Sunday, 31 August 2014

The Persistance Of Salesmen And An Update On Poppy

I think I mentioned that L has decided to change bedrooms. The end result of this is that the recently-vacated attic has become the kid's den/ TV room/ gaming room/ general room for avoiding parental observation and overall contact.

We have a spare tele which I suggested moving to the new den but I was told very firmly that it is far too small for split screen double gaming (whatever that means) so M and I have been coerced into purchasing a new enormous-to-the-point-of-vulgarity TV, which barely fits in the room and takes up all available free space. It's all you see when you go into the attic (well, that and two pairs of feet).

The boys went into whispered raptures of hushed reverence and worship when they saw the new TV in situ, and it had barely been taken out of the box and plugged in before they were gleefully shooting each other on it.

Job done for them then. For M and I it was not so easy. In order to leave the shop we very nearly had to engage in a bare-knuckle fight. You may remember earlier in the year I had an experience in a computer mega-store that had me vowing never again to step foot in it. Well, I've added this shop to that growing list. I tell you, it's John Lewis all the way for me from now on.

The problem was our lack of interest in the extended product warranty. The lad who sold us the TV tried OVER AND OVER AND OVER again to change our minds, despite us saying very clearly right at the beginning of the conversation that we didn't want one. We might as well not have spoken. He may well get into trouble with his bosses for not reaching warranty-sales targets at the end of the month, but if there was an  award for 'persistent employee of the month' he would have won it hands-down. It reminded me of that you tube (or whatever it was) clip a few weeks back with the couple who wanted to leave some contract and the person on the phone wouldn't let them.

M is generally more patient and polite than I am, but after he told the lad for the third time that he didn't want the warranty and I could see the boy drawing breath to launch into the thousandth reason why we should buy it, I cut in and said in my best Mother Of Boys voice: WE DON'T WANT IT. 
To which he said: why not?
Because we don't, I snapped.

In the end I left M to finish the purchase and took L to buy a new chest of drawers, before I got myself arrested for battery. 

On a more positive note, Pops is continuing to mend. I'm not sure the process has benefited from her endlessly positive outlook. M keeps telling her she's having too much fun and she should cultivate being depressed so that she doesn't feel like racing about. But Poppy is an unstoppable force nature whom it has proved impossible to control.

I have given up walking her on the lead in the garden, so this afternoon she came with me under her own steam (and she has lots of it) to find Interesting Creatures.....

Carder bee on Salvia

A type of Rove Beetle (Staphylinidae)

Buff tailed bumble on echinacea

Caryopteris, just starting to flower after being bought earlier in the year.

Cinnamon Bug (I forgot to sniff it!)

Devil's Coach-Horse (found by Poppy)

Emperor Dragonfly (blurry I know but still id'able. I watched it for ages)

Field Grasshopper
Helophilus pendulus (hoverfly)
And part two...

Large White on Verbena

Shieldbug eggs, empty
This is what Pop got up to while I was searching the bushes for interesting creatures....

1. Chewing a ball quietly is good...

2. Racing up and down the fence line because you can hear Millie, the neighbour's dog, is not....

3. Listening quietly but attentively for Millie is good.....

4. Looking like you might be considering how best to jump over the fence in order to reach Millie is not....

Thank goodness for Teddy, always calm, always sensible (unless pigeons are involved)....

Shame she takes no notice of his example whatsoever. Well, vets tomorrow and hopefully stitches out and PJs off. At present I feel like the mother of a three month old baby, the amount of time I am spending washing baby grows and hanging them on the line to dry. No doubt our neighbours are starting to think there is something we haven't told them :-)

CT :-)

Friday, 29 August 2014

Autumn Butterflies And Ted Receives A Text

Teddy got a text message today. He often gets messages and emails from his doggy cousins (Dougal and Dylan) telling him about their day, and he sometimes gets them from his doggy pals Oscar and Lucie, and occasionally he gets one from Coco, his horse-cousin, but this morning's message came from someone who doesn't fall into either the family or friends bracket, and as such I am pretty sure it is a first.

It came through on my mobile (Ted not having his own phone yet), but it was addressed to him: "Ted it's time to visit the vets for a vaccination and health check! Book an appointment now," and it gave the telephone number. I am wondering whether the exclamation mark after the health check was designed to make dogs feel excited and encouraged about the prospect of a trip to the V.E.T.? Ted generally looks forward to everything in life (not quite on a Poppy level because that would be hard for anyone to replicate), but I suspect even he would put a visit to the dog doctor quite low down on his 'things to get excited about' list. He's never fooled by the biscuit they give him afterward either. He usually accepts it (being a polite sort of chap) then very pointedly puts it down on the bench, sniffs it, stares at it for a moment before finally looking solemnly up at them as if to say you can't bribe me with a biscuit, you know.

