A wonderful Hummingbird Hawkmoth visited the Buddleia today so it was a real red-letter day! Not only that, this fast and very hard to photograph day-flying moth stayed long enough to get a few photo’s. This great moth, which hovers on rapid-beating wings and feeds through an extraordinarily long proboscis, on long-tubed flowers, migrates here from Africa each year! The Hummingbird Hawkmoth is spreading its range all over the UK and, due to climate change, it even overwinters occasionally now, hiding in crevices. If you spot one of these wonderful moths, go on the Butterfly Conservation site and log the sighting. Conditions: A warm, still, autumnal day of sun and cloud. Temperature: Max 16- Min 8c.
not related to Black Bryony!) grows mostly in the south but I saw these recently in East Yorkshire. Also known as English Mandrake, Green, in his 19th century herbal, described how ‘knaves’ would place a mold in the shape of a human body around the roots as they grew, and try to sell it as genuine Mandrake, whose hallucinogenic properties led to beliefs about the genuine Mandrake having magic qualities. In the 14th century, White Bryony was called Wild Nepit, and was thought able to treat leprosy. White Bryony has the most fantastic tendrils which, unusually, twist both anti-clockwise and clockwise. The tendrils of White Bryony catch onto a supporting ‘host’ and then contract into a tight coil, securing the climber as it grows several metres high. Conditions: Back up north, sun and cloud. Temperature: Max 16- Min 8c.
The Himalayan Balsam, a relative of the harmless Busy Lizzie, and the fastest growing annual in the UK, achieving up to 2.5 metres in a single season, is causing increasing problems for the ecological balance of our wetlands and damp areas. This invasive species, introduced as a garden plant in 1839, can produce 800 seeds per plant and eject the seeds, with its amazing catapult action, over 4 metres. It is an offence under Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act to enable its spread. If you want to know how to eradicate it, the great wild flower charity ‘Plantlife’ tells you how (and why not join Plantlike at the same time!). Although it smothers other plants, Bees, Wasps and flies do like to feed from it, gathering pollen onto their backs as they do so, as you can see from the photos. They use the wide petals as landing platforms. Conditions: A wonderfully sunny day down south. Temperature: Max 17- Min 13c.
Orb spider webs– I know I posted some a few days back, but, with a busy day ahead, these taken on Sunday also showed the beautiful sights around on dewy autumn mornings when the sun is low in the sky. Without the sun on them they all but disappear from view, One was particularly impressive, as it was huge and curved across several stems. Conditions: Another early morning of torrential showers in East Sussex, with more showers forecast. Temperature: Max 13- Min 9c.
Yellow Horned Poppy– the shingle and sand beaches of the south-east coast are the most likely place to see this lovely Poppy, flowering from June to September. The least likely coasts are those in the north-east or in Scotland. The name derives from the long (up to 30cm), curved seed pods that resemble horns. Its’ common names- Bruiseroot and Squatmore refer to the belief that it could help heal bruising, squat being another name for bruise, apparently. If crushed, this plant, with its beautiful glaucous leaves, oozes a yellow fluid which is poisonous. Conditions: Cloud turning into solid rain. Temperature: Max 16- Min 10c.
Parasol Mushrooms– almost certainly. If it is, this would be very tasty, but Parasols are easily mistaken for highly poisonous fungi so don’t try them unless you are very experienced and sure. Experts suggest you don’t eat them unless you take a spore print first, and always check that the ring moves up and down the stem, which it does on the Parasol. This big fungi, grows in woodland clearances, grassy fields and lawns, mostly in the south, where I am again. It will sometimes grow on grassy cliffs further north. Conditions: After heavy rain last week, and before the predicted heavy rains tomorrow, there have been two gloriously sunny days down south. Temperature: Max 19- Min 13c.
Yellow Waterlily – These native waterlilies thrive in still or slow moving waters and we saw them on a local canal recently. Their lily-pads are around 12 inches across and more oval than the other native White Waterlilies, Holding their heads on stems above the water, they are also known as Spatterdocks and Brandy Bottles. The latter is thought by some to be due to their smell of wine dregs and by others as due to the unusual shape of their seed-heads, shown in the photo’s. Like other waterlilies, their stems grow quickly, enabling them to quickly position leaves on the water-surface, even when water-levels go up and down. They provide
good cover for many water creatures. Conditions: A largely cloudy day with some sunny intervals. Temperature: 13-10c.
Speckled Wood Butterfly– there have been several Speckled Woods in the garden lately, probably from a second or third brood. Two males have been spiralling upwards and around the garden in a typical butterfly tussle over territory. Speckled Woods, common around woodlands and woodland edges, are increasingly appearing in gardens and are generally spreading back from losses early in the 20th century. They exhibit what is called a ‘cline’ – a variation over habitats, in this case those in the south are generally darker and more orange coloured than those further north. Speckled Woods, like others in the Brown family, have eye spots– Speckled Wood’s have three cream-ringed spots on each hind-wing and one on each fore-wing. Conditions: A wet and misty, still day. Temperature: Max 12- 11c.
Ash die-back is, sadly, spreading out, by air-born spores, since its first appearance in the UK in 2012. These are shots from my last trip to Sussex, showing the tell-tale signs of shrivelled, blackened leaves and shoots, and saplings with dead tops, the first time I’ve spotted it down there. My Woodland Trust magazine tells me today that it is in Northumberland. This is particularly worrying since last year there were few examples in the north. The Peak District will be vulnerable since, while Ash is the third most common species of tree in the UK it is the dominant species on Limestone. The Woodland Trust notes Ash has genetic variation so they are researching specimens that may have resistance to the disease. They have an app for the reporting of Ash die-back if you should see it. Conditions: Heavy rain giving away to blue skies by early evening. Temperature: Max 13- Min 11c
Buzzards– now back in the world of the internet, I have been happily in the world of Buzzards for the last few days. Though their stronghold is still in the west and north, this species is making a gradual comeback over much of Britain. The number of Buzzards declined rapidly due to persecution by game-keepers, who wrongly thought they were major predators of game birds, which they only take infrequently. Their main prey is rabbits and small mammals, and the Myxomatosis outbreak, which caused the decimation of rabbits, had a big effect on Buzzard numbers. This 4-5 foot wig-span bird, of varying hues of brown and buff, with dark wing-tips, is now our most common bird of prey. We even see one overhead in our Sheffield garden from time to time. Their mewing call is unmistakeable. Conditions: Another still, beautifully sunny day in this spell of lovely autumn weather. Temperature: Max 20- Min 11c.