Female Southern Hawker Dragonfly: It was a treat to see this Dragonfly, one of the UK’s most widespread, back in our Sheffield garden this week. A few years ago we regularly had Southern Hawkers emerging from our small pond but lately we have seen none. I am hoping this female was resting, well camouflaged on a shrub, after laying eggs as they do in still water, in rotting wood or vegetation near the surface. It is has, it will be two or three years before the eggs have hatched and the nymphs, which live underwater for this period of time, to emerge from their carapaces, dry their wings
Female Southern Hawker Dragonfly
Female Southern Hawker Dragonfly
and bodies, and fly off to start the cycle again. The females have browner bodies than the blacker males. While these Dragonflies can be found around many garden ponds, as well as river edges etc they particularly like being near woodland. When competing for territories, they will physically crash into each other in their attempt to establish dominance. Conditions: Another very wet day in this unsettled summer. Temperature: Max 17 Min 13C.
Meadow Brown Butterfly- This brown butterfly is worth looking out for, between June and September, in any grassy patch, or feeding on summer flowers like Knapweed, Bramble, Lavender, Marjoram, Rudbeckia or Buddleia. It is probably the Butterfly you are most likely to see wherever you are in Britain, except the high mountains (and Shetland!). One reason for its success is that the caterpillars feed on a wide range of grasses, which is another excuse to leave a patch of your garden with long grass all summer. It can be separated from other brown butterflies by its spot pattern which is almost always one white spot in a dark circle, in a brown wing with orange patches. (Gatekeepers have two white spots and more strongly orange wings, while Ringlets have brown wings and several ringed spots). The orange patching is more extensive in females than males (see photo’s)
Meadow Brown on Knapweed
Male Meadow Brown scaring an intruder on its Knapweed
Female Meadow Brown
. Conditions: Cloud with sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 18 Min 9C.
Great Tit: Most juvenile birds have different plumage than adults in their first few weeks of fledging, partly for camouflage, and sometimes (especially in the case of the aggressively territorial Robin) to prevent attack from adult birds, where the sight of another adult can trigger territorial battles. The paler, less differentiated newly fledged Great and Blue Tit juveniles have moulted their body feathers and some of their wing feathers by late July. It has been lovely watching these young Great Tits learning
Young Great Tit
to expertly fly in to the feeders by our window, and the extraordinarily accurate adjustments they make as they near the perches. Conditions: This July has been yet another ‘hottest ever’ month recorded, though it has cooled a little the last few days. Temperature: Max 21 Min 15 C.
‘The female Holly Blue Butterfly has broader patches of dark on her forewings than the Male. As the Holly Blue flies fast, the patterns are hard to see in detail so here are a few close-ups from when it landed on our clematis. The caterpillars of Holly Blues live on Holly leaves, especially the tender tips, but the butterflies are frequent visitors to garden flowers. You will see them as tiny spangles of blue flitting in a mazy way through the plants, flying quite low. Conditions: At last some cooler air lefter the record-breaking temperatures. temperature: Max 25 Min 15C.
Figwort Weevil, about 3 mm long!
The natural world in miniature is (probably) thriving in your garden, as in mine, and is often beautiful and always fascinating. As a nature-loving friend of mine reminded me recently, have a hand-lens ( they can be bought cheaply) at hand in your garden or out and about. I am lucky to have a macro lens on my camera and here are some of the insects, a few mm long, that reside in our Sheffield garden. (When I cant identify things like this myself, as with the tiny Figwort Weevil, I post it on I-spot nature and someone in that community always helps me out- well worth signing up to for any wildlife or plants you aren’t sure of, or just to explore to see what others are seeing and identifying. Conditions: cloudy with some showers. Temperature: Max 14 Min 8C.
Bird-baths- if you needed a reminder about why even tiny areas of shadow water in a garden are a draw to birds, these photo’s may help! Birds need to bathe to keep their feathers in good condition and help them deal with mites and parasites which accumulate, especially in warm weather, and of course they always need a source of
Juvenile Robin, bathing
Mistle Thrush after bathing in back pond
water to drink from. Over the last few days I’ve watched this Mistle Thrush and juvenile Robin bathe and numerous birds drink from our ponds. You don’t need anything as big as a pond though, as any shallow dish, old wok etc will do, either sunk in the ground or propped up so it is stable. A few pebbles or stones where they can perch or bathe at different depths helps, and ensures other creatures who might be attracted, including bees, can easily crawl out. If you can see it from your window, it will prove entertaining watching, too. Conditions: Cloud and light showers. Temperature: Max 15 Min 8C.
Frogs: Research this year has shown that our Common Frog, like frog species all over the world, are suffering from the impact of climate change and also from the increase in world-wide travel and trade, which helps spread disease that affect much of our native trees and wildlife, and both issues are set to become more of a problem in the future. The devastating ranavirus, sometimes termed ‘amphibian plague’ is spreading through UK frogs, and there is fear that other killer diseases, like the Bd fungus will spread here, too. We certainly have fewer frogs around this
A single frog in one of our ponds yesterday
year and for neighbour had much less Frog Spawn in her pond than usual. Frogs help keep down pests in our gardens as well as being vital parts of our local biodiversity, so these are worrying developments. Conditions: Sun and cloud, dry again. Temperature: Max 19 Min 13C.