Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Beautiful Butterflies, Magnificent Moths, Interesting Insects, Bonny Baby Birds & How Bop Is Doing

I'll give you the Bop Update first- he is well. Phew. Eating mice like there's no tomorrow apparently. When Jill answered the phone yesterday I was greeted with a loud Rasping Raptor Screech in the background, which is the unearthly sound Tawny's use to communicate when they aren't whoo, whoo, whooing. We're off to see him next week and I promise to take the camera so you can all see him too :o)

In the meantime, the sun has come out here so I've been exploring the garden, camera in hand, looking for Small People.

The Great Tits who are nesting in Sparrow Terrace have two children. One is sensible, the other is an escape artist who clearly feels his time to fledge has come....

Yes, I can see you

And you can see me!

Oh Dear, this isn't going to End Well....

Hmm, well, I suppose you did reach the ground in one piece, but you couldn't exactly call it flying, could you?

You really are Very Small, aren't you?

He is not big enough to be off the nest because, despite what he thinks, he can't actually fly yet. I climbed a ladder up to the bird box (what a hazardous experience that was, one hand on the ladder and the other holding on to a fidgety small while M kept a foot on the bottom of the ladder to prevent Alarming Ladder Wobble occurring) and posted him back through the hole, only to watch him pop his head out a minute or two later, launch himself out of the hole, fall onto the kitchen roof, bounce off and plop on to the path below, which is where I found him the first time. Hopeless. I shooed the dogs away, closed the gate into the garden and left him to it.

Here is mum who I hope found him under the hedge were I last saw him scampering about. She's distinctive because of the black splodge on her face and has been working so hard feeding them both.




We also have a nest of at least four baby blackbirds. They are Growing Up Fast. Here they are four days ago...


and here they are this morning, now resembling recognisable blackbirds rather than little old men with wispy top-knots...

 
The Starlings brought their Elegant Child to show me and also to enjoy the coconut halves...

 
Insect-wise, things are waking up in time for the Garden Bioblitz this weekend. I'm encouraging you all to do it if you've got time. I've found a few things I didn't see last year already, including several solitary bees, a digging wasp and some tiny weeny moths that are so small it's easy to overlook them, so let's hope it's good weather this weekend and they all show up to be recorded....

Micropterix aruncella

thick-thighed flower beetle (male) Odemera nobilis

Female thick-thighed flower beetle

Solitary bee Colletes species
 
Digger wasp

Green shield bug (nymph)

Leucozona lucorum
  
Solitary bee collecting pollen
Hoverfly Sphaerophoria scripta

Wasp beetle Clytus arietis (a wasp-mimic longhorn beetle)
Nemaphora degeerella (a longhorn moth)
Hornet 
Common Blue Damsels mating

Common Blue Damselfly
And this is a very rare creature, a banjo playing frog whom I observed up by the pond among the buttercups. Apparently, this is their favoured habitat but there aren't many of them around so they're BAP listed as Red Endangered...


You may remember that M bought me some wildflower turf for my birthday. It is growing really well and gets all kinds of insect visitors from bees to beetles to damselflies. If you've got room, I highly recommend it. There are lots of different sizes and mixes available, we went for the wildflower one.

Here is what the patch looked like in April. We'd divided it into four sections, from right to left as you look at the pic they are: wildflower seeds, grass seed, wildflower turf and soil patch for annuals (although an enormous mass of Red Campion popped up there this spring!).

 
 Here it is now..


Here's the turf when first laid a few weeks ago..


And here it is now...


I think I showed you the Orange Tip eggs on the Lady's Smock? It's the small sticky-outy orange capsule-like thing in the "V" shape of the two green stalks...


Well, here is the caterpillar who has emerged in the last few days...



It is fascinating watching his behaviour- during the day he barely moves and he never goes far from his egg site at the moment anyway (many caterpillars are nocturnal, keeping safe from day time predators such as birds). He currently measures 3mm long. Given that they reach 31mm before pupating you can see how much eating he's got to do! I'm photographing him everyday to record his growth.

I also finally saw a Broad Bodied Chaser Dragonfly in the garden today. I've seen four empty nymph cases (exuvia) around the pond over the last 2-3 weeks, but apart from a brief glimpse of one who was sunbathing on my jeans on the washing line at the weekend, the dragons themselves have eluded me. Lovely, isn't he, and worth the wait.





Moth visitors to the garden are slowly improving too, with several new species turning up over the last week. Highlights include FOUR Poplar Hawks yesterday, one of whom has laid eggs on the cardboard egg boxes so I shall be raising those if they hatch.




White Ermines have also arrived...

 
As has the Peppered Moth...



