A guided tour of the patch

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Nature is better when shared with others and last week, it was great to welcome several local naturalists to the patch.

Another weekend, another trip to Silverlink, albeit with company on this occasion. Joined by Fiona Greenwold from ERIC North East, I helped lead a small group of Natural History Society members on a 2-hour walk around the site looking at plants and insects. A mini bioblitz, if you will.

On the plant front, little had changed since the week before. Except, perhaps, for a noticable increase in the amount of Small Scabious and Wild Carrot in bloom. The latter of which, alongside the copious flowers of Wild Parsnip, were attracting a fantastic variety of insects. Everlasting Pea is a species familar from the site but the white form below, spotted by a group member, was also a highlight. This no doubt grows here as an escape from cultivation.

Having recorded around 170 plant species at Silverlink, it is not often these days that a visit yeields a new species, never mind two! With more eyes on the lookout, however, today we found two exciting additions to the site’s flora. The first we think is Chalk Knapweed, despite appearing somewhat more robust than it should be. It certainly had the deeply-lobed leaves but alas, it could be an intermediate form. The second plant was Hoary Ragwort, a scarce species in the North East.

With a wealth of umbellifers in the bloom across the site, pollinating insects were present in abundance. Among these, hoverflies were particularly promitent and it was a nice to note a range of common species including Myathropa florea and Episyrphus balteatus. Slightly more interesting was the striking little hoverfly shown below: Riponnensia splendens. The parrallel lines on the thorax help identify this species.

Finally on the hoverfly front, we also noted large numbers of Chrysogaster solstitialis. With their vivid red eyes and black colouration, these hoverflies always stand out – particularly when perched atop the white flowers of Wild Carrot. Not a hoverfly and not identified with certainty, but I think the sawfly below could be Tenthredo distinguenda.

Slightly larger and more conspicuous than the aformentioned insects, while exploring one of the ponds on site, we were delighted to catch sight of this vibrant Southern Hawker. Perching for some time on a nearby rock, it surely proved a highlight of the day for many.

No trip to Silverlink in summer would be complete absent a look downward among the grasses and wildflowers. After last week’s fruitful search for bugs, this week there had been a noticable increase in another species, Calocoris roseomaculatus. This species has distinctive rosy patches on its forewings.

Finally, while seaching Silverlink’s grassland, it was nice too to stumble across my first Green Leafhopper. Fairly distinctive, at least as far as leafhoppers go, the turqoise colour of this little insect really stood out.