Region diary: A very simple picnic in a miniature jungle
A geometrid moth caterpillar undulates via the grass. Grip with front legs. Solid off astern. Loop the overall body, drawing in the tail, and grip. Enable go for’ard. Extend to measure its size, with geometric precision, along the leaf. Grip once more for’ard. And repeat. I tap the grass and the caterpillar freezes, relying on its resemblance to a lifeless twig to retain it safe.
Dappled shade forged by a hawthorn helps make this a perfect location to sit and relaxation on a sultry summer time afternoon. Absolutely nothing extravagant for a picnic, just a cheese and chutney roll, a pear and a carton of orange juice, but the organization is endlessly intriguing. The calcareous grassland of this ancient wood pasture, unploughed for generations, is teeming with invertebrate existence.
It’s the period for plain chocolate-colored ringlet butterflies, and meadow browns with milk chocolate wings and a flash of orange. They are passing by, almost never at relaxation. But the chimney sweepers – geometrid moths with sooty wings tipped with a sprint of white – settle to lay eggs on bouquets of pignut, a shorter, lacy umbellifer developing among grasses, clover and hawkweeds.
A few of metres away, down the slope, lie hummocks of meadow ant nests, smothered in very small bouquets of white heath bedstraw and pale blue heath speedwell. The ants are hardly ever seen on the floor but are, even now, in subterranean tunnels beneath me, farming honeydew secreted by aphids that feed on grass root sap.
The tallest grass around me is crested dog’s tail. Its rigid straw, the moment utilised for weaving lightweight straw hats for times this kind of as this, will make it unpalatable to sheep. It supplies scaffolding for webs spun by spiders that abseil among its culms on in close proximity to-invisible threads, seemingly going for walks on air.
What will be the spotlight of this summertime? There was a time when it may well have been finding uncommon species in grander areas. But possibly it will be this, viewing hoverflies look into my pear core, or the spider spinning a silken thread from the grass on to my knee. It appears to be like a kind of acceptance into the world of myriad species whose temporary lives are heading on all all around me.