Cinnabar moths have also returned. They are toxic to birds- the caterpillars feed on ragwort, ingest the plant's poisons and store them in their bodies. The red and black colours of the moth and the yellow and black of the pillar are known as aposematic coloration which warns predators of the danger.


Clouded Borders are also around, very delicate little moths that look more like butterflies, except for the lack of a club on the end of the antennae...
 

And this delicate little moth is called a Little Thorn. I've never seen one with wings open before as they almost always rest with them closed...
 

An Old Favourite, the Muslin..
 

And another Old Favourite, The Spectacle (you'll see why in the second pic down)...
 


The elegant Swallow Prominent...
 


Although I think it has been a slow spring moth-wise, I'm up to 60 species for the garden, which isn't too bad. Last year I recorded 311 confirmed IDs during the year so it'll be interesting to see whether we match it. There are some species (most notably the Green Silver Lines which is a very beautiful moth) that I saw in 2013 and haven't seen since which I would dearly love to see again, so fingers crossed for those.

I popped over to college earlier to do my transect, grabbing the sunny weather while I can. There aren't many flutters out at the moment- it's been too cold, sunless and windy for them, but I was lucky and the sun came out and the wind dropped while I was there, so I have some lovely Blue People to show you and one Green Person :o)

Common Blue male

Common Blue Male

Common Blue Male

Common Blue Male (see the under wing spots showing through?)

Common Blue Male

Common Blue Male

Green Hairstreak

Green Hairstreak

Kidney Vetch - the reason we have the rare Small Blue on site

Small Blue with a liberal dusting of blue scales
I found two Small Blues mating- and then a third one turned up and tried to get in on the action!

Small Blues x3

Small Blues mating










Thanks for bearing with all the pics and that rather long post! It's a busy time of year for insects :o)

I'll leave you with some Calendula from the garden and a small bunch of home-grown blooms I picked, and wish you all a pleasant evening. I am spending mine in the woods with a couple of friends beside a badger sett hoping to see some Brocks in the Wild :o)

I'll let you know how we get on....




Happy Days.

CT :o)
 

40 comments:

  1. Wow great post, super shots here. How cute are those chicks! Love the Banjo play frog too BTW.

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    1. Thanks Ian. The chicks are pretty adorable :o)

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  2. I remembered a few moths from last year - impressed? - I was!!! That banjo playing frog has to be a very endangered species, I fear he is the only one left! Perhaps he should be taken into a protective environment, you might never see another. I think the great tit chick is playing with you, a bit like children dropping things and you picking them up, but he wants to be picked up himself! I hope the mummy bird found him and sorted him out. xx

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    1. Very impressed! Well done you :o) I've alerted the local wildlife trust to the existence of the banjo playing froggy. They've advised me to keep an eye on him, just in case he tries to escape. And as for that GT baby, such a monkey! I worry about them at this time of the year, just hope he managed to get his feathers working and fly xx

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  3. Super sunny post, I am often amazed how young chick are when they leave the nest, most of them not ready to fly really, had my first young starlings in garden to day too. Good collection of "bugs", do like the thick-legged beetles. Had no moths in moth trap so was happy to notice one on the garden wall to day, got camera, it flew of and three sparrows flew out from know were !! still no moths in garden !
    Amanda xx

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    1. I agree- I know Blackbird chicks leave the nest before they are really ready to fly and spend 2-3 weeks more with the parents feeding them out of the nest. A worrying time all round xx

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  4. I've been desperate for news of Bop, so thankyou and I'm mightily relieved - it is a good start. Stunning images - naughty GT and lovely vase!

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    1. Yes, it was great to hear him on the phone :o) I can't wait to go and see him next week. I bet he's growing up fast.

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  5. A lovely post while I wait for Springwatch to come on in about an hour. The calendula are stunning, my are still puny seedlings. I learnt about Lily beetles for the first time the other day and the squeaking they make. Fabulous insect but I have just read they are a pest. Have been looking out for a Bop update, thanks x

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    1. I'm recording it :o)

      The calendula are last years- I was amazed when they all started popping up and flowering. Such pretty blooms. Hopefully I'll have Bop piccies to show you next week x

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  6. Yay I saw a common blue on a walk yesterday. We had a starling nest above the front door but I never got any shots or of the sparrows. The fledglings are funny at the bird table though. Glad Bop is doing ok x

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    1. Thanks Jo and well done on the Common Blue- I think they are having a good year, certainly heard of lots of people who've been seeing them regularly x

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  7. Gorgeous wild flower turf, and I'm glad the wildlife is liking it so much. I'm laughing about the kamakaze bird. And the banjo playing frog, wonderful. My butterfly is certainly a common blue I think, having seen your photos. Have you been watching Springwatch? On Tuesday the "local patch" was Rodborough Common, somewhere we go sometimes, and they filmed Dukes of Burgundy there. I was so excited, I shall have to go and investigate, although I'm not very good at spotting such things. Maybe that's a good thing though, if they stay hidden they will be safer. CJ xx

