Friday, 10 July 2015

Tree Following - June to July

Welcome to my Tree Following post for June and early July. I have been away so am running late with this post. Consequently I have not had much time for observations this month, but I look forward to sharing the few things I have noticed.

These tree posts form part of a wider project run by Lucy Corrander from the Loose and Leafy blog. I am based in Suffolk, UK, where I am following an Acer Negundo (aka a Box-leaf Maple). I am also continuing to keep an eye on my Silver Birch, B. pendula.

You will find the other Tree Follower links on the Loose and Leafy blog ... so do take the chance to catch up with happenings in the arboreal world!

The Box-leaf Maple (Acer negundo) is in full leaf, adding a bright splash of lime-green to the view from my window. It contrasts beautifully with the deep magenta of two other acer specimens that sit either side. You can see the large winged seeds (so unlike the tiny Silver Birch seeds, which resemble midges!) in the photo below. The birds still seem to show little interest in this tree and I continue to wonder why that should be the case.

Acer negundo in early July

The Silver Birch (like the nearby Downy Birch) is also big and bushy at present. The Downy Birch has been shedding leaf after leaf - not to mention vast quantities of a sticky sap. You could be forgiven for guessing that my car had been parked under a lime tree ... I have no recollection of the copious amounts of sap at this time last year, so perhaps it is due to the extremely high temperatures that we had a few days ago.

A year ago I wrote the following words:

'The Silver Birch is still a mass of green leaves, though shades of brown have crept in among them, reminding me that the longest day is now well and truly behind us. I keep reminding myself that most schools in England have yet to break up for their summer vacation!'

When I read these old observations this morning, I took them at face value and assumed that the brown referred to the dead leaves that I see all around (there was even one on the stair carpet!). But when I read on, I discovered that last year's 'brown' referred to the female catkins. It seems that (some) early leaf fall is earlier than usual in 2015.

A fallen leaf. I wonder about the mottled appearance ...

The catkins are largely green at this point, but I can see at least one brown one ...

The photo below shows what I found on the ground about a metre away from the Silver Birch yesterday. It is a male Stag Beetle, and unfortunately it was dead and lying upside down with its legs at the top. You can read about Stag Beetles here.

Apparently the south-east is the UK's stronghold for this species and most records submitted (about two-thirds) are from suburban or urban gardens. High temperatures in this part of the UK are thought to play a part, and there is a theory that these beetles can feed off sap runs.
The male Stag Beetle appears to have 'antlers', which are in fact the lower mandibles. The larvae feed off dead or decaying wood. I suspect this male had climbed up the Silver Birch trunk before launching itself into the air and flying around the leaves. It probably crashed into our french window. These beetles are protected by law and classed as 'Nationally Scarce'.

A Stag Beetle survey (1998, carried out under the auspices of the University of Kent) found that these insects were associated with 103 species of 'tree and shrub', so while I have learned through my observations that these creatures operate around my Silver Birch, I now know that this is only one of many, many leafy plants that they favour (unlike my Acer negundo). The Silver Birch is one of the trees, according to the survey, that is associated with every stage of the Stag Beetle's life.

We have had a lot of recent Magpie activity around the Silver Birch, and it is possible that this could be linked to the beetles, which they like to eat. Do beetles eat ants, I wonder? There has been a steady stream of large black ants climbing the trunk. They were very lively, but here's one I caught on camera.

Last night we kept the curtains open until it was completely dark. We have had quite a few moths (including a magnificent pale yellow Swallow-tailed Moth), but the Silver Birch was attracting something rather different. There was a constant flurry of slightly slow, stilted fluttery things, too small even for a pipistrelle. My first hunch was that they were more male Stag Beetles, but they returned in good numbers at about 9 pm this evening, flying in their clumsy manner around the Silver Birch (yes, just the Silver Birch), and I am pretty sure they are Cockchafers, which feed on the leaves as they zoom around.

A Cockchafer on the carpet (one I saw earlier, in mid-July 2013!)

Next month I hope to return to my usual lists, but it has been fun and rewarding to learn about the Stag Beetle! And I shall, of course, be submitting my record to the Survey for Stag Beetle Distribution in Suffolk.

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Hollis said...

Wow - that's quite a beetle! looks ferocious

Crafty Green Poet said...

Sad that the stag beetle was dead, such a magnificent insect. I've only ever seen one.

Interesting about the cockchafers too, don't think I've ever seen those!

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Coming back to read this later - but in the meantime - there isn't a picture verification on my blog. I mean there clearly was when you visited but I didn't put it there and I haven't come across it on other Blogspot blogs. It's really odd and I can't explain it. Knowing you have sometimes found problems in leaving a link I'm extra-perplexed!

eileeninmd said...

Great post and report on your tree following. The Silver Birch is pretty. The Staghorn Beetle looks huge, UGH! Have a happy weekend!

Brian Skeys said...

While the Acer negundo is a favourite in our garden the Cockchaffer is not especially when they fly in through an open door in the evening. It is good to see you have Stag Beetles.

Amanda Peters said...

I have not had chance to do my post on my tree, so at least you are doing better than me, great find seeing the stag beetle, shame it's dead though does mean they are about. I think we have all been making the most of the weather.
Amanda xx