Robins are strongly territorial all year, which is why they sing all year round, rather than just around breeding times. It is also the reason their young remain in juvenile plumage for several months -to avoid being attacked by the adult males, which would attack even their own young if they saw a red breast. This one has been feeding close to us as we gardened this week, so we got a good view of its distinctly speckled breast, which distinguishes it from other young birds like Dunnock at this time of the year. Conditions: cloud after heavy rain, clearing to another hot day. Temperature: Max 27 Min 11 C.
These wild Honeysuckles, as well as those you grow in the garden, are brilliant for wild-life, including ten species of insects which feed exclusively on them. The wonderful scent, strongest in the evening for attracting their pollinator Moths, can be detected a quarter of a mile away by the Hummingbird Hawkmoth. The caterpillar of the increasingly rare White Admiral depends on the leaves. Dormice use the bark for nest material for their young, and get nutrients from eating the nectar rich flowers. Thrushes nest in them, and eat their bright red autumn berries, as do Warblers and Bullfinches. Clearly, if you haven’t already got some in your garden, it is worth considering. Conditions: Cloudy and humid. Temperature: Max 23 Min 13 C.
The Beautiful Demoiselle is the only other large Damselfly with brightly coloured wings in the UK (See the Banded Demoiselle featured on the blog on the 4th July). The male (petrol-blue metallic colour) flits around more like a butterfly, from May to August, dancing to attract the female, which has bronze-metallic wings and a bronze tail-tip (see photo’s). These stunning Demoiselles are fairly common along flowing streams, west of a line between Liverpool and Folkestone. (Damselflies fold their wings at rest while Dragonflies hold them open). Conditions: Cloud and sun. Still no rain for weeks. Temperature: Max 22 Min 12 C.
Round-headed Rampion or ‘Pride of Sussex’: at last, on one of its’ dwindling habitats high on the South Downs, I have seen the Sussex County Flower, once common on chalk grasslands and, in Shakespeare’s time, grown frequently in kitchen gardens, for its root, used as a pot-herb (a bit like parsnip), as it still is in parts of Europe. A deep, azure blue, the heads are not a single flower but made of a cluster of
flowers, curling inwards like claws. Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP for Brighton is its ‘species champion’. She is one of a network of MP’s who work to raise awareness of specific threatened wild-flower species. Conditions: Very hot and dry again. Temperature: Max 28 Min 13C.
Elephant Hawk-moth: Although this is a common nocturnal moth, with sightings in Sheffield, I have never seen one before this week. I was delighted when I opened the moth-trap in Hampshire to find this stunning individual peacefully resting, before flying off into a nearby bush. Named because the caterpillar is thought to resemble an elephant’s trunk, the adult moth feeds from tubular flowers like Honeysuckle, while the caterpillar eats bedstraws, Enchanter’s Nightshade, Himalayan Balsam and Fuchsia. Such a beautiful
, large moth. Conditions: This heatwave continues, with little or no sign of rain. Temperature: Max 28 Min 14 C.
You can watch the wonderful flights of the Banded Demoiselle above slow-moving streams, south of the Humber, as they emerge from their two-year larval existence beneath the water, to their couple of weeks life as flying adults. The males, with dark
petrol blue bodies and bands across their wings, emerge and fight other males for territories, (beautiful to watch) before mating with the bronze-green coloured females. They do a dancing mating flight, before clasping the female behind her head and flying to a leaf with her ‘in tandem’ (see photos), where she will coil her body round to the ‘wheel’ position for mating. After a few minutes they separate and the female flies off to find a plant just below the water’s surface on which to lay. The male defends her until she has safely deposited their eggs. Conditions: Cloudier and a little cooler but still dry. Temperature: Max 22 Min 13C.
Large White Butterfly– one of the two Whites whose caterpillars do decimate the cabbage family- the Latin name is a giveaway (Pieris Brassica). There have been a few females were flying round the nasturtiums today, spotting places to lay their bright yellow batches of eggs (see photo)- females have two black spots on their forewings and a lovely creamy underside. Their numbers have been in decline for five years in a row, and fell 19% last year, probably due to a cold spring and cloudier, wetter summer than average, which badly affected many butterfly species. Conditions: A continuation of this very hot, dry spell. Temperature: Max 27 Min 12 C.