I went to Magdalen a few days ago and in the Chalk Pit discovered lots of Blue Flutters. Mostly Commons, who were having furious quarrels with the minute Brown Argus which involved a lot of angry spiraling up in the air. The Chalkhills were flitting about staying out of the row but not especially wanting to settle.
There are fewer butterflies about now that the weather is cooling so I am eager to get pictures while I still can...
|Male Brown Argus (the yellow dots don't go all the way to the top of the wings in the male). This flutter really is tiny wee- 25-31mm.|
|Male Chalkhill Blue. 33-40mm|
|Male Tattered Common Blue. 29-38mm|
|Common Blues mating (female on the right of the pic)|
|Female Brown Argus (spots go all the way to the wing tips)|
|Female Common Blue|
Back home and we are still getting New Visitors to the garden to add to my species list (which now stands at over 500 for this year). Below is a Common Darter dragonfly who appeared yesterday. I've not seen one in the garden before, despite them being the most widespread lowland species. They're a late dragon and can sometimes be found flying well into December. This one hovered in front of me for ages giving me a very thorough check-out before deciding to land on this blade of pond greenery....
The World's Most Expensive Buddleia Ever (if you remember, it was ordered as a white patio version at 15 quid and when it turned up was the size of a 5p pence. It has grown, but it is not, as you can see, white) is starting to be visited by flutters, (thank God)....
|Late generation Female Small White|
Incidentally, I have heard recently that some small Torts are already starting to hibernate, so if you come across one asleep in your house or shed or garage, please do leave it where it is!
Autumn's approach means Wild Harvest Time here. We've just finished the last batch of M's delicious Blackberry Ice Cream (I will post the recipe again this year for those of you who missed it last year), and the berries are fattening up nicely in the hedges so he's set to make some more.
Chickpea, whose blog can be found here wrote a post this morning about how people don't seem to get out collecting blackberries any more, and she's right: I fear increasing numbers of people are becoming more and more disconnected from the real world (the natural one) and consider food that comes on hedges somehow less appealing as a result. I remember taking L and one of his mates out blackberrying years ago when the boys were six or so. The friend had never seen a blackberry before and didn't know what it was.
Our food bill goes down dramatically at this time of the year because we grow our own veg and collect things from the fields and hedges. Waitrose, on the other hand, was selling a handful of blackberries for four quid a punnet last autumn.....
My Lovely Friend Mrs Massey gave me a huge bag of walnuts from a friendly tree earlier in the year and I've just got round to making a walnut and cinammon cake with them. It was scrummy. Part of the joy is in preparing the wild food that goes into these meals. I'm a bit agricultural when it comes to cooking, I base things very loosely on recipes and generally make the rest of it up as I go along, chucking in whatever I've got to hand. I think you probably get the confidence to do this when you cook frequently so you know what flavours work and what don't.
|Cracking walnuts with a hammer|
|Inside the shell...|
|Looks like Lesser Trefoil but for the black seed heads and the tiny sharp point on the apex of the leaf.|
|Calendula, which has done well this year|
|Chocolate Scabious (love their little spikes)|
|Red Campion seedhead|
|Red Campion seeds|
|Corncockle seeds- be careful with these as they are poisonous.|
Otherwise in the garden....
The Baby Rat Pair are still with us. M growls at them whenever he sees them, Ted chases them and Poppy follows Ted. There are only two of them so I don't mind them :-)
Poppet, our one-legged Dunnock, is still with us. This will be her fourth winter, so she's getting on. She does actually have a second leg, but it is withered and useless and has been since birth. I think she has done amazingly well to survive all this time as a result. I have watched her closely over the years and her behaviour is different to the other Dunnocks- she doesn't waste energy on flicking her wings (typical Dunnock behaviour) or in moving unnecessarily and has learnt to judge risks, predators and threats accordingly. I watch the others flee at the first hint of a crow approaching while she merely hops beneath the bird table and ducks her head down, keeping watch all the time. I am full of admiration for her. She is a clever bird.
I recently signed up to do a Waterways Survey for Daubenton's Bats with the Bat Conservancy Trust. I took the detector (which has been dubbed 'the Bat Mobile' in our house. L now calls me 'Bat Mummy', although he (rather inevitably) soon revised it to 'Batty Mummy', which he finds highly amusing) on holiday, and got the other kids staying on the farm to listen. One parent astonished me by saying to his children (and I quote): you know what bats are don't you? They're birds with no eyes. I was speechless. There was also the inevitable teenage girl who squeaked and covered her long hair with her hands as she cast her eyes wildly up towards the sky and squealed Bats! You mean there are bats flying over our heads?! Don't worry (I said, in a not terribly sympathetic voice) they're hunting insects, not hair.
Daubs are water-loving and have adapted accordingly. They have large feet that allow them to scoop up water while hunting and looking for insects. Their main prey is chironomid midges. They have a wingspan of 230-275mm so they are medium-sized bats, and are members of the Myotis family which includes Brandt's, Whiskered, Natterer's and Bechstein's. Population studies are being carried out to try and build up an accurate picture of their numbers because they, like so much else, are under-recorded.
Our survey involved walking a 2km stretch of the Test stopping at ten designated points along the route and recording GPS grid refs as well as the number of passes that occurred during four minutes. I set the bat detector to 35 kHz to be able to hear them and minimise the likelihood of hearing other species of bat (such as pips), and we shone a torch intermittently across the water to count them as they flew low looking for mozzies. Daub's don't like light so the intermittent torch is important.
You learn to distinguish the Daub's call from that of other bats by the tone (it has a dry even rattle, a little like marbles hitting a roof, whereas Pip's warble and plink all over the place and fade out at 35 kHz). After nearly two hours in their company I felt I understood them better and was able to predict when they'd be low over the water according to the noises they were making, something that was rather pleasingly born out by the torch's beam.
Most of our route was straight-forward, apart from two sections where we had to cross channels that feed the main river. Both of these were traversed in the pitch black (with head torches) and both involved scampering unsteadily over decidedly narrow, old, wobbly planks while the water raged and churned below. It all added to the fun.
Daubenton's are fantastic creatures and I am now very fond of them. We were thoroughly inspected by the bats at the various sections along the way. Contrary to popular opinion, bats will not try to fly into your face- they are masters at flying and locating things in the dark, if they come close to you to have a look that is all they are doing; they don't want to fly into you and if you stay calm they won't. Each one who came close flew just in front of us and then up and over our heads once curiosity was satisfied.
The moon was full and fat and orange when we went to see them and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. M saw shooting stars and at one point three owls flew low over our heads and across the moonlit river. Even a heron went over at one point, silhouetted against the moon. It was a magic night to be out and I counted over 400 bat passes for the survey. This doesn't mean there were 400 bats present, but it does mean the population of Daub's on that section of the river is healthy, which is great news. There were 90 alone in the section just below their nursery tree roost. We're back again at the end of the month to complete the survey for this year and I'll report back again after we've been. I will try and remember to take the video along and hope to get some on camera for you to see and hear.
Finally, I've leave you with Teddy, who has had a new Hair Cut, Pops, who was grumpy that T was getting all the attention, and then the pair of them, with T giving P a kiss because he loves her....
ps- be dears and ignore any spelling mistakes, I haven't time to go through and check it all.