I have been out and about doing various wildlife-related things. Friday I spent on the River Test surveying Water Voles. It was boiling hot and I really wasn't looking forward to traipsing up and down the river in jeans, long-sleeved top and gloves (as protection from scratchy or poisonous plants) so I got there early and got the survey done before the heat really hit, and then had a couple of hours looking for the voles and the otters the River Keeper told me he'd seen on that stretch before. There was lots of WV evidence along the banks in the form of runs/ feeding stations/ burrows and latrines, but no WVs :-( And no otters either.
However, I did see this Rather Lovely Sedge Warbler (which was a bonus because they are usually heard and not seen).....
And there were lots of 6 spot burnet moths about too....
As well as Banded Demoiselles....
And a handful of Large Skippers....
Yesterday was spent chasing my tail doing various house-related things. M and L share a birthday on the same day in August, and as L breaks up on Weds I really needed to get their presents organised before he's home. The internet is a wonderful thing because it means I don't actually have to spend any time in a shop (which I loath). L's is a special birthday this year- he will officially be a teenager (although to be fair he has been one in behaviour terms since he was 11!) and I wanted to get him something to mark the occasion, which I have done. I can't tell you what it is in case he reads the blog, but I think he will be pleased :-)
With all of that sorted yesterday it left today for spending in the garden and sorting out seeds. I am determined this year to collect as many as I can instead of buying them and I have made a good start today....
|Hedge Woundwort seeds|
|Yellow Rattle seeds|
|The fruits of my labours|
While I was tapping the seeds gently out of their casings I came across a fair few small creatures I'd inadvertently brought into the house with me, including this tiny green Shield Bug, who must be a first instar as he's soooo small (only a few mm across). I took him back outside and put him on some hedge woundwort. Cutie Pie :-)
Gathering seeds from the plants in your garden has to be one of the most peaceful activities you can give time to. I had a piece of white paper on the table in front of me and (after collecting the seed pods from the garden) tapped the dried seed heads over it until the seeds fell out, then folded the paper and tipped the seeds into plastic bags or brown envelopes. I felt very serene.
Certainly a good deal more serene than poor J, who accidentally stepped on a bee this morning in the garden. Ouch. Here is the sting (although we couldn't find the bee)....
A couple of other things of note: the bullfinches have turned up with their children- three of them. The whole family have been singing in the trees around the lake all day (they make a kind-of soft repetitive 'booooo' noise). Mr B was in the garden this morning looking particularly fine and striking. The kids lack the black caps and their colours are more muted than those of their parents, but they are still recognisable as bullfinches.
Also, I had an email from the Hampshire Purple Emperor Co-ordinator (smart flutter: everyone else has to share a recorder, but the PE gets one all to him/ herself). He told me he strongly suspects we have a breeding colony right here next to the house, which is thrilling. He has records of PEs in woods not far from here, and (even more thrilling), he thought it a distinct possibility that the female I found was probably laying her eggs as the timing fitted.
He was an absolute mine of info about these special flutters and told me female PEs are even more elusive than their husbands, so I really was very fortunate not just to see her but to have her sit on my hand. He gave me lots of info about where to look for eggs (quite technical and it involved compass points and relation to other trees), which I must try to find time to do.
I have also read today that PEs may not (contrary to popular opinion) need oak trees- sallow (willow) is the most important species as it's the food plant for the pillar. We are surrounded with sallow here, interspersed with oaks, so there's a good chance the flutters are here. I shall be keeping my eyes peeled and will of course let you all know if I see any more.
When Dave and I were searching Bentley Wood for them last week we met a chap who told us he'd been speaking to a bloke who lived next to the wood who told him he often got 'lots of big purple butterflies' in his garden- he had no idea what they were, and was really surprised when the other guy told him he'd spent years chasing just a glimpse of the Emperor. It's often when you're not looking for something that you find it, so perhaps I won't try too hard to see another one and then hopefully it will just appear, as the female did :-)
Hope you are all well and have had a lovely weekend? Dave and I are off flutter seeking again tomorrow at reserve a bit Further Afield than those we normally visit, so I am hoping I might see some different species.....My camera will be in my hand as always....