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    1. I've recorded springwatch but haven't seen any yet. Great news about the Dukes on the Common. Look for prominent bits of vegetation in a sunny but sheltered spot- you'll often find the males perched on a leaf, they are very territorial so tend to patrol the same area and sit on their leaves for ages. A small browny orangey butterfly is the clue- good luck and let me know how you get on :o)

      Well done on the Common Blue too- lovely little things, such a beautiful colour xx

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  8. Does Bop need any more mice? ;-)

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    1. He does! Fast track up from Devon to Hampshire? :o)

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  9. What a great set of pictures ! Those Poplar Hawk Moths are magnificent.
    Just found and joined your blog and popped in to say 'hello'.

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  10. Wow. What a wonderful full post for us all to enjoy. There surely is something for everyone in it although I loved it all from the silly little Great Tit who cannot fly yet to your beautiful flowers. Of course it was good to hear about Bob and am looking forward to those ohotos when you see him

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    1. Many thanks Margaret :o) I've got the same problem with the baby blackbirds who all appear to have fledged except for one, and now he's fluttered down behind a load of garden wood/ fencing/ wire and I'm worried he's going to be stuck there! x

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  11. Love the baby birds, especially the Great Tits - aren't they daft when they jump out nests before they can fly? Having cats I despair sometimes!
    Your wildflower patches and turf looks good - will be good to see what you observe there over the summer and autumn. Nice selection of buggy things. I finally saw my first damselflies yesterday, two Blue Taileds, which then mated. Seems a bit late, but then I haven't been in the garden as much as usual. But I always go and look for them around the pond for a few mins every day. :-) xx

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    1. They all seem to want to leave before they're really ready :o( It isn't doing my nerves any good at all :o) xx

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  12. A lovely post CT with some wonderful wildlife and great photos. It must be much warmer where you are as there are very few butterflies or moths around here at the moment. Did get a Peppered Moth in the trap the other night though - the only decent moth I've caught all month!! The wildflower area looks as though its coming on beautifully and good to hear Bop is feeding well.

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    1. Warm intermittently- it's blowing a gale and feels like March outside today! I am choosing my moments to spot flutters but to be honest think their numbers are down on this time last year. Hoping for a warm June! :o)

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  13. fabulous pics, as always! glad to hear Bop is doing well....brilliant news indeed. he's a very lucky owl!

    while we're behind you in butterflies, we're ahead in dragonflies....such a collection around these parts -- they're just magnificent beasties...the iridescence of their colouring is quite gasp-worthy.

    and lucky you to have the Very Rare banjo-frog in residence. truly a marvel!!

    xoxo

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    1. Yes, huge PHEW re Bop. I am soooo looking forward to seeing him again.

      I'd love to see your dragons, if you get the chance to post some pics... :o)

      I'm thinking I should really find a mate/ companion for the Banjo-Frog- it doesn't seem fair at all for him to be lonesome. Will keep my eyes open :o) xx

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  14. There comes a time in the afternoon when I have my break than nothing else will do than to visit a few of my favourite blogs and this afternoon has been one of those. I love all your lovely photo's you certainly get a lot of visitors in your garden and I feel refreshed and ready to take on the rest of the afternoon.

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    1. Thank you Mitzi, that's a lovely compliment. Glad you enjoyed and found some peace reading/ seeing :o)

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  15. Can I sneak in a question here? Yesterday a butterfly flew erratically passed me and I lost sight of it. Looking through my book and online it most looked like a Large Copper which of course is extinct in the UK. Are there populations of Large Coppers in Europe and this has lost its way? Or is there a day time moth the it could have been? I'm in West Suffolk in The Brecks.

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    1. Hi Philip. Thanks for the question- I love these kinds of lepidopterist detective questions :o)

      There are colonies of the Large Copper in Europe (most notably Holland, but I've struggled to find any reference for migrants to the UK and in any case, the dates for adults flying that I did find were for late July/ Aug, so it is very unlikely (sadly) to have been a Large Copper. They are a wetland species and the last UK colony became extinct in the Camb fens many moons ago due to fenland drainage.

      Did you happen to see the under wing at all? The Large Copper has a silvery/ blue/ metallic grey under wing with black spots, which would be a clincher.

      I will ask a few flutter scientists that I know and let you know if anything comes back, but it's looking unlikely to have been a Large Copper.

