29th June 2018

The Marbled White Butterfly can appear in large colonies on chalk and limestone on flower-rich grasslands, which is why we saw these beautiful individuals on Old Winchester Hill in the South Downs National Park today. They are more closely related to the Browns than the Whites and love basking in early sun during July and August. Marbled Whites are the only black and white butterfly remotely

Marbled White Butterfly

Marbled White Butterfly

Marbled White Butterfly

Marbled White Butterfly

Marbled White Butterfly

like this in the UK, which explains why I could identify it despite never having seen in before, except in books i poured over as a child! Conditions: A cooling breeze eased the very hot, unrelenting sun. Temperature: Max 25 Min 11 C.

27th June 2018

Birds-Foot Trefoil, which we called ‘eggs and bacon’ because of the variation in colour from deep yellow to orange, gets its name from the shape of its seed-pods, which also give it its less pleasant common name of Grannie’s Toenails in some areas. Common in grasslands, waste ground, seashores and rocky areas, this low growing plant is a brilliant source of nectar for insects, and a food source for the caterpillars of the beautiful Common Blue butterfly.  To Victorians, deeply into the symbolism of flowers it represented revenge. Conditions: very hot, dry spell continues. Temperature: Max 25 Min 10 C.

25th June 2018

Meadow Pipits are one of the most widespread birds in Britain and Ireland, found on seashores, heaths, meadows and uplands, though their actual numbers have plummeted by 40%. Meadow Pipits have many predators and this one looked round nervously, as they often do, from its perch, as it preened. They eat moths, insects and spiders and can be confused with the larger, less streaky-chested Skylark,

Meadow Pipit preening

Meadow Pipit, singing from its perch

Meadow Pipit

Meadow Pipit preening.

soaring up and singing their (very different, piping) song before parachuting back down to ground or perch. The colour of their back varies from olive green, through buff to grey. A look at a video on the BTO site will help you separate them out from Skylarks and Rock Pipits. Conditions: Very hot, still sunny day. Temperature: Max 27 Min 13 C

22nd June 2018

A Leaf Cutter Bee, American research has shown, carries out 20 times the pollination achieved by a honey bee. They are some of the 250 species of solitary bee that use cavities in the ground, wood, hollow stems and bee-nesting boxes to rear their young. They are fairly easy to spot as, having no pollen baskets in which to gather their pollen and nectar, they collect it all on the undersides of their body. They work hard over several weeks, to breed young they never see: finding suitable nesting holes, they cut semi-circular portions of leaves (you’ll have seen the neat holes in

Leafcutter Bee, and a tiny parasitic wasp

Leafcutter Bee, its underside holding collected pollen

Leafcutter Bee gathering pollen and nectar on its underside.

Leafcutter Bee carrying a piece of cut leaf to its nest.

leaves in your garden or park) and carry them, one at a time, under their bodies, (see photo) to line the hole, before laying an egg in each lined tube and stocking each with quantities of pollen and nectar. Finally, they cut a different shaped pice of leaf and seal each cell with it, using saliva as a glue. Conditions: Blue skies and hot sun. Temperature: Max 20- Min 9C..

19th June 2018

Grass Snake– this very healthy looking adult Grass Snake, our largest native snake species and the only one to lay eggs, was doing what they tend to do in June- hunting newts in ponds, while newts are active at this time of year. Later they will hunt more in the damp grasslands they favour, searching for Frogs, Toads, mice etc. I was lucky to watch this one in Sussex this week, hunting Great Crested Newts- stealthily swimming through the pondweed, checking for scents with its forked tongue. Conditions: Sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 21 Min 15C.

Grass Snake

Grass Snake hunting

Grass Snake

Adult Grass Snake

17th June 2018

The Yellow Water-lily is one of our native species, but less common than the white. The Yellow has considerably larger leaves, and the flower stands well out of the water, while its flask-shaped seed-pod, which gives it its common name ‘Brandy Flask’ or in past times ‘Can Dock’ (‘can’ in those days meaning a pottery vessel to hold liquids), contains air-bladders, allowing it to float off to colonise new waterways, before the air-pockets collapse and the seeds sink to germinate in the mud- bottome. In medieval France doctors warned patients that it was ‘the destroyer of pleasure and the poison of love’! Conditions: windy and cloudy, following showers. Temperature: Max 16 Min 14c.

Yellow Waterlily

Yellow Waterlily

Yellow Waterlily

15th June 2018

Jays, like Robins and some other birds, often cock their heads so they are looking with one eye- monocular vision– in order to better locate their food as they feed. They also practice forward planning, rare among birds, by collecting surplus food and caching it. Coal Tits do this too. Pre 1998, Jays, normally shy birds, rarely came into small gardens to feed but they now do so with increasing regularity- as this one shows, a few feet from our window. Their Latin  name describes aspects of their behaviour- Garrulus (noisy, chatty) Glandarius (related to their favoured food of acorns) . It is thought the reduction of acorns in the wild is part of the reason they eat more from garden feeders now. Conditions: sunny and calm. Temperature: Max 20 Min 11 C