Above: an adult male roesell's bush Cricket, a site rarity.
Grasshoppers and Crickets
A group of species drastically under-recorded. Roesell's was first heard in August 2011 but their presence was not confirmed until early September 2012 when males and females were observed between 03/09/12 and 08/09/12
Common Green Grasshopper - Omocestus viridulus
Field Grasshopper - Chortippus brunneus
Meadow Grasshopper - Chorthippus parralelus
Roselle's Bush Cricket - Metrioptera roeselii
Above: Red-Tailed Bumblebee, one of Britain's six commonest Bumblebees
Bumblebees (Records commencing 2011)
Red-tailed Bumblebee - Bombus lapidarius
Hill Cuckoo-Bee - Bombus rupestris
Early Bumblebee - Bombus pratorum
Buff-tailed Bumblebee - Bombus terrestris audax
White-tailed Bumblebee - Bombus lucorum
Small Garden Bumblebee - Bombus hortorum
Four-coloured/Forest Cuckoo-Bee - Bombus sylvestris
Tree Bumblebee - Bombus hypnorum
Field Cuckoo-Bee - Bombus campestris
Common Carder-Bee - Bombus pascuorum
Noteworthy. Usually seen in small numbers during Spring but rarely later in the year. This species favours the embankment at the northern perimeter of the site.
[ Clouded Yellow C. crocera ]
Rare vagrant. As far as I know this species has not formally been recorded at this site although it has occurred on Clayhanger Common. It is possible that some records for the marsh have occurred in the past during influx years?
Comma P. C-album
A regular species of spring and autumn which hibernates locally.
Common Blue P. icarus
A common species of high summer favouring areas of low turf on the Marsh and Mere.
Dingy Skipper E. tages
Present but declining. Once far more numerous than at present, this species seems to be holding on locally by a thread with most recent records coming from the north-west side of the Mere.
Essex Skipper E. lineola
First reported in 2009 and confirmed in 2011, the most recent addition to our butterfly species, most prolific on the fringes of set-aside fields favouring Knapweed and thistle growth.
Gatekeeper P. tithonus
Prolific recent colonist. Gatekeeper were unknown locally until the mid-1990s but are now one of the most prolific species of late summer, often flying into early October.
Marbled White M. galathea
A single observer record of a putative Marbled White occured on 23/06/2017 (A.S.). Although early in the season of this species it is within acceptable perameters (although if confirmed would still constitute an exceptional record given the distribution of the species in 2017).
Green-Veined White A. napi
Common. Several broods of this often overlooked species every year locally.
Holly Blue C. argiolus
Annual in small numbers. This is a species that is present every year but is often difficult to connect with due to the comparatively low numbers of adults active locally. Always noteworthy.
Large Skipper C. venatus
Once common, now declining. The first of the brown Skippers locally, flying from mid-June until early August in good years. Although there is still a healthy population at Clayhanger it has become much reduced since the end of the twentieth century.
Large White P. brassicae
Common. This is the Butterfly most likely to be identified by the novice butterfly watcher. Local specimens are supplemented in good years by migrants from European broods but I personally suspect that even this species is not as prolific as it once was?
Meadow Brown M. jurtina
Common but declining. This has always been the most prolific Summer butterfly locally but now seems to be declining locally and its numbers are now matched if not exceeded by the recent colonist, Ringlet. A cause for concern.
Orange Tip A. cardimines
An attractive herald of the Spring, still relatively common in April and May locally but another species that is no longer as prolific as it once was.
Painted Lady C. cardui
Migrant - unpredictable. In good years this can be a common species on the Marsh and Mere following significant incursions from Europe and North Africa. In other years this butterfly may be totally absent from both sites.
Peacock Inachis io
Common. A species that is still doing well locally with hibernating specimens emerging in early spring being followed by several broods in a good year.
Purple Hairstreak Q. quercus
Our rarest species. At least two of three known colonies still survive locally but the status of this species is difficult to assess as it tends to frequent the high canopy.
Red Admiral V. atalanta
Common. Traditionally a species of late summer locally however in 2011 a specimen was discovered in April. As the previous winter had been exceptionally hard and this species normally finds British winters too cold for hibernation, it must be assumed that this was an early migrant?
Ringlet A. hyperantus
Abundant. This is a recent colonist having only been present locally since the early twenty-first century. It has quickly established itself and is debatabley now the commonest species to be encountered in mid-summer.
