Well last Friday, yes it was, a Grey Dagger in fact. As an adult moth I would have struggled to identify it as it is extremely similar to the Dark Dagger and I would have most likely got it wrong. Fortunately the caterpillars are easier and I have to say more interesting with their bright colours. The adult moth’s flight season is in June, so this caterpillar has hatched from this years eggs and will overwinter in it’s pupal state (chrysalis) to emerge as an adult next year. Of all places it was making it’s way down Coastguard Lane! Not sure if this is a first for the Country Park but the NBN Atlas shows well over 15,000 records for this species but none in the Country Park.
Having become used to the sight of Stonechat on the Firehills, I nearly missed this one, the very similar looking Whinchat that has come to the coast ready for it’s autumn migration to spend the winter in Africa. Many other species of birds will also be seen arriving around now at the Country Park, embarking on similar journeys.
I first spotted this fungus probably about a couple of weeks ago, just emerging from the bark of a dead birch in the “Plantation”. It was just a white sphere then but has now developed into something that I have been able to identify. A “bracket” fungus which has no stem (stipe) and whose spores come out of tiny pores (see bottom photo) unlike mushrooms where they come from gills under the cap. A lot of other fungi appearing at the moment particularly on the cleared areas of the Firehills, so more to follow on this subject.
Encountering the Cold War Bunker in the Country Park is often the start of many questions springing to mind. When was it operational, how many service personnel were stationed there, what is its layout, why did they knock down the guardhouse? Are just a few of the typical questions. One of the less frequently asked questions is “what species of wasp could that be?” A walk atop the bunker yesterday brought the discovery of a tiny wasp, less than 2mm long, but very beautiful with its distinctive colouration. Callitula pyrrhogaster is one of the flightless parasitic wasps and there are very few records of its presence. It is said to be a reasonably common species but almost no one bothers to identify this branch of wasps as they are so difficult. As a result this is another first for the Country Park and another first for Sussex.
Having recently recorded some of the common and easily recognisable fungi that I have found in the Country Park, I came across this in the “Plantation”, the wood to the east of the Firehills. Using the key in a book I recently acquired I was able to get an identification quite quickly, much easier than looking at page after page of photos on the internet. It is Oudemansiella mucida and has the common name of Porcelain fungus which is rather apt. The dark spots are not part of the fungus but just little specks that have landed on the caps.
Ivy growing over the Visitor Centre provides an interesting habitat to study if you wish to monitor invertebrate life without wishing to go very far in the Country Park. One of the regular visitors that might be found over much of the year is a very strange looking creature. The Issid Hopper Issus coleoptratus is a relatively large hopper at approximately 6mm, but its shape and form make it seem considerably larger. The elytra are covered with a strong network of veins and there can be dark forms as well as the more common grey form. Its face is beyond description, beautifully ugly, unsettling yet endearing, definitely unforgettable. Its ability to jump is noteworthy. The jump does not come from its legs but from mechanical gears in the thorax. It is a very odd creature but always a pleasure to see.
Removal of the blocks of single age gorse on the Firehills has created large areas of new habitat in the Country Park, and it is interesting to see which species are colonising this newly available area. One unexpected delight was a species of Lacebug Derephysia foliacea. It is quite a distinctive lacebug as it has a single row of large meshes around the outer rim of the forewing. It is almost transparent and very small, and hence difficult to find but definitely worth seeking.