Once again I have been away this week, but it seems that there has not been much changing. The weather has been unsettled, and all the media are saying summer is at least three weeks late. However it always seems to be like this in June now.
The Blackbird in the garden seems to have abandoned the nest it built, but on Friday afternoon I was amazed to see first one young Blue Tit come to the nest box outside the office window, and then it was joined by two others, one of which I think was a very tatty adult, as the other two begged for food. Whether these were the birds from the box, I can't be sure, but it does make me feel they did fledge.
After the wet cold weekend we had last week, we were all looking forward to better weather. Saturday morning started dry, with some sun, so we decided to set off for a good walk. The Starlings next door are busy on their second brood, and are very noisy.
The House Martins continue to re-build the nest at the front of the house, but it does look very untidy, I hope they intend to tidy it up.
We walked up Reads Field, and then along the footpath, a Jackdaw was busy attacking the moss on one of the roofs, but stopped to pose nicely. I just love their pale blue eyes, they stand out against the soft grey of their necks.
We headed down the path to Alton Lane, there was a family party of Long-tailed Tits calling from the surrounding trees. This adult looked exhausted, as it perched in front of us.
The fence that is being built in the main field to enclose the footpath is now well under construction. We stopped to look into the paddock alongside the field which every year is full of Buttercups. This year though there were other flowers present
Orchids. The buttercups are poisonous to the horses, and in years gone by they would graze here, and would not eat the buttercups. This year there have not been any horses, and it seems the orchids have benefited. I went and had a close look. I think they are spotted orchids, but there are many variations and they could be both heath and marsh orchids, it is very difficult to distinguish, and the petal patterns vary considerably.
It was lovely to see so many, and after the decimation of the large field, and the restrictions on walking over the field it was nice to be able to get close to these lovely flowers.
We walked on past the garden centre, and through the two fields. In the grass I saw a couple of Meadow Brown Butterflies, the first of the year but I couldn't get close to them. A little further on there was a treat in the horse paddock, three Shetland pony foals, they were quite playful, and would run around together skipping and kicking their feet.
We crossed Willis Lane and walked up the path towards Hawthorn Lane. In the sunny area of nettles there was at last quite a few insects about. These tiny moths, about a centimetre across were everywhere. I think they are a type of Pug.
There were also a couple of Meadow Brown butterflies and one posed very nicely on the flower of a Green Alkanet, which despite the name has lovely blue flowers.
Another insect attracted to the flowers was this fly, it is Empis digramma, as well as taking nectar they also like to hunt smaller flies in thick vegetation.
There were plenty of bees about too, this is (again I think) an Early Bumble Bee. Its lovely yellow body contrasting with the blue flowers.
In amongst the nettles were spikes of red flowers. They were also very attractive to the bees. This is Hedge Woundwort. The leaves are very similar to the surrounding nettles. They can grow to just under a metre, and are found in woodland and hedgerows.
We walked up Hawthorn Lane, and found the first Speckled Wood of the day. It settled high up in a tree, and I was able to picture it from below, which provided a unique aspect.
A little further along a Chiffchaff was singing, but it appeared to be having a little bit of difficulty with the order of the "chiff" and "chaff". It finally came out into the open, but still continued to struggle with its song.
We turned off and walked past the Maryanne plantation and headed for Newtown Farm. A Garden Warbler sang from the tall Ash trees alongside the road. We did manage to see it eventually, but it did not stay in the open long enough to photograph.
In the grass land alongside the field, we found the first Large Skipper of the year, things were beginning to look up for the butterflies today.
We walked around the farm, and along the hedgerow. Where the sun was on the flowers and leaves of the plants there were at last lots of insects, Bumble and Carder Bees, and plenty of hover and true flies.
We walked down the hill, and had a very brief glimpse of a Roe Deer by the side of the field. At the bottom of the hill we crossed the road and carried on along the Kitwood Bridleway. It was even more sheltered here, and the insects were everywhere. I saw this little weevil, Apoderus coryli walking over the nettle leaf. They are apparently found in Hazel trees of which there were a lot nearby. I love the way it appears to be goose stepping a funny walk across the leaf!
Other insects included this moth hidden away amongst the leaves. This is a Silver-ground Carpet. It is a little bit of a fuzzy picture but I was lucky to get the shot because seconds later it was catapulted off the leaf and away!.
The bridleway is always difficult to walk because of the ruts and muddy puddles, but the south facing aspect makes it a good place for butterflies and other insects, and we saw more Meadow Browns and Speckled Woods, and at least another two Large Skippers. The best find though was this beautiful Cinnabar, a day flying moth that can be confused with the Burnets. The Cinnabar though has only two spots on the back wings, and is a lovely pink.
We finally came off the bridleway, and walked up Lye Way, and then off in the direction of the Pond. When we reached the pond we were amazed to find it covered with a swarm of midges. In places they looked like smoke as they moved across the top of the water.
They were a big attraction to others though, and we watched a female Emperor Dragonfly fly around the pond, darting up and down, and left and right as she caught and ate the flies.
Chiffchaffs sang from the trees around the pond, and on the banks there were Azure Damselflies copulating, and in amongst hem the occasional Large Red Damselfly.
We left the pond and walked to Old Down Wood. The sunny glades had a few butterflies, but nothing different to what we had seen all day. Chiffchaffs were singing as were Wren and of course the Robins. We walked through the middle, and then back along Brislands. The sun was now out, and the re was plenty of blue sky. Looking back down Brislands once again the scene looked different.
The forecast for the week looks encouraging, dry with sunny spells and more like the temperatures we should expect. Lets hope they are right and summer is finally here. I must admit with what we have seen today, it finally feels that way.