Small Copper L. phlaeas
Common. A species which has several broods locally with late brood specimens still being active in October in suitable years.
Small Heath C. pamphilus
Scarce. This was once one of the most abundant butterflies in the local area but is now noteworthy to the point of rarity. It is unusual to find more than a handful of this species during the spring and summer when once it was present in hundreds. Always noteworthy.
Small Skipper T. flavus
A common but declining species locally. still present in reasonable numbers from late summer but another species that has declined drastically in abundance.
Small Tortoiseshell A. urticae
Annual but decreasing. This is possibly the butterfly that is most familiar to people regardless of whether they are interested in butterflies or not. Small Tortoiseshell was possibly the most abundant species nationally but changes in weather patterns seem to have caused a catastrophic decline nationally. This has in turn been reflected in the local population. Although you will see this species during the year you may now have to work for it.
Small White A. rapae
Common. One of the 'Cabbage' whites, still present in good numbers each year.
Speckled Wood P. aegeria
Prolific. Hard to believe that this species was unknown locally until the early 1980s and strong evidence of the northward movement of insects which seems to have been made possible by a combination of climate change and decreased industrialisation in this part of the midlands.
Wall Brown L. megera
Locally Extinct. This was once a comparatively common species both at Clayhanger and Chasewater. From the late 1980s it began to disappear from local sites and has not been recorded at Clayhanger for at least twenty years. A small ray of hope however was the discovery at Chasewater of a specimen during the summer of 2011 so perhaps one day it will again be seen at Clayhanger Marsh?
Dragonflies and Damselflies
Dragonflies occasionally dominate postings about the Marsh and Mere and I can understand if some blog-followers are fed-up of hearing about them. But the truth is, once you have seen most of the regular birds in Britain, you do tend to get drawn into something else. For some it is Wildflowers, for others, Butterflies and for the slightly more adventurous it may be spiders or beetles or, of course Dragonflies.
Those of you who don't look at these wonderful insects, are missing out on a challenging and entertaining group of beautiful jewel-like creatures. And for those of you who want to leave your mark, there are plenty of opportunities for finding something outside its normal range, to contribute to records of range expansion and thereby add to the whole history of a species or even to discover something rare or new to Britain. And if you think I am exaggerating, since 2007 no less than three species have been added to the British list by vigilant amateur dragonfly watchers, while another species, previously believed to be extinct in Britain, has been rediscovered.
For those of you looking to expand your knowledge, here is a list of species so far recorded at Clayhanger and Ryder's Mere. I have not included their Latin names as you will find these in most identification guides. If you do get interested though, you may need to learn the scientific names (Taxonomic Names) as many species have more than one vernacular name. Come on, join us REAL Anoraks and start looking at Dragonflies too!
Once an exceptionally common species but increasingly scarce in recent years. Azures usually fly from May to early August localy with Males often being easy to identify with their one-and-a-half rather than two blue bands toward the end of the abdomen. For the more serious-minded however the stemless-goblet-shaped (or whisky glass) mark at the base of the abdomen is the clincher (although for some of us ageing enthusiasts, binoculars might be required to appreciate this!). As some of you may recall, females and immatures are more problematic, particularly when looking for rarer species!
Not common locally but a species that turns up unexpectedly (For example, we had one in 2011) The photograph (above) should show you how distinctive and beautiful this species is.
A recent colonist, first being recorded at the end of July 1995 and now one of our commonest large dragonfly's. It is on the wing from early summer but has usually become noteworthy by mid August. A long bodied heavy looking dragonfly, with a dusty blue abdomen which usually has extensive black suffusion extending up from the tip. The females are golden brown and lack much of the black suffusion.
In average years, this is possibly the commonest species to occur at most wetland sites. At Clayhanger it usually appears in May and can sometimes be found flying even into early September although as this species only has a limited life span of ten to fourteen days this involves many individuals over such an extended period. Easy to identify, with a slim dark abdomen which shows a single bright blue segment toward the tip. Specimens with violet, red or green thoracic markings occur now and then but are not seen as often locally as they once were.
A scarce but regular species on the Marsh, not generally that common anywhere locally. Easily identified by its thick-set, predominantly blue abdomen on males, while both males and the yellower females have dark wing-bases.
This is the big brown dragonfly that puts the wind up you when it flies past your head. These are a late summer species and as such are flying from early July to mid-October in favourable years. Brown Hawkers are often found a good distance from water and are even likely to occur in your garden occasionally.
