Thursday, 30 July 2015

Farewell Bop, Hello Silver-Spotted Skippers

We collected Bop from Jill at 8pm last night, after a last-minute hiccup caused by yet more heavy rain showers. I was assured by my resident Weather Expert that the rain would pass through and the night be dry (which it was), so we brought him home and set him free in the garden just as the dusk was coming down.

Once I had taken the lid off the box he flew straight and true across the garden and up into a tall silver birch tree. I pondered letting him get on with it, but the temptation to say a proper farewell and give him some Sound Survival Advice proved too much (well, I am the closest thing he's got to a mother after all). So I walked over to the tree where he was sitting and watched him for a while. 

He stared down at me in that slow, imperious, unblinking way Tawny Owls have. It's a regard that makes you feel you ought to curtsey after swiftly dropping your gaze. Staring contests between people and owls are, I should imagine, generally won hands down by owls. After a while a bird made a noise nearby and he turned to stare at that instead, then he began to look all around him, head swiveling at every new sound. 

It must have been a little overwhelming to an owl who has essentially been raised by humans, but he seemed to know what he was doing when he made for and landed in the tree, and although I felt a pang that this was almost certainly the last time I would see him, the larger emotion was one of joy that he had made it this far, that he was, at long last, back in the wild where he belonged.

As I walked back to the house through the gathering gloaming, a female Tawny began calling softly from a tree on the other side of the lake. I whispered a prayer to the breeze and the night air that Bop would be OK and that the other wols who live here would be kind to him and show him The Way Of Owls.
To everyone who has wished him well, sent him a prayer, asked the Nature Gods to keep an eye out for him over the last eight weeks, spared him a thought now and then: thank you :o)


I met up with the Butterfly Whisperer for a spot of Chalk Indulgence today. We haven't been flutter spotting together for a couple of weeks and it was nice to revisit old haunts. 

The second generations of Adonis Blue and Brown Argus are due out about now, and I had yet to see any Chalkhill Blues or Silver Spotted Skippers this summer. With the exception of the Adonis (perhaps a wee bit early yet for them) we ticked all the others off our list and I got my first ever pic of a Silver Spotted Skipper, so I was chuffed :o) In fact, we saw loads of them. Today's three new species take my year's butterfly total to 39, beating last year's of 36 and there are still three more that I should be able to see (Clouded Yellow, Adonis and hopefully Brown Hairstreak) before the Butterfly Year ends. I also saw a plant that has the best name of all plants: Squinancywort :o)

Female Brown Argus

Female Brown Argus

Chalkhill Blue

Chalkhill Blue

Chalkhill Blue

Chalkhill Blue

Dark Green Fritillary

Dark Green Frit

Dark Green Frit

Dodder (a parasitic plant that likes ant hills)

The King Tree on the old drovers road that runs across the Down

Mariscolore (female Common Blue colour variation).

Silver Spotted Skipper!

Another Silver Spotted Skipper

Two Silver Spotted Skippers! Aren't they pretty little things?

The wonderfully named Squinancywort :o)

Autumn berries on the Wayfaring Tree

I'll leave you with a last pic of the Beautiful Tawny owl I have had the absolute pleasure of knowing this summer, and wish you all a peaceful evening.

CT x

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

White Admirals, Black Arches & Bop

I've cut back on some of my volunteer activities. Partly from a feeling of being squished by them, and partly to enable me to focus my energies better. In September, I'll be starting the third year of my Ecology degree and beginning my new job as a study support coach to the new intake of first years, both of which will require more time than I have previously needed to set aside, so some things have had to go.

It's good to periodically look at and assess what brings value and what contributes to or creates stress. I think most of us have the capacity to amass layers of duties and responsibilities that after a while can become too much or be no longer relevant, and relieving oneself of some of them does have a renewing and re-invigorating effect.

I've enjoyed looking at all the things I've done during the past two years and deciding what to keep and what to reduce or step away from. As a result, I've ended up with a portfolio of activities that has a good balance to it (or so I hope, anyway).

I've decided not to study moths as my dissertation subject. There is a lot of truth in the old adage about not making your hobby your life's work. For the first time in over a year therefore the box went out last night purely for pleasure. Going through the resulting moths was a far more enjoyable experience as a result!

The box was lighter as the temperatures have dropped, with 26 species recorded of 45 individuals (as opposed to over 400 a couple of weeks ago). The species have shifted now that the earth energy is heading towards autumn with Scalloped Oaks, Black Arches and a Purple Thorn all present for the first time this year. 

I like the changing seasons: I've always found the turn of the earth and the way the wild things respond to it reassuring, as if everything is in its rightful place. For example, I always look forward to the first sallow moths of Autumn, which are reminiscent of fallen leaves, and the arrival in September of the beautiful marbled green of the Merveille du Jour.

Scalloped Oak

Lesser Broad-Bordered Yellow Underwing (waving and beady-eyed) :o)

Silver Y

Pebble Hooktip

Purple Thorn

Black Arches

Black Arches

 Brussels Lace

I felt The Land's seal of approval today on these decisions to cut back and refocus. First, I came across a White Admiral sitting quietly on a patch of Bramble...

They are rare enough for any sight of them to be a special occurrence, and this one remained within touching distance for a good ten minutes. During which time I was, of course, spell-bound, unable to move.

Females are slightly larger than males and have more rounded wings. They tend to nectar on bramble blossom but this can mean that their wings become tatty because of catching on thorns, which I suspect is what's happened to this one. 

