Tuesday, 13 June 2017

All Creatures Great And Really Quite Small


I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm heartily sick of politics and politicians. Michael Gove being appointed the new Secretary for the Environment had me spluttering through my porridge. I'm not sure why his appointment should come as a surprise when all environment secretaries seem utterly ill suited to the job, being essentially ministers for farming. 
Sure enough, as I listened to Gove on the way back from school he was talking about meeting the NFU later today with never a mention of the Wildlife Trusts, the BTO or any other well-informed environmental group. 

Gove's appointment was bad enough, but in addition we've been forced to endure George Osborne gloating about Theresa May being 'a dead man walking' and 'on death row.' Setting political affiliation aside, did anyone else find this a pretty hideous way for one human being to describe another? A year almost to the day that Jo Cox was murdered, for someone to describe a female politician as a dead man walking was hideous. All the more so in the light of the recent terror attacks on our country. It's a good job ordinary people can be relied upon to set the example  of extending love towards one another and standing together, because our politicians fail miserably at it. I don't know what annoyed me more, Osborne's obscene gloating or the failure of the other people present to pull him up on it. Sick of the lot of them, I am.

When I could bare it no more, I turned my back on TV and radio and went outside to spend some time in the real world, where the garden is holding the most enormous amount of life, which is balm for any pissed off irritated soul.

There are many wonderful creatures visiting/ living here at the moment, but I was especially thrilled to see the Hummingbird Hawkmoth return. This wonderful little moth has flown all the way across the sea, potentially from as far afield as Africa, to get here. They don't hitch a ride on a bird, as someone asked me this week, they fly under their own steam, battling elements and predation along the way. They are about half the length of your thumb. Amazing creatures. All the more so, because the UKs climate is too cold over winter for them to survive, so it's a one-way ticket. Although in the last few years there is a colony in the south west that looks to be becoming native. Because of this, they are an important indicator species for climate change and should be recorded on butterfly conservations website whenever one is seen.



Here are some more pics to enjoy....






I was sitting by the flower bed yesterday as you do, (no? just me then), when I noticed movement.



This is a Lesser Stag Beetle, separated from the female stag by size. This one was 22mm, stag beetles start at around 28mm. Stag beetles are very rare these days, and the reason we have lesser stags in the garden here is due to the pile of old ash poles laid to rest beside the flower bed when we remade the pergola. Lesser stags have a preference for ash that is above ground level, which just goes to show if you tweak the habitat you'll eventually get the species. 
I watched her for ages as she bimbled round the flowers before heading straight back to the ash pile. Poppy was keen to see what it was I was looking at and we had to have a conversation about not eating beetles.


After that, continuing the balm for the soul theme, I did some gardening, managing to pick up this Nursery Spider who was carrying her eggs with her, in the bucket. If you can enlarge the photo you'll see she has a very human face.


This little chap is a Tortoise Shieldbug and he's a new species for the garden this year. I found him because I was looking for the mullein caterpillar who had grown so fat yesterday he looked fit to burst. The mullein had gone, presumably to pupate underground where he'll spend the next few years before emerging as an adult moth, and the little Tortoise was in his place.


Heading up to the pond, where I continue to keep my eyes peeled for dragonflies, I spied this little fellow hiding on the wall....



He's a Dark Bush Cricket, found throughout the south of the UK. An easy way to distinguish crickets from grasshoppers is that crickets have long antennae whereas grasshoppers have short ones. 

Our second Longhorn beetle of the year turned up in the roses this week. This handsome chap is a four-banded longhorn, fairly widespread through Britain and worth checking flowers for on warm days as that's their preference.



The Siskins have, somewhat surprisingly, returned to the linseed feeders this week. I don't usually see them till late winter. I wonder why? Could it be food is scarce in the conifer woods? Also feeding on his own now, is this baby Goldfinch, who has the yellow wing bars but lacks the red and black head of the adults. Plenty of time for that yet.


And here's another shield bug, this time a Hawthorn. These are also widespread through the UK. As well as hawthorn they like holly, hazel, dogwood and oak, so worth checking for them.


The next two are a bit riddly to me, so if anyone knows what they are please shout. I've never seen a caterpillar inside a rose before. The chap in the pic below looks similar to orange tip caterpillars, but I'm thinking he's a moth. The nearest I've got is winter moth, but I'll admit to being flummoxed.


