2.50 p.m., 75°F, 28°C: By the time that I’ve strimmed a path around our meadow area, there’s just a tuft of tall grasses left in the middle, the size of a double bed. Knapweed, creeping buttercup and red campion (not yet in flower) are holding their own amongst the Yorkshire fog and cocksfoot grass.
In spring I added two plants of birdsfoot trefoil from the garden centre which are scrambling up amongst the grass stems and just beginning to show a few flowers.
A blackbird which is nesting in a dense holly in the hedge makes a circuit of the newly trimmed path.
A larger than average female wolf spider rests under the cover of a chicory leaf, holding her pea-sized cocoon of eggs so that it catches the afternoon sun.
A large skipper, Ochlodes sylvanus, rests in the sun on a blade of grass, its wings half open in characteristic skipper fashion. It’s a male with a dark band of scent cells across its forewing.
10.30 a.m.: A dragonfly lands on the wall of the bridge over the River Porter at Langsett Reservoir giving me the chance to take a quick blurred snapshot before it flies off again. I draw from the photograph to try and fix the details in my mind before attempting to identify it.
It’s a hawker, possibly a male common hawker, Aeshna juncea. The male has a slender ‘waist’ at the top of the abdomen, which I’ve thickened up a bit in my drawing. Its colours are muted; it can take a few days for the bright colours to develop. It’s larvae develop in bog pools and on the coast they can tolerate brackish water.
The dippers that we spotted building a nest alongside the weir are now feeding young, which we can hear calling for food. They sound hungry enough to eat a dragonfly.
Oak Eggar Caterpillar
Up on the moor at Hingcliff Common, the caterpillar of the oak eggar moth, Lasiocampa quercus, is crawling along at the side of the path. Despite the name, the caterpillar doesn’t feed on oak; here on the moor it is likely to be feeding on heather or bilberry plants. The red-brown male moths fly on sunny days during the summer but the paler female is nocturnal.