17th May 2019

Orange-tip Butterfly – as a follow-up to an earlier post on these lovely, and quite common, butterflies here is a drawing I did a while ago about their life-cycle as it is worth looking out for their distinctive chrysalis at this time of year. Orange-tips lay their eggs singly (because the caterpillars are cannibalistic!) on the stems of plants like Ladies Smock, Jack-by-the-hedge (Garlic Mustard) and, in gardens, Honesty, (though

Orange Tip Caterpillar on Jack By the Hedge

Orange-tip life-cycle

Annotation of Orange-tip life cycle

young survive less well on this). The eggs turn orange as they develop and the caterpillars, starting out orange, turn blue-green as they mature (see photo). By the late stage of the chrysalis the orange tips of the male can be seen through the increasingly transparent casing. Conditions: Warm and many dry days. Temperature: Max 17 Min 9C.

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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.

16th April 2019

Orange-tip Butterfly: it is so lovely to see these beautiful butterflies back in the garden. Having some damp patches in our garden, we have planted Ladies Smock, as it is one of the main food plants for their caterpillars, as is Jack By The Hedge which grows wild in many hedgerows (see photo’s) but Alys Fowler wrote recently about how the much more common garden plant, Honesty, is also a great caterpillar food source so that is an easier way to encourage them into our gardens. Conditions: warming up for the next few days. Still mainly dry. Temperature: Max 13 Min 5 c.

Male Orange Tip Butterfly feeding on wild Jack By The Hedge

Female Orange Tip Butterfly feeding in the garden on perennial wallflower

Close-up of female Orange-Tip Butterfly, both Male and female have this amazing camouflage marking when wings are folded

Ladies Smock flowering in our garden, a good plant food source for caterpillars of Orange-tip

14th April 2019

Tawny Mining Bee – these are a beautiful species of solitary bees, so useful in spring pollination. The adults emerge in spring and are flying between March and May so this is

Tawny Mining Bee nest

Female Tawny Mining Bee emerging from nest

Female Tawny Mining Bee

the time to look out for the gorgeous amber coloured insects. Since we have made a ‘dry’ bed of pebbles with drought-surviving plants we have had several of these nesting in the garden. The females dig a burrow up to 10 inches deep, with several tunnels off the main hole, hence the easiest sign you have them- small volcanoes of dirt, which tend to become less obvious after a few days. Into each tunnel/cell the female deposits nectar and pollen as food once the single egg she lays in each, hatches. They then hibernate before emerging in spring. We are losing our solitary bee populations so creating a space where they can breed helps a little, and then you get to watch their behaviour (see photo’s). Conditions: Cool, bright weather. Temperature: Max 9 Min 2c.

4th April 2019

We are very lucky to have a pair of Nuthatches regularly coming to our feeders near the window at present, though seldom together. Though they eat insects, foraged with their dagger-like bills from under tree bark (they are our only native species to be able to move up and down a tree) they are omnivorous and come to us for sunflower seeds and fat. Their name apparently comes from their habit of taking seeds with a hard outer case, such as sunflowers, to a tree and wedging it into the bark, hacking (“hatching”) at it to get at the seed inside, a hbehaviour we often watch as they carry seeds off to our nearby trees. Nuthatches nest in tree holes, plastering mud round any holes that are too big until the right snug, safe size. They will also occasionally nest in bird-boxes but they need bigger

Nuthatch

Nuthatch

Nuthatch- able to travel down and up a rough surface

than the usual boxes come in (Blue Tits- 25mm, Great Tits- 28mm.) Conditions: Nippy, grey and rain on the way. Temperature: Max 5 Min 3C.

2nd April 2019

Common Green Shield Bugs usually emerge in May, having hibernated over winter in grassy tussocks and undergrowth but these were in the garden a couple of days ago, when the weather was unseasonable mild. This particular Shield Bug (there are several species, named, obviously for their flat, shield-like shape) has, due to climate change,  been spreading North from its habitat in southern England, and feeds on a variety of plants so can be seen in many environments. Also called the Stink Bug, for the noxious fluid it releases from glands if handled or disturbed, the Common Green Shield Bug does no noticeable damage to plants. I’ll be looking out for the eggs they lay on the underside of leaves, and the rounded larvae,

Common Green Shield Bug

Common Green Shield Bug

Common Green Shield Bug

Common Green Shield Bug

as I have never noticed them before. Conditions: Some gentle rain at last. Temperature: Max 8 Min 1C.

22nd March 2019

This week the Peacock butterfly has been flying in the garden, feasting on our early flowers, like Primrose and Dandelion. Only a few Butterfly species traditionally overwinter as adults in this country- the Peacock, Brimstone and Comma being the most common, which is why these are the species we see flying early if the temperatures are above 10C. However, with climate change there are more species surviving over winter as adults, including Red Admiral, Clouded Yellow and Small Tortoiseshell. If you see any Butterflies in these early months you can record them in

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock feeding on Dandelion

Primrose and Peacock

Nature’s Calendar. This valuable citizen science site is helping to record changes in the emergence of buds on trees, insects, migrant birds etc, which all helps monitor climate change. If you find a Butterfly in your house or shed take it outside, carefully, on a mild day so they can find natural food, and an outdoor site to shelter if the weather gets cold. Conditions: Mild dry spell. Temperature: Max 13 Min 5C.