Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Golden Skippers, And A Rare Beetle Is Found At Home


The cornflowers and corn poppies are coming out. Everyone here is very excited about this, especially those of us with wings who enjoy hovering and like to drink nectar. The cornflower area of the garden is buzzing this morning.


The hoverfly enjoying the poppy is a Marmalade fly, the only one (as far as I know) who has these white lines on the yellow and black bands. As they are widespread across the UK if you live in these islands there is a very good chance you'll be getting them in your garden, so another one to have a look for.

The Golden Skippers are also out - at least, the Small Skipper version is. One of these grass-loving butterflies whizzed through the garden a couple of days ago in a blur of gold which had me leaping off the bench where I was sharing an early evening natter with M to go havering about the garden after it. This led my husband to remark with a smile that I have a particular run I do when excited about an insect. We won't go into details because it isn't very flattering and makes me sound like an excitable two year old.

Yesterday, I found another snoozing up by the pond in the shade on some bird's-foot trefoil. Hard to tell whether it's male or female with the wings closed, as the scent lines that tell the male apart aren't visible. Often, the male insect appears before the female, and I certainly saw all males in the grass lining the fields on our walk first thing this morning. Skippers frequently get confused with moths because most flutters adopt a wings-open posture at rest.

Butterflies are picky about temperature- too cold, and they can't fly, too hot and they don't. The optimum temperature range to see butterflies is 13-18 degrees, any hotter and they either down tools entirely or flit about so fast it's hard to work out what they are.


Small skippers are Very Fond Of Grass, especially Yorkshire Fog, which is pictured below. We have lots of it around the pond, not planted, it was already in the seed bank in the earth so we just let it grow. The first summer we let the grass grow long, the skippers came. They lay their eggs in it and the larvae eat the grass.

There is one other skipper you might confuse this one with, and that's the Essex skipper. You can tell them apart by the glossy black tips of the antennae on the Essex.

Yorkshire Fog
Incidentally, it's Purple Emperor Time. These fabulous shimmering flutters have begun to emerge over the last ten days in ancient woods all round the south. I am dutifully leaving some dog poo out in the garden in the hope of luring one here. They have unspeakable habits for such marvellous creatures.

I grew some Honeywort from seed this spring and it has just started flowering. The bumblebees can't get enough of it. Listening to a bumble inside a honeywort flower is an instant cure for melancholy- the tubular bloom has a small circumference, so it's a tight squeeze for a plump bee. As a consequence, once nectaring their buzz becomes very concentrated and high-pitched, more of an exasperate squeal than the usual reassuring, low rumble. It reminds me of the memorable giggling fit BBC newsreader Charlotte Green had when trying to read an obit after listening to the earliest recording of Clair da la Lune, which a colleague had likened to a bee trapped inside a glass. 

Honeywort
I've a very tame baby blackbird in the garden. Long time readers may remember Apple, the fledgling blackbird we raised in the house a few years ago. I like to think this is her great-grandchild and that somewhere in her genes the inherited memory of the time her ancestor spent with us, flying through the bedroom window for breakfast, coming to me when I whistled for her, or waking L for school by hopping onto his bed and singing to him, has reassured her that she's safe with us. Whatever the reason, she's completely unbothered by me or the dogs, which worries me a little. Strangely, Pop is completely disinclined to chase her, so when Pop is hunting rats in the garden, the little one just hops a few feet away, turns to watch me and then hops straight back


Small piles of sandy soil have appeared in the lawn again this week. They belong to the next batch of mining bees. Sometimes you can see their little faces peering up at you when you peer down. A bee face front-on has the appearance of a frown, possibly because they are quite concentrated, but maybe just expressing annoyance at the way you've blocked out the sun.


The most exciting bit of news here in recent days has been the appearance in the garden of a Tawny Longhorn Beetle. To be honest, I recorded them here last year too. The difference this year is that I now know that they are very rare, listed in the red data book and recorded from only 10 of the 15,000 15km squares in Britain. 

Tawny Longhorn
I leapt about in Great Excitement when I realised, and (with no pause to consider my health) rushed straight into the pit of carbon boyoxide  (which is the study when school is out) to relate this thrilling fact to L. Once I'd located him in the curtain-drawn gloom, (aided by the faintest of threads of light desperately trying to get back out into fresh air but illuminating while it did so a stack of biscuit-crumb-covered plates, discarded lolly moulds and glasses with dubious spots of green on them, before which my soon-to-be-sixteen-year-old-son was sat, glued to the screen and busy wiping various made-up beings off the face of a made-up world, while keeping up a non-stop commentary to his friend who was, presumably, sat in identical conditions in his house a few miles away), I delivered my exciting news in a rush. He managed to tear his eyes from his current quest for the briefest of glances, unhooked one side of his headphones and emitted a sound that seemed to be "whaa?" although it was in teenage, which is a language that, despite having very close acquaintance with for at least the last four years, I have completely failed to master. 

