Young birds are everywhere in the garden at present- here are Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Long-Tailed Tit (note the red eye ring that is clear on the young one). Juveniles tend to be paler and fluffier than the adults and some still show their ‘gape’- the exaggerated yellow bill-edge that helps guide the adult speedily to the juvenile’s mouth in a dark nest! They, and the exhausted and bedraggled adults, tend to like fat and seeds with a high fat contact, for rapid growth, at this time of year- before the young have the skill to catch insects. Conditions: Cool and mostly cloudy. Temperature: 18- Min 13C.
Sexton or burying beetles: There are at least 3 million beetle species in the world. One in four of every creature on the earth is a beetle and most do good, not harm. Their success is thought to be due to the fact that beetle species virtually never become extinct! Their hardened fore-wings acting like body armour, red beetles warn predators they are toxic whether they are or not! The Sexton Beetle or burying beetle actually buries corpses of small birds and rodents, joining with others to dig out the earth around and under the corpses, before laying their eggs. The bodies become food for their larvae! Conditions: Mercifully, cooler weather after a dry, hot week, including the highest June temperature for decades. Temperature: Max 23- Min 12 c.
Field Rose- another of theoccasional wild flower identification blogs, though this lovely, white wild rose of field edges and hedgerows can also be bought for the garden- the flowers attract insects and the bright red hips in autumn are popular with birds, and were what country folk were paid to gather for Rose-hip syrup, a vital vitamin C supplement for children in World War Two. As kids, We also used the hairy seeds in these hips as very effective itching powder. Field Rose is easy to distinguish from the wild, pink Dog Rose. Conditions: Drizzle and heavy rain. Temperature: Max 18- Min 14.
Green Alkanet: Looking like a larger than life Forget-me-not, we have to take care with this plant, which we inherited in the garden. The gorgeous blue flower is nectar-rich for Bees and Hoverflies. Preferring alkaline soils and damp, shady areas but capable of growing in most places, it has a very deep tap-root which is hard to dig out, and it spreads easily by seed, so can be invasive. The leaves can be composted but remove the seed-heads or it will turn up all over the place. Conditions: Sun and strong winds Temperature: Max 16- Min 12C.
Geranium Phaeum or, in the wild, Dusky Cranesbill is the best early, easy-to-grow and beautiful plant for bees that I know of, particularly happy in dry or damp shade, I was watching up to ten Bumblebees and some Honeybees feeding on this one plant in the garden yesterday. Garden varieties extend the native, deep maroon flowers through pale mauve to white. All hardy geraniums are good for insects but Phaeum is early and can be cut back to reflower later, or left to provide seed for finches.
Conditions: Cloudy and some rain. Temperature: Max 12- Min 9 c.
Coal Tits, the smallest European Tit, are among many young birds in the garden this week, being fed by their adults– even in the pouring rain. Coal Tits eggs are laid in April, hatching 18 days later. Three juveniles were calling from the Rowan- both adults feed the young. Coal Tits eat insects, seeds and fat and benefit from mild winters and from garden-feeding. They cache extra food in holes in the ground– one of the reason we have sunflowers coming up randomly round the garden! While they nest in holes in trees, they will use nest-boxes, preferring ones with a narrow-slit
entrance. Conditions: Very wet couple of days, at last. Temperature: Max 15- Min 6C.
Green-veined White- a favourite and very wide-spread butterfly, flying in our garden, grasslands, woodland rides (this morning this one in the wonderful bluebell Woolley Woods,) and parks. May is the peak time to see this butterfly– the veins are really a combination of black and yellow scales. The female, here, has wing-spots and this one has probably mated, as its abdomen is pointed up, showing males it is not receptive. Conditions : sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 17- Min 10c.