August 2014 - A Walk Near Wymondham
It is Sunday, the 13th of July and the Bawburgh Wanderers are off for a walk near Wymondham. The day is sunny, hot and humid. The walk, conveniently mowed, is around agricultural fields with surrounds of large uncultivated strips and hedgerows, left for wildlife to flourish. At one particular spot we can see Kett's Oak in the distance.
Grasshoppers are abundant. These insects eat grass, and are renowned for their loud chirping sounds made by a row of pegs on their back legs which they rub against their forewings. They have hearing organs along both sides of their abdomen. Most of the chirps are done by the male grasshoppers as they search for a mate. The female lays her eggs in dry soil and the youngsters (nymphs) hatch the following spring. Grasshoppers have a relatively short life as they do not survive the winter.
There are numbers of newly emerged Gatekeeper or Hedge Brown butterflies flitting around the meadow grass. They seem to have their own territories. These butterflies are very similar to Meadow Browns but are less drab displaying bright orange colour and preferring to sunbathe with wings outspread, instead of closed. Their caterpillars will feed on grass, but the adult butterflies feed on a variety of nectar producing wild flowers and are primarily attracted to bramble flowers, which are abundant. The female Gatekeeper lays 100 to 200 eggs, sometimes ejecting them into the air over grass land, letting them fall randomly.
We are all struck by the variety of different grasses that edge the paths; some very delicate and pink producing waves as caught by the breeze. Two Chamomiles are evident, the Scentless Mayweed, with its daisy like flower heads, and the Rayless Mayweed, with its yellow domed flower heads, the latter commonly found on farm tracks and waste ground. The Ox Eye Daisy rears its head over the less tall chamomiles. One particularly beautiful wild flower is the Sainfoin, the only member of the pea family to have a stalked spiked head of pink flowers. Sainfoin is particularly good as a food for grazing animals, including rabbits and hares, reducing levels of parasitic worms. Tall pink flowered Great Willow Herb waves in the breeze along a ditch whilst Bird's Foot and Hop Trefoils provide splashes of yellow among the long grass.
The walk is over too quickly, and as we head off back to Bawburgh, we hear thunder as a storm approaches.
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