Amongst the Heather


Recently I’ve begun helping my new friends Joan and her husband John with their exciting woodland restoration project. Once dominated by non-native Sitka spruce, the site now has a diverse range of trees including rowans, larches, oaks and wild cherries. As a result, it’s attracted plenty of wildlife from bumblebees to pine martens! So far I’ve been getting stuck in with rescuing trees, which involves cutting the plastic tubes off of saplings that have outgrown them. I was rewarded with a feast of wild raspberries and plenty of opportunities to photograph invertebrates and an outrageous fungus!

Joan pointed out the two types of heather, which on closer inspection couldn’t be more different. Bell heather (above left) is a rich pink colour and each flower is a fat, tubular bell. Ling heather is a much paler violet and its flowers have wider, skirt-like heads. The heather attracted plenty of insects – I spotted ladybirds, flies, bees and butterflies wafting around the purple sprays.

As I searched for any trees that may look a little large for their tubes, I happened to glance down at a sodden tree stump and noticed a huge stack of caterpillars! There were perhaps a dozen of them all wrapped around each other, sat out in the open for anyone to find. I quickly texted my friend Lucy, whose insect knowledge was far superior to mine, and she told me they were buff tip moth caterpillars. I’d never seen so many caterpillars together before and it was such a treat getting to photograph them.

Unfortunately after a couple of hours tree rescuing the midges made their presence a little too intense, so I headed back to the clearing where we’d left our bags. I could see a winding tendril of smoke from the fire John had started to make tea, but the sprawling mass of heather, bracken and saplings made it tricky to find a route there. Several times I was blocked off and it took me a comical amount of time to find the pressed footpath that I took on the way out. Just before I sat down to tea and posh biscuits, Joan pointed out an excellent nerd find: a stinkhorn fungus. I’d only seen one of these before and it hadn’t looked its best, but this one was looking fabulous. An excellent end to an afternoon’s rescuing!

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