Poplar Hawkmoth- This splendid, large moth at rest, holds its hindwing forward of its forewings, and its abdomen curved up. It appeared in Catsfield today, in the heavy rain. Normally concealed during daytime, and well camouflaged against leaves this, the most common Hawkmoth, may be seen drawn to lights at night. The adults do not feed, just mate and lay their eggs on the underside of Poplar, Sallow or Aspen leaves. Conditions: Heavy rain at last. Temperature: Max 218- Min 15 C.
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.
Cuckoo Pint is a fascinating plant out in woods and hedgerows now. When ready to be fertilised, the brown Spadix heats up to attract tiny insects which carry pollen from another plant down into the base of the plants, where they are trapped by tiny hairs. Once they have fertilised the female flowers hidden in the bulbous base, the hairs die and the insects can emerge. Timed to perfection, they gather ripe pollen as they emerge and take that onto another plant! Cross pollination which adds to a plant’s robustness, is achieved. Also called Lords and Ladies, Wild Arum and Jack in the Pulpit, and many local names this plant contains an irritant, and the orange berries of summer are poisonous. The tubers were once used as starch for collars and ruffs, but the laundresses suffered blistered hands. The ‘pint’ rhymes with lint and, for obvious reasons, derives from a 15th century word for penis! Conditions: sun, showers including
hail, and strong northerly breezes. Temperature: Max 10, min 3 c.
Holly Blue Butterfly- This is a good time to learn to identify the small Holly Blue. It flies high among bushes and hardly settles -you tend to see is a fast-moving blue flash (very hard to photograph!). The underwings are paler. Holly Blues are out earlier (out now) than other Blues, and much more likely to be the Blue Butterfly you see in your garden or local park or verge. They are the only Blues we get in our Sheffield garden. The caterpillars feed on tender new Holly or Spindle shoots and buds. A real treat- keep your eyes peeled. Conditions: Cloudy, with some sun. Cold nights predicted. Temperature: Max 11- Min 2C.
Dunnocks, as shown a few days ago, have been nest-building in our box hedge and so far they have laid three of their beautiful turquoise eggs. There will be more laid, sometimes by more than one female and often fertilised by more than one male. In common with other birds, they won’t incubate the eggs until more are laid. Three and sometimes four Dunnock are also displaying together, bonding for breeding. As with many birds, they flutter their wings and tails, at a speedy rate of knots, in this display, and the males sing an attractive melody, worth listening to on the RSPB site as it is easy to identify. Conditions: Cloudy becoming sunny, warming up for the weekend. Temperature: Max 13- Min 7C.
There’s been a blog-break, enforced by my computer breaking– hope to be back in action now. Goldfinches are gathering the feathers I put out, seed heads of Japanese Anemones, and they will also use seed-heads of Coltsfoot, to line their nests. Like other birds, they are busy at present nest-building- carefully explore where they fly with moss, twigs etc and you may discover you have nests in your garden. Occasional gentle exploration will not disturb them, and you may get
information that will help prevent you doing gardening tasks that ruin their nests. This way, my friend Jenny discovered a Robin’s nest in her shed, which has put paid to getting the tools out for a while! Conditions: Cloudy with sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 14- Min 7c.
Queens are the only Bumblebees to live through winter, and be out now, whenever the temperature rises to around 10C. The UK has 1 species of Honeybee, 24 species of Bumblebee and 225 species of Solitary Bee, plus many mimics! To add complication, the colours can vary, and can fade. Males and workers vary again. Some species are easy, and there is an app to help. You can also submit photo’s to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, for their help, or look at their online guide. This one, being large, with amber collar, amber/yellow stripe on the abdomen and a buff/orange tail is probably a Buff-tailed Bumblebee- great fun to watch today, upending into the Crocuses. Conditions: Sunny, mild. Temperature: Max 10- Min 6C.