Common Blue Damselfly
Despite the tendency for Blue-tailed to be the commonest species nationally, this is often the most frequent damselfly to occur at Clayhanger. This is the bluest of the Damselflies with two blue segments toward the end of the abdomen. It first appears late May or early June and can sometimes still be found flying in early or even mid-September.
The commonest of the medium sized dragonflies and its arrival is usually an indicator of the approaching end of summer. Males are usually more orangey-red than the related Ruddy Darter but this is not always a safe identification feature. Females are usually Yellowish. This species can often be recorded locally at the end of September and (in good years) even into early October.
Despite its name, often quite an uncommon species and always noteworthy at Clayhanger. With flight-views it is best separated from Southern Hawker by the Blue spotted abdomen with spots that extend down the total length (on the more common Southern Hawker, the spots at the tip are usually green on the last couple of segments). Although a very occasional visitor, ovipositing (egg-laying) has been observed on the site on occasion.
A common species at both sites with good numbers along the north side of Ryder's Mere. This was one of the first damselflies to colonise the site after landscaping and it can be found from Spring through to September in good years. Not a problem this one, we don't have any of the similar but much rarer species within fifty miles of our patch.
As its name suggests, the biggest of our resident species, not at all uncommon at either site and easily identified by its size and slightly down-turned abdomen. Emperor usually turn up late June and will fly until late August locally in most years.
A common species easily identified by the four spots on both sides of its open wings. More common in the spring (when it is usually the first 'proper' dragonfly at Clayhanger), but occasionally seen locally until mid to late August.
Large Red Damselfly
A big and obvious red damselfly, more frequent in the spring at Clayhanger but in a good year still being seen until late June.
[Lesser Emperor] A brief and unconfirmed sightingI have already seen a probable Lesser Emperor at Clayhanger (23/07/2006). Although I was familiar with this species from encounters in Europe my views of a putative specimen at Clayhanger Marsh were unfortunately too brief to submit. A small hawker-style dragonfly with a slim black abdomen and the blue thoracic saddle, (a feature which is a characteristic of both this species and Vagrant Emperor), was seen flying from the channel which flows into the Ford Brook and then north across the main swag, never to be seen again. This was almost certainly a Lesser Emperor but my view at the time did not feel satisfactory enough to submit a record which might result in people making a probably fruitless visit to the site. However, a week or so later, I heard that there had been a small influx of the species to the midlands during the same period, which obviously then made me regret my reticence.
A surprisingly petite Hawker, once a seasonal rarity but now established. It is most frequent in late summer and is best identified (with good views) by a yellow triangle below the thorax. It is rare to see this species before late July and in most years, mid-August but conversely, it is often the last dragonfly to be seen sometimes even into October.
Red Eyed Damselfly
A scarce visitor to the Marsh but common on the Wyrley and Essington Canal. Specimens recorded at Clayhanger have almost certainly nipped over from this source but it is always noteworthy on site.
A smaller related species (Small Red-Eyed Damselfly) was first recorded in the U.K. in 1999 and is already present at sites in Warwickshire and Leicestershire so almost inevitably it will eventually become a species that we may need to be familiar with.
(but unfortunately, not yet!).
A comparatively recent colonist (first confirmed July 1997) which seems to emerge later than the very similar Common Darter and one which seems to fly later in the season. It is possible in the south to see this species in late June but locally it is more likely to occur in late July or even August and I suspect it is not a firmly established species. (frequency and occurrence seems to vary drastically from year to year).
After Brown Hawker, this is the large Dragonfly you are most likely to encounter in good numbers at Clayhanger. Regularly found from late July onwards and often still present in mid or late September the combination of blue and green spots on the abdomen make this a nice easy one with half-decent views.
And things to look out for...
I have also seen Beautiful Demoiselle in Brownhills and this is another eruptive species which may well have occurred and of course, I am hoping for a Variable Damselfly or even a rarity from Europe one of the days.
If dragonflies do grab your interest there is another local species hanging on by a thread, Black Darter (Below) is a heathland species which can still be found on the fringes of Cuckoo Bank and Chasewater I understand from the Chasewater Wildlife Group that specimens were still present in October 2011.
There is the Gauntlet for you, find something new for the site and make me jealous - Chaz
Below: The areas rarest species - Black Darter