M showed a bit more enthusiasm when he got home, asking to see the very flower that the beetle had arrived on. Looking at that written down, I wonder now whether he was taking the pee. Anyway, he dutifully followed me up to the garden and made all the right "how exciting for you, wife" type noises, even though I suspect even he struggles to comprehend my extreme excitement levels at the appearance of a 13mm long, beige-coloured insect for a few seconds on a small, orange-ball buddleia which is swamped by docks, nettles and grasses. 

I'll leave you with some pictures of the flowers in the garden, which are so beautiful this year that I frequently find myself outside staring at them without being quite sure how I got there.



Hope you're all well?

CT.


20 comments:

  1. All the better for reading this thank you CT. Great excitement here yesterday as I cycled through the woods and saw a pair of White Admirals and clouds of Silver Washed Fritillaries (have I spelt that correctly). I just stopped and looked and listened happily. I think I've said before that the Purple Emperor is often seen on the ancient wooded common here, but not by me yet. Isn't it a wonderful year for butterflies. We were on Ebernoe common near Petworth at the weekend and saw hundreds of Meadow Browns on the open grassland . At home we are watching the bats over the pond in the evening (the benefit of planting the woodland shaw 25 years ago finally coming home to roost) and of course I could not resist a spot or two of nightjar watching on these balmy evenings. I'm going to find or print out a insect field guide as I would love to be able to identify species. Thanks for all the lovely inspiration. Your garden is looking pretty gorgeous too.

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    1. Hi Sarah. Lovely to catch up with all your wonderful wildlife news. If you look at my previous post just before this one at the top I've recommended the insect guide I use. Otherwise the fsc do a great range of smaller guides on various creatures that fold out.

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  2. Oh teenage man caves...venture in at your peril. I know them well. Your husband and mine should get together. They both seem to say the right things about our latest sighting without knowing that they have even spoken. If you know what I mean. As I download my photos I will often get the ' oh will that be going in your lesser spotted beetle folder dear'!
    This gorgeous weather has me in my garden too staring endlessly at the latest activity or flower. Bliss. Fascinating post as always :). B x

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    1. I'm also familiar with the "lesser spotted something" remark. Either that or bring teased for taking pictures of grass! Doubtless they would get on well. Happy days in the garden, but still too hot for running :o( xx

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  3. Beautiful flowers indeed, nicely done. Your wife comment made me laugh. Glad someone is trying to be excited for you. I get a lot of eye-rolling here. Brilliant tawny longhorn beetle picture, is that your new buddleia that he's on? The round yellow one that you went to great lengths to find? If so, good shout, it is obviously very much appreciated. Fingers crossed for a purple emperor on your dog poo next. CJ xx

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    1. It is! How clever of you to remember. It's buddleia globosa which as I proved last year is almost impossible to find. If you'd like a cutting just shout. It's attracted lots of insects in its first summer of flowering. Considering it only has six balls it's done well (if you know what I mean!). Xx

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  4. Another lovely post and I to want to say thank you for the inspiration to get out there and look for insects, I had seen your post on the Woundwort Shieldbug which I had never seen, knowing were some woundwort was growing, I managed to fin my first sheildbugs. Large Skippers were out in good numbers too.
    What a great Tawny Longhorn Beetle.
    Amanda xx

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    1. Hooray! I'm so pleased - I know how keen you were to find some. Lovely little things aren't they? I haven't seen any large skips yet. Planning a trip to local emperor woods next week where silver washed Frits and white admirals also live. Can't wait! Xx

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  5. Love your photo's and you post as always is so very interesting.

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  6. That is wonderful picture of your Tawny Longhorn it is so well camouflaged. We too have a female blackbird who wanders around the garden without any concern for its safety. Sarah x

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  7. Such beautiful photographs. Your garden must be stunning in full view.
    We also have a very friendly blackbird which worries me a bit with our cat on the prowl. Thankfully the recent heat has made her a bit lethargic and we haven't had any 'gifts' this week. X

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    1. Blackbirds seem to be very amenable to close contact with people, don't they? Such lovely birds. x

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  8. Glorious, your garden is a real hive of industry. x

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    1. It's doing really well this year, I'm pleased x

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  9. CT - Wow! Mr Tawny Longhorn is amazing, he looks like a super hero in his cape.
    The garden looks beautiful and colourful and rather like a magazine piece.
    I'm getting a visual of M trying to be enthusiastic after a day in the heat and you hopping up and down explaining Mr T L in detail...making me smile.
    Happy summer in your wonderful garden. Enjoy it all and be proud that the little things make you so happy.
    Love as always xxxx

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    1. He is very patient with me :o) Yup, the garden is looking fab, lots of flowers and interesting nooks and crannies, a lovely place to spend time. I think it knows it is loved. You'll have to come and have a look over Christmas, although of course it will be sleeping then! Much love back 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