He's booked in for next Monday, which means he gets to go in with his little sister who yesterday came hurtling into the room chasing Ted, skidded round the corner on two paws and crashed into her crate. Sigh. At least the pyjamas are staying on and I don't think she's scratched the stitches since Monday. I feel I should make a chart like we used to when the kids were little and pin it to the fridge, crossing off the days till we can be back to normal.

I took L and his mate Will butterfly surveying today. Despite dire predictions of doom as we drove there they loved it, largely because I left them climbing trees and making dens in the wood instead of forcing them to come and count colourful flying people with me. That way everyone was happy. When I got back it was to discover Will up a tree while L sat beneath it whittling a sharp stick and trying to smoke a reed he'd cut from the hedge. Apparently it tasted disgusting. A mix of simple childhood pleasures and teenage rebellion.

Surprisingly, there were quite a few insects about. As well as the flutters, I was pleased to see this Rather Splendid hoverfly, one of the Volucellas, most likely inanis. It's a parasite of wasp larvae, including hornets....

There were several Red Admirals (Vanessa atalanta) a migrant species who often has a surge in September when they can be seen slightly inebriated imbibing from fallen apples.....

Unexpected was this stunning Comma (Polygonia c-album), which a hundred years ago was considered a rarity. They are one of the few British flutters that hibernate as adults and therefore are one of the earliest flutters to emerge in the spring. 

There were lots of Brimstones (Gonepteryx rhamni), the original 'butter-coloured fly' that gave butterflies their name. This is a single-generation resident that lives for such a long time (comparatively speaking) that adults can be seen on the wing in the UK in almost every month. They hibernate over the winter but warm winter days can bring them out.

Speckled Woods (Pararge aegeria) were also abundant. This is a common flutter throughout the UK and is the only British butterfly to hibernate both as a chrysalis and a caterpillar. The adults drink honeydew high up in the tree canopy, but in late August, when they are at their most prolific, they can often be found sunning themselves along the edges of woodland rides and glades which is where I found them this morning.

I found a couple of Green-Veined Whites (Pieris napi). They are one of the world's most successful butterflies and have adapted to suit a range of habitats.

In addition I also found a couple of rarer flutters. This is a male Brown Argus (Aricia agestis), a butterfly of Chalk Downlands who was in trouble until twenty years ago but numbers seem to be recovering and it is slowly spreading northwards....

And this one is a relative of the Brown Argus, the Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus). Occuring in many small colonies throughout the UK, this little flutter is closely monitored because it is a good indicator of biodiversity. Its second and third broods can be badly affected by drought, which reduces numbers for the following year.

I saw some other lovely things after I'd finished the survey, collected the boys, removed the inventive ciggy from the chops of my youngest and herded them back through the woods. I found a huge Red-Tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius). This must be a queen given the size and sadly they die in the Autumn, so she was probably on her last legs.

This Sika (Cervus nippon) was interested in us...

Spindle (Euonymus europaea) berries are on the bough, a sure sign of Autumn's approach....

And this tree fungus was growing out of a dead tree near the top of the wood....

I'll leave you with a shot of one of our Robins. He and another one were having a terrible fight in the hedge this morning, proper tooth and claw stuff (well, beak and claw). One was hanging upside down and the other was stuck to him like glue and the pair of them were making a right old racket. No real harm was done, just ruffled pride. He's been sitting in the tree surveying his territory ever since. The Victor, clearly.

Have a peaceful evening all. I'm off to start packing up L's old bedroom in preparation for him moving into his new one. Something of a Rite Of Passage now he is a teen, away from a little lad's room stuffed with lego and toy cars and remote control helicopters, into something a bit more sophisticated. It feels right.

CT :-)

Thursday, 28 August 2014

A Night For Moths And Insects

Rain was forecast last night and it certainly happened, but the temperature has risen again and reached a barmy 13 overnight. Moths will fly in rain but they don't like cold, so the rise in temperature brought in a bumper crop of two hundred and sixty, comprising 45 different species, a couple of whom are new for the year. This beats the twenty-three in total that were waiting for me the last time the box went out on August 20th and just shows how temperature effects some wildlife.

We are slightly inundated with Yellow Underwings of various persuasions at present. Thirty-one of the Lesser broad-bordered variety and fifty-six of the Large Yellow were in the box. My nieces, who had come for lunch, couldn't believe how big the Yellow Underwings were; 5cm or so is normal for them. They also couldn't understand how they got their name, as they look like boring large brown moths....until this happens....

