Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Cuckoos, Slow worms, Eclosing Dragons and More Fluttery Folk

It's all go here.

The Cuckoos are back in droves (well, sort of) and they are already driving me to distraction with their endless 'cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo.' They are the first bird to kick off in the morning (dawn chorus now 5am), and they keep it up on and off throughout the entire day, and are often the last ones to fall quiet before the wols take over as night falls. I know their numbers are falling so I do try hard not to get cross with them, but, let's face it, cuckoos aren't exactly adventurous souls when it comes to experimenting with their vocal range are they? Having said that, the Great Tits give them a Run For Their Money. I have a constant opera of 'dee do do, dee do do, dee do do' going on in the background all day long too :o)

Here, just for you, is one of the Cuckoos, with an overlay of Great Tit for good measure. Offer me sympathy...




I'm waiting for the lady Cuckoos to start up, because they do have Interesting Singing Voices. They make a noise that's completely different from their husbands ; they sound like an enormous amount of bath water going down the plug hole all at once in a Great Big Rush. I will try and record that for you too, when it starts :o)

Cuckoo's aside, life is progressing well here at the mo. The sun shines, the birds sing, the flutters, well, flutter, and dragons have begun eclosing from the pond. Now, I knew the nymphs could crawl and climb up to a metre away from their pond, but I've never seen one go this far before....

Note the distance between the pond  on the right (where the rough ground is) and the bench on the left. Its a Good Walk for a Small Person.


And now note the blob on the wooden bit of the wall, which starts just under the top of the bench (that came out a bit gobbled, but hopefully you know what I meant)....


The blob is a Broad-Bodied Chaser Dragonfly (see below for more clarity), freshly eclosed out of its nymph case (or, if you want to be posh about it exuvia) at ten of the clock this fine morning. In the pic below you'll see it is holding on to the case while its wings fill up with liquid making them fly-worthy. This process takes about four hours (I timed it last year with this particular species, so I know)....



 

In a few days it will be a powder blue colour.

I found an old nymph case (exuvia) floating in the pond the other day and hoiked it out to show you. It is the long one in the pic below. The other one is this morning's empty exuvia after the dragon had flown off. Dragonflies live most of their lives underwater in the larval or nymph stage - during this phase (usually lasts a couple of years) they moult up to 15 times into bigger nymphs. The one I found looks like close to the final stage to me- possibly the one before what was left stuck to my wall this morning. They are aggressive and will give you a sharp nip if you pick them up in the water...


Here are some close ups of this morning's empty exuvia. The first pic shows the hole in the back the dragon emerged from, the middle one its face (I particularly like the eyes), and the third its underside. Amazing things, don't you think?




Dragons aren't the only creatures emerging from the pond- we've got a full-scale Small Red Damsel emergence going on too. They too leave the pond in their nymph stage and crawl up the nearest piece of sturdy vegetation before eclosing out and then hanging on to the case while their wings become functional. The Reds also emerge pale and the colours deepen into a gorgeous rich claret over a few days, as demonstrated below. The first shot is of an empty nymph case found on the iris, and the second shows a recently eclosed damsel from this morning. The third pic is of a damsel who has been out and flying for a day or two. I love the gold bands on the tip of its tail....




The dogs found all this Birth Stuff Quite Exhausting, and flopped out by the pond after our early morning walk through the bluebell woods (pics of those to follow in a few days). Pop seems to have done something to her back leg, but as she won't tell me what it'll be a trip to the V.E.T tomorrow if it isn't better. Teddy will worry about that and Poppy will enjoy it (and that tells you all you need to know about their characters in a nut shell).


Common Carder Bees are still enjoying the Bugle, something small and for now unidentifiable is enjoying the mossy saxifrage and honey bees are all over the apple blossom like there's no tomorrow....




I did get some actual work done today- I'm giving a class-based ID session to the first year ecology students next week on butterflies and moths, so I went over to the college transect to get some useful ID photos at the same time as doing a flutter survey.

I managed to get a sequence of pictures of two Brimstones mating. They are a little less than perfectly crisp, but I'm still chuffed with them. The female is on the bluebell while the male is fluttering about seductively (in a butterfly kind of way :o) )...
 



