Taking advantage of the nice weather, we managed to have a quick ramble around the Mailing Down Nature Reserve this week. It’s a great place to take a walk either alone or with your friends, family, or just your camera. At this time of year the scenery is bursting with colourful wildflowers and there are plenty of interesting insects to observe. While not an exhaustive list by any stretch, here’s our favourite finds from our visit:
Bird-foot-Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)
Sometimes known as “Grannies Toenails” or “Butter and Eggs”, the distinctly-shaped blossoms of Birds-foot-trefoil are currently carpeting much of the landscape at Mailing Down Nature Reserve. The bright yellow blooms and fiery buds are sure to catch your eye as you walk along the hills. Fun fact: It’s a member of the pea family!
Knapweed (Centaurea nigra)
A (literal!) perennial favourite of all manner of insects and birds. Knapweed has amazing value to the local wildlife, not only providing food directly to insects and birds, but also (literally!) supporting surrounding bed-straws and grasses with its woody stem. Several species of birds, butterflies, moths and other insects use Knapweed as a food source, or feed on the creatures that do. You might see goldfinches, honeybees, peacock butterflies, or lime-speck pug moths among the plethora of wildlife attracted to this flower, so Knapweed is definitely a plant to watch this summer.
Small Heath Butterfly (Coenonympha pamphilus)
Good luck catching this little guy! If you have a keen eye, the Small Heath butterfly can be seen flying low to the ground but can be hard to spot depending on the surroundings, preferring to rest with their wings up as shown. After trailing behind this one for a few minutes, this was the best shot I could get before I decided I was probably bothering the poor thing and let it be.
Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fushii)
This is a really interesting flower to see close-up, with its spikes of delicate looking blossoms with deeper purple markings. The Common-spotted orchid grows all over the UK, but they especially love chalky ground, which makes the Mailing Down Reserve a great place to see some.
Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris)
You may have seen this herb in your garden already, as Selfheal isn’t very picky about where it grows. It has an interesting history of medicinal use, its leaves applied to wounds to promote healing. If you grabbed one of our seed packets at Seedy Saturday this flower, along with Birds-foot-trefoil and Knapweed, were included in the mix.
Cinnabar moth caterpillars (Tyria jacobaeae)
The larvae of Cinnabar moths are very fond of Ragwort, having hatched from eggs laid on the plants. Their bright colours indicate that they’ve been ingesting the poisonous leaves, the orange and black stripes growing brighter as their toxicity grows–as a warning to potential predators. In Autumn they will hibernate in cocoons until the following summer, to emerge as pretty black and red moths.
Summer is just starting, and the weather should be sunny and dry this week (touch wood), so if you have some spare time the Mailing Down Nature Reserve is a great place to spend some time with nature. Check out the rest of the photos from our visit in our gallery.