Slender Groundhoppers (c) Philip Precey
Wildlife wonders from magical meadows
Attention-grabbing insects steal the show in summer – bright blue butterflies, burnished burnet moths and rattling grasshoppers – but how many of us look for other surprising stars of the sunshine? The Wildlife Trusts offer 10 top meadow and grassland species to look out for. The Wildlife Trusts’ Meadow Wildlife Weekend: 14/15 June 2014 is a great opportunity for discovery Summer is by far the best time of year for exploring your local meadow – whether it’s an upland hay meadow, a river valley water-meadow, a patch of waste ground on the edge of town or a priceless chalk grassland nature reserve. Now wildflowers are blooming, butterflies are on the wing, grasshoppers are singing and birds are raising their young.
Sensational species to look out for include:
Groundhoppers (c) Philip Precey
Though also related to grasshoppers, the tiny groundhoppers are not known to make any noise at all. Like grasshoppers, their antennae are short and forward-pointing. Groundhoppers differ from grasshoppers in that the roof-like shield which covers the thorax (known as the pronotum) extends the whole length of the insect’s body. These minute hoppers favour bare, sunny places in grassland, very often muddy places close to water and, unlike grasshoppers which only overwinter as eggs, they live as young adults through the winter. Two species, the common and slender groundhoppers, are widespread in the UK, though it takes sharp eyes to find them.
Meadows and grassland are – who would have thought it? – dominated by grasses. Yet, somehow we ignore the grass; preferring to look at the pretty flowers or the brightly-coloured butterflies which live with them. This summer why not look at the grass too. It’s no surprise that in grassland there are many species; indeed wherever you are in the UK there are species which define your local grassland type. So get out and look for the slender foxtails of timothy grass, the bristly heads of cock’s-foot, the shiny green leaves of ryegrass and many local rarities. Since these habitats were largely shaped by centuries of grazing, conservation organisations continue the same management today. As meadows are more open than woods they generally favour sun-loving species of flower and invertebrate. Because of the way they are managed they are also great places to look for our tough native breeds of domestic sheep, cattle and horses. The Wildlife Trusts’ Meadow Wildlife Weekend (14/15 June 2014)