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.

Advertisements

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

6th July 2018

Elephant Hawk-moth: Although this is a common nocturnal moth, with sightings in Sheffield, I have never seen one before this week. I was delighted when I opened the moth-trap in Hampshire to find this stunning individual peacefully resting, before flying off into a nearby bush. Named because the caterpillar is thought to resemble an elephant’s trunk, the adult moth feeds from tubular flowers like Honeysuckle, while the caterpillar eats bedstraws, Enchanter’s Nightshade, Himalayan Balsam and Fuchsia. Such a beautiful

Elephant Hawk-moth

Elephant Hawk-moth

Elephant Hawk-moth

Elephant Hawk-moth

, large moth. Conditions: This heatwave continues, with little or no sign of rain. Temperature:   Max 28 Min 14 C.

2nd July 2018

Large White Butterfly– one of the two Whites whose caterpillars do decimate the cabbage family- the Latin name is a giveaway (Pieris Brassica). There have been a few females were flying round the nasturtiums today, spotting places to lay their bright yellow batches of eggs (see photo)- females have two black spots on their forewings and a lovely creamy underside. Their numbers have been in decline for five years in a row, and fell 19% last year, probably due to a cold spring and cloudier, wetter summer than average, which badly affected many butterfly species. Conditions: A continuation of this very hot, dry spell. Temperature: Max 27 Min 12 C.

Female Large White

Female Large White

Female Large White

Large White Butterfly eggs

27th June 2018

Birds-Foot Trefoil, which we called ‘eggs and bacon’ because of the variation in colour from deep yellow to orange, gets its name from the shape of its seed-pods, which also give it its less pleasant common name of Grannie’s Toenails in some areas. Common in grasslands, waste ground, seashores and rocky areas, this low growing plant is a brilliant source of nectar for insects, and a food source for the caterpillars of the beautiful Common Blue butterfly.  To Victorians, deeply into the symbolism of flowers it represented revenge. Conditions: very hot, dry spell continues. Temperature: Max 25 Min 10 C.

22nd June 2018

A Leaf Cutter Bee, American research has shown, carries out 20 times the pollination achieved by a honey bee. They are some of the 250 species of solitary bee that use cavities in the ground, wood, hollow stems and bee-nesting boxes to rear their young. They are fairly easy to spot as, having no pollen baskets in which to gather their pollen and nectar, they collect it all on the undersides of their body. They work hard over several weeks, to breed young they never see: finding suitable nesting holes, they cut semi-circular portions of leaves (you’ll have seen the neat holes in

Leafcutter Bee, and a tiny parasitic wasp

Leafcutter Bee, its underside holding collected pollen

Leafcutter Bee gathering pollen and nectar on its underside.

Leafcutter Bee carrying a piece of cut leaf to its nest.

leaves in your garden or park) and carry them, one at a time, under their bodies, (see photo) to line the hole, before laying an egg in each lined tube and stocking each with quantities of pollen and nectar. Finally, they cut a different shaped pice of leaf and seal each cell with it, using saliva as a glue. Conditions: Blue skies and hot sun. Temperature: Max 20- Min 9C..

15th June 2018

Jays, like Robins and some other birds, often cock their heads so they are looking with one eye- monocular vision– in order to better locate their food as they feed. They also practice forward planning, rare among birds, by collecting surplus food and caching it. Coal Tits do this too. Pre 1998, Jays, normally shy birds, rarely came into small gardens to feed but they now do so with increasing regularity- as this one shows, a few feet from our window. Their Latin  name describes aspects of their behaviour- Garrulus (noisy, chatty) Glandarius (related to their favoured food of acorns) . It is thought the reduction of acorns in the wild is part of the reason they eat more from garden feeders now. Conditions: sunny and calm. Temperature: Max 20 Min 11 C