12th August 2019

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.

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10th August 2019

The nature of nature-watching. Being able to watch, and in this case photograph, this healthy young Fox epitomises a key aspect of watching nature, for me. I went up to the top field where I am lucky to stay in Sussex, with the aim of watching Green Woodpeckers. I had heard them regularly and know from other years that, if I hide in a sheltered corner and wait, I may see them working the anthills at the crest of the field. After twenty minutes standing stock-still and quiet as a mouse there were no Green Woodpeckers at all, but what paced silently across the damp field-bottom and then steadily up the hill towards me was this beautiful Fox, listening in the undergrowth for small rodents to prey on before sloping off to another possible food-source! The guideline is, watch if you can- you may see nothing and you probably won’t see what you went for but with a bit of luck, you might see something else! Conditions: Disturbed weather across the country- storms, rain and sun. Temperature: Max 21 Min 13C.

4th July 2019

Heartease, or Wild Pansy-  one of my mum’s favourite flowers, and mine, so it was lovely to come across patches of them on one of their favourite settings- sand dunes- recently. They also appear on cultivated, sandy soils. The colour-patterns vary and it is easy to see why they are also called ‘Viola Tricolour”.  ‘Pansy’ comes from the French, “pensee”, “to think” and Louis the XV decorated the coat of arms of his favourite advisor, Francois Quesnay’, who he called his ‘thinker’ with these little gems. Heartease has long been used in herbal remedies, for skin conditions, chest complaints, as an anti-inflammatory and a diuretic. It also has a long association with grief. Shakespeare, in Hamlet, has Ophelia strewing herbs after the death of he father, saying ” And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts”. Conditions: Warm, with sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 22 Min 12C.

Heartease

Heartease, or Viola Tricolour

Heartsease

21st April 2019

Yesterday I was watching a female Orange Tip feeding on Lady’s Smock in the garden, when I was lucky to see and photograph this interesting bit of behaviour you may notice at this time of year. When a female is either too young to mate or has already mated, and is approached by a male, she

Male Orange Tip attempting to mate with female

Male and Female Orange Tip

Female Orange Tip

Female Oreange Tip

to show she is not interested in mating. The male flies off and the female continues to feed. Conditions: Unseasonably hot and dry. Temperature: Max 23 Min 8 C.

14th April 2019

Tawny Mining Bee – these are a beautiful species of solitary bees, so useful in spring pollination. The adults emerge in spring and are flying between March and May so this is

Tawny Mining Bee nest

Female Tawny Mining Bee emerging from nest

Female Tawny Mining Bee

the time to look out for the gorgeous amber coloured insects. Since we have made a ‘dry’ bed of pebbles with drought-surviving plants we have had several of these nesting in the garden. The females dig a burrow up to 10 inches deep, with several tunnels off the main hole, hence the easiest sign you have them- small volcanoes of dirt, which tend to become less obvious after a few days. Into each tunnel/cell the female deposits nectar and pollen as food once the single egg she lays in each, hatches. They then hibernate before emerging in spring. We are losing our solitary bee populations so creating a space where they can breed helps a little, and then you get to watch their behaviour (see photo’s). Conditions: Cool, bright weather. Temperature: Max 9 Min 2c.

2nd April 2019

Common Green Shield Bugs usually emerge in May, having hibernated over winter in grassy tussocks and undergrowth but these were in the garden a couple of days ago, when the weather was unseasonable mild. This particular Shield Bug (there are several species, named, obviously for their flat, shield-like shape) has, due to climate change,  been spreading North from its habitat in southern England, and feeds on a variety of plants so can be seen in many environments. Also called the Stink Bug, for the noxious fluid it releases from glands if handled or disturbed, the Common Green Shield Bug does no noticeable damage to plants. I’ll be looking out for the eggs they lay on the underside of leaves, and the rounded larvae,

Common Green Shield Bug

Common Green Shield Bug

Common Green Shield Bug

Common Green Shield Bug

as I have never noticed them before. Conditions: Some gentle rain at last. Temperature: Max 8 Min 1C.

26th February 2019

The Red-tailed Bumblebee flew in and starting feeding on crocuses in the garden today. Another very easy to identify Bumblebee, like the Tree Bumblebee the other day, and another of the “big seven” widely distributed Bumbles. As with al Bumblebees, it will only be the larger Queens that are alive and about now- when they appear, the workers have the same distinctive  colouring but are much smaller, while the males have the same tail colour but have some yellow facial markings, so it is worth tuning into this species while it is at its easiest! As well as feeding, the Queens will be looking for rodent holes and other underground nest sites– their colonies will eventually number between

Red-tailed Bumblebee

Worker Red-tailed Bumblebee from last summer

Red-tailed Bumblebee from last summer

Conditions: Another beautiful but disturbingly warm, sunny day. Temperature: Max 18 Min 5 C.