Green Woodpeckers have specially evolved salivary glands which emit a sticky substance onto their very long tongues, enabling the gathering of thousands of ants which live just under the surface of unimproved grassland and lawns. Their bills are relatively weak and they don’t drum on trees like Spotted Woodpeckers do. Male and female adults are very similar but close inspection shows the male have red in their black moustaches, as does this one. Conditions: Sunny spells and breezy. Temperature: Max 20- Min15C.
Juvenile Green Woodpeckers: shy birds, hence the rather blurred photo’s. Green Woodpeckers, our largest Woodpecker, nest in the same tree year after year, and have one brood of 4-7 young annually. Both adults feed the young in the nest- a study estimates that an
astounding 1,500,000 ants and pupae are fed to a brood of 7 Green Woodpeckers in the nest! Young have much streakier plumage than adults and when they fledge one adult usually takes half the brood each to show them where and how to forage. Conditions: Cloud and sun. Temperature: Max 19- Min 13C.
Two Fleabanes out now: the yellow Common Fleabane (below providing food for a Common Blue) resembles a small sunflower, but with glaucous, ‘furry’ leaves. It grows in damp areas and ditches and is more scarce further North. It contains an insecticide and was used, fresh or dried and burned, to ward off the many fleas that thrived in herbs and rushes strewn on floors in past times, the Romans used it in wreathes. The less showy Blue Fleabane grows in drier areas, grasslands and dunes. It was used to treat tooth-ache. Conditions: Sunny day. Temperature: Max 20- Min 12C.
Dragonfly eyes, (here’s a Common Darter at Potteric Carr this week) have recently been shown to contain 11-30 different colour sensitive proteins, (opsins) compared to our 3. They can see ultraviolet light, polarised light and far more intense colour-ranges than we can. With up to 30,000 facets Dragonflies have the largest compact eyes of the insect world and, with eyes wrapped round their heads, can see in all directions at the same time. No wonder their flying displays are so breathtaking. Common Darters may visit your garden pond or garden to hunt- if so, be amazed! Conditions: Wonderful sunny day day south- just right for Catsfield Flower Show. Temperature: Max 21- Min 16C
Yellow Toadflax– here’s an easily recognisable, common wild flower out over summer. Like a small ‘Snapdragon’, but with long spurs to the flowers, this plant of waste ground, meadows, verges and railway tracks has leaves enjoyed by some species of moth and nectar by Bumblebees (it has to be a heavy, long-tongued insect to open the lip and reach inside the flower tube) and some Butterflies, so is also useful in the wildlife garden- though it does spread. It has been used as a yellow dye and in a lotion for insect bites- in parts of rural Sweden an infusion is still made with boiled milk and left around in saucers as a fly-killer. Conditions: Cloudy with some sun. Temperature: Max 18- Min 11C.
Comma Butterfly– Perfectly camouflaged with wings closed, its ragged edge and colouring looking like a dead leaf, this large Butterfly is a gorgeous orange-toffee colour on its upper wings. Named from the white comma-shape on its underwing, it was common before a steep decline in the mid-1800’s, thought due to the decline in its caterpillar’s favourite food- hops. It only survived in the Welsh borders- now it is extending its range again, feeding on nettles. We often get it in the garden, warming up on wooden surfaces. Conditions: Stiff breeze, sun and cloud. Temperature: Max 21- Min 15C.
Bladder Campion, Silene Vulgaris, a common Campion of hedges,verges and grasslands, can also be bought for the garden, for either grassy areas or rock gardens –great for Bumblebees. Quite like Sea Campion, Bladder Campion has broader, fairly glaucous leaves which are high in omega 3- good, when young, for salads, and for stews when older. In Spain the leaves are called ‘collejas’ and those who collect them, ‘collejeros’. Smelling of cloves in the evening, this useful little plant is tolerant of soil pollution and can be used to ‘clean’ zinc from contaminated soils. The delicate ripening seed-heads look like broken eggs (See photo).
Conditions: Cloudy. Rain later. Temperature: Max 18- Min 13C.