30th July 2019

Great Tit: Most juvenile birds have different plumage than adults in their first few weeks of fledging, partly for camouflage, and sometimes (especially in the case of the aggressively territorial Robin) to prevent attack from adult birds, where the sight of another adult can trigger territorial battles. The paler, less differentiated newly fledged Great and Blue Tit juveniles have moulted their body feathers and some of their wing feathers by late July. It has been lovely watching these young Great Tits learning

Young Great Tit

to expertly fly in to the feeders by our window, and the extraordinarily accurate adjustments they make as they near the perches. Conditions: This July has been yet another ‘hottest ever’ month recorded, though it has cooled a little the last few days. Temperature: Max 21 Min 15 C.

26th July 2019

‘The female Holly Blue Butterfly has broader patches of dark on her forewings than the Male. As the Holly Blue flies fast, the patterns are hard to see in detail so here are a few close-ups from when it landed on our clematis.  The caterpillars of Holly Blues live on Holly leaves, especially the tender tips, but the butterflies are frequent visitors to garden flowers. You will see them as tiny spangles of blue flitting in a mazy way through the plants, flying quite low. Conditions: At last some cooler air lefter the record-breaking temperatures. temperature: Max 25 Min 15C.









their upper

23rd July 2019

The Banded Demoiselle is a large damselfly with a beautiful, flitting flight with which the male attempts to attract a female. It occurs on slow-flowing rivers, canals (as this one was, on the Chesterfield Canal) and pools, unlike the similar Beautiful Demoiselle which frequents faster flowing water. Highly territorial, if you watch it from the bank you should be able to work out its territory, as well as where it rests and takes off from, as I did to

Male Banded Demoiselle

Male Banded Demoiselle

Male Banded Demoiselle

Male Banded Demoiselle

Male Banded Demoiselle

photograph this one last week. Very sensitive to pollution, they are therefore good indicators of clean water. They are an absolute delight to watch, as the sun glints off their metallic green/turquoise bodies and the fingerprint wing-patch on the male, which gives them their name. The females have uniform coloured, greenish wings. Conditions: Very hot with sunny periods. Temperature: Max 30 Min 18 C.

18th July 2019

Male Brown Hawker dragonfly

Male Brown Hawker dragonfly

Male Brown Hawker dragonfly

Male Brown Hawker dragonfly

Male Brown Hawker dragonfly, drying its face with its front legs

Male Brown Hawker dragonfly, dried out and ready to fly off

The Brown Hawker is a large dragonfly with beautiful bronze-coloured wings, that frequents pools and slow-flowing water, hence the number we saw along the Chesterfield Canal this week. Try as I might, I could not get a photo of this fast-flying insect that hawks along its territory and sometimes into wooded glades, until I saw this one drowning. Every time it struggled to move itself onto some weed, it floundered and went back into the water until it was near enough for me to extend my monopod and slowly move it towards the bank, where it gradually dried out, using its front legs to clean all round its head and  with the sun drying its filigree wings before recovering enough to fly away. This was a male, as can be seen from the blue patches on its thorax. Conditions: Warm sun and cloud. temperature: Max 22 Min 12 C.



12th July 2019

Reed Bunting- These lovely long-tailed, sparrow-sized birds traditionally nest in damp areas and reed beds but lately have spread to drier habitats, probably due to the loss of wetlands, and are becoming pretty successful nesting in the shelter of Oil Seed Rape fields, although these are usually cut before they can get a second brood in. The strikingly bold patterned male finds a suitable nest site and the more muted female builds the nest. This female was finding plenty of insects, which the young and adults eat in spring, before adding seeds to their diet in summer. She was dropping down into the nest in the bottom of the grasses, but if a predator is around, as with some other birds, including the Lapwing, the Reed Bunting will feign injury and move away from the nest to draw the danger away.

Male Reed Bunting

Female Reed Bunting

Female Reed Bunting with insects for her young

Female Reed Bunting with insects fro her brood, down in the grasses

9th July 2019

This Seven-spot Ladybird, our most common Ladybird species (numbers being boosted in sumer by migration from Europe), was very busy eating aphids on some Yarrow, in the garden yesterday. You can see it has slight damage to its wing-case (elytra) which means it carries one wing extended and allows us to see the way the wing-cases open and the wings extend when it flies. It didn’t seem to hinder this one feeding avidly on aphids, which, as you can see in the photo’s, try to get out of the way but the Ladybird can move quite fast when it needs to. They can eat 50 Aphids a day so are great pest controllers. They themselves have two protective characteristics- their red case is a warning that they don’t taste very nice, and if handled, they emit an oily yellow substance from their joints. This doesn’t always protect them from predation and in the past people even believed the yellow fluid was a pain-killer that could ease toothache, and ate them! Being common, they have some lovely local names, including ‘Dowdy Cows’ in Yorkshire, and ‘Bishy-Barny-Bees’ in parts of Norfolk. Conditions: Cloudy with some drizzle. Temperature: Max 19 Min 14 C.

Seven-spot Ladybird feeding on aphids

Seven-spot Ladybird feeding on aphids on Yarrow

Seven-spot Ladybird

Seven-spot Ladybird with wing-cases partially opened

4th July 2019

Heartease, or Wild Pansy-  one of my mum’s favourite flowers, and mine, so it was lovely to come across patches of them on one of their favourite settings- sand dunes- recently. They also appear on cultivated, sandy soils. The colour-patterns vary and it is easy to see why they are also called ‘Viola Tricolour”.  ‘Pansy’ comes from the French, “pensee”, “to think” and Louis the XV decorated the coat of arms of his favourite advisor, Francois Quesnay’, who he called his ‘thinker’ with these little gems. Heartease has long been used in herbal remedies, for skin conditions, chest complaints, as an anti-inflammatory and a diuretic. It also has a long association with grief. Shakespeare, in Hamlet, has Ophelia strewing herbs after the death of he father, saying ” And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts”. Conditions: Warm, with sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 22 Min 12C.


Heartease, or Viola Tricolour


2nd July 2019

Starling adult and young begging for food

Male Starling

Starling and young

Starling adult feeding young

Starlings- now they are on the red (endangered) list in the UK, maybe we should take another look at our relationship to Starlings, which aren’t the most popular garden birds. In Scandinavia, they encourage them by putting up nest boxes but, as they need to nest in colonies it would take quite a few boxes to replace their traditional nesting sites of holes in trees and buildings. Starling colonies synchronise their egg-laying, and most have one brood- only occasionally two. On Orkney and more recently in East Yorkshire we saw the sorts of numbers I would see as a kid, but we seldom have them visit our garden in north Sheffield. The decline in insects numbers is a key cause of their decline, especially as, although they will eat almost anything as adults, for about their first twelve days Starling young are fed on insects and invertebrates, and we watched the pale brown young squawking energetically and noisily to be fed as the adults dug pests and worms from the grass. The young moult completely in autumn and then put on the iridescent plumage of the adult (see photo’s). Conditions: Breeze and sun. Temperature: Max 19 Min 11C.