Thursday, 6 April 2017

April 6th Mousehold Heath

Small Tortoiseshell
Today, I helped out with the first butterfly survey of 2017 at Mousehold with warden Will and his mother and nephew. We managed to get 13 individuals, which included 1 green-veined or small white (it flew too fast to get a clear ID), 3 speckled woods, 3 small tortoiseshells, 1 brimstone, 1 orange-tip, 1 holly blue, 2 peacocks and 2 commas. Most of these butterflies were at the first sector of our survey route, while most of the other sectors were very empty of these beautiful insects.

Slugs and Millipede
While walking around the site, Will turned over a couple of logs to show his nephew some mini-beasts. There were plenty of millipedes, woodlice and so on, but what made me pleased out of all of them was seeing one of my target species, a leopard slug. This rather spotty slug was on a piece of a log that had flaked off alongside a black slug and a millipede. Leopard slugs are predatory molluscs that eat other slugs, so that black slug should beware. But this is not the reason why I have this slug on my list.

Leopard Slug
Black Slug

Leopard Slug
I am really interested in this species sex life. You see, slugs are hermaphrodites, they have both male and female sex organs. When two slugs meet, they exchange sperm with one another. But leopard slugs take mating to the next level. They climb together up a tree and dangle off a branch on a line of slime. Their bodies wrap around each other in an embrace, looking like a slimy corkscrew. Then, strange, long, bluish sex organs spring out from the sides of their heads and these too twist around each other, spiralling downwards. It is then they exchange the sperm to fertilise each other's eggs. It sounds absolutely bizarre and yet something beautiful at the same time. It is something that is rarely witnessed as it happens mainly at night and I would be incredibly lucky to see it myself. Maybe one day...

At the Vinegar Pond, the tadpoles have now hatched and the murky water of the pond is full of them. Also today, I saw a great spotted woodpecker, chiffchaffs, long-tailed tits and a water beetle in the New Pond.

Water Diving Beetle (Acilius sulcatus)
Red-tailed Bumblebee

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