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:
Yellow dung fly
Yellow Dung Fly (c) David Longshaw
Meadows are usually managed by grazing livestock and where there are grazing animals, especially cattle, there is sure to be plenty of dung. Where there is dung there will be organisms that eat it. In summer meadows one conspicuous insect on cow pats is this one. It is the bright yellow males which spend most time on the dung, waiting both for females and for the other insects on which they prey. Once mated a brownish female lays her many eggs, like tiny white scales, on the dung, on which the larvae will feed.
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)