17th April 2017

Holly Blue Butterfly- This is a good time to learn to identify the small Holly Blue. It flies high among bushes and hardly settles -you tend to see is a fast-moving blue flash (very hard to photograph!). The underwings are paler. Holly Blues are out earlier (out now) than other Blues, and much more likely to be the Blue Butterfly you see in your garden or local park or verge. They are the only Blues we get in our Sheffield garden. The caterpillars feed on tender new Holly or Spindle shoots and buds. A real treat- keep your eyes peeled. Conditions: Cloudy, with some sun. Cold nights predicted. Temperature: Max 11- Min 2C.

Holly Blue

Holly Blue

Holly Blue- dark wing-tips and spotted underwing

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15th April 2017

Coppicing- this wonderful way of managing woodland and maximising bio-diversity (see poster on this blog) is declining and our decisions can help. The last old hurdle-maker in Catsfield died in my teens but Richard Ely and others are taking the tradition forward. In many parts of the country, including South Yorkshire, coppices are overgrown and diversity is suffering. Iron smelting disappeared, pit-props were no longer needed but if we buy chestnut spiles, fencing, (chestnut rots slowly), hazel hurdles or pea and bean sticks, and locally made charcoal we can support new woodworkers. Cut for wood-products, on a regular cycle, coppices are rich in a succession of plants, birds and insects

Chestnut spiles, one of the products of coppicing

Coppicing lets in light, encouraging a range of wildlife, and regrows for renewable wood

Bluebells and Wood anemones in recently coppiced woods

Foxgloves spring up in coppiced woodland

How coppicing helps diversity and renewable wood products

. Conditions`: Cloud with sunny spells and a breeze. Temperature: Max 11- Min 6C.

14th April 2017

Tawny Mining Bee- April is the best time to spot this harmless solitary Bee- in lawns, flower-beds, gardens, parks and farmland. Little ‘volcanoes’ of mud appear for a couple of weeks (see photo).The female, which mines the nest, and lays a single egg in each of the underground chambers, also gathers all the pollen and nectar for the young, before sealing the nest. She is a beautiful, fluffy ginger bee and is a great

Tawny Mining Bee- female, flying

Tawny Mining Bee nest

Tawny Mining Bee

Tawny Mining Bee- female

pollinator of fruit trees and early flowering crops like Rape-seed. The male is smaller, and has a pale tuft of hairs on its face. The young hatch the following spring. Leave the nests, if you find them- one of many species of solitary bees, these do only good in our gardens. Conditions: Cloudy, with light showers. Temperature: Max 12- Min 6C.

Male Tawny Mining Bee

12th April 2017

The enchanting and beautiful Brimstone butterfly, one of the few UK butterflies which overwinter as adults, is out and about in the garden, woodland glades and meadows now so it is a really good time to look out for it. It feeds on our Primroses and Celandines, among other things. The male is a pale lemon with a green tinge, The female is a unique pale green (see photo’s). The caterpillars feed on Alder Buckthorn, a beautiful, small tree which feeds many insects. If you want one, Ashridge Nurseries have them either sold individually or in their wonderful wildlife hedge collection. Conditions: Cloudy, breezy, becoming sunny, after hot sunny spell. Temperature: Max 12- Min 6C.

Male Brimstone feeding on Primroses

Male Brimstone

Brimstone Butterfly- female

7th April 2017

Dunnocks, as shown a few days ago, have been nest-building in our box hedge and so far they have laid three of their beautiful turquoise eggs. There will be more laid, sometimes by more than one female and often fertilised by more than one male. In common with other birds, they won’t incubate the eggs until more are laid. Three and sometimes four Dunnock are also displaying together, bonding for breeding. As with many birds, they flutter their wings and tails, at a speedy rate of knots, in this display, and the males sing an attractive melody, worth listening to on the RSPB site as it is easy to identify. Conditions: Cloudy becoming sunny, warming up for the weekend. Temperature: Max 13- Min 7C.

Dunnock displaying

Dunnock displaying for mating

5th April 2017

Bees and insects masquerading as Bees: The garden is apparently alive with Bees right now, but many are Bee and Wasp mimics, so look carefully. Every garden I’ve been in over the last two weeks has this fascinating, ginger, fluffy Bee Fly, with its long proboscis and long legs, and black and transparent patterned wings hovering high

Bee Fly- warming up in the sun- note its long proboscis

Bee Fly- long-legged, and fluffy bodied

Bee Fly- note its distinctive, patterned wings

and flying low. Once you tune in, Bee Flies are easy to spot and fascinating- they are searching out the nest holes of Bumblebees. They will then do a fly-past and shoot an egg into the nest-hole, where the egg will eventually hatch and parasitise the Bumblebee young. All this under our noses! If you look on Friends of the Earth’s website, you can also sign up to do a Bee count in May- really important information with most bees struggling at present. Conditions: Cloudy and cool. Temperature: Max 11- Min 7C.

4th April 2017

There’s been a blog-break, enforced by my computer breaking– hope to be back in action now. Goldfinches are gathering the feathers I put out, seed heads of Japanese Anemones, and they will also use seed-heads of Coltsfoot, to line their nests. Like other birds, they are busy at present nest-building- carefully explore where they fly with moss, twigs etc and you may discover you have nests in your garden. Occasional gentle exploration will not disturb them, and you may get

Goldfinch gathers feathers for nesting

Goldfinch

Goldfinch gathering seeheads of Japanese Anemone

information that will help prevent you doing gardening tasks that ruin their nests. This way, my friend Jenny discovered a Robin’s nest in her shed, which has put paid to getting the tools out for a while! Conditions: Cloudy with sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 14- Min 7c.