Country Diary: Insect glistens in sunlight like a sparkling gem

Large hawker dragonfly

“Lost a screw?” we enquired of our cabinet-maker pal Martin, as he carefully swept amongst oak wood shavings. No, apparently he saw a grub in a tiny hole, and poked it out. Upon examination, it proved to be the larvae of a death-watch beetle! Woodworm does great damage tunnelling through household timbers. This species is larger that the furniture beetle, usually breeding in oak timbers, especially if damp. Its exit holes are three to four mm across. It’s well known for the tapping sound make by the adults before they emerge.

Then Michael called, waving a shovel! A large caterpillar had crawled towards him from a patch of willowherb. It was crossing the car park, just as one did last year about this time. It was another elephhant hawk moth caterpillar, as mentioned in my earlier Country Diary.

Dragonflies have been particularly obvious this week, darting across our gardens. Aeshna is the most common and widespread of our large hawker dragonflies, and is often seen away from water between July and September. Dragonflies are fast flying and very agile insects. They have to be to catch midges and other tiny flies in mid-air for food. Having large eyes help them to spot their prey, which they scoop up with their spiny legs. They have no sting and are harmless to human beings. They glisten in the sunlight like sparkling gems!

I need no reminder of yet another birthday apporaching, as September usually dawns with craneflies. Stepping outdoors, my first ‘visitor’ was a cranefly on the windowsill. A spiker left its paralysed prey, returning later to eat its victim.

The cranefly, or daddy long legs is very common. They emerge from larvae called leather-jackets, which are abundant in grassland and lawns. They can be serious pests, feeding on roots and lower leaves of plants. Rooks relish them, and help keep them under control. So do herring gulls. Watch huge flocks following the plough when autumn draws near. Eagerly seeking worms and other tasty morsels, gulls almost create a snow scene!

Michael’s just ‘waded’ through a flock of 30 swallows, swooping lover over the ground seeking insects. Soon they’ll have departed, alas.

Whilst attending a gathering at Ravenscar’s village hall, regarding Sustran’s plans for the Scarborough to Whitby cinder track, we watched a pair of goldfinches enjoying their harvest of thistle seeds. The pointed bill is used to extact seed from thistles and teasels.

Later, we enjoyed a ‘circular’ walk from Ravenscar towards Staintondale along the cinder track, recording not only dozens of wild flowers still in bloom, but an optional diversion left, across a field to view Ravenscar’s World War Two radar station. Beyond the stile was an information board detailing stories behind the buildings ahead. We continued, to return from Beast Cliff along the Cleveland Way revealing dramatic views from Common Cliff.

l Turn to page 54 to read about Maureen’s Scarborough heritage walk.

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