This is only the second White Admiral I've seen this summer, despite spending a lot of my time in White-Admiral perfect woodlands. Nature sends these things when you aren't looking for them, eh? By way of encouragement, like a Simple Blessing when one is needed.

A little further on a bunny hopped out of some undergrowth and just sat quietly watching me. There was something in her eyes that made me feel a message was being passed, some kind of reminder of what brought me to this degree in the first place, perhaps.

Other flutters came along, and a Great Pied Hoverfly...

And then, as I was heading for home, the sound of hooves running through the trees on my right signalled a small herd of roe deer fleeing at my approach. 

All except one. She stood quietly by the trees and watched me for ages, and I felt another message being passed over.

I made my way home with a sense that the balance that had gone awry has returned, and that The Wild has been there guiding me through it all along.

On a similar vein, Bop is coming home tonight.

Hope you are all well, my dears?

CT :o)

Monday, 27 July 2015

Rainy Days, Sunny Days

It's been a mixed bag, weather-wise.

More often than not it has been raining...

The garden is glad and the pond people are all glad, but the pigs aren't so chuffed...

The Bean Tree is also pleased, because the rain shows it off Very Well Indeed making its green shine...

Half-way through Sunday (wet day), M and I announced a visit to the local Brickworks Museum. This was greeted (as you'd expect) with Boundless Joy And Enthusiasm by the one child in the house at the time, who then spent the next half hour finding every reason under the sun why he shouldn't go. Honestly, he has the kind of linguistic skills that wouldn't be out of place in a courtroom. I am thinking of hiring him out to show would-be barristers how it's done. Worn down, I surrendered, and M and I went on our own, and had a Thoroughly Lovely Time (and a piece of coffee and walnut cake washed down with hot choccy afterwards).

Who knew bricks were so interesting?

I did think at one point we might not escape with our lives when M made the mistake of asking the lovely old chap who was manning the museum why some bricks are yellow and others red. We were the only visitors and half an hour later even the old boy's eyes had glazed over as he painstakingly explained every step of the process. I had to walk away because I got a fit of the giggles at the look of constipation on M's face. He won't make that mistake again in a hurry :o)

It was still raining when we got home to discover L in exactly the same position we'd left him three hours previously, slouched in a chair in front of the computer with his feet up on the wall (which explains the previously unsolved mystery of why that wall and no other is so filthy).

I declared my intention of sewing, because the patchwork that was to be a bag had decided to turn itself into a small quilt for cool evenings on the sofa and was calling to me.

As you can see, my Sewing Area is the Epitome of Neatness And Order....

The new quilt is a rag-tag-and-bobtail affair, made from off cuts from old pieces of fabric that were too small to be used for anything else (as per the origins of patchwork) so it has cost me virtually nothing to make (cue High Smugness) and at the same time has shrunk my admittedly large fabric stash which is now reasonably respectable (and has room for more again now :o) ).

 It took me hours to cut all the fiddly little squares (380!)...

Ive finished it today and am Pretty Chuffed with the results...

I have got ahead of the game by washing all L's school stuff, including PE kit (which has lasted three years- the shorts that were like a sack on him are now hot pants. It is probably time to get some more). I have also got him a new school bag and some new walking boots today. The walking boots required a small mortgage which gave me palpitations until I tried them on, realised they were a) extremely comfortable and b) will fit me when he grows out of them next week. I baulked at getting school trousers because his ankles will be out of them in six weeks judging from the way he's shooting up.

Harmony has returned to Dog World in the form of games of Tug of War round the sofa with the pheasants as the rope...

And in the rare moments when the sun has popped out the garden has provided enough drama to out-do a soap opera (well, nearly). There was a Near Miss when this hoverfly was so busy nectaring on the buddleia that he almost didn't see Marjory (our resident crab spider- I give them names to make them less scary) poised to pounce... Luckily he noticed her in time and disaster was averted. I don't feel too bad for her- only yesterday she caught a waspy-type thing which I assumed would keep her going for ages, but I can't find it anywhere so I wonder if she's stuffed it down her tummy already? No wonder she is so round. Crab spiders are interesting things- they have the ability to alter their colour to fit their background. Perhaps Marjory is colour blind?

The flutters continue to visit in good numbers. This Comma lives in the tree at the bottom of the garden and regularly glides over the top of my head. I often wonder if it's an attempt to ooosh me away.

Spot the Brimstone

I am Very Intrigued by this bee. I've seen several of them this week and need to get off my backside and go and find out what species they are (unless any of you can save me the trouble?) *UPDATE* thanks to Ragged Robin for letting me know this is a Leaf Cutter Bee, which is fab because I've been wanting to see one for ages!

I also found ten baby fish in the fish pond today, which was a surprise. I hoiked three out by mistake when I was removing weeds and had to return them to the pond. Their parents are ginger but all the babies are brown. Do they lighten with age I wonder?

Poppy found the whole experience fascinating, and then took herself off for a rest on the table afterwards. Sshh, don't tell M because we're already in trouble for snuggling on the sofa watching Humans together last night. I hid her under a blanket and she played dead so we thought we'd got away with it, but Apparently Not. I have been told if I want to cuddle the dogs at night from now on I have to do so on the floor :o(

There are still blooms in the garden, although now it has a distinctly back-end of summer feel to it. Perhaps I need to go and get some new things to brighten the place up a bit?

Hyssop grown from seed this spring- the bees are loving it

Calendula, self sown from last summer

Wild Carrot in the wild flower turn patch.
There are also lots of insects about when the sun shines and the apples are growing Like Topsy...

I'm hoping to get Bop tomorrow (or possibly Weds). Will let you all know...

Hope all are well?

CT :o)