Yellowhammer- these beautiful members of the bunting family, like many birds that rely heavily on farmland seeds and stubble-fields, are declining so much they are now on the red (for danger) list. Farmers who leave hedges to fruit and seed, and some field margins with seeding wild flowers, can help. Yellowhammers nest near or on the ground, in dense vegetation, and need singing posts like trees or bushes from which to call their ‘little-bit-of-bread-and-no-cheese’ refrain. We watched these males near the Chesterfield canal- wonderfully bright. Conditions: Sunny intervals turning stormy. Temperature: Max 18- Min 12C.
Common Blue Butterfly– I have been watching this, our most widespread but still declining blue butterfly, while down South but it can be seen on grasslands, in urban cemeteries, on dunes, and as far north as Orkney, though it avoids mountain terrain. The female has mostly brown upper sides, with a varying amount of blue, while males are completely blue on their upper wings- see photo’s. The jewel-like patterning of the underwings are beautiful but make them hard to spot- stand in a grassy area, when it is sunny, and just watch to see if any fly around- t
he best way to spot them. Conditions: Sunny intervals and showers. Temperature: Max 18- Min 14C.
Green Woodpeckers- I have been lucky, while down in Sussex, to watch our largest woodpecker, the Green Woodpecker, feeding in the neighbouring field. They eat about 2,000 ants a day throughout summer, diversifying to other insects and seeds during winter. They dig into anthills with their powerful bills and capture the ants with their long, sticky tongues. Males are distinguishable from females by having a red centre to their black ‘moustaches’. Nesting in holes in trees, they use their wonderful ‘yaffle’, laughing call to delineate their territory. Conditions: Cloud with some sun. Temperature: Max 20- Min 13 C.
Small Copper: We are lucky to have this small. bright, active butterfly in our garden sometimes, especially this year on the Marjoram. Present in many areas, in small colonies, they move fast, flashing orange/copper and are best identified when settled. Males aggressively hold territories, basking on bare ground or stones, and chasing off any approaching insects, before resettling on the same spot. Loving unimproved grassland, a declining habitat, it isn’t surprising that their numbers are sadly declining, too. Conditions: Sun and showers. Temperature: Max 21- Min 10C.
Nursery Web Spider: Common in dense vegetation and nettle patches, this spider, which varies in colour from brown to grey, likes sunbathing, holding its two front legs forward in an elongated shape. Once mated, the female lays eggs in a silk cocoon which she carries around in her fangs. Just before hatching, she spins a silk tent like this for the spiderlings, guarding them until their first moult, when they leave the tent. If you look closely you can see the young. Nursery Web Spiders run fast to catch their insect-prey, rather than using webs. Conditions: Rain, rain, rain. Temperature: Max 17- Min 13 C.
Ringlet Butterflies love damp grasslands and brambly hedgerows so we saw several while walking along the beautiful Chesterfield Canal near Drakeholes yesterday. Being dark brown they warm up quickly and so can be seen, on their bobbing flight, even on cloudy days. Distinguished from the related Meadow Brown by the rings on the wings, these are older, adults- younger ones are darker, velvety chocolate brown. Extending their range recently, they are more common than most UK butterflies, the caterpillars feeding on common, tough grasses like Cockscomb and Couch grass. Conditions: Breezy with sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 18- Min 13C.
Red Admiral- such an easily recognised butterfly, but only a small proportion are native, with increasing numbers overwintering in the UK, mostly in the milder south. The vast majority migrate here from Central Europe and even travel as far as Orkney and the Shetlands. The long journey might explain the faded,
tattered state of this adult on our Buddleia. That the numbers of this butterfly, whose caterpillars feed on nettles and hops, fluctuate so widely is due to the variation in migration patterns each year. They fly late into autumn, feeding on Ivy flowers and rotting fruit. Conditions: Very wet, mild day! Temperature: Max 15- Min 12C.