23rd May 2019

I was about to do a different subject for today’s blog when along came this female Common Blue Butterfly and started feeding a a Daisy on our uncut lawn! I don’t remember ever seeing a Common Blue in our Sheffield garden so maybe last summer’s heat helped this species locally. Females have variable amounts of blue and brown on their upper wings, while male are all-blue on upper-wings (I include a photo of a male for identification purposes, even though I haven’t seen one here- yet! The photo is from a Sussex garden). Common Blue caterpillars feed mainly on Bird’s Foot Trefoil, and sometimes on white Clover, Restharrow etc. The adults love being in the sun, on grassland, waste ground, road verges etc. They are fairly widespread, living up to their name. Conditions: Cloud giving way to sun. Temperature Max 14 Min 7C.

Common Blue, female

Common Blue, female

Common Blue, female

Common Blue, male

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11th May 2019

Waking up each morning to the beautiful song of the Willow Warbler again, and having heard both this and the Chiffchaff singing on nearby Parkwood Springs I thought it was time to revisit these beautiful, elusive and similar-looking spring migrants. Chiffchaff arrive mid-March and Willow Warbler, migrating further, arrive in April. This difference in migration journeys also explains one of the visual differences, with Chiffchaffs having shorter wings and Willow Warblers, flying further, having longer primary feathers/wing length. Chiffchaff have dark legs while Willow Warblers have pale pinkish legs and a brighter eye-stripe. Since they are hard to see, the easiest way to tell them apart is by song- Chiffchaff singing a two note eponymous song, and Willow Warblers have a lovely long song ending with a downward trill. The BTO have a great little on-line video on telling them apart. (The photo’s of the Willow Warbler are from our garden, the Chiffchaff from Spurn).

Chiffchaff

Chiffchaff

Willow Warbler

Willow Warbler

Conditions: Milder with sun and showers. Temperature: Max 13 Min 4C.

7th May 2019

Two less common insects, once mainly confined to the south of England, have been showing up in our Sheffield garden this week. The brightly coloured Cinnamon Bug, also called the Black and Red Squash Bug overwinters as an adult and so is around now. It can easily be mistaken for some other red and black bugs, including a similar Shield Bug but the Cinnamon Bug is more burnt-orange and longer in shap than a shield bug (see photo). The other is the Hairy-footed Flower Bee- the photo shows the female which is black all over except for orange hairs on her hind-legs, which are used to gather pollen, making them look very yellow when charged. They love feeding on Pulmonaria. The male is gingery-bodied with a pale tuft on its head (no photo yet!). It patrols flowers looking for a mate. The lovely Flower Bee nests in vertical banks of mud or in the soft mortar of walls where they mine cells, lay an egg in each and top up with pollen for food, before sealing. The young Bee emerges and can be seen flying from March to May. Conditions: Cloudy and still, rain later. Temperature: Max 11 Min 6C.

Cinnamon Bug

Female Hairy-footed Flower Bee

Hairy-footed Flower Bee, female

Cinnamon Bug

5th May 2019

Dipper- we have just come back from an early morning walk along the heavily industrialised part of the Don at Neepsend, Sheffield, carrying out a Breeding BIrd Survey for the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and among many species seen and heard we had the delight of watching a Dipper on this once heavily polluted area of river. I first saw one on the city centre part if the Don while doing a charity collection at Hillsborough, the Owls ground which stands by the Don. It is lovely to know this species is till in the area- they tend too use the same nest-sites for generations. Characteristically this Dipper was standing on stones, bobbing and watching the water before flying in and walking underwater to feed on small crustaceans and insect larvae. This was probably a male as the female is likely to be sitting on a clutch of eggs by now, being fed by him. (The photo’s are from

Dipper

Dipper

Dipper

the Derwent at Hathersage, not the Don). Conditions: Cool, dry and cloudy. Temperature: Max 11 Min 4 C.

2nd May 2019

Male Greenfinches

Male Greenfinch

Greenfinch, Goldfinch, typically squabbling at the feeders

My male and female Greenfinch drawing

We are lucky to still have Greenfinches regularly visiting our feeders, because their populations have declined dramatically in the ’70’s, increased in the ’80’s and have declined again since, affected by the parasitic-linked Trichomonosis disease, which hampers their ability to feed and can be caught from feeders that aren’t cleaned well enough. Greenfinches, once woodland birds, have become more regular users of garden bird-feeders, especially favouring black sunflower seeds which they can easily crack with their stocky beaks. Sometimes confused with Goldfinches, because they have a yellow flash on their wings, Greenfinches are bulkier and the males are olive-green. I hope the photo’s which include a Goldfinch, and drawing will help you separate male and the paler-coloured female Greenfinch, and Goldfinch. Conditions: Sunny intervals and showers. Temperature: Max 14 Min 5 c

30th April 2019

The Holly Blue Butterfly– this is the most likely of the Blue Butterflies to be seen in our gardens- it is certainly flying its high, fast flitting flight in our garden again now. If you see a small, sky-blue butterfly, almost like a petal being blown in the wind, it will be the Holly Blue, as all other Blues emerge later, and fly lower. It has dark wing-tips and pale undersides, if you manage to get a close view- see the photo’s (which, because it doesn’t settle much are very hard to get!). The Holly Blue lays its eggs, first generation on Holly buds, usually in the sun, and second on Ivy. The population levels fluctuate widely, mostly due to the occurrence of a parasitic wasp, Listrodomus Nycthermerus.

Holly Blue

Holly Blue

Holly Blue

This wasp lays an egg in the Holly Blue Larva, and emerge as adults from the Chrysalis. Conditions: Sun and cloud after mist. Temperature: Max 17 Min 9C.

21st April 2019

Yesterday I was watching a female Orange Tip feeding on Lady’s Smock in the garden, when I was lucky to see and photograph this interesting bit of behaviour you may notice at this time of year. When a female is either too young to mate or has already mated, and is approached by a male, she

Male Orange Tip attempting to mate with female

Male and Female Orange Tip

Female Orange Tip

Female Oreange Tip

to show she is not interested in mating. The male flies off and the female continues to feed. Conditions: Unseasonably hot and dry. Temperature: Max 23 Min 8 C.