The funniest of these distractions was The Squirrel, who never comes within chasing distance of the house for fear of the voracious and committed members of the Squirrel Watching Club. For some unaccountable reason best known to him or herself, he/ she decided Today was The Day and sauntered in a leisurely devil-may-care sort of fashion across the patio, past the door and within inches of two sleeping terriers.
I haven't the heart to tell them.
Yesterday, having a perambulate around the garden with Pop (which is never ideal for wildlife spotting but usually unavoidable, as she is my constant companion and second shadow) I rather absent-mindedly checked the refugia at the top of the garden (it's the side of an old plastic compost bin) for slow worms who are never there, and came face to face instead with this rather lovely person...
I don't know who was more surprised. He (possibly she) is bigger than I realised at the time. I did wonder whether it could be my little bootlace from the tail end of last summer grown all big, but I don't think snakes are particularly site-faithful and anyway, that's a heck of a lot of growing in a few short weeks which can't be possible, so it must be another one.
Luckily, The Pop was off watching voles round the other side of the pond otherwise it could have been tricksy. As it was, I carefully replaced the refugia, crept away and then pelted like a mad woman down the garden and back into the house for the camera, Poppy racing after me with no idea why.
Luckily for me, the snake was still there when I went back and so I got the photos. I know they're not everyone's cup of tea (my mother most of all!) but they are endangered and they are harmless and so scared of people that I'm always thrilled to see them in the garden.
We sort-of engineered the top half of the garden for them with the pond for swimming, compost heap for egg laying, a huge pile of logs and stones for hibernating and the refugia for shelter all within feet of each other. It seems to be working as this is the third year I've recorded grass snakes in the garden (ever since the pond was made in fact).
This morning, again wandering about with Pop, we discovered two Southern Hawker (I think) Dragonflies eclosing out of the pond. 11am seems to be a good time to see this happening and we were lucky to find them with the dragons still clinging on to the empty exuvia in the final stage of wing hardening. Both took their maiden flights as I watched and one sat on me for a while between flights.
When dragons are ready to emerge from the nymph state, the nymphs gather at the water's edge for a few days/ hours before, then climb up out of the pond and find a suitable bit of vegetation to attach to. They will crawl up to a few metres away from the water.
They climb out of the exuvia and hang from it for three hours or so while the wings fill with liquid and become viable, then they crawl away from the exuvia and begin to vibrate their wings to get them working properly before taking off.
This dragon's maiden flight was straight and true and strong, but I have known them wobble and take off/ land several times until they get the hang of it...
In the next pic you can see the empty nymph case (exuvia) left holding on to the grass stem while the adult insect climbs up onto some grasses..
I am fairly sure of the ID because of the tail markings, although I don't profess to be remotely expert on dragons so if I'm wrong feel free to shout. I think this one is a male.
The second is the same species but I think female, because of the shape of the pincers on the tail...
And here are the empty nymph cases. I've been finding them up by the pond for a couple of weeks now and had narrowed it down to Hawker, so I was really chuffed to find the insect in mid-eclose (dragon for hatching) so I could narrow it down to species.
So we have two dragonfly species in the pond now. Southern Hawkers and Broad Bodied Chasers :o)
I also found this digger wasp with a grub. After biting it several times she flew off with it. They dig a tunnel 30cm down, drag prey into the chamber and leave it for the offspring, They then lay the egg, seal the chamber, and when the egg hatches the baby wasp has a ready meal to hand. Fascinating creatures.
Small volcanoes have erupted all over the lawn during the night so I am wondering if it's actually these digger wasps and not mining bees as I had first assumed. Folks seek treatment for lawns to eradicate these little insects, but they do no harm and will aerate the soil for you. Once the kids have hatched they leave and the holes fill in. They don't bite or sting, so if you have them in your lawn please think twice before putting toxins down to kill them- it'll pass straight into the ecosystem and the bodies of birds, shrews, owls, hawks etc.
We have a resident Meadow Brown (a boy- the girls are more gingery) who has set up home in the new wildflower area, which I am thrilled about. These are grass flutters and that section of the garden is perfect for them. All we need now is a Mrs Meadow Brown...
The first set of Woundwort Shieldbug children have hatched. They are tiny wee at the moment, but just starting to be discernible with the naked eye. They don't go far from their eggs for the first few days and I love the way they all stick together on their nursery leaf :o)
I can count 13 eggs but only 11 children :o(
Moth-wise, we had a couple of nice ones last night. This Buff Ermine (many more of them this year than last)
And this beautiful shiny Burnished Brass...
I'll leave you with Cornflowers (my favourites) which are starting to come out in the wildflower garden (from last year's seed I think which is Pleasing) and Feverfew which was grown from seed last year), and some pics of Miss Pops enjoying the sun.
Hope you are all well and enjoying this lovely weather (in the UK at least).