GRAFTON WOOD - Brushes and Broomsticks for Bugs and Butterflies
Updated: Jan 29, 2022
(Nearest post code - WR7 4PG)
Visited by Shep and Zak
It was a cloudy grey day this morning when Shep and I accompanied our owner Julie to Grafton Wood which is a 20-minute drive away from Worcester.
We hadn’t been here for over a year and we were keen to explore this beautiful ancient wood. The last time that we came here was during Brown Hairstreak week last year. Julie’s neighbour Trevor, who is a voluntary warden for the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, gave us a grand tour of the reserve. helped of course, by his canine companions, Gwen and Dexter who showed us all of the best places to see this rather rare butterfly.
Sadly, we didn’t see any on that occasion, but we hoped today that we might be luckier. We had heard that there had been sightings only a few days ago.
Julie decided that we would walk around the whole perimeter of the wood today to give ourselves the very best chance.
As we scampered along the path, we were aware of the sweet smell of burnt vegetation and a round blackened circle gently smouldered on one side of the path. A large area had been cleared of vegetation by Trevor and his fellow volunteers in order to improve the habitat for the Brown Hairstreak butterfly as well as for many of the other invertebrates that live here. The Brown Hairstreak likes to lay its eggs on young blackthorn in the autumn so that when the caterpillars emerge in the spring, they will have plenty to eat. Timing is really important. Any scrub clearance must take place sooner rather than later to make sure that the maximum number of eggs will overwinter.
It is quite chilly today so I doubt that we will see any adults flying around but there are many plants still in flower that provide the nectar that the adults like to eat. These included bright yellow fleabane and delicate pink tinged bramble blossom. We also noticed drifts of purple scabious and frothy clusters of hemp agrimony flowers on our walk whilst the rosebay willow herb had finished flowering and was moulting fluffy white seeds. At least this only happens once a year. Shep and I moult all of the time - much to Julie’s annoyance!!!
Actually, the preferred food stuff of the adult brown hairstreak is honeydew – a rich, sweet sugary liquid exuded out of the anuses of aphids – lovely!
In certain parts of the wood, it is obvious that the woodland has been managed in a certain way. Some trees, generally hazel trees, have lots and lots of stems growing from the base. Humans use these poles to make all kinds of useful items such as paint brushes, broom handles and clothes pegs, dog agility equipment (only joking!) or for firewood. It looks like the stems have not been harvested for a long time because we could see so many shoots growing up from the base. I think that it would make a really fun place for hide and seek for little humans.
I wonder if this is why this wood is so good for butterflies. I guess that cropping the trees in this way would create lots of potential new homes for both plants and animals.
As we walked, we could see that the trees and shrubs were hanging heavy with berries and fruits. I hope that this doesn’t mean that we are in for a hard winter.