This is a clearer shot of a female Brimstone, and below that her mate, the original butter-coloured fly that gives the group its common name...

 
 
Also out on the transect (well, under the tin refugia) were slow worms. I LOVE slow worms, and have been checking the tins religiously for the past month for them. I found two this week. Dear little creatures....


Small tort flutters are still around...


And I had a Close Encounter with this female Roe deer, who wandered right past me through the clearing Quite Oblivious of my presence...


Blackthorn (sloe) is out everywhere...

 
And the Cherry deep in the wood is also looking magnificent. Isn't the blossom fab this year?



Bright yellow fields of oilseed chequer the countryside round about. It's pretty, but a bit too vibrant for me...

 

Cowslips, foodplant for the rare Duke of Burgundy flutters, are more my kind of thing and are coming out in carpets on the Chalk.....


Some people Absolutely Love them... The person in the pic below is my favourite, the Bee Fly. This is Quite Possibly the best pic I've ever taken of one- I waited ages for the shot and got an awful lot of rubbish ones before these. I love the way he's holding the lid of the flower with all four feet like a kind of elf hat :o)







Well, I think that's just about it for today, There is Masses Going On Outside, which I love, and I also have plenty to do indoors, so I'll stop there and hope you enjoyed all of these lovely creatures. I'll get the Moth Box out again before long too- it won't be long before the moths become brightly coloured and interestingly shaped :o) It's still a wee bit cold here at night at the mo (a frost is forecast tonight), but hopefully in the next couple of weeks as April turns into May some of the real beauties of the Moth World will start to appear.

Hope all are well, and thanks for bearing with a slightly longer than anticipated post!

CT x

29 comments:

  1. That broad bodied chaser is a ridiculously good spot. I love them as adults flying along the Trent with their fat bodies the colour of snooker chalk.

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    1. Thanks Simon - I had one eclose on my finger last summer! :o)

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  2. No sympathy from me. I would love to be able to hear a Cuckoo like that. Now that great Tit would get on my wick!!! What a wonderful full post with insects, butterflies and flowers.

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    1. I know- I don't really deserve it :o)

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  3. I'm afraid I feel little sympathy for you as regards the cuckoos, especially as I haven't heard one this year yet! Indeed they seem to get rarer and rarer every year here in East Yorkshire and I do fear they are going the same way as the Turtle Dove. Perhaps you could politely ask one or two of them to come up here :-)

    Great to see the BB Chaser emerging and the Small Reds now looking their best. As you say they are stunning damselflies when you study them up close.

    Hope all is well and kindest regards :-)

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    1. I'll have a word (one is currently going like the clappers outside as I type) and see if they'd like to colonise East Yorks for you :o)

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  4. Fascinating CT, just fascinating. We were out walking on the South Downs this morning and then did a long and breezy walk around Chidham harbour this afternoon and we've seen so much LIFE. I just love this time of year. And don't Dragonflies and Damselflies bring a garden to life like nothing else. We have bats in our churchyard so in the summer I always make a point of walking home that way when I've been out and about in the village in the evening. Thank you so much for your informative posts; I've learnt so much from you.

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    1. Thanks for the lovely comment- I'm so pleased you find the blog useful and informative :o)
      Your walks sound lovely, and the description of the bats in the village church too.

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  5. Excellent photos of the dragonfly! I always learn so much from your posts.
    I'll admit I'm not awfully fond of slow worms/skinks/snakes (anything slithery really), but that little guy does look quite sweet.

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    1. Thanks me dear :o) I know slithery people aren't everyone's cup of tea, but I am a bit of a sucker for them myself :o) x

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  6. What amazing photos, those dragonfly wings are fantastic, and the bee close-up. No cuckoos here either, in fact I've NEVER heard one. Send me one as well if you would. CJ xx

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    1. The wings are really beautiful close up, like glass I always think. I've had a word with the cuckoos and they've added Glos to their list as places to colonise :o) xx

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  7. Yes, like everyone else I am bereft of cuckoo too. I don't think I have ever heard one in the flesh so to speak so no sympathy here either! It has been a wonderful spring here too. Hope Poppy gets well soon and Ted didn't have to worry for long. :)

