23rd November 2017

Just a reminder that Honey Bees, and a few butterflies, including Red Admiral, do not hibernate but slow their bodies down and emerge whenever the temperature is around 10C or more, throughout winter, to top up their food supplies. These recent photo’s emphasise again just how important winter sources of pollen and nectar are for these insects- Ivy is one of the best, as these Honey Bees

Honey bee, Ivy

Honey bee, Ivy

Honey bee, Ivy

Red Admiral, Ivy

show. Conditions: Cool and sunny after high winds and rain. Temperature: Max 9- Min 3C.

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15th November 2017

Hollow Lanes (Sunken Lanes) are great local ecosystems and this is a personal favourite. I was walking Freckley Hollow in Catsfield, Sussex recently, marvelling at the rich habitat in this shady Hollow. The ancient lanes are created over hundreds of years of use by people and horse-drawn vehicles, and sometimes the erosion is increased by water-flow. Freckley Hollow, (Freckley may come from the dappled light that sifts through this half-mile hollow lane), a track in the midst of previous iron-working, brick-making and  heavy farming use follows ancient boundaries and would have been progressively eroded until its surface was tarmaced. Conditions: Sunny spells, mild. Temperature: Max 10- Min 9C.

Freckley Hollow

Freckley Hollow

Freckley Hollow

Freckley Hollow

eroded until roads were tarmaced.

17th October 2017

Autumn fruits and nuts- it’s that time of year again, and the gale-force winds may have brought Conkers, Acorns, Chestnuts, Hazel Nuts down yesterday/today so here’s a reminder of the things you may get a close-up view of- and if it includes Sweet Chestnuts, you may even get a feast to take home and bake, roast or make into great soup with lentils. Conditions: Calming down in Sheffield after a wild night of tail-of-the-hurricane winds. Temperature: Max 14- Min 9C.

2nd October 2017

Hornets- what is the point of wasps and their large relatives Hornets, people wonder. These highly social creatures which operate in complex colonies are often disliked for their propensity to sting. In fact the Hornet we have (unlike the Asian Hornet) has a fairly mild sting and only attack if disturbed. They chew wood, mix it with saliva and build intricate paper nests often in trees. They eat plant matter but also often hover around plants, like these were last week, down South, predating many garden pests. So, i fact, they are helpful to us humans! Conditions: Sun and a stiff breeze. Temperature: Max 15- Min 11C.

Hornet

Hornet

Hornet

30th September 2017

Butterfly Conservation reports that the wet summer (11th wettest on record) proved another bad year for most Butterflies and Moths, insects which help in plant pollination. The three most common Whites, (see photo’s)- the Green-veined, the Large and the Small White all suffered, though Meadow Brown and Red Admiral did fairly well (featured in earlier blogs this year). More people than ever took part in the Great Butterfly Count they run- 60,000– but, at an average of 11 butterflies per recorder, that is the worst numbers seen since recording began in 2010. Conditions: Sun and showers. Temperature: Max 15- Min 12C.

Large White Butterfly

Small White Butterfly

Green-veined White Butterfly

25th September 2017

Bumper hedgerow crops– The year’s strange weather pattern, with cold early spring, a dry April and enough sun and rain in July and August, has led to a really good crop of autumn Blackberries, Hips and Haws, Crab Apples, Sloes and Bullace (like wild Damsons), Acorns and many other seeds and berries, This is boosting Butterflies, after a late, slow start, and will enable bees, birds and mammals to stock up for migration or to survive winter. Walking the hedgerows today we saw many birds and insects feeding-Redstart, Warblers, Stonechat– it is a good time to keep your eyes peeled, especially for birds preparing to migrate. Conditions: A warm spell. Temperature: Max 16- Min 13C.

Bullace fruit

Heavy Acorn crop

Heavy Sloe crop wherever sheltered from the late frosts

Plentiful Crab Apples and Haws in the hedgerows.

21st September 2017

Ivy Flowers- I have posted before about the importance of Ivy flowers for late-flying and overwintering Butterflies and other insects, but nothing illustrated it better than today. Down south again, we did a circular walk by the River Ouse, ending at Rodmell, to visit Virginia Woolf’s garden and house. Over 3 miles, in good sunshine, there were virtually no insects to be seen. We passed one bush of Ivy flowers in bloom and suddenly there were Peacock and Red Admiral Butterflies, flies, bees and hoverflies in numbers, all feeding. Ivy along the ground in a garden can be a pest, but if you can persuade it to grow up into a bush or fence, where it will flower, you will have autumn nectar for insects and fruits for winter Thrushes. Conditions: Warm and sunny. Temperature: Max 16- Min 9C.

Red Admiral on Ivy

Red Admiral on Ivy

Peacock on Ivy flowers