Ladybird Life Stages

The leaves on the lime trees in the village are providing a natural platform on which red and black ladybird larvae can pupate and eventually hatch out. Here are some pictures from the other day (22 September 2021) showing the various life stages. I think the final-stage yellow and black winged adult may have recently emerged from one of the pupae (or are they late-stage instars?). There are still lots of these intriguing small creatures around if you want to look for yourself. Try the leaves on the lime trees that border the tarmacked road between Olympic Park playing field and the cricket pitch.

Hedgerow Ivy Flowers

One of the most abundant sources of nectar and pollen at the moment – when most of our common wild flowering plants are already producing seeds, berries, and nuts – ivy is in full flower attracting clouds of bees, hover flies, and other winged pollinators.

Numerous pollinating insects on ivy flowers

Willowherb Seeds

Some of the magnificent stands of Great Willow Herb by the River Cerne have survived the recent general bankside maintenance work, and their seed capsules are now opening to release the delicate wind-dispersed seeds. They looked like multiple small cobwebs decorating the tall stalks.

View from Wood Hill 4

Wood Hill overlooks Charlton Down to the north, Charminster Down to the west, Charminster village to the south, and Charlton Higher Down to the east. On the north side of the hill closest to Charlton Down, small numbers of livestock such as cattle, sheep, and horses are grazed on the slopes.

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View from Wood Hill 3

One of the two public footpaths from my village of Charlton Down to the next village of Charminster, that lies further south, passes over the top of Wood Hill. On the top of the hill is a group of trees called Wood Hill Clump. The path goes around the trees, and after navigating the stile (or ‘kissing gate’), you see a completely different kind of view across a field of ripe wheat towards Charminster, the developing town of Poundbury, and the hills beyond.

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View from Wood Hill 2

There are gorgeous panoramic views of the village and surrounding countryside from the top of Wood Hill just to the south of Charlton Down in Dorset. This is the view from near the top of the slope looking east towards Charlton Higher Down, which I have managed to reach several times in the past pandemic year. It is the place marked by a Bronze Age barrow that I featured in an earlier post. There is also one hidden from view in a thicket of brambles in the field below the gate in this picture. When the burial sites were new and covered in white chalk over three thousand years ago, they must have really stood out in the landscape and been seen for miles around.

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View from Wood Hill 1

For the first time in many years, on a lovely sunny day at the end of August, I managed to walk to the top of Wood Hill and look down from that elevated position to the village of Charlton Down nestling among the trees and surrounded by beautiful rolling countryside. This picture shows the older Victorian buildings from the original Herrison Hospital days, with Greenwood House (where I live) on the right, and Redwood House on the left.

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Guelder-Rose Berries

Guelder-rose (Viburnum opulus) is not as common as Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Elder, and Dog Rose in the hedgerows and copses around our village of Charlton Down, but it has beautiful flowers in Spring and luscious red berries in Autumn. The best example of Guelder Rose can be found in the trees and bushes bordering the area of grassland that I have previously referred to as The Meadow: this is a triangular piece of land down the slope from Rowan Walk, and near the path that passes north and upwards to the barn on the crest of the hill as you walk to Forston Grange. Guelder-rose also grows in the hedge separating the Community Orchard from the road. The berries in the pictures are not quite ripe yet, still a bit orange in colour (24 August 2021) but should be ripe and a deep translucent red by now or pretty soon.

Oak Spangle galls

Galls smother the undersides of oak leaves this September in and around Charlton Down and further afield. The oaks in the Nature Reserve and in the grounds on the south side of Greenwood House are affected. The galls are common and I have often seen them in other years too. The exact shape is dictated by the type of wasp that has laid its eggs in the leaf. The ones like small rough brown discs with a raised centre are Spangle Galls made by the Cynipid wasp Neuroterus quercusbaccarum. The small round golden galls with a depressed centre, a donut-shape of silk threads, are made by the wasp Neuroterus nimismalis. Some leaves have both species of gall.

Click on any image to enlarge and view in a gallery.

Acorn Knopper galls

Acorn knopper galls can be found on the young oak trees behind Greenwood House and also in the Charlton Down Nature Reserve. They are acorns which have developed in a distorted way because a particular species of small wasps have laid their eggs in the acorn flowers. The irritation as the egg hatches out causes a proliferation of tissue growth on which the larva can feed. Sometimes a whole acorn is transformed this way. Sometimes only part of it. And on some stems a perfectly normal acorn in its cup grows side by side with the gall acorn. The shapes are variable as you can see from the photographs.

If you would like a little more information about these galls, ten years ago I wrote in my other blog about some of the same type of galls that I noticed in Kew Gardens.