"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Monday, 9 June 2014

Shadowbrook Meadows NR, Scarecrows and Emperor Moth Caterpillar Update

Last week I finally went to a local Warwickshire Wildlife Trust meadow I've been meaning to visit for years. Shadowbrook Meadows fall within the much larger designated area of Bickenhill Meadows. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and covers 4.4 hectares. The reserve consists of two dry meadows and 2 wet meadows bisected by a small stream and each field is surrounded by hedgerows believed to be 600 years old.

What makes these meadows so special is the fact that over the centuries they have never been sprayed, fertilised or ploughed. This unimproved grassland demonstrates what much of our countryside would have looked like before the changes in agricultural practice last century. The biodiversity of the meadows has been maintained by using unaltered traditional hay cutting and grazing regimes.

The meadows are full of wildflowers and grasses in the summer. Butterflies seen include Common Blue and Small Copper and Pignut flowers attract Chimney Sweeper moths together and 6 nationally scarce insect species occur. In autumn several species of waxcap fungi can be found in the meadows.

My first view of the reserve

One of the Tenthredo sawflies (probably T arcuata). This individual is covered in yellow pollen but the yellow markings of the insect mimic wasps.

I was really chuffed to see the "Footballer" Hoverfly (so named because of the stripes). Also known as the Brindled Hoverfly (Helophilus pendulus).

Marsh Thistle

The first of the two "dry" meadows

The second "dry" meadow

Following the path round the edge of the meadows

I don't think I've ever seen so many Yellow Rattle Plants - they were growing everywhere.

Honeysuckle in the hedgerows


Red clover and Yellow Rattle


There were some beautiful trees along the hedgerow



Soldier Beetle (Cantharis rustica)


Various Grasses

Record shot of a Lacewing - it was very windy when we were walking round which probably accounted for the lack of butterflies. We only saw a few Speckled Woods and "whites" and one of the blues too far away to be identified.

A large mass of Speedwell was flowering at the base of a hedgerow

Sawfly - Tethredo livida

I was really pleased to find this Scorpion Fly

The meadows are on the flight path to Birmingham International Airport and there were lots of these flying over every 5 minutes!

I would have liked to visit the wet meadows to see the Heath-spotted Orchids but after an hour and a half I'd managed to run out of time.

We drove home via Hampton-in-Arden. Last year I visited their Scarecrow Festival but I'd missed this year's so I took a few photos of this year's scarecrows from the car window as we drove through the village.

The four week old Emperor Moth caterpillars - now turning green!! They are rather a nightmare to clean out as when you try to transfer them with a paintbrush to a spare container they just cling onto leaves/kitchen paper in the container that needs cleaning. I am spending ages persuading each and everyone onto a leaf to get them into another container!


Anonymous said...

What a beautiful place. You saw a great number of interesting insects and have helped me ID something I saw in the wildflower area here last week :-) (one of the Sawflies). Am looking forward to seeing the Emperor moths x

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales - Thank you - it was a good discovery. Only 20 minutes from home can't believe I haven't been before! I am trying to get more flies identified but not easy :(

Emperor moths (once they pupate) won't emerge until next April/May. I seem to remember you took your caterpillars on holiday last year - will be doing the same!! :)

Amanda Peters said...

What a great find and so close to were you live. I just love wild flower meadows, images of long summers as a child..
Your Soldier Beetle is one I have not got,so on the look out to day.
Caterpillars on holiday ! I can't say what my husband would think of that:)
Amanda x

Ragged Robin said...

Amanda Peters - Thanks so much. I feel the same as you re: wildflower meadows. My son was with me and I was constantly saying there were so many of these about when I was little!

lol re: caterpillars. My husband doesn't know yet! He has a different car now with boot half the size of the old one and son and daughter in 20's are coming away with us - luggage is going to be a problem :(
Good luck with Soldier Beetle search :)

Em Parkinson said...

A beautiful place indeed and wonderful photos of it. Sawflies are my m
nemesis in the garden as they can decimate the Solomon's Seal in a few hours. I've escaped this year so It's kind of nice to see one up close. Brilliant getting that Lacewing - very impressed!

Ragged Robin said...

Em Parkinson - Thanks so much. Hope the sawflies remain absent from your garden!! I was really cursing the wind which was wafting the grass hither and thither. A shame because I got so close it could have been a much better photo.

Rohrerbot said...

Looks like a really nice place full of wonderful plants. Although the planes would annoy me after awhile:) Missing the orchids this time just means you'll have to go back:) I hate when that happens:)

Ragged Robin said...

Chris Rohrer - Thanks so much Chris. Must admit the planes were a trifle annoying - destroyed the peace and quiet somewhat :(

Yes, I will definitely return - I love wild orchids :)

Bovey Belle said...

What a lovely trip out and great photos of the insects - some I semi-recognize but with no names! I love wild flower (old hay) meadows like those ones. The Yellow Rattle is like a signature plant for them.

Ragged Robin said...

Bovey Belle - Thanks so much. I'm trying to make more effort this year to learn more insect id!! Not easy :(

Its so sad that there are so few of those traditional hay meadows left - I think its 97% we've lost which is just awful. I usually go to Notcutt (Monkspath) meadows around this time of year which is only open for a couple of weekends but in case I don't get time at least I've visited a similar one :)