9th August 2018

Plantlife reveals disturbing figures: We have lost 97% of our meadows since the 1930’s, one in five of our wild flowers are in danger of disappearing, and every county loses a wild flower every couple of years. They work hard to reverse this ‘great thinning’ and have created 90 new meadows in 3 years, and protected and restored 3,000 hectares of grassland in just one of their projects. Without our wild flowers and meadows, insects decline rapidly (75% recorded loss in a recent survey) and so do birds. Every little bit helps, from growing nectar rich plants, introducing wild flowers to your garden, encouraging settlements of all sizes to plant wild flower meadows. Joining plantlife.love-wildflowers.org.uk is also worth

Wildflower meadow

Wild Flower Meadow, Sheffield, Earl Marshall

Rich meadowland

Meadows support insects which support many birds

considering. Conditions: Showers and cool at last! Temperature: Max 16 Min 10 C.

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6th August 2018

Fleabane, a flower of damp areas and ditches, (in short supply this dry, hot summer) was attracting many feeding insects yesterday, none more beautiful than the tiny, fast moving Small Copper butterfly. Fleabane, as its name suggests, was dried and burned to deter fleas, in the days when people strewed rushes and herbs on the floors of their homes. Its Latin name, Pulicaria (Pulex =Flea) Dysenterica, also points to its early use as a medicine against dysentry. Although Culpepper called it an “ill-looking weed”, the Romans valued it more highly, using it to make wreaths. Conditions: Continuing extremely hot and dry. Temperature: Max 27

Small Copper on Fleabane

Small Copper

Common Blue on Fleabane

Min14 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

19th July 2018

Rose Sawfly Larvae- these 15mm munchers look superficially like caterpillars but they are one of 8,000 Sawfly species worldwide, named after the saw-shaped ovipositor of the females, with which they cut a slot in the host plant in which to deposit their eggs.sHarmless, except when in such numbers that they defoliate whole plants (which then recover), the larvae go through eight different developmental stages. Caterpillars never have more than five pairs of legs but Sawfly larvae have six or more. Sawfly larvae often feed on gregariously, like these, and when threatened take this classic ‘S’ shape. Conditions: Sun and cloud. Dry again. Temperature: Max 24 Min 13C.

Rose Sawfly larva

Rose Sawfly larvae

Rose Sawfly Larvae

Mating Rose Sawfly adults

16th July 2018

Juvenile Long-tailed Tits have been in short supply on our feeders this summer, which may be because of the wet spring (remember?!) which adversely affects their survival. This small group turned up though- I love the red ring round their eyes. More closely related to Indian Babblers than to Tits, they often appear in mixed flocks with Blue and Great Tits. Long-tailed Tits have such small bodies that they stay in small flocks in order to help keep each other warm, sitting close together on branches through the colder nights. Overall, their numbers are increasing, especially in urban areas. Conditions: cloud and sun, with light rain forecast for a while. Temperature: Max  22  Min 13 C.

14th July 2018

Robins are strongly territorial all year, which is why they sing all year round,  rather than just around breeding times. It is also the reason their young remain in juvenile plumage for several months -to avoid being attacked by the adult males, which would attack even their own young if they saw a red breast. This one has been feeding close to us as we gardened this week, so we got a good view of its distinctly speckled breast, which distinguishes it from other young birds like Dunnock at this time of the year. Conditions: cloud after heavy rain, clearing to another hot day. Temperature: Max 27 Min 11 C.

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