Thursday, 8 June 2017

Life In The Garden & Recent Running RR10s

Anchusa, a form of alkanet

So things have been rattling on here. In the garden, all is well. Flowers are blooming and life is bustling. I've long wanted an alkanet and found this anchusa at a local garden centre which boasts a walled garden. Dreamy. The bees found it almost as soon as I got it home and it's thrown up a new flower branch so hopefully is happy with us.

I've had my eye open for the baby GSW, having seen his parents tooing and froing with food for him over the past fortnight, and then hearing him squeaking invisibly from the trees round the garden. This week, he finally arrived on his own on the feeders. He is a deal less worried about people than either of his folks. Young GSWs wear a fetching red cap which they lose as time goes on, either becoming completely black in the females, or maintaining a red stripe in the males.

Baby Great Spotted Woodpecker
All the garden babies are doing well this year. The blue tits fledged from sparrow terrace last week and have been driving me mad with their screeching demands for food from dawn to dusk ever since. Today, they seem to have quietened down a bit. Here are two of them learning to do it for themselves on the fat balls...

Blue tit Chicks
This little fellow is currently asleep in the kitchen. He's a common swift moth, a relic from an ancient time. He has no tongue. He belongs to a family of primitive moths that haven't changed for well over fifty million years, possibly longer. One argument for the lack of tongue is that they evolved before flowering plants, that's over 200 million years ago. Puts our tenure of 200,000 years into perspective, eh?

Common Swift Moth

Something I've never had the pleasure of seeing before happened this week- Mr GSW accompanied his offspring into the garden and fed him from the feeders. Here they are, looking Rather Beautiful together...

GSWs: baby (red cap) and dad (red stripe to back of head)
And here's Dad feeding him...

Feeding time
 As I said, Dad is Quite Shy...

Dad peeking through

Father and baby
A few days ago I discovered this Handsome Fellow on the buddleia. He's a mullein moth caterpillar. Worth checking your buddleias for them- we've got two at the moment. This one is close is to his final install and it won't be long before he pupates. They clearly don't rely on  camouflage to keep them safe as you can see, instead they use something called Batesian Mimicry, where the colours mimic a poisonous version or call to mind eyes to startle prospective predators away. Clever, huh?

Mullein moth caterpillar on buddleia

Mullien moth cat
I've seen about 12 of our native 56 flutters so far this year. Some haven't emerged yet and others are specialists that I haven't gone seeking. This one has crossed the seas to reach us, flying up from Africa. The Painted Lady, one of my favourites.

Painted Lady
The first set of sparrow chicks fledged out of the hole in the wall in the house and joined the rest of the gang a couple of weeks back. Of the two males pictured below, the one on the left is the more dominant. You can tell this by the definition of his black bib. The bigger and blacker the bib, the higher up the sparrow hierarchy you are.

Sparrow power!
Any guesses as to which species of bumble this is below? Trick question! It isn't a bee at all: it's a bumblebee mimic, a kind of hoverfly called Volucella bombylans. This is a female, I found her on the wild patch on our bank, sunbathing. I've seen three in recent days so hopefully the local population here is a good one. I don't remember recording them here last year.

Volucella Bombylans, bumblebee mimic hoverfly
It's the time of year for hedge woundwort, which means it's also time for woundwort shield bugs. These two were busy mating when a third came up to investigate and got kicked in the face for his trouble! Always worth checking the hedge woundworts near you for these charming (and quite small) shield bugs.

Three's a crowd. Woundwort shieldbugs

So all is tickety-boo in the garden. In other news, L is now more than half way through his GCSEs and is coping well. We will be celebrating next Friday when they're all over. I've joined a running club and have been taking part in RR10s, a series of local 4-5 mile races held in various locations around Hampshire on Wednesday evenings for members of local running clubs. They're great fun, quite fast and competitive but in a friendly way. I've been blasting out some quite good times and have met some lovely people.

Half Marathon training continues well. I did a 13.4 mile run last Friday over the Clarendon Way which was hilly, hot and hard work. It took 2:15 hours so I was pleased with the time which included some walking and it's a bloomin hard course. I wasn't especially tired afterwards but regretted not taking water on the run as the heat got pretty intense towards the end. I did a 5 mile race the following Sunday which just about did me in. The cumulative effects of running over 26 miles last week! I fell asleep on the sofa when we got back and woke up to find Poppy curled beside me snoring! Two days rest sorted the tiredness and I was back out racing last night with no ill effects. At least I know I can do the HM distance now which takes some of the apprehension away, and I don't think the course can be any tougher than that Clarendon. Train hard, race easy, as they say.

A quick word of encouragement here for my buddy B over at Coastal Ripples who's just got back to running after injury kept her off games for 6 weeks or so. She's aiming for her first Parkrun shortly. Go, B! You can do it girl!

Hope you're all well,

CT x


  1. Good stuff with the running.

    Great set of pictures too. I saw my first bombylans hoverfly this year, found it a most wonderful insect and was luckily able to get a good photograph of it.

  2. Your photos, as ever, are amazing. Fascinating about the sparrow hierarchy - does the bib size and colour dictate the hierarchy or vice versa? If it wasn't pouring down right now, I'd be off down the garden to the buddleia to hunt for those caterpillars! Good luck to L with the rest of the GCSEs; just imagine the fun he can have when they're all over. Well done on the HM training. xx

  3. What amazing photos of the GSW's. I am in awe. In fact amazing pictures all round. Your garden is clearly a very busy place at the moment. Our baby robins are all about, as are the blackbirds. Wood pigeons have also taken over the garden. Sounds like your running is going from strength to strength. Thanks for the lovely encouragement. B x

  4. As always, it's such a treat to see your beautiful photographs, especially the Woodpeckers.
    Well done on the running. Strangely, I too found myself unusually out of sorts after a run yesterday. I'm not sure what caused it but thankfully I feel OK now. It sounds like good sleep with Poppy did the trick for you and it must be reassuring to know you are more than capable of running the HM distance. X

  5. Lovely blog and beautiful photographs. Excellent half marathon time too. Thanks so much for paying my blog a visit and for your kind words x

  6. I always look forward to seeing your photos, what a treat to have the gsw in the garden they are gorgeous, I was taking photo's of the goldfinches as they are coming in regularly now but had a shock as a sparrow hawk flew in and took a sparrow, it made me sad but it's nature xx

  7. Amazing photos, you really do capture it all beautifully. Lovely to see all those babies out and about. Our great tit babies have been back to visit a bit too. Well done on all the running and well done to L for getting halfway through the exams. I hope the rest go well and that you all have a lovely celebration on Friday. CJ xx

  8. Wonderful to see all this life going on in your garden, CT. Best of luck to L for the remaining GCSEs – hang in there, nearly over! Well done on all the training. Have a good weekend. Sam x

  9. What a great post. Such fantastic photos. Glad all is going well with the running and exams. Have a great weekend.

  10. Where did you gain all your wildlife sound ideal as a Springwatch presenter! x

  11. I adore your nature blog posts. Always so fascinating and i learn a lot.

  12. Always nice to see what's going on in your garden, so lucky to get GSW in your garden, think I new about the Sparrows chest on the male, just been and had a look at the Sparrows in the garden. Hope to spot some Woundwort shieldbugs this year.
    Amanda x

  13. Love the baby GSW. Our pair are still in food grabbing mode, I'm really hoping they return with their offspring which may look more like peanuts than birds :)

  14. Run cool. I love those people with garden hose pipes who give me a good drenching in hot weather!


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