Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Still here….



Just in case you were wondering where I’d gone…don’t worry, I’m still here!
I haven’t ‘done’ a post for a few weeks now (I’m sure that you’ve noticed?) and it’s mainly down to my apathy and the the fact that I haven’t been able to get myself into the mood.
Since returning from holiday I haven’t been able to find or make the time, although I’ve had no major problems or jobs to sort out, it’s just been a lack of finding the ‘right time’ to sit and do a post.
I have been out and about to many of the local wildlife sites and taken loads of photos of butterflies, wild flowers etc. they’re all still sitting on the computer waiting to be sorted, as are the photos from my holiday!
I have however been keeping up to date reading and enjoying all of your excellent posts. Please forgive me if I haven’t left any comments.
Hopefully I’ll get the photos sorted and back into the blogging mood soon? In the meantime I’ll leave it to all of you to keep up the good work….[;o)

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

LITTLE PURPLE MEN



What would you think if I told you that when I was out and about a few days ago I encountered lots of little purple men wearing pink onesies (that’s jump suits to us older generation!)? Your first thought would probably be that I’d had one glass too many or maybe I’d been partaking in a few puffs of a certain recreational weed. So, before we go any further let me put the record straight, I neither drink alcohol or smoke.
Now that we’ve established that I wasn’t under the influence of booze or drugs and, as we all know, I’m as sane as the next chap, if I said to you again ‘I saw lots of little purple men the other day, they were wearing pink jump suits and hanging around in the hedgerow’ you would have to take my word for it, wouldn’t you?

I knew that you would be hard to convince, so I took some photographs to prove that I wasn’t just making up a story.








Purple Man 1
I told you they were just hanging around.

Purple Man 2
Here’s some more…they were everywhere!

Purple Man 3
I asked nicely and one let me take his portrait.



Yea!…okay! so there wasn’t really any little purple men, but there was lots of….

Hedge Woundwort (stachys sylvatica). A hairy perennial with creeping stems and upright flower stalks. When bruised it gives of an unpleasant smell. It can be found growing, often on disturbed soil, along roadside verges and under hedgerows. It flowers from June to October.

So the next time that you’re out and about keep your eyes peeled, you never know, you just might encounter some little purple men!


Yipee! it’s holiday time!….From this Friday I shall be away on holiday to spend a week exploring the North York Moors. I’ll try and catch up on all your posts when I return. 

Friday, 27 June 2014

Jewels in the grass



As we walk around our various nature reserves and wild places admiring the vast diversity of flora and fauna that’s laid out in front of us how often do we take a closer look at some of the smaller wild flowers that grow low down in, and partly hidden by, the vegetation?

I spend quite a bit of my ‘walking time’ crawling and sometimes laying stretched out (no!…it’s not just an excuse for a rest!) searching for and photographing some of these little jewels, every one a delicate and beautiful example of natures art.



1 Jewels 1 Mouse ear
Mouse-ear Hawkweed (pilosella officinarum) A creeping perennial that often forms mats. The flowers are about 2-3cm across. May-Oct.

1 Jewels 3 Germ Speedwell
Germander Speedwell (veronica chamaedrys) A very common and widespread creeping perennial that often covers a large area. The flowers are 10-12mm across. April-June.

1 Jewels 4 R Hawkbit
Rough Hawkbit (leontodon hispidus) Perennial, grows on dry calcareous grassland. The golden yellow flowers, 20-30mm across, are born on solitary slender stems. June-October.

1 Jewels 6 Scar Pimp 
Scarlet Pimpernel (anagallis arvensis) Annual, low growing on cultivated and disturbed ground. The scarlet flowers are 10-15mm across and only fully open in bright sunlight. June-August.

1 Jewels 8 P Flax
Pale Flax (linum bienne) Found in dry grassland the lilac-blue flowers are12-18mm across. June- August.