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    1. Well, this is good for me to hear how many of you don't ever get to listen to cuckoos. I shall jolly well put my irritation with their repetitive cuckooing to one side and take a deep breath whenever they go on, and on, and on.... :o)
      I think I heard one of the girls last night, so shall be out with the video to record that too- it really is an extraordinary sound.
      Pop was better last night, then uncomfortable after her morning walk again today. Will keep an eye on her. Ted is on nursing duty! xx

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  8. Hey CT,
    I would love to hear a cuckoo. And I'd love to sit by your pond and watch all those beauties emerge from it. My pond has lots of things in it, but is mainly used by the birds for a drink. It used to be a lot more active with whirligigg beetles, spawn, tadpolesto froglets, newts and what not but the last couple of years has seen little of this. Lots of spawn that seems to get eaten. Bit perplexed cause it seems a perfectly healthy pond :( I also need to learn more about butterflies and their chosen flower food. Maybe I'll get to see more of them. Should I be out at a certain time of day, or is it just pot luck? I know I could look a lot of this stuff up online, but I'd rather rummage through your font of knowledge. Bit like Olly and his quoting of David 'Affinbra', which always makes me chuckle!
    Leanne xx

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    1. I can see no one here is going to offer me sympathy for cuckoo-related irritation at all :o) I actually hadn't appreciated how rare a sound it is today, because we get them going on and on all day long! I would be sad if they stopped really :o)

      Any time you want to drive up and plonk down by the pond you are most welcome- provided you can put up with Pop sitting on your lap, which is what she always does when I'm ponding. Funny about the change in yours- is the water quality OK? Have you got enough oxygenating plants in it?

      Re the flutters, the optimum time to see them is usually between 11am-4pm, temps between 13-17, low or no wind and no rain. You will get them outside of these margins, but they really don't like it too hot, cold, wet or windy.
      You may see females laying eggs on foodplants but your more likely to find them sunbathing on rocks, bare ground, leaves and walls, or else nectaring on a variety of blooms. Late morning is generally better for seeing them than late afternoon because a lot of flutters disappear off into the tree tops after lunch.
      Hope that all helps- LOVE Olly's description of Affinbra :o) He's my number one budding ecologist, your littlest lad :o) xx

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  9. Nice photos, fab pond and dogs.

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  10. Gosh I haven't seen any damsels or dragons yet! Only heard one cuckoo so far as well. I hadn't realised lady cuckoos made a different sound. Great pictures of the Brimstones (not seen one settle on anything yet) and the bee fly photos are great. Agree about the blossom but disagree about the rape fields - I love that blast of yellow. I think I just love anything bright and garish after winter! xx

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    1. D'you know, I think I will always think of you when I come across an eclosing dragon- I remember you saying last year when the first one happened here that you were longing to see it happen :o)

      I'm quite fascinated with how subjective our enjoyment of colour is. Not just between people but at different times too. There are definitely times when I'm more drawn to soft shades, and others when a strong, vibrant colour is needed. xx

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    2. That's exactly why I'd love a little wildlife pond - mine is too big to see this kind of thing. I know various kinds of damsels lay in my pond despite its depth (over 2 metres in one place, we think) but only seen one kind of dragon mating here and not seen them ovipositing. I suspect some come to visit rather than reside here - but I really don't know!

      As for colour - I adore pink of every shade in the garden, but wouldn't have anything pink inside my house or for clothes! :-)

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  11. I love your bee fly images and remembering them from last year I was able to id quite a few of them on a walk on Tuesday, so thank you!

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    1. They are great little insects, so glad you enjoyed the pics :o)

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  12. You have dragonflies already???? Wow - we're So behind! What fantastic shots of its previous home. Yes - the eyes are incredible! xxx

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    1. I think we may be early- the pond is in quite a sheltered spot xx

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  13. Well I think you have far to much going on at your house for one person !!
    Loads of lovely finds...
    Amanda xx

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    1. After the quiet of winter it's just so lovely to see them all again xx

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  14. Wow, what fabulous photos. The dragonfly captures are amazing. I really enjoyed the video of the birds singing, one of my favorite enjoyments is listening to birds. That was the first time I ever heard a coo-coo. You are a very good photographer. Hugs

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    1. Thank you for the lovely comment- I'm so pleased you enjoyed the birdsong :o)

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x