14th August 2017

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

Male Common Blue on Knapweed

Male Common Blue

Female Common Blue

Female Common Blue

he best way to spot them. Conditions: Sunny intervals and showers. Temperature: Max 18- Min 14C.

12th August 2017

Hoverflies- there are 5,000 species of these harmless, true flies, many of which mimic wasps and bees as a deterrence to predators which are misled into believing they will sting if attacked. Many are hard to identify but thisĀ large and colourful one, which mimics the Hornet, is easier than most. Volucella Zonaria turned up in the south of England in the 1940’s and is spreading north, often found in suburbs and city gardens, I watched these in a Sussex garden last week. Many hoverflies are really helpful to gardeners, feeding on pests like aphids. Conditions: Sunny intervals Temperature: Max 19- Min 12C

Volucella Zonaria- Hoverfly that mimics the Hornet

Volucella Zonaria

10th August 2017

Brimstone Butterfly– one of the few UK butterflies which overwinter as adults, I’ve been watching this beautiful female which will have emerged from eggs laid by the overwintering generation. They will be around feeding all autumn, building up for their hibernation. Opinion is divided as to whether the colour of the much more yellow male of this species (see other photo) gave rise to the generic name of ‘butter’-fly, but male and female are both beautiful and distinctly shaped. The caterpillars rely on buckthorn and alder buckthorn so please grow either in your patch if you can (Can be bought from Ashridge Nurseries mail order) Conditions– sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 20- Min 11C.

Female Brimstone butterfly feeding on Knapweed

Female Brimstone butterfly

Male Brimstone Butterfly feeding on Scabious

5th August 2017

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.

Small Copper

Small Copper

Small Copper

Small Copper

2nd August 2017

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.

Nursery Web Spider

Nursery Web Spider

Nursery Web Spider and Spiderlings

31st July 2017

Male Sparrowhawk– Yesterday the grey-backed, smaller male Sparrowhawk (the female and juveniles are brown-backed) was heralded in the garden by loud alarm calls from other birds. Sweeping through the garden, too fast to photograph, here it is recently, looking dapper, and an older photo by Lynn, where it is eating a Collared Dove. No one is certain why many raptors exhibit ‘reverse dimorphism’ (meaning the males are smaller than the females) but it it is thought to relate to their need to be very manouevrable in dense woodland, hunting for the incubating female

Male Sparrowhawk

Sparrowhawk- male

Male Sparrowhawk

Sparrowhawk- male eating Collared Dove

, and/or the female’s need to have enough bulk to produce eggs. Conditions: Cloud and sunny intervals and showers Temperature: Max 20- Min 12C.

29th July 2017

Greenfinches have declined so much since the 1990′s that we have felt lucky to have a family of adults and two young, visiting our feeders, enjoying their favourite black sunflower-seeds. Originally woodland birds, they have now been drawn to gardens, but suffer from the parisitic-induced disease ‘trichomonosis’, which affects their ability to feed- the advice is to make sure your feeders are frequently cleaned. Young have the same yellow edge to their wings and tail as adults but have streaky chests, visible here. Greenfinches will also feast on Rose-hips, Haws, and Yew Berries

Young Greenfinch

Adult male Greenfinch

Adult male Greenfinch

Conditions: Cloud and sun, with rain later. Temperature: Max 20- Min 13C.