1 Jewels 8a F Flax
Fairy Flax (linum catharticum) A small and delicate annual which is easily overlooked in the long grassland. Flowers 4-6mm across. May-September.

1 Jewels 9 Grass Vetchling 1

1 Jewels 10 Grass Vetchling 2
Grass Vetchling (lathyrus nissolia) My favourite wild flower at the moment, hence the two images. Another small flower that is easily overlooked, especially when in bud, but once in flower it shines like a little ruby in the long grass. Flowers 18mm long. May-July.  *The little black blob in the first image is a bug of some sort that I failed to notice was there when taking the photograph.

1 Jewels 11 C Vetch
Common Vetch (vicia sativa) A scrambling downy annual of grassland and hedgerows.Flowers 2-3cm long. April-October.

1 Jewels 14 L StitchW
Lesser Stitchwort (stellaris graminea) A perennial that grows in open woodland, meadows and along hedgerows. Flowers 5-15mm across. May-August.

1 Jewels 15 G StitchW
Greater Stitchwort (stellaria holostea) Found in the same habitat as it’s cousin above but is much taller at up to 50cm. April-June.

1 Jewels 16 C Marsh-bedstraw
Heath Bedstraw (galium saxatile) A dense mat forming plant found on heathland and along woodland rides on poor acid soils. The flowers are small at 3-5mm across. May-August.

Now two plants that are a little taller.

1 Jewels 17  Nipplewort
Nipplewort (lapsana communis) An upright annual that grows in cultivated and disturbed ground (my garden!) The flower heads are1-2cm across. July-October. *True fact!…It’s name is derived from the shape of the flower bud which is said to resemble the shape of a nipple!.

1 Jewels 18  Salad Burnet
Salad Burnet (sanguisorba minor) a perennial that grows to 35cm high on chalk grassland. If crushed it gives of a scent resembling that of cucumber. The flowers are tiny and form in dense clusters on rounded heads. May-September.


So, the next time you’re out walking take a little time for a closer look, maybe kneel down or even lay down…but be mindful that you’ve got to get up again!…and don’t worry about what other people are thinking as they walk by!…and see what little gems may be hiding low down in the grass, you never know you might just be surprised at what you find?




Wednesday, 28 May 2014

WET BIRDS


It rained today, as it did for most of yesterday…and the day before that. I guess tomorrow, it will rain again?

So, stuck indoors looking out at the watery view I noticed that the birds coming to the garden feeders were struggling to keep dry. A lot of the the birds were recently fledged youngsters and it was noticeable that they were suffering the most.

This young Blackbird was continually running backwards and forwards across the shed roof trying to shake off and dodge the raindrops.
Wet Birds 1  BB

A recently fledged Robin looking rather grumpy!
Wet Birds 5  R

One of the many (wet) young Starlings that were in the garden.
Wet Birds 6  S y

The adult birds were not doing much better at keeping dry.
Wet Birds 2  WP
                     Wood Pigeon 

Wet Birds 2b  CD
                     Collared Dove

Wet Birds 3  HS
                     House Sparrow

Wet Birds 4  S ad
Starling

So what do you do if you’re soaking wet and stuck out in the rain?…..

Wet Birds 7  S y wish
…..Cast an eye to the heavens, like this young Starling, and say “I wish this bloody rain would stop”….

Wet Birds 8  BT shake
….Or, like this Blue Tit, just shrug your shoulders and shake it all off…

Wet Birds 9  G twizzle
….Or maybe, just give it a bit of a ‘twizzle’ like this young Goldfinch?

Or perhaps like this young Starling….
Wet Birds 10  S y sleep 
….you tuck your head under your wing and go to sleep!

For one visitor to the garden the hard work has to go on come rain or shine. This Blue Tit (there appears to be only one) has, for over a week, been coming to the garden at regular intervals, from early morning to late evening, grabbing some food and quickly flying off…doing the ‘food run’ as I call it.  This morning he/she was being closely followed by five, very newly fledged and noisy, youngsters? I hope they survive the rain and make mum or dad’s hard work worth it?
Wet Birds 11  BT ad

Sorry for the dark and grainy images but they were all taken through the double glazed windows.
Oh!…and did I mention that it was overcast and RAINING?


