Monday, December 29, 2014

strange days - bumblebees in winter

It was the coldest night of the year, with a hard frost and a contemplative horse. Nevertheless, much to my surprise there were bumblebees about on the mahonia, and viburnum, both of which lent a sweet scent to the crisp cold air.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014


a queen wasp fast asleep in the wood pile (and saved from the flames)

and a motley collection of harlequin ladybirds

autumn colours

Once again it has been exceptionally mild this autumn. Mushrooms are out in abundance and they provide a few flashes of vivid colour in an otherwise black and brown world. It was genuinely amazing and pleasing therefore to see the brilliant flash of blue of a kingfisher flying swiftly through the bare trees deep in the woods at Inny foot. The rivers are quite swollen, fast flowing and turbid now and I wonder how kingfishers are seeing enough fish to survive on.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

a rare privilege

We occasionally see a flash of brown and yellow through the trees and hedges in the garden as a sparrowhawk swoops down on a sparrow or goldfinch but never before have I seen one sat so close to the house, posing for a photograph, and in the pouring rain.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

autumn colour

the artful poser


A souther hawker dragonfly. These dragonflies are very territorial, and will often hover around an intruder, providing a rare opportunity to photograph a dragonfly in flight. Meanwhile a male moorhen is tiptoe-ing across the lily pads. We have been cut off from the internet for the last 7 days and Spot is most unimpressed!

Monday, September 29, 2014

feersum beestie v2

Another caterpillar, this time of the elephant hawk moth, trying to find a safe place in the grass and leaves. When disturbed this enormous caterpillar rears its head and waves about in an attempt to look sinister. Its head is actually much smaller than it looks, and it retreats into the bulge on top of which are the two large simulated eyes.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

feersum beastie

This is the caterpillar of the pale tussock moth (see link for earlier post showing the moth). The colours are striking and serve to warn predators that they are distasteful to eat. At this time of the year they are about to spin strong double shelled cocoons and then hibernate over winter before emrging as adult moths in May and June. There is always something new to see!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

autumn is upon us

Autumn is here even though it is warm and sunny.  Early in the morning the mist lends a mysterious feel to the lane. Meanwhile stinkhorns are out. When they first emerge the head is covered in a glistening grey green slimy skin. It has a very pungent smell which attracts flies. This one was covered in blue flies, many of which flew away at the approach of the camera lens, but enough remained to illustrate how effective this method of spore dispersal is.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


Something that caught our eye this morning was seed heads of grass bent over by silk. As can be seen in the bottom picture the cast-off shell of a spider is attached to the web on the outside, and inside the silk cocoon one can see the tips of the legs of the previous owner (I guess) in its new skin. I am not sure whether this is for protection from predators while the exoskeleton hardens or some sort of devious spider trap.

it's just not cricket

the top picture is of water crickets (Velia caprai, see link) bombing around. They can travel faster by spitting on the surface of the water. They also make ripples that are relatively huge given their diminutive size. Below a water cricket has been caught by a spider that appears to be able to walk on water.

done buzzin

This cold damp bumblebee was found this morning hanging by one foot from a scabious seed head, about to fall stuporose into the meadow grass below and be consumed by the many small predators there-in. Foraging bumblebees often run out of fuel like this especially first thing on colder mornings. In its dopey state it was easy enough to move the bee to a fresh flower head, where it quickly started feeding and refuelling to start another day's work.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

something lurking in the woodshed

An unusual sight locally at the best of times, a humming bird moth taking an interest in our woodshed, and a photograph (1/3200 at f8) taken in 2012 that shows their amazing ability to hover while feeding on nectar.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

pony nekking

Ponies on Bodmin Moor this (lovely) morning. The stack of Kit Hill can just be made out to the left on the far horizon. The bracken is turning, and the leaves are falling, Autumn is upon us already.

the fetch

the difference between working for a living, and living to play

Saturday, September 06, 2014

crunchie bar

continuing the close up season, this caterpillar was found munching on the plastic netting protecting our rosemary shrubs from the hordes of ravenous rabbits. I haven't been able to identify to which species it belongs.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Lists of Gold

The little stream that rises at the duckpond in Venterdon runs the length of the valley below Old Mill where it takes a meandering course before gathering pace and running through Luckett into the Tamar. Today golden ringed dragonflies were patrolling up and down the path that runs on the northern side of the stream. It was bathed in warm sunshine. Himalayan balsam (that has spread like mad in this area) lines either side of the path, and bird's foot trefoil and eyebright grow on its floor. This creates a natural space for jousting. The males fly up and down, and when they meet engage in high speed agile aerial combat. In WW2 fights between fighter planes were always referred to as dog fights; dragonfly fights would have been more accurate. After a fight the combatants land to take a breather and allow some close up photography. At the same time a couple of male common blue butterflies were also engaged in territorial warfare. In previous years this path was lined by more familiar plants like valerian and hemp agrimony. I am not sure how much of a problem Himalayan balsam is, but it would be a mighty undertaking now to get rid of it.

The close up shows the amazing pixellation of the dragonfly's compound eyes.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

the admiral's tongue

There are dozens of our big late summer butterflies around, gathering on the butterfly bush, up to 6 or 7 at a time on one flower head. And there was one holly blue in the garden today.

harriet on harriet

and instructions for drawing a dog

Thursday, August 21, 2014

a long way to go

The second broods of martins have started leaving their nests. This little chap was found just outside our front door, he/she could flutter but not fly. There was no obvious injury and he would soon come to grief on the ground, so he was put back in one of the nests (the right one I hope) where he is now to be seen perched on the edge chirruping away.

Notice the little feathers on the legs, a characteristic feature of martins.

Post script 23/08/2014

After another two days in the nest this martin appears to have fledged. Having held this scrap of life in my hand for a few brief moments, I can only marvel that it can make it all the way to somewhere in Africa (no one knows quite where, see this link for more information). 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Turning grey and grizzled, waiting for something to happen, Spot is a senior citizen now.

and spot the cow

Friday, August 15, 2014


I thought this might be a snout moth but it may well be a member of the crambinae family and without a common name. As noted before moths are difficult! How about agriphila trisella (see this link to UK moths)? Or on further research a grass moth crambus pascuella.

Lack of activity recently has been caused by stifle injury to Spot's secretary. On the mend to some degree. He might get out.