Monday, 2 July 2012

Wot, no flies to catch?

We visited the three sites where spotted flycatchers have been known to breed in the area, but only one pair was found. More evidence of population crash, as these lovely birds are hard to find these days.
 There's precious little for them to feed their chicks this year as the weather has been cool, damp and decidedly unclement for insects. The records tell us that we've had the wettest (on average across the country) late spring/early summer and to that can be added an almost constant cool north-easterly wind in this corner of the country, so the long-term trends that have done for so much of the insect life have been reinforced by short-term damage.
A comment that I've heard frequently recently is "when was the last time you had to scrape insects off the windscreen?". Perhaps modern cars' improved Cd designs have an effect, but the numbers of insects that peppered our car in the seventies are absent now. How do the birds and other animals that depend on the seasonal harvest of flying protein cope when it doesn't appear?
Or even the plants that need them for pollination?
 I assume that Nottingham catchfly does not feed off the insects that get stuck to its stems, but it may be sticky to stop them crawling up to eat the flowers or drink the nectar, which is to attract nightflying moths. 
Whatever, the swathes of catchfly that grew on Dover cliffs last year have not reappeared, with only a sparse and short-lived growth this year.

While musing on the lack of insects while cycling along Walmer seafront this evening, we were assailed by an emergence of summer chafers, cruising and crashing around hedges and bushes along the path with their languid droning buzz. We saw a couple of hundred in a short distance, many bumping into us and catching in our hair. Examining one more closely, we could see that they have small eyes which seem to serve them poorly.

Elsewhere, an energetic grey wagtail was feeding on insects above a waterfall by Leeds Castle..... did you know that you can walk around the grounds on public footpaths after the paying punters have gone home? Idyllic.

 And near there, at The Larches...... at last I've seen my first ground-pine. And then another 80 were found, equally tiny. 
A gorgeous little plant which has eluded me for a while, probably because I've also got small eyes that serve me poorly.

1 comment:

Warren Baker said...

The spotfly's here have managed to get at least two young off, but I dont know what they can find to feed on, as you say, insect life is at a premium :-(

Same for the young swallows!