And this (below) is what happened to the smaller of the two mullein cats. It's pupated, way too soon, the wrong colour and under a leaf when their pupae go underground in a chamber. I think this has been parasitised, probably by a small wasp, who has forced the caterpillar to behave like this in order to hatch out the wasp grubs laid into it sometime before. I've seen something very similar in small white caterpillars which have been injected by a parasite wasp and then controlled from the inside. Once the eggs have hatched out the wasps have no further need of their host and leave it to die. Horror movies have nothing on nature, eh?


*have just found the same pupal case on line and it is a parasitic wasp pupal case, probably from Campopleginae which is a type of Ichneumon wasp. The case is designed to look like a bird dropping so it is left alone. Clever.
Not wishing to leave you with nightmares, I'll update you on the GSW baby, who is now coming to the garden everyday on his own and feeding all by himself. He has now become frightened of me and doesn't stay if I'm around, which I am pleased about for his sake.

Running-wise, the HM approaches and I'm feeling match-fit, although the forecast is very hot which isn't great. I did intervals with the running club last night. 5 x 1kms at 4.30 minutes a km with a 2 minute pause between kms to get your breath back. It was hard work but I think I will reap the benefits of getting faster and stronger over time as a result and once the HM is done I'll be chasing that sub 23 minute Parkun PB. 

It was good fun- a big group of us met at the village hall and jogged a mile or two down to the next village where we set off round the 5k course at different times according to speed, everyone then meeting up at the end at broadly the same time. 

I'm also in the team for the mile of miles competition this week- ten of you run a track mile each as fast as you can round in a relay and the fasted club team wins. Should be a giggle. M is in the fast team for our club so we'll be competing against one another (he will win). We've also entered another half marathon which is in August and follows 13.1 miles over the cliffs along the Jurassic coast, taking in the second highest hill in the south of the UK (twice). This will possibly be my toughest run yet, so of course I can't wait!

L has four exams left and has come down with a stinking cold. He is persevering bless him. Roll on Friday! Ted and Pop are fine, busy chasing rats and staring at pigeons. Poppy did Parkrun with me on Saturday last. We started at the back and managed to overtake lots of people. She was particularly intent on making sure she overtook all the big dogs. However, our triumphant sprint to the finish was curtailed by a man running very slowly in front of us too close to the narrow finish for us to get by without tripping him up :o) Next time... (the sprint, not the tripping).

Hope you are all well?

CT.

ps- I haven't checked for errors so please excuse any ridiculous words the Mac may have inserted/ interpreted wrongly!

29 comments:

  1. I know what you mean I have switched off from the world today and been in the garden for most of the day and I have loved every minute, sat watching the birdies. Love your photos I was trying to find insects to photograph but apart from the bees I couldn't find any xx

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    1. Thank goodness for wildlife and wild places to sustain us in times of stress or annoyance.

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  2. The hummers love red valerian, and I love that baby goldfinch!

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  3. Thanks for the information about the humming bird hawk moth. I've seen them in Austria, but I didn't know what they were called.

    Like you I've given up in despair. Decided that 90% of politicians are knowingly and unknowingly part of the racket. Pull a string and one will jump.

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    1. Amazing things those little moths. We've another species who's just arrived who's come from across the sea. Incredible.

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  4. The politicians are all jumping on the bandwagon, any excuse to criticise. The media are just as bad. Thank goodness for garden tranquillity and wildlife action.

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    1. I think they can't help themselves. I just wish the media folk would hold them to account for their general complete lack of manners, their exaggerations and bluster. Most of us can see through it so who do they think they're fooling? There's no appetite in the country for politics or politicians at present. I wish they'd walk on the real earth not in their Westminster bubble. Ho hum.

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  5. Fantastic photos; as you say, there's so much life out there at the moment. I agree with you about the politicians and the giant shambles it all is. Sick of them all too. CJ xx

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    1. Interesting how we all turn to the wild for comfort/ distraction/ a sense of peace and yet our politicians show no regard for the wild at all. X

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  6. I am in awe of your photography, knowledge and running skills! Another pulled back here I'm afraid - it seems to be 1 step forward and 2 steps back. I love the idea of Poppy being intent on beating the big dogs. Well done to you both. xx

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    1. Oh that's rotten luck. What's up? Is it anything a trip to the Physio could help with or shed light on? I've found they can make a real difference xx

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  7. I felt much the same about Gove- he showed absolutely no interest or understanding in wildlife whatsoever. As a teacher, I am very much aware of what his meddling can do. Beautiful photos though and the perfect antidote to all this!

