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June 2012

posted 3 Jul 2012, 03:52 by Jane Arnold   [ updated 3 Jul 2012, 03:58 ]

I was walking on the Green at the weekend and came across a patch of stinging nettles that was covered with black spiky caterpillars (see photo). After watching them for a few minutes and taking some photographs, I then set about trying to ID them. A quick search on the internet revealed that these are the caterpillars of the Peacock butterfly. This is a very interesting species, as unlike most butterflies, it hibernates over the winter and can often be found in garden sheds or amongst leaf litter during these months. Given the large number of caterpillars feeding, it is quite likely that in a few weeks time these attractive butterflies will be flitting about on the Green. Thistles are an important nectar source for the adult forms, so there should be plenty of food available for them! It also just reinforces that nettles and thistles are an important food source for some invertebrate species and it is desirable to have some (but not too many!) growing in the vicinity.

Caterpillers of the Peacock butterfly

The birds are continuing to successfully breed. Bob Russon managed to take this delightful photo of a blue tit feeding its young near Leomansley pools. The swallows, swifts and house martins have now all arrived and can frequently be seen skimming across the Green in search of insects. Reed buntings have also been active in the area and it seems as though a pair of lapwings were trying nest in the field adjacent to the Green.

Blue tit feeding young
Image  courtesy of Bob Russon, Lichfield & District Local RSPB Group

The orchids have been flowering since the beginning of the month and to date I have found 6 common spotted orchids (see photo) as well as a number of early purple orchids. However on my last visit I could not find them and suspect that the cattle may have eaten or squashed the flowers! The bird’s foot trefoil is now flowering on the dryer parts of the Green and giving the impression of a yellow carpet. This is an important food source for many butterfly and moth species.

The creeping thistle is also growing well and we have a couple of work parties scheduled (8th and 15th July, 9.00 – 11.00) to cut the thistle in an attempt to control it, as it is a very invasive species . Anybody who would like to come and chop some creeping thistle is most welcome!

Common spotted orchid