Thanks for all your kind messages of commiseration yesterday. M ran the race and returned home saying it had been absolutely boiling. He still managed to come in the top ten out of 500 :o). In hindsight it was probably a good thing I had to miss it. The thermometer has read 29 degrees here- it's even hot indoors. I am starting to feel better so hope to be back running this week and to have bagged my first competitive HM before too long.
In its place, I spent the day prowling round the garden, camera in hand, recording what I could find. None of the following are rare species in the UK, so if you live here and want to learn more about our wildlife the best way to do it is to go and sit near some flowers or a patch of vegetation with a camera and record what you see. Some of these are bound to be in your gardens. My favourite guide book is 'A comprehensive guide to the insects of Britain and Ireland' by Paul Brock - it has everything in it you could possibly want.
Here are today's offerings...
1. White plume moth in the greenhouse. Plume moths are widespread and usually look like small crosses made of brown sticks. The white plume is well-named!
2. Ladybird larvae, this is a Harlequin, looking for somewhere to pupate into the more recognisable adult ladybird. Check under nettle leaves and also among potato plants and clematis for them. The other species of ladybird look similar in the larval state, only smaller and with a variety of colour markings. They all look like miniature monsters however!
3. Hummingbird Hawkmoths have amazing memories, which means once they've clocked a favourite plant they'll be back. Ours has been visiting the valerian and nepeta most days since I first saw him last week.
4. This one took some investigating. It's a plant or capsid bug, similar to Miris striatus. There are lots of them in the long grass around the pond today. Behaviour-wise they are busy souls, lots of moving about and flitting between grass stems.
5. Another one that took me a while to find. This is Rhopalus subrufus, a scentless plant bug. They are known for their curiously shaped antennae, and they eat fruit and seeds. This one is associated with St John's-worts, although here they were mating on nepeta. They look a little like an elongated shield bug and were glowing copper in the sun.
6. Small magpie moth. There are loads of these little moths at the top of the garden, where they like to hide under leaves of potato, delphinium and nettle. Their larvae feed on common nettle and the adult moths are easily disturbed from under leaves from May right through to September.
7. It is something of a rarity for me to see a Small Tortoiseshell these days. These once ubiquitous butterflies have suffered severe population declines in recent years. They pepper the memories of my childhood so I was thrilled not only to have one in the garden, but to watch her laying eggs beneath a ragged old nettle leaf. If you enlarge the photo you'll see she is actually laying an egg.
8. And here are the eggs, the most beautiful, fresh, lime and emerald colours, perfectly round circles, neatly laid in two batches. I will be watching for the caterpillars.
9. A lot of people mistake hoverflies for wasps and bees. These harmless creatures have no sting and get their name from their flight behaviour- wasps and bees don't hover. They also have big eyes, so once you know what to look for it's hard to mistake them for anything else. There are hundreds of species of hoverfly. This one is Syrphus ribesii, a common and widespread hoverfly.
10. And here is one of my favourite insects: he's a wool carder bee, and he is fiercely territorial, so much so that I've been watching him chasing far bigger bees (including bumbles) off the flowers that he wanted. He does behave a little like a hoverfly and so this is one species of bee you might mistake, but his shape and markings are unique so once you get those you won't confuse him again.
The second photo shows the diagnostic series of yellow dots down the side of his body. This is typical of wool carder bees, who are named for their habit of stripping soft down off vegetation. You'll see them visiting flowers from May to September.
It's amazing what you can find in a garden if you take the time to look. Sometimes all it takes it patience, and the willingness to sit in a quiet corner for ten minutes, allow your eyes to relax into Wild Time and you'll find they pick out the small things that most of the time, you just don't notice.
Yesterday, movement that was different caught my eye in the goat willow beside the lake as the dusk was coming down. It was a baby Green Woodpecker, something I've never seen before. I sometimes feel once you've seen something once you become connected to it, because I saw him again this morning, on the owl tree, sitting quietly as if uncertain what to do next. There are also two baby GSWs who come into the garden. I had thought it was only one but they were there together yesterday. It's been a good spring for woodpeckers.
Hope you've all had a nice, peaceful, happy weekend,