Windsor and Sherwood - a coleopterist's account
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To many UK coleopterists, the New Forest and Windsor Great Park/Forest attain almost legendary status for their diverse range of saproxylic coleoptera. Though while Sherwood Forest (itself holding many rare species) falls considerably short, it is known globally for a character who never even existed.
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  Sherwood ranks well below the New Forest and Windsor in both ecological continuity (12th) and site quality index (27th). To the layman, ecological continuity and site quality index, are methods used to measure how good a particular site is for beetles.

While Sherwood does indeed have an excellent species list containing many saproxylic invertebrates (species requiring dead wood habitat for at least part of their life-cycle) we have always found that recording beetles there can be extremely hard work with little reward.

Left:- John & Denise Bingham at the base of an Ancient Oak at Windsor Great Park (photograph by Helen Brock)

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So when we heard that Paul Brock would be visiting Sherwood Forest, we thought it might be interesting to get someone else's account of recording invertebrates at Sherwood. Even better, that it would be from someone visiting the site for the first time and who was used to recording beetles in the New Forest and at Windsor. Paul is a Scientific Associate of the Natural History Museum in London, and a world authority on Stick and Leaf Insects. He is also the author of the acclaimed books - 'A photographic guide to the Insects of the New Forest and surrounding area', 'A comprehensive guide to the Insects of Britain and Ireland', and 'A photographic guide to the Insects of Southern Europe and the Mediterranean' (Pisces Publications). What follows is Paul's account of his stay in Nottinghamshire and brief summary of some of the species found during their stay.

A visit to Sherwood Forest, 18-25th May 2018 - Paul D. Brock

Mid to late May 2018 presented an opportunity to look for and photograph saproxylic beetles at home (New Forest, Hampshire), as well as Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire and Windsor Forest in Berkshire and at one of the most productive times for many well-known species, with Hawthorn flowers in blossom. Using the Index of Ecological Continuity and the Site Quality Index (https://khepri.uk/rankings/) these sites are ranked in the table below.

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These figures exclude some recent finds. Windsor includes the Great Park and Forest. Only a day was spent at Windsor, courtesy of Sarah Henshall of Buglife, to help with a survey (permit from Crown Estate), but the week at Sherwood, based in holiday accommodation at Edwinstowe with Helen Brock, enabled me to obtain a good insight into the insect fauna.  
Ecological Continuity .. Site Quality
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1. Windsor 250 .. 1. Windsor 856
2. New Forest 207 .. 2. New Forest 847.1
12. Sherwood Forest 97 .. 27. Sherwood Forest 555.8
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These figures exclude some recent finds. Windsor includes the Great Park and Forest
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More on a comparison of saproxylic sites later, but here is a brief account of finds in Sherwood, following helpful details and tips from Trevor & Dilys Pendleton (Eakring Birds), whom we had the pleasure of meeting. I had a short stop at a superb reserve (Attenborough Nature Reserve) en-route to Sherwood, where Tim Sexton kindly showed me colour forms of Chrysolina fastuosa on white dead-nettle.
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At times we met with John & Denise Bingham in Sherwood, who were also looking at the insect fauna, in contrast to their home ground of Wyre Forest.

Efforts were mainly concentrated on searching for beetles by looking, rather than using a beating tray or sweep net, mainly in Sherwood Forest Country Park, which has a wide walking network, well signposted. This involved looking for and carefully checking dead wood, either standing or fallen, perusing fences and vegetation, or seeing insects flying or crawling on tracks.

During warm weather, a wide range of beetles were readily spotted, including longhorns: Rhagium bifasciatum, Clytus arietis, Anaglyptus myticus, but one or two rarer species remained well hidden, supporting a coleopterist's recent view that 'Sherwood can be hard work'!

Right:- Old Beech stump in Windsor Forest (photograph by Helen Brock)

 
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However, more than enough interesting species showed to satisfy naturalists from the south. Common species included Pyrochroa coccinea and Hylecoetus dermestoides, the latter egglaying on birch trunks. Although Ampedus cardinalis did not show, it was good to finally see Ampedus pomorum, with much duller red wingcases than Ampedus quercicola. I expected to find these on fallen dead wood or logs, but some were purely at random, along with the commoner Ampedus balteatus.
  Nocturnal visits produced the likes of a Cobweb Beetle Ctesias serra larva on an old Oak trunk, a creature well known for raiding spiders webs for prey; as I found out in the New Forest before, also good at finding crevices.

A small spider beetle Ptinus fur revealed itself, and Corticeus unicolor on birch. The latter is associated with fungi and on that theme, it was no surprise to see Platyrhinus resinosus (dropped off a trunk at speed and played dead) and Platystomos albinus (the latter being only the second record for Nottinghamshire).

Familiar insects such as Triplax russica and Sinodendron cylindricum showed up on wood, also Platydracus fulvipes on a track, a rarity in Sherwood. The highlight, with thanks to Trevor, must be the stunning Cryptocephalus coryli, associated with birch.

Left:- Ancient Oaks at Windsor Great Park (photograph by Helen Brock)

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There are plenty of other sites to visit in the area and other insects to enjoy. 2018 has produced strange weather and it was only towards the end of the week in Sherwood that insects became more numerous on the ample supply of hawthorn and other flowers. Although warm by day, the nights were often cool and insect numbers were then lower than expected.
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A brief comparison on sites

Whilst Birch log piles were traced in sunny or dappled light in Sherwood, Oak was harder to come by (except in well shaded areas) and some logs had been subjected to burning. This did not help searches for certain species! Some rides are open with plentiful flowers, which is seldom the case in the New Forest and, to some extent, at Windsor.

There is no doubt that the New forest and Windsor are the best two sites in Britain for saproxylic invertebrates, although some of the rarest beetles have not been reported in the past 100 years. Like Sherwood though, certain beetles are difficult to find on demand and only regular visits at different times of the year, over a period of years, can hope to trace many of the rarer species. All sites have plenty of dead wood of various age but managing vast areas can be problematical (particularly in the New Forest with grazing stock pressures) including timing of tree felling and clearing vegetation causing shading out. Thanks to recorders, species found in Sherwood are well known and let's hope these beetle gems of the forests are around for years to come.

     
 
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