Poplar Hawkmoth- This splendid, large moth at rest, holds its hindwing forward of its forewings, and its abdomen curved up. It appeared in Catsfield today, in the heavy rain. Normally concealed during daytime, and well camouflaged against leaves this, the most common Hawkmoth, may be seen drawn to lights at night. The adults do not feed, just mate and lay their eggs on the underside of Poplar, Sallow or Aspen leaves. Conditions: Heavy rain at last. Temperature: Max 218- Min 15 C.
Young birds are everywhere in the garden at present- here are Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Long-Tailed Tit (note the red eye ring that is clear on the young one). Juveniles tend to be paler and fluffier than the adults and some still show their ‘gape’- the exaggerated yellow bill-edge that helps guide the adult speedily to the juvenile’s mouth in a dark nest! They, and the exhausted and bedraggled adults, tend to like fat and seeds with a high fat contact, for rapid growth, at this time of year- before the young have the skill to catch insects. Conditions: Cool and mostly cloudy. Temperature: 18- Min 13C.
Sexton or burying beetles: There are at least 3 million beetle species in the world. One in four of every creature on the earth is a beetle and most do good, not harm. Their success is thought to be due to the fact that beetle species virtually never become extinct! Their hardened fore-wings acting like body armour, red beetles warn predators they are toxic whether they are or not! The Sexton Beetle or burying beetle actually buries corpses of small birds and rodents, joining with others to dig out the earth around and under the corpses, before laying their eggs. The bodies become food for their larvae! Conditions: Mercifully, cooler weather after a dry, hot week, including the highest June temperature for decades. Temperature: Max 23- Min 12 c.
The diminutive and scarce Bee Orchid was present in one of the Quarries in Miller’s Dale, Derbyshire this week. Evolved not only to look like the bee which pollinates it, but to be fluffy and to give off the scent (allemones) of the female bee, the pollinating bee doesn’t live in the Uk so our Bee Orchids are self-pollinating. The Latin name, Ophrys, means Eyebrow in Greek and references what Pliny the Elder describes- women using the Bee Orchid to paint their eyebrows. Conditions: Cloudy and dry. Temperature: Max 19- Min 11 c.
Field Rose- another of theoccasional wild flower identification blogs, though this lovely, white wild rose of field edges and hedgerows can also be bought for the garden- the flowers attract insects and the bright red hips in autumn are popular with birds, and were what country folk were paid to gather for Rose-hip syrup, a vital vitamin C supplement for children in World War Two. As kids, We also used the hairy seeds in these hips as very effective itching powder. Field Rose is easy to distinguish from the wild, pink Dog Rose. Conditions: Drizzle and heavy rain. Temperature: Max 18- Min 14.
Green Alkanet: Looking like a larger than life Forget-me-not, we have to take care with this plant, which we inherited in the garden. The gorgeous blue flower is nectar-rich for Bees and Hoverflies. Preferring alkaline soils and damp, shady areas but capable of growing in most places, it has a very deep tap-root which is hard to dig out, and it spreads easily by seed, so can be invasive. The leaves can be composted but remove the seed-heads or it will turn up all over the place. Conditions: Sun and strong winds Temperature: Max 16- Min 12C.
Fox Cubs- these are probably about 3 months old now, as they are beginning to accompany adults on hunting trips, and one caught a small rabbit and was chased round and round a pond by another, giving up and slightly lame from the experience. Born dark gray or black, their heads gradually lengthen and fur becomes more sleek and red. These still need to grow into the size of their ears! Conditions: Very wet and very windy. Temperature: Max 16- Min 10 c..
Foxes- Down in Sussex, I’ve been lucky enough to watch a family of Foxes with six cubs (more on those tomorrow)- panting with the heat. With such a big family, they have really needed more than just the parents out catching food, which is predominantly the plentiful Rabbits. As here, Fox parents are often helped to provide food by other family members, including last years’ cubs, not yet mature enough to breed. Conditions: Sunny periods with heavy rain and strong winds due this evening. Temperature: Max 17- Min 11 c.
Bee Count time: Lupins, where I am staying, are proving a great source of pollen for Buff-tailed Bumblebees- just look at the colour and size of those pollen-baskets. An average pollen basket can contain around a million grains of pollen! Throughout June, Friends of the Earth want people to record Bees in their garden. There is an easy app for a smart-phone, with identification guide -a good way to really look at the variety of bees visiting your garden. Conditions: Sun and cloud with a
breeze. Temperature: Max 20- Min 10 C.
Great Tits, like this male this morning, can be seen feeding their newly fledged young all over the UK at present, so keep your eyes peeled. The most studied species of birds in the world, one researcher has calculated that the Great Tit parents feed a nest of fledglings the equivalent of us bringing home 100kg’s of shopping every day for three weeks! The bright, wide gape and mouth helps stimulate the adults to feed the young. Even out of the nest, the young birds are demanding. Conditions: Hot and sunny. Temperature: Max 21- Min 12 ..