Large yellow underwing (Noctua pronuba) with a daring flash of petticoat

Lots of moths were outside the box, hiding among the greenery. It's always worth a trawl through the plants near the box because there are always moths who don't make it as far as the box itself. Today I counted several Light Emeralds and Maiden's Blushes, suggesting a recent emergence of both types in their second generations. They were fresh and perfect....

Peek-a-boo. Light Emerald (Campaea margaritata)

Light Emerald (Campaea margaritata)

Maiden's Blush (Cyclophora punctaria)

Maiden's Blush (Cyclophora punctaria)
The Maiden's Blush is a moth of Oak Woodlands more prolific in the south of the UK, which explains why they do well here, while the Light Emerald is a moth of deciduous woodlands and is common throughout the UK.

Also sharing a perch outside was a Pebble Prominent (Notodonta ziczac), and a handful of Swallow Prominents (Pheosia tremula).The larvae of both species feed on Sallow (willow) of which we have plenty here.

Pebble Prominent (Notodonta ziczac)

Swallow Prominent (Pheosia tremula)
Beside them outside was a Pebble Hook-tip (Drepana falcataria). This is the largest and commonest of the UK hook-tips. The larvae feed on birch and sometimes alder and the one below will be a second generation.

Pebble Hook-tip (Drepana falcataria)
As well as the moths, there were a couple of new shieldbug species wandering about near the moth box. The first is a Red-legged shieldbug (Pentatoma rufipes) and the second a Green birch shieldbug (Elasmostethus interstinctus). There were several of both leading me to suspect that they have just emerged as adults from their final instars. There does seem to be something about shieldbugs that makes people fond of them in a way other insects don't manage. I love them.

Red-legged shieldbug (Pentatoma rufipes)

Green birch shieldbug (Elasmostethus interstinctus)

Red-legged shieldbug (Pentatoma rufipes)
Perhaps less welcome in some people's eyes is this Scorpion Fly (Panorpa communis). I saw my first one a couple of days ago sitting on the hedge, and since then there have been several about, both males and females. Despite the name, and the fearsome-looking tail, these insects do not sting and are harmless.

The long beak at the front is used for scavenging on dead insects (often the scorpion fly steals food from a spider's web). The male uses his tail (which is big and bulbous at the end) in courtship displays, but mating is a dangerous business as the male can easily be killed by the female. To distract her from murderous intent, he brings her a pre-mating present of a dead insect or sometimes a mass of saliva. On the whole I think I am glad I am not a female scorpion fly.

Female Scorpion Fly (Panorpa communis).

Female Scorpion Fly (Panorpa communis). I think she is Rather Sweet myself :-)

While I was checking for more hidden moths among the flowers in my PJs and dressing gown I got the distinct feeling I was being watched.....

Hornet (Vespa crabro)
It was early morning and hornets generally are more soporific at this time of day, so I reckoned I was relatively safe. He did raise both front legs in a warning gesture when I got too close, which I thought was decent of him- wasps give you no such warning and are in there stinging before you realise what's happened. I have, however, witnessed hornets rip moths apart on more than one occasion so I was a little uneasy about him being so close to them. I finished checking the flowers, discovering four Brimstone (Opisthograptis luteolata) in various hiding places....

Brimstone (Opisthograptis luteolata)
....and took the moth box indoors to finish checking it. Among all the Yellow Underwings there were also.....

Blood vein (Timandre comae)

Burnished Brass (Diachrysia chrysitis)

Common Wainscot(Mythimna pallens)

Common Wave (Cabera exanthemata)

Frosted Orange (Gortyna flavago)

Garden pebble (and friend)
(Evergestis forficalis)

Treble Lines (Or lesser?)
(Aplocera plagiata)

Yellow Ophion (Ophion luteus)

Pyrausta purpuralis a micro moth

Rosy Rustic
(Hydraecia micacea)

Small square-spot
(Diarsia rubi)

Square-spot rustic
(Xestia xanthographa)

White Point (an immigrant)
(Mythimna albipuncta)
I also had a reasonably rare visitor to the trap. This is a Balsam Carpet moth and they are listed as Nationally Scarce, so it is a Bit Thrilling for me to find one. They like damp woodland and the larvae feed on Orange Balsam (Impatiens capensis). I'm not sure we have any of that here, so I'm curious as to where it has come from.... Nice though....

Balsam Carpet (Xanthorhoe biriviata)
Thanks for bearing with what turned out to be a longer than anticipated post. I hope you enjoyed all the creatures. I'll leave you with a fantastic-looking caterpillar that Ma found in her garden a couple of weeks ago. It's a larva of the Sycamore moth (Acronicta aceris) which looks nothing whatsoever like its pillar, being grey and a little bit nondescript!

Sycamore larva(Acronicta aceris)

Wishing you all a peaceful evening,

CT :-)