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Go on a six-mile circular nature walk from Bishop’s Stortford Tesco taking in woodland and Little Hadham





Nature Notes columnist Jono Forgham covers your fortnightly look at nature around Bishop’s Stortford

About three articles ago - six weeks - I mused over whether that wander would be my last in T-shirt and shorts. Last Monday dawned sunny and clear and by the time I had completed my Nature Notes walk of more than six miles it was 24°C. Surely this must be my last in such clothing?

I decided on a circular walk, beginning at Tesco, taking in woodland habitats as it had been a while since I’d covered such environs.

Footpath approaching bypass towards Tesco
Footpath approaching bypass towards Tesco

I headed off, crossing the bypass and picking up the footpath that runs parallel to Great Plantings Wood. Here, a green woodpecker was particularly vociferous and clearly not impressed with my presence. Long-tailed tits called from the hornbeam as I stopped to photo the spindle seed pods. These are now turning pink and will soon split open to reveal the bright orange seeds inside.

With the unseasonably high temperature I was anticipating insects such as dragonflies and butterflies. I was not disappointed as, just as I reached East Wood, a green-veined white butterfly overtook me, briefly resting upon a greater knapweed that was in secondary flowering, before the insect noted the emergence of my camera. Consequently, it departed stage right.

I continued around the field margins upon the wide footpaths. The fields here have had the lucerne and field beans harvested and have now been cultivated. Bean seeds that had dropped from the plants prior to harvest have already germinated, but I suspect these will be sprayed as I think winter wheat will be the crop that will be drilled for next year.

Feeding marks of Epinotia abbreviana, a micro moth caterpillar
Feeding marks of Epinotia abbreviana, a micro moth caterpillar

The path takes a right-hand turn just before Stocking Wood. A brook runs here, with plenty of elm growing. I stopped to check this important tree species for insects. The first thing I noticed was several leaves with holes, a very organised pattern of diagonally-cut ovals. This is the feeding pattern of the micro moth caterpillar Epinotia abbreviana, an elm specialist. Nearby was an even more amazing pattern, a winding-back-and-forth pattern created by Aproceros leucopoda, the elm zigzag sawfly. I managed a photo and there, at the end of the munchings, was indeed the larva. A most distinctive pattern created by what is a pest species.

I continued my search and came across two shieldbug species: Palomena prasina, the green shieldbug, and Pentatoma rufipes, the red-legged shieldbug. Nearby, on the banks of the brook, was a stand of red campion in full flower in October!

I entered Stocking Wood along the footpath. A wood I know very well as I have been carrying out a biodiversity survey here for more than five months and plan to continue this for a full year. As of early October I have recorded more than 900 species of insects, birds, mammals, fungi, plants, trees, arachnids and even three species of fish in the brook. A truly amazing local habitat. So far, 87 flowering plant species, including four orchid species.

I shall dedicate a whole article to this wood when the survey concludes next May. As well as carrying out the survey, the landowner has given me permission to carry out environmental enhancements. So far I have cleared the central ride, permitting more light and rain into this important part of the wood. This winter I shall be coppicing some hazel to aid the ground vegetation to flourish. All good larval foodplants for insects.

Red Admiral underwing
Red Admiral underwing

I exited the wood and continued towards Lower Farm Road. Here, a pair of red admiral butterflies posed upon ivy and a common darter dragonfly rested on the ground. In total I saw five examples of this insect. They will be present until the first frosts.

Passing the path up to Clinton’s Farm, I skirted around Harvey’s Wood where some hogweed was still in flower. Always worth a check on these large flowerheads for pollen-feeding insects and, indeed, there was a Melanostoma scalare hoverfly and, nearby, a large fly species, Tachina fera. A bullfinch called from a nearby cherry tree and carrion crows headed over the fields accompanied by noisy jackdaws.

A little further on I saw a very striking insect, the scorpion fly, Panorpa germanica. The male has a red ending to its abdomen that curls up to resemble a scorpion sting. However, this was a female that has a straight ending to the abdomen. It posed well in good light for a photo.

Panorpa germanica
Panorpa germanica

I came to a gate with warnings about cattle, but this was not my route today. I took a right into a stand of alder trees before crossing a stream on a wooden footbridge. A great stand of ivy attracted my attention. A hornet patrolled the plant and several Vespa vulgaris, the common wasp, were also in attendance, but little else so I continued.

Large bindweed was in full flower as I headed towards Acremore Street in Little Hadham. I checked these large blooms, but nothing feeding in them. However, plenty of blackthorns here, loaded with sloe berries. I shall return later in the year with a large bag to take some for the Christmas sloe gin. I always add a few almond shavings to my mix to add a rounded, nutty flavour.

Sloes
Sloes

Soon after following the path across a field and some paddocks I gained access to Acremore Street. This is the lane that runs from the war memorial in Little Hadham to Bury Green and is always a good nature wander. Great tits, blue tits and more long-tailed tits crossed the lane, a common buzzard circled the polo fields on my left and, in the distance, a kestrel sounded peeved with its soulful call. It was being mobbed by jackdaws.

Red Campion
Red Campion

Opposite the house called Acremans is a kissing gate that leads to Millfield Lane. I was not heading that way, but right next to the gate was another stand of ivy in full flower. It was alive with insects. More wasps and hornets along with a swarm of the wonderful Colletes hederae, the ivy bee. Another Tachinid species fly also rested upon the leaves. Without microscopic study, impossible to identify a specific species. I suspect a member of the Sarcophaga group.

Tachnid fly species
Tachnid fly species

A little further along, snowberries were into full berry. A great spotted woodpecker heckled me from an oak as I wandered over the green at Bury Green. I headed to another footpath that heads back to Stocking Wood. This can be picked up by Folly Cottage. More red admirals posed for a photo of their intricate underwing colouration and the resident common buzzards mewed overhead.

Green shieldbug
Green shieldbug

I took the path around Stocking Wood which eventually brought me back to my original path by East Wood and then Great Plantings Wood. Here, a pair of speckled wood butterflies were having an aerial dogfight before one landed on leaves for a somewhat distant photo.

Speckled Wood
Speckled Wood

I headed back to Lords Avenue in Bishop’s Park and a well-earned bottle of drink from the supermarket. The queue for a coffee dissuaded me from joining them, so just the drink on the bench outside. I checked through the photos and concluded I had enough to illustrate this epistle.

Snowberries
Snowberries

One of my favourite local walks, offering a variety of habitats with the woodland aspect of the wander being of most interest to me. Stocking Wood alone holds 23 tree species. My survey has so far recorded 24 butterfly species here along with more than 280 moth species since March of this year. I anticipate discovering many more species throughout the winter and, most certainly, in early spring. Watch this space as I have already recorded several rare species.

Tachina fera, a parasitic fly species
Tachina fera, a parasitic fly species

Two videos I have from my trail camera can be viewed at https://littlehadhambirding.blogspot.com. These show both fallow deer and the less common roe deer to be present. Wonderful.

Common Darter dragonfly
Common Darter dragonfly
Red legged shieldbug
Red legged shieldbug
Red Admiral upperwing
Red Admiral upperwing
Elm zigzag sawfly larva
Elm zigzag sawfly larva
Large Bindweed
Large Bindweed
Colletes hederae, the Ivy Bee
Colletes hederae, the Ivy Bee
Spindle seedpod
Spindle seedpod
Melanostoma scalare, hoverfly species
Melanostoma scalare, hoverfly species

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