When Forestry England asked for volunteers to assist in celebrating its centenary by surveying forest wildlife, I thought ‘why not?’ I spend a lot of time in the forest, and I mean a lot of time, so it made sense to record the flora and fauna I find on my morning dog walks, photography forays, moth trapping sessions and botanical ambles. And so it came to be that I became part of the project known as ‘The Big Forest Find’ recording amazing species found in Dalby Forest.
I keep my own records in notebooks but, for the first time and in line with the project, I put my observations onto iNaturalist, an app that not only records findings but, through the international on-line community and its built-in database, also assists in identifying species. Furthermore, formally identified species can be used for research. Overall it was an interesting exercise. In fact so much so that I’ll write a post about the pros and cons of iNaturalist in the future however; here, I just want to show the diversity of animals and plants that can be found in the forest.
My first record was a clump of White Deadnettle. That was on 26th May. The app was simple to use and by the time the project finished on 31st October, I’d added 478 observations of 321 confirmed species, all within the confines of Dalby Forest. Altogether 557 species were recorded in Dalby Forest over the summer months so I had to whittle them down. As a result, here are just 25 of them to whet your appetite.
My all-time favourite moth, common in Dalby Forest. This one was trapped and released in Low Dalby Village at the end of May.
2. Ashy Mining Bee
Several Ashy Mining Bees flitted amongst a spread of Germander Speedwell during the Forestry England public event on June 9th. Being strikingly black and white striped, this furry little bee is very easy to identify. It nests in burrows so I spent some time trying to see if an entrance to one was nearby. I had no luck.
3. Golden-bloomed Longhorn beetle
There’s no getting away from the fact that this is a spectacular beetle. Common throughout the forest, it was regularly caught in the sweep net and released or seen crawling on low growing plants in the meadows. Kids, in particular, loved seeing this during the public events.
4. Nursery web spider
I found two Nursery Web Spiders; the first was carrying her egg sac (bottom left), the second guarding her ‘nursery’ of spiderlings in the web set deep within the grass (top left and right).
5. Painted Lady butterfly
The first Painted Lady of the year back in June caused me great excitement but eventually there was so many of them I lost count! On August 6th, BBC News spoke of huge numbers sighted across the country reporting…
‘Experts say we are witnessing a once-a-decade growth in numbers of the species that migrate here each year from sub-Saharan Africa.’
Had I put on every observation, there would have been hundreds just for this beautiful butterfly alone.
6. Great Spotted Woodpecker
Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpeckers, with their red crowns, became a common sight in amongst the trees in June. Mum was watching this one from a neighbouring tree.
7. Marbled White butterfly
On the wing in July, this is an unmistakeable butterfly. I recorded it in the grassy meadows, disused quarries and fen areas of Dalby.
8. Green Tiger Beetle
Another spectacular looking beetle. Found usually on bare ground, this one was lurking in the undergrowth in a disused quarry.
9. Western Honey Bee
Included here because, well, Honey Bees are special and thankfully, there were plenty of them seen throughout the forest.
Blackcaps can be migratory or can live within the forest all year round. This male (females have brown caps) was holding his breeding territory not far from the Dalby Forest Visitor Centre.
11. Bordered White moth
This moth lives in coniferous woodland so no surprise at all that it popped up whilst walking along the Deep Dale Habitat Trail during the Deep Dale Bioblitz held in July.
12. Red and Black Froghopper
This common tiny critter was popular with kids taking part in the public events due to its habit of hopping great distances when touched.
I was chuffed to bits with this observation as I had never seen Common Redstarts in this part of the forest before. Luckily the pair hung around for the public event along the Ellerburn Trail.
14. Butterbur (plant & moth)
The chunky flower spikes of the Butterbur plant appear before huge leaves. In fact , the leaves are so large that they were used to wrap butter in the old days; an early form of greaseproof paper. The moth only occurs where the Butterbur plant is present as the larvae feed in its stems and roots. This moth came to the light at the end of August .
15. Marsh Tit
What a dapper little bird this is. In fact, when all the other tit species look a bit tatty at the end of the breeding season, Marsh Tits still have an air of smartness about them. Common throughout the forest, this one was recorded at the bird feeding station by Staindale Lake.
16. Pale Brindled Beauty caterpillar
Flying early in the year in January and February, Pale Brindled Beauty moths are fairly common in the forest. I nearly walked into this caterpillar as it was dangling from a tree at head height. Whilst it doesn’t look very lively here but I can assure you, it was very much alive and wriggling.
17. Sallow Kitten moth
Such a stunning moth, its really speaks for itself. This one came to the light on the last night of June.
18. Dead Man’s Fingers (Dog Stinkhorn)
This fungus resembles fingers clawing up from the ground as if a dead man is trying to get out of his grave. Incidentally, there were still many Dead Man’s Fingers thrusting through the ground at Halloween making this fungus extremely creepy!
19. Bee Orchid
Found on grassy glades, disused quarries and meadows throughout the forest, this is such a happy looking flower.
20. Golden-ringed Dragonfly
A large, striking looking dragonfly, this species was found near to the ponds in Deep Dale.
21. Marmalade Hoverfly
Marmalades were everywhere this summer and so, despite their commonality, they certainly deserve to be mentioned as an amazing species found in Dalby Forest. Their bodies have slivers of silver between the black and yellow stripes which shimmer like a mirror being tilted in the sun. I could watch them all day.
22. Speckled Wood Butterfly
The Speckled Wood has to be one of, if not the most amazing species found in Dalby Forest. Many will disagree but, well, I certainly think it’s amazing! This is because I once went on a four mile run in September through the forest and counted 72 Speckled Woods and that’s not counting the ones I saw before I decided to count them. This butterfly just seems to love the forest as much as I do.
23. Song Thrush
Gorgeous song, enough said!
24. Wood Tiger moth
A day-flying moth, seen on sunny days in June, flash yellow in flight.
25. Apricot Jelly fungus
Last but not least of my 25 amazing species found in Dalby Forest, there’s the fabulously named Apricot Jelly fungus. It’s hard to see at first but, being bright orange, I do wonder why I didn’t see it straight away!
So, that’s my round up; just 25 of the 557 amazing species recorded in Dalby Forest and only 25 of the 2182 species recorded throughout the forests managed by Forestry England. Furthermore, these numbers are set to rise once more observations are identified.
The project is now over having finished on October 31st but why not check out the results here https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/the-big-forest-find-3be8cec6-b599-459f-82ab-2163ca4ca964
If you’ve seen any interesting wildlife or you’re having problems identifying something you’ve seen in Dalby Forest or anywhere else for that matter, comment below and I’ll try and help. I love a good puzzle!