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