Wednesday, June 30, 2010

life at the sharp end

this wasp has caught a small moth, and is presumably either going to eat it or feed it to the larvae in the nest. This is something I have read about but never actually seen in action. It caught my eye because I saw it struggling to fly off with its booty.

Monday, June 28, 2010

spot goes fishing

Spot was fascinated by the streaks of marble in the bed of the Inny and after trying to paw them decided to try and fish them out. They are very obvious now because the river is very low, and the sun was very bright. He did not catch the brown trout below, which itself seems to have forgotten about camouflage only working against the right background.


Yet again we saw very few butteflies, well we saw lots of meadow browns and ringlets (see photo) but almost nothing else despite the warm sun and lack of wind. Where are they all?

heath bedstraw and stitchwort

the meadows by the Inny are covered, unusually, in white flowers mainly clumps of heath bedstraw and lesser stitchwort, a very delicate version of the larger greater stitchwort. The meadow had a lovely smell of honey and lemons, although my main reference book states that heath bedstraw has a sickly smell. Not true! It is amazing how these meadows change year on year and how different species flourish or struggle. A few years ago the same meadow at this time was a blaze of yellow due to bird's foot trefoil, and last year it was full of ragged robin. It is gradually becoming covered in bramble and reeds.
. !

Sunday, June 27, 2010

five spot burnet

although it looks like this moth has 6 spots, the forewings have 5 spots and the red hind wings give the impression of a sixth spot (Spot has only one spot). There is a very similar moth called the narrow bordered five spot burnet but only experts can tell them apart, and of course there is the six spot burnet. The butterfly orchids are out much later this year, and there seems to be a general paucity of butterflies. Below is a picture of a mixture of greater and lesser butterfly orchids in Greenscombe meadows.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

even more things we haven't seen locally 6

these little chaps are know as gendarme beetles (Pyrrhocoris apterus, or fire bugs), either because of their colour, or more likely in my view because they all hang around together idling in the sun. They were everywhere, and it was not at all clear what they were doing but the reference on Wiki (link) suggests that they eat lime seeds, and these colonies were close to two enormous lime trees. They are obviously very sociable.

even more things we haven't seen locally 5

A meadow fritillary, and a (?) Glanville fritillary (bottom photo). It turns out (according to my marvellous new butterfly reference book Collins Butterfly guide by Tolman and Lewington) that there are 46 species/sub species of fritillary butterflies in Europe, and they are very often hard to identify. So it could be a knapweed fritillary or a lesser spotted fritillary or ... but after a lot of counting of spots and examination of S sections we have made a decision!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

a few things we have seen locally 1

Spot doesn't usually spend much time in his garden, but this year the peonies have relished the unusual warmth and this is his all time favourite.

And even more exciting is this insignificant looking little flower. It is the first time our english walnut has flowered since it was planted on Good Friday, 1999. Reliable sources report that walnuts do not mature for 10 years or so. They self pollinate, so maybe we will be eating our own walnuts at the end of the year...just like France.

a few things we haven't seen locally 4

and this is my favourite picture, a humming bird moth (aka macroglossum stellatarum, and one can see why ) drinking nectar from red valerian. These moths do sometimes make it across the channel, sometimes in large numbers but I have never seen one locally. Time to start planting some red valerian.

a few things we haven't seen locally 3

and a bee hawk moth on a clary (wild or meadow) of some sort

The flower appears to have closed around a visiting hover fly in the bottom picture, I guess to improve pollination.

Monday, June 21, 2010

a few things we haven't seen locally 2

and a bee orchid (ophrys apifera)

a few things we haven't seen locally 1

we are back from our holidays in the Charente region of France. As always the French country side was bursting with rare and wonderful sights. This is a lizard orchid, (himantoglossum hircinum), so named because the flowers are said (fancifully some would say) to resemble a small lizard with a long tail (the very long lower spur of their four lobed lower lip) although the close up of the flower does bear a passing resemblance to an escaping skink. And they smell like old goats, which is not dissimilar to Spot himself on a good day.


Friday, June 04, 2010


Spot is going on his hols for a bit, we'll be blogging again when he gets back. Have fun.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

this year's first comma, along, all of a sudden, with lots of other species. It must be the warm weather.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

working for a living

like a scene from the Auvergne, and just to prove we are very rural, a picture of one of my cousins (aka wolf according to Babe) driving newly shorn ewes and their unshorn lambs via Anvil Close to pastures new.

dragonflies and robins

the top two pictures are close ups of the a female dragonfly (broad bodied libellula) which is quite common around here but always impressive when you see one. The bottom picture is of some ragged robin and visitor. Usually there is a lot of ragged robin in the marshy meadows by the Inny, but this year it is very sparse.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

more blue than green

the startling blue flowers of green alkanet, with the white eye in the centre, surrounded by the paler blue of field and germander speedwell.

more missed opportunities

the bright yellow flower of cow-wheat, with its peculiar collar of hairs like a fur stole, and favoured food of the heath fritillary (none seen yet this year) and below the pretty flower of bastard balm, favourite food of bees.