to renew my acquaintance with a rather fine shield bug by the name of Picromerus bidens.  It is a predatory insect of rank grassland and instantly recognisable by the spikes on the thorax.  On this occasion I also disturbed a plume moth.  There are many species and this one – Emmelina monodactyla – is one the more common, but it’s always worth a closer examination of these very distinctive looking moths, just in case.  E. monodactyla is one of three that I have encountered at the centre.

The grasslands may not be teeming with the intensity of the summer, but nearly always, at other times, there will be something living it’s life among the blades.  Indeed, the above moth is one that can potentially been seen during any month of the year.

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