I’m off to polish my wellies now!!


Monday, 19 May 2014

Early Damsels and a pair of Dragons.


The last few days have been sunny and pleasantly warm, even quite hot at times!
So, making the most of the good weather, I’ve been out and about taking photographs of the newly emerging wild flowers, butterflies, damselflies and dragonflies. It’s been noticeable over the last week or so, with the warmth of the sun (and a well watered spring!!), how the the countryside has taken on a new lushness of growth and colour.

The ‘early’ damselflies and dragonflies have started to take to the wing now…

Banded Demoiselle (calopteryx splendens)….The males are very territorial and will fight off anything that flies into their patch. They also ‘court’ the females by flicking their wings open and performing an aerial dance in front of them.
Dams and Drags 1  BD Male
Dams and Drags 2  BD
Male

Azure Damselfly (coenagrion puella)….One of the two most common blue damselflies, confusingly the females are mostly green with black on top of the abdomen.
Dams and Drags 3  AZ
                          Male

Large Red Damselfly (pyrrhosoma nymphula)….One of the very first to emerge in the spring and quite widespread but avoids fast flowing water. The males, which appear in greater numbers than the females, are aggressive and very territorial.
Dams and Drags 4  LR
                         Male

Blue-tailed Damselfly (ischnura elegans)….Another quite common damselfly. always found close to water, unlike some of the other damselflies which can roam widely. The females come in a variety of colours from green through violet to blue.
Dams and Drags 5  Bt
Male

When damselflies and dragonflies emerge as adults they first go through a stage where they are known as tenerals. During this stage which, depending on the species, can last from a few days to a few weeks their wings remains ‘milky’ and reflective and their flight is weak and fluttery. And to make identification a little difficult they lack the colouring of the adult and appear pale and drab.

How the dictionary calls it…
Ten´er`al
(Zool.) Of, pertaining to, or designating, a condition assumed by the imago of certain Neuroptera, after exclusion from the pupa. In this state the insect is soft, and has not fully attained its mature colouring.


Common Blue Damselfly (enallagma cyathigerum)….The most common and widely distributed of our native damselflies. Found in association with both still and flowing water, although immatures can be found some distance away from water bodies.
Dams and Drags 6  CB tm
Teneral Male
Dams and Drags 7  CB tm
Teneral Male
Dams and Drags 8  CB tf
Teneral Female
Females, unlike other blue damselflies, can be identified by the presence of a ‘spine’ in front of the ovipositor, under section 8 of the abdomen. (it can be clearly seen in this image)
Dams and Drags 9  CB adm
Adult Male

Red-eyed Damselfly (erythromma najas)….found only in the southern part of the country it prefers large bodies of standing water with lots of floating vegetation, especially water-lilies where the male likes to ‘rest’ on the leaves while waiting for an opponent to come into range when they’ll fight over the territorial rights.

Dams and Drags 10  CB Re tm
                         Teneral Male

Hairy Dragonfly (brachytron pratense)…. The smallest of our resident hawkers and the earliest to emerge in early May and June. Found in the southern parts of the UK, where the male can be seen patrolling over clear unpolluted and well vegetated water as it searches for females while fighting off any interlopers.

Dams and Drags 12  Hry
Male

Four-spotted Chaser (libellula quadrimaculata)….Widespread over most of the country and readily identified by the ‘four’ wing spots. The male can be seen perched on a single stem of vegetation as it waits to see off any intruder, or to intercept a passing receptive female when they will briefly mate while on the wing.
Dams and Drags 11  4SP
Male




Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Blending In?

While out walking today I caught this pair trying to blend in with the Rape flowers.

