25th October 2018

Teal- if you have difficulty telling different ducks apart, the Teal is a good one to start with. At this time of year the Teal come further South, and West, from their moorland breeding places, and populations get boosted by arrivals from the Baltic and Siberia. These lovely dabbling ducks can therefore be seen, often in large groups, on estuaries and shallow scrapes and bodies of water, noisily sifting for seeds and small invertebrates. Teal are much smaller than Mallard, and even the female has the

Male Teal in winter plumage- colours are brighter in breeding Teal

Teal- a group resting, which they do a lot!

Teal- male and female dabbling for small imvertebrates

Teal- male feeding

stunning green wing patch but the males have very distinctive head markings and a triangle of cream at the back of their small bodies. Conditions: The mild, sunny spell continues, with colder times forecast over the weekend, so we will be getting our tender plants in. Temperature: Max 14 Min 8C.

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21st September 2018

The Red Admiral, known in earlier times as the Red Admirable, has scarcely appeared in our garden this year but was feeding in small numbers on the heavy crops of Blackberries along the Chesterfield Canal this week. While there is a small resident population in the UK, and an increasing number of Red Admirals overwintering as adults, as our climate changes, the majority migrate to our shores in spring, from Eastern Europe, and then breed here. Because numbers are swelled by migration, the numbers in any year fluctuate greatly. This beautiful, unmistakable large, strong-flying Butterfly loves feeding up on fermenting fruit like these imbibing Blackberry juice. Conditions: Cool, wet and then sunny. Temperature: Max 13 Min 7 C.

Red Admiral

Red Admiral feeding on fermenting Blackberries

Surprisingly heavy crop of Blackberries given the dry season

8th September 2018

Emperor Dragonflies, one of the largest and fastest Dragonflies in Europe, able to fly at 24mph, prefer medium to large ponds, or canals, with plenty of vegetation, which is why I could watch them at the stunning Bodnant Gardens, North Wales, this week. Reaching a length of 78mm (3.1 inches) they are highly territorial and males will fight to the death. Hard to photograph on the wing, because of their speed and sudden changes of direction,   they swoop to catch insect prey, including Butterflies, which they consume on the wing. They hardly ever perch.  This female (they have a greenish abdomen, while the male’s is bluer) did hover and land, looking for a site to lay its eggs. I

Female Emperor Dragonfly

Female Emperor Dragonfly, looking for an egg-laying site

Female Emperor Dragonfly

Female Emperor Dragonfly

Mating Emperor Dragonflies, mid-air.

also managed to get a shot, about six metres above ground, as two mated, flying past at high speed! Apart from their size, they can be identified by the way they often hold their abdomens bent downwards. Conditions: Grey cloud and occasional light rain. Temperature: Max 16 Min 13 C.

22nd August 2018

All plants in the Goosefoot family (which includes Quinoa) have edible seeds and the seeds of our most common Goosefoot- Fat Hen- have been found at every prehistoric site excavated throughout Europe. Fat Hen seeds formed part of the last meal of Tollund Man, the 2,000 year-old victim of hanging, and possibly of ritual sacrifice, found in a Jutland peat-bog. The young leaves of Fat Hen can be used like spinach and the seeds used in soups or dried and ground as flour for flat-breads. Known as ‘Melde’ in old English, this common plant was long

Fat Hen

Fat Hen, Goosefoot family

Fat Hen seeds, Goosefoot family, with Marmalade Hoverfly

a staple in place of ‘greens’. Conditions: Cloud and sun. Temperature: Max 20 Min 13 C.

31st July 2018

It is not too late to do the Big Butterfly Count! For anyone who has a job identifying the most common brown butterflies, this may help. The Ringlet is distinctive for its velvety dark background and for having several circles, though the number and size can vary. Meadow Browns have one circle on their forewings, with one white spot, and in most habitats is the Brown most frequently seen, and Gatekeepers (declined 44% since the 1970’s, largely due to intensification of farming) have two white spots in their single dark circle. Conditions: Cool breeze and occasional shower ut the welcome spell of rain seems over too soon. Temperature: Max 22 Min 12 C.

Ringlet

Meadow Brown

Male Meadow Brown

Male Gatekeeper

12th July 2018

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.

Wild Honeysuckle

Wild Honeysuckle

Wild Honeysuckle

4th July 2018

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

Banded Damselfly, mating

Banded Damselfly, mating

Male Banded Damselfly

Male Banded Demoiselles battling for territory

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.