Painted Lady Butterfly: I blogged about these beautiful butterflies earlier in the year, as it is one of their mass migration years- an estimate of over 1 million have migrated here from North Africa and Southern Europe this year. Never overwintering in any form in cold climates, these stunning individuals, born here recently, were feasting on Verbena and other late summer flowers at Thornbridge Hall gardens in the Peak District last week. Shortly, they will begin their staggering migration back to North Africa. some may even cross the Sahara. Known in Latin as ‘Vanessa Cardui’ or Thistle Butterfly, the caterpillars will have fed on thistles and other local plants before building a silk tent, and emerging from their chrysalis-form. Look out for them, and their wonderf
ul markings, both on upper and lower wings- they will soon be gone south. Conditions: Very wet and grey. Temperature: Max 17 Min 12C.
Male Chaffinch, bathing
Chaffinches are one of our most common and widespread birds, often seen feeding on the ground around cafes, boldly picking up crumbs, or in gardens around feeders. Males are more colourful than females or juveniles but the distinguishing feature for all Chaffinches is the white wing bars, visible at rest and when flying. Watching this Male washing in a friend’s pond was lovely. Although quite restrained when bathing, compared to some birds, it revealed the range of colours, including the beautiful olive green lower back which is often not seen when watching the birds feeding, and the white tail bars. Conditions: the first rain for a few days after a spell of gorgeous sun and blue skies. Temperature: Max 18 Min 12C.
Chiffchaff- these birds are very similar in appearance to their close cousins, the Willow Warbler. Both migrate here from Africa and both are small, olive-green warblers with a yellow eye-stripe. In spring and early summer they are easy to tell apart by their calls- the Willow Warbler has a lovely long trill while the Chiffchaff is named after its two-note call. At this time of year, as they feed-up on insects, spiders and some berries, ready for their long migration back to Africa, you have to get a good view. It has taken me years to get a photo of Chiffchaffs but this pair were flitting up in a tree yesterday, and on a Cotoneaster bush, and you can see their distinguishing dark legs (The Willow Warbler has pale pink
ish legs). Conditions: Sun, cloud and a cool breeze. Temperature: Max 16 Min 7C.
Juvenile Goldfinch- Like many juvenile birds, the young Goldfinch can be confusing and hard to identify. Male and female adult Goldfinch have very similar plumage- the male has a slightly longer bill but this is hard to distinguish, unless you spot one eating teal seeds- only male bills are long enough to extract them! Juvenile birds often have less bright colouring than the adults and the Goldfinch is no exception. This is probably an evolutionary factor to ensure the young birds are more camouflaged, being more vulnerable until they are self-sufficient in feeding and more able at flying. After their first
Adult and Juvenile Goldfinch
moult, they begin to get their adult bright feathers but even then the gold wing flashes and black and white wing ‘ladders’ show first, before the red and black caps develop. We have both feeding at present, so you can see the difference between juvenile and adult. Conditions: Cloud and rain. Temperature: Max 13 Min 9C.
We don’t get many Honey Bees in our garden, but there have been a few around the Knapweed lately. A honey bee may fly 5 miles for food, but on average they fly less than a mile. Still, in a strong colony, this means the females, the bees which gather nectar and pollen, fly the equivalent distance to the moon and back every day! They navigate largely by the sun and, being sensitive to polarised light, they can ‘see’ the sun through dense cloud. Their compound eyes see colour three times faster than the human eye. These Honey Bees may have come from hives I know are kept by a local bee-keeper, and discovered our wild flower patch as one of their sources of food. More on how bees detect their food, soon. Conditions: Mild with a strong breeze. Temperature: Max 20 Min 14 C
Small White Butterfly- by the crinkled, crumpled nature of this Small White’s wings, I think it must have been fairly newly emerged from the chrysalis, and nectaring on Scabious. One of the ‘Cabbage Whites’ this one does not create as much damage to brassicas as its cousin the Large White but its largely yellow-green caterpillars with pale yellow dots along its side, (lacking the black markings of the Large) do damage crops
Newly emerged Small White nectaring on Scabious
Small White, still crumpled from emerging from its chrysalis
, especially as they are so ubiquitous in their range, and have two broods per summer. An ill-informed introduction of this species to Melbourne in 1939 and its subsequent spread led lepidopterists to work out that an adult Small White can travel 100 miles its short lifetime, compared to most butterflies which travel only a mile or two. (This makes the 100 miles a day of the Painted Lady, which I looked at recently, even more astonishing). Conditions: Breezy and cloudy. Temperature: Max 21 Min 13C.