Yellow Wagtail (motacilla flava)

Yel Wag 1

Yel Wag 2
Male

Yel Wag 3
Female

Yel Wag 4
Male…having a quick fluff up of his feathers.

Yel Wag 5
Photo shoot over…time to go!

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Butterflies



A couple of days ago I was driving past a site that, from previous years, I knew was a good place to spot some ‘early’ butterflies. It was sunny and the temperature was good, although there was quite a stiff wind blowing, so I thought that if I could find a sheltered spot I might just be lucky.
I’d only walked a few yards from the car park when I was rewarded by seeing my first butterflies, a dozen or so Green Hairstreaks ‘fighting’ over their territory around a Hawthorn bush.

Encouraged, I moved further on into the site and soon encountered more Green Hairstreaks, and in good numbers too, many more than I’d seen here in previous years. It wasn’t long before I started to see some of the other species that inhabit this site. In the end I spent over four, very enjoyable, butterfly filled hours there.


Green Hairstreak (calophrys rubi)….
Has a wingspan of 27-34mm. and both sexes are alike, except that the male has a pale oval sexual mark on the upper forewings. The upper wings are brown with a golden tinge, while the underside is an unmistakable green and carries a very fine somewhat broken white line - the 'hairstreak'. The back edge of the hindwing has some white fringing and a slightly scalloped appearance, with vestigial tail.  It’s flight period is from mid April to the end of July.

Butts 1 GHS

Butts 2 GHS

Butts 3 GHS

Butts 4 GHS cop
This pair wasted no time in getting down to business!

Duke of Burgundy (hamearis lucina)….
The sexes are roughly similar, the male a shade smaller with a wingspan of about 29mm. The male has a dark brown and black ground colour with 3 irregular tawny bands on the forewing, the outer containing 5 black spots near the margins. The hindwings are dark brown with 5 small oval tawny slashes and a broad dark border. Both wings have a white fringe intercrossed by black vein markings. On the underside, the forewing is dappled with black, orange, brown and white flashes with some small black centres in the outer tawny edge and, again, white fringing intersected by black vein marks.The hindwing has two white bands across and then a marginal band of orange crescents each containing black spots and finishing with the white blackcrossed fringe. The female has similar markings but they are altogether lighter and more open.  The flight period is from the end of April to mid June.

Butts 6 DOB m
Male

Butts 5 DOB f
Female

Butts 7 DOB head on

Butts 8 DOB f-uw
Female underwing.

Dingy Skipper (erynnis tages)….
As its name suggests this small, moth like, butterfly has an overall dark sombre appearance, but close inspection shows an attractive, if plain, even patterning of dark and light blotches with a pale curved band across the forewings and a row of light dots around the wing edges and an outer pale fringe. The insect is about 29mm across when the wings are spread.  The flight period is short..from early May to late June.

Butts 9 DS

Butts 10 DS

Grizzled Skipper (pyrgus malvae)….
The Grizzled Skipper is easily identified when it is settled: on the wing it is rather a blur. It is a small butterfly (27mm across the spread wings) and unmistakeably chequered black and white - the black being the dominant colour - and ornamented with numerous white square patches. The edging fringe is also black and white. Both sexes are similar but the male carries the sexual scent gland in a fold in the edge of the forewing. The underside of the wings are lighter, a grey-green colour with more obvious white patches.  Flight period from late April till the end of June.

Butts 11 GS
There were not many of these around…I only managed to get this one image.

And to finish off some images of the other butterflies that I’ve taken over the last few weeks…

Butts 12 BS
A beautiful backlit Brimstone (gonepteryx rhamni)

Butts 13 SW
The gardeners best friend…the Cabbage White or, to give it it’s proper name, the Small White (pieris rapae)

Butts 14 OT f
A female Orange Tip (anthocharis cardamines)

Butts 15 HB
A Holly Blue (celastrina argiolus) getting well stuck into a Buttercup.



n.b. all the information and descriptions are courtesy of Bird Guides/British Butterflies.