      I can't think of any day flying moths that would fit the bill. Only the hawks are that sort of size and there aren't any orange/ red ones of that shape. I wonder whether it could have been a Comma butterfly? They wobble a bit when they fly and the freshly emerged ones are brightly orange and a similar size to the Large Copper and they would be flying now. The only other thoughts I had was a Painted Lady, but although pinky/orange coloured they have dark wing tips, or possibly a far-wandering fritillary (I don't think they breed in Suffolk), although I think that unlikely too.

      Of course there is another possibility- that it was a Large Copper that has been bred somewhere in captivity and released. It does happen- butterflies are sometimes released at funerals.

      I'll let you know what else I turn up and thanks again for the question- I have advanced my Large Copper knowledge as a result!

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    2. Thanks. The 'butterfly' I saw did not appear to have spots. It was goldy-red upper wings but unfortunately I did not see the undersides. The only other distinctive feature was an erratic, urgent flight, rather than fluttering along. Probably will remain a mystery but I will keep my eyes open for any repeat sightings.

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    3. Hmm, a mystery. I have emailed a couple of folks and will let you know what they think. It does sound like it might have been a release of something bred in captivity, possibly for a wedding or funeral.

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    4. Here's an update for you Philip: Large Coppers are not recorded as a migratory species so it was either released or was something else. If you happen to see it again and can get a photo we'll have a good chance of getting you an ID.

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    5. Hi, I think I know the answer to the Large Copper puzzle. I saw several today (no camera with me). I think they are the Cinnabar Moth. In mitigation I cite the following: my first view was very fleeting; when in flight their wings do have a butterfly formation, although admittedly at rest they have the typical moth triangle shape; the ones I saw did seem to have a lot more red than black on the fore wings and at rest the red was more prominent compared to the photo you posted above; the information online sometimes states they are nocturnal and elsewhere the opposite. Anyhow, they are vey striking looking moths. Thanks, Philip.

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  16. Hey CT,
    What a wonderful array of insects. Olly found a pill millipede on our evening walk on Wednesday. I've never seen one before and had to look it up in our trusty DK pocket nature guides. It's amazing that these little creatures are common, and yet unless you keep your eyes peeled, or are near to the ground (in Olly's case) or just plain lucky you'd never know that they even existed. We also spotted a Dor beetle whose underside was the most exquisite iridescent blue. Loads of people have thought him creepy or ugly or horrid because he is a dung beetle. Why so? Just think how high we'd be in dung if it wasn't for them!
    Gorgeous pics. Olly and I are going to have a go with a sheet and a torch this evening. It's supposed to be a clear night. Is that good moth spotting conditions?
    Have a lovely time looking at badgers.Leanne xx

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    1. Pill millipedes are wonderful insects! Well done that boy :o) I agree re the dung beetles- people don't understand the service these insects provide and how disease-ridden the world would be if they didn't do that job. They fascinate me too :o)

      A warm night should be good moth-wise, but they do prefer muggy and therefore slightly overcast to clear. However, there are lots flying in May/ June. including Hawks, so you should get some results. I'll keep my fingers crossed- do let me know how you get on xxx

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  17. Me again,
    I was just wandering what you think about obtaining eggs via the lepidoptera society to hatch, feed and watch grow and develop before releasing them. I saw a post on instagram from someone who had some hawk moth eggs. Would you recommend/encourage this kind of thing? I'm thinking it would be a lovely experience for Olly, but not sure whether it's the right way to go about it. Wedo have butterfly eggs all over our gooseberry bush again, and I'm resigned to another year without a crop. We watched them with great interest last year. Anyway appreciate your thoughts.
    L xx

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    1. Hmm, I have really mixed feeling about captive breeding programmes. For educational purposes they're obviously a fantastic tool, but releasing anything into the wild that isn't wild gathered or wild reared has the potential to distort/ upset the local wild populations. It can bugger up surveys for one thing and distort conservation data, and it can also affect the genetics of the local population and introduce problems to them. Given the fragile nature of so many of our moths and butterflies that isn't great. If you're taking part in a managed rearing programme with butterfly conservation or your local county recorder that's a bit different, or indeed if you dig up a pupa in the garden and put it in a butterfly cage until it emerges.
      My advice is contact your local butterfly conservation branch and see if they've got any properly organised conservation programmes you can take part in, and also get their advice on a general purchase of eggs online. If you don't get any joy from them let me know and I'll ask a couple of people I know here for you.

      If you've flutter eggs on the gooseberries I'd be tempted to collect a few of those and get a butterfly cage (mesh one's are about a tenner on ebay) and do it that way.

      If you can stretch to a moth light trap or make one yourself and capture and release live moths for Olly to see that's probably even better. Hope that's of some help xxx

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    2. Cheers for that. I've decided against buying online. I think we'll have a go at the sheet and torch this weekend, and see what happens and keep watch on the Gooseberry bush.
      L xx

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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