Poplar Hawkmoth- This splendid, large moth at rest, holds its hindwing forward of its forewings, and its abdomen curved up. It appeared in Catsfield today, in the heavy rain. Normally concealed during daytime, and well camouflaged against leaves this, the most common Hawkmoth, may be seen drawn to lights at night. The adults do not feed, just mate and lay their eggs on the underside of Poplar, Sallow or Aspen leaves. Conditions: Heavy rain at last. Temperature: Max 218- Min 15 C.
Field Rose- another of theoccasional wild flower identification blogs, though this lovely, white wild rose of field edges and hedgerows can also be bought for the garden- the flowers attract insects and the bright red hips in autumn are popular with birds, and were what country folk were paid to gather for Rose-hip syrup, a vital vitamin C supplement for children in World War Two. As kids, We also used the hairy seeds in these hips as very effective itching powder. Field Rose is easy to distinguish from the wild, pink Dog Rose. Conditions: Drizzle and heavy rain. Temperature: Max 18- Min 14.
Fox Cubs- these are probably about 3 months old now, as they are beginning to accompany adults on hunting trips, and one caught a small rabbit and was chased round and round a pond by another, giving up and slightly lame from the experience. Born dark gray or black, their heads gradually lengthen and fur becomes more sleek and red. These still need to grow into the size of their ears! Conditions: Very wet and very windy. Temperature: Max 16- Min 10 c..
Foxes- Down in Sussex, I’ve been lucky enough to watch a family of Foxes with six cubs (more on those tomorrow)- panting with the heat. With such a big family, they have really needed more than just the parents out catching food, which is predominantly the plentiful Rabbits. As here, Fox parents are often helped to provide food by other family members, including last years’ cubs, not yet mature enough to breed. Conditions: Sunny periods with heavy rain and strong winds due this evening. Temperature: Max 17- Min 11 c.
Tree Sparrow- These beautifully marked birds used to be seen in many places, but their population dramatically crashed by a devastating 93% between 1970 and 2008. Concentrated conservation efforts have led to a slight rise since. Best seen along hedgerows and wood margins, they have a brown cap, unlike the House Sparrows grey cap, and a black spot on their cheeks. You can see them in South Yorkshire, at Old Moor- there is a colony in the aptly named Tree Sparrow Farm area there, and at other reserves. Conditions: Hot and still. Temperature: Max 20- Min 15 C
May flowers- If, like me, you love the sight but not the smell of May flowers, so floriferous on our Hawthorn tree and hedge right now, you are in a long tradition. Country people would never bring it indoors, associating it with illness, death and the Great Plague. Interestingly, the scent has now been analysed and contains the chemical, trimethylamine, that occurs in decaying tissue! Hawthorn is brilliant for wildlife though- 300 insects use it, including the caterpillars of many moths, with intriguing names like Lappet, Orchard Ermine, Fruitlet Mining Tortrex and Small
Eggar. The Haw berries, rich in anti-oxidants, are eaten by many birds and the thick, dense, thickets shelter many bird-nests. Conditions: Cloud, light rain. Temperature: Max16- Min 11C.
Preening feathers- most birds preen their feathers several times a day, vital to clear dirt and parasites, and to optimally align every feather for best flight, something vital to a Swallow like this, newly arrive from Africa. I was lucky to watch it preen every wing feather individually, as one photo shows. Preening also serves to spread oil from the preening gland (uropygial gland) in order to keep the feathers waterproof and from becoming brittle. I watched this Swallow. Conditions: sunny and warm as I leave Sussex! Temperature: Max 15- Min 7c.