20th August 2017

Brown Hawker Dragonfly- A common and easily identified Dragonfly, seen into autumn in gardens, woodland rides and well away from water, as well as by still or slow-flowing water, where it lays its eggs.  The bronze coloured wings and

Brown Hawker Dragonfly

Brown Hawker Dragonfly

brown body, with yellow patches on the thorax are easy to pick up as this fast, big hawker catches insects on the wing, or hovers or even flies backwards. Conditions: Sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 18- Min 14C.

Brown Hawker Dragonfly

Brown Hawker Dragonfly

7th August 2017

Green Woodpeckers- I have been lucky, while down in Sussex, to watch our largest woodpecker, the Green Woodpecker, feeding in the neighbouring field. They eat about 2,000 ants a day throughout summer, diversifying to other insects and seeds during winter. They dig into anthills with their powerful bills and capture the ants with their long, sticky tongues. Males are distinguishable from females by having a red centre to their black ‘moustaches’. Nesting in holes in trees, they use their wonderful ‘yaffle’, laughing call to delineate their territory. Conditions: Cloud with some sun. Temperature: Max 20- Min 13 C.

Male Green Woodpecker

Male Green Woodpecker

Female Green Woodpecker

6th August 2017

Stinkhorn- this very recognisable, woodland fungus smells so terrible that if you don’t see it first you might be drawn to it by the smell! It so embarrassed Victorians that some, including Darwin’s granddaughter Etty, went out at dawn, (when the fungi are freshly emerged, growing quickly  from an egg-shaped white dome), and bludgeoned them to pieces in a vain attempt to prevent their spread, or them being seen by young women walking the woods! The dreadful smell attracts flies

Stinkhorn

which, walking on the olive-green glabus cap, then

Stinkhorn

spread the spores via their feet. Conditions: Sunny, blue-skied day. Temperature: Max 20- Min 12C.

31st July 2017

Male Sparrowhawk– Yesterday the grey-backed, smaller male Sparrowhawk (the female and juveniles are brown-backed) was heralded in the garden by loud alarm calls from other birds. Sweeping through the garden, too fast to photograph, here it is recently, looking dapper, and an older photo by Lynn, where it is eating a Collared Dove. No one is certain why many raptors exhibit ‘reverse dimorphism’ (meaning the males are smaller than the females) but it it is thought to relate to their need to be very manouevrable in dense woodland, hunting for the incubating female

Male Sparrowhawk

Sparrowhawk- male

Male Sparrowhawk

Sparrowhawk- male eating Collared Dove

, and/or the female’s need to have enough bulk to produce eggs. Conditions: Cloud and sunny intervals and showers Temperature: Max 20- Min 12C.

29th July 2017

Greenfinches have declined so much since the 1990′s that we have felt lucky to have a family of adults and two young, visiting our feeders, enjoying their favourite black sunflower-seeds. Originally woodland birds, they have now been drawn to gardens, but suffer from the parisitic-induced disease ‘trichomonosis’, which affects their ability to feed- the advice is to make sure your feeders are frequently cleaned. Young have the same yellow edge to their wings and tail as adults but have streaky chests, visible here. Greenfinches will also feast on Rose-hips, Haws, and Yew Berries

Young Greenfinch

Adult male Greenfinch

Adult male Greenfinch

Conditions: Cloud and sun, with rain later. Temperature: Max 20- Min 13C.

5th July 2017

Two more red beetles worth learning to tell apart since one, the Lily Beetle, can harm specific garden plants while the other, Cardinal Beetle, is advantageous as it eats insects (see photo’s). The Lily Beetle only arrived on our shores in 1939, but has spread widely- the RHS would like us to send in our sightings so they can continue to monitor its spread. Research so far shows that Lily Beetles detect the plants (whose leaves they eat voraciously- Fritillaries and Lilies), by smell alone. I’ve seen them flying round the garden, homing in on our lilies. Best treatment is to pick them off and squash them! Conditions: Cloudy in Sheffield. Temperature: Max21- Min 15  C.

Lily Beetle

Cardinal Beetle

31st May 2017

Tree Sparrow- These beautifully marked birds used to be seen in many places, but their population dramatically crashed by a devastating 93% between 1970 and 2008. Concentrated conservation efforts have led to a slight rise since. Best seen along hedgerows and wood margins, they have a brown cap, unlike the House Sparrows grey cap, and a black spot on their cheeks. You can see them in South Yorkshire, at Old Moor- there is a colony in the aptly named Tree Sparrow Farm area there, and at other reserves. Conditions: Hot and still. Temperature: Max 20- Min 15 C

Tree Sparrow, Lynn’s photo

Tree Sparrow

Tree Sparrow