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    1. I would love all political parties to wake up and put the environment front and centre. I don't they understand yet that if the environment goes then we go too. It's that simple, ultimately. Thanks for the comment.

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  8. Another fabulous post. In awe as always for all the creatures in your garden. I have grave misgivings too about Mr Gove. He did an appalling job with education so goodness knows what he will cook up with the environment! As for the rest of them... euk. Hope the heat isn't too bad for your running and the exams continue to go well. I'm enjoying the beauty of Herm at the moment. It's great to be away from civilisation, only the odd tractor to disturb the peace. B x

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  9. Lovely post and photos - your garden is just brimming with wildlife and well done on the Hummingbird Hawk-moth. Totally speechless about the appointment of Gove - it does not bode well :(

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    1. The positive aspect is they tend to get moved on before they can do any irreversible damage (long term). Small comfort and it really shouldn't be that way. It's such an opportunity for someone with vision to make a real difference.

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  10. I removed myself from social media for the duration, but nearly destroyed my television with the news of Gove's appointment. We live in a world gone mad.

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    1. I keep switching the radio off this week. It's all any of them can talk about and much of it is supposition and guesswork.

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  11. Hello! Oh CT, you were the first person I thought of when I heard the news of Gove's appointment. I meant to email you but our wifi has been non-existent of late. I am also incandescent at the elevation of the DUP as Kingmakers, so worried about the peace process in N.Ireland. I love all your bug shots so much, they are so beautiful. Nice to hear the running updates too, well done. I managed a 8.5k run/walk the other day though mostly because the silly dog managed to get herself lost in the jungle of vegetation that is our river bank at the moment! Poor L, those exams are really an academic marathon! Lots of love. xxx

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    1. Hello! I've just sent you a long, rambling letter letting off steam! Yes, worried about the DUP thing here too. What a strange time it is. Thank goodness for the great outdoors, for running, walking and daft lovable dogs getting lost in overgrown summer vegetation! 8.5k is great! Lots of love back xx

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    2. Brilliant, I love long rambling letters. Yes, thank goodness for nature and dogs, balm for the soul.x

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  12. Totally with you re political stuff. Unedifying and undignified are just two words, along with several rude ones. Anyway, enough of that! What magnificent photos of the hawkmoth. I saw one here a few years ago so I must keep an eye out. I learn so much from your posts, CT. Thank you. I'm now going to have a poke about in my roses. Sam xx

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    1. I think those are brilliant descriptions. Glad the info is helpful. There is so much out there to see. xx

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  13. Another one here who has had enough of politics at the moment. Very frustrating. It's been lovely to take solace in your beautiful photographs. Thank goodness we have nature to ground us.
    I wish my running was going as well as yours. I'm managing it but recently have yet to feel energised or strong. I thought it was perhaps the warm weather but it hasn't made a difference before. Oh well, I will keep at it.
    I really hope L's cold is better and hasn't had too much effect on his exams. X

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    1. Are you perhaps trying to do too much too soon? Sometimes it pays to slow down and pace yourself more. It's very easy to do too much. I have to force myself not to run everyday and if I've put in the miles and am feeling tired I take an extra day off. Could also be you're still recovery from post-op. xx

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  14. I too have had fun catching up on you blog posts, I always like to see what you are getting in your garden as it's so different to what I get, are you still putting your moth trap out ?
    Amanda xx

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  15. Hey CT,
    Just catching up after a week camping in Brittany. Oh my goodness the flutters I saw! Back in my own garden, we have been graced by the hummingbird moth, painted ladies, red admirals, peacocks, speckled woods, a gazillion different bees and hovers. Olly found a moth. We looked it up; a brimstone moth. He was chuffed. Still no crab spider or longhorn beetle. But baby goldfinches and two baby seagulls in the roof.
    I, too, am completely sick of politics and the very fact that they've allowed Gove back into the cabinet makes me fume. The UK seems desperate and fractured. I hold onto hope, just.
    Leanne 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