10th August 2017

Brimstone Butterfly– one of the few UK butterflies which overwinter as adults, I’ve been watching this beautiful female which will have emerged from eggs laid by the overwintering generation. They will be around feeding all autumn, building up for their hibernation. Opinion is divided as to whether the colour of the much more yellow male of this species (see other photo) gave rise to the generic name of ‘butter’-fly, but male and female are both beautiful and distinctly shaped. The caterpillars rely on buckthorn and alder buckthorn so please grow either in your patch if you can (Can be bought from Ashridge Nurseries mail order) Conditions– sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 20- Min 11C.

Female Brimstone butterfly feeding on Knapweed

Female Brimstone butterfly

Male Brimstone Butterfly feeding on Scabious

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7th August 2017

Green Woodpeckers- I have been lucky, while down in Sussex, to watch our largest woodpecker, the Green Woodpecker, feeding in the neighbouring field. They eat about 2,000 ants a day throughout summer, diversifying to other insects and seeds during winter. They dig into anthills with their powerful bills and capture the ants with their long, sticky tongues. Males are distinguishable from females by having a red centre to their black ‘moustaches’. Nesting in holes in trees, they use their wonderful ‘yaffle’, laughing call to delineate their territory. Conditions: Cloud with some sun. Temperature: Max 20- Min 13 C.

Male Green Woodpecker

Male Green Woodpecker

Female Green Woodpecker

6th August 2017

Stinkhorn- this very recognisable, woodland fungus smells so terrible that if you don’t see it first you might be drawn to it by the smell! It so embarrassed Victorians that some, including Darwin’s granddaughter Etty, went out at dawn, (when the fungi are freshly emerged, growing quickly  from an egg-shaped white dome), and bludgeoned them to pieces in a vain attempt to prevent their spread, or them being seen by young women walking the woods! The dreadful smell attracts flies

Stinkhorn

which, walking on the olive-green glabus cap, then

Stinkhorn

spread the spores via their feet. Conditions: Sunny, blue-skied day. Temperature: Max 20- Min 12C.

5th August 2017

Small Copper: We are lucky to have this small. bright, active butterfly in our garden sometimes, especially this year on the Marjoram. Present in many areas, in small colonies, they move fast, flashing orange/copper and are best identified when settled. Males aggressively hold territories, basking on bare ground or stones, and chasing off any approaching insects, before resettling on the same spot. Loving unimproved grassland, a declining habitat, it isn’t surprising that their numbers are sadly declining, too. Conditions: Sun and showers. Temperature: Max 21- Min 10C.

Small Copper

Small Copper

Small Copper

Small Copper

2nd August 2017

Nursery Web Spider: Common in dense vegetation and nettle patches, this spider, which varies in colour from brown to grey, likes sunbathing, holding its two front legs forward in an elongated shape. Once mated, the female lays eggs in a silk cocoon which she carries around in her fangs. Just before hatching, she spins a silk tent like this for the spiderlings, guarding them until their first moult, when they leave the tent. If you look closely you can see the young. Nursery Web Spiders run fast to catch their insect-prey, rather than using webs. Conditions: Rain, rain, rain. Temperature: Max 17- Min 13 C.

Nursery Web Spider

Nursery Web Spider

Nursery Web Spider and Spiderlings