Wednesday, 24 July 2013

23rd July - When the Heat Starts Growing Horns

The heatwave is supposed to have broken, and all around us last night and today there have been quite heavy storms, but there has not been a drop of water over Four Marks.  I checked the radar before I left this evening, but everything was north of us, and it looked like it would continue dry.  There was some sunshine about so I set off wandering what an evening walk at Plain Farm might bring.

Where the grass has been left to grow there is plenty of knapweed, thistles and cow parsley, and it is always a good idea to check the white flowers of the parsley as they attract all manner of insects.  A splash of red caught my eye, and I liked the way this Seven-spot Ladybird was hanging from the petals.


Once again there was a lot of Meadow Browns and Ringlets flying around, not settling just fluttering over the flower heads and in between the grass stalks.  The thistle flowers were proving an attraction to the Bumble Bees, there were both Red-tailed, and White-tailed about.  This Red-tail was covered in pollen which looks to be very sticky on the thistle.


I walked back towards the quarry, and there were plenty of Marbled Whites flying too, these are one of my favourite butterflies, but this evening they would not settle for a photograph.  There were also one or two Commas flashing orange as they shot up from the path, and flew strongly across the tall grasses towards the trees.

I finally managed to find a Marbled White settled when I crossed from the quarry to the road leading to Plain Farm.  It was though some way off, so it is not the best of pictures.


I expected to see good numbers of swallows as I passed the cattle field, but there was only a couple of birds about.  Collared Doves were feeding around the barns, and Linnets and House Sparrows sang from the overhead wires, and of course there were Wood Pigeons everywhere.  I walked through the long grass, scattering more meadow Browns and Ringlets, but no skippers along the lane which was a surprise. 

After checking the field to the south, I ducked into the north field, and made my way around the outside of the field.  There were some pale blue or lilac flowers growing that were an attraction to the bumble bees.


Once I got home I have tried to identify the flower but without much luck, the closest I can get to is Salsify, but they seem redder in the guides.  If anyone knows what they are please let me know, there was a lot of them, but I have only ever seen them here.

I walk around the outside of the field, because the path through middle was not restored once the field was planted.  It is rapeseed oil here, and like a lot of the crop this year, it has not done very well.

As I came around the field towards the main path, I spotted a flower I did know, but haven't seen in the fields around here before, a Cornflower.  There are two types, this and the Perennial Cornflower.  The perennial has much thinner petals, and is a little deeper blue.


By now the sun had come out, and was quite warm, any threat of a storm had gone, but we are promised some more on Thursday.  I walked along the path checking the bramble and knapweed.  All I could find were the usual brown butterflies, and plenty of red-tailed and white-tailed Bumble Bees.

At the bottom of the path there were a few more Marbled Whites, but they kept going.  I was hopeful there would be some skipper in the field as I walked towards Charlwood, but as I fought through the bracken that had grown over the style, I was greeted by the sight of another field that had been mown for hay.

I walked up Charlwood, and when I reached Lye way, I noticed that the field there was only low grass, so I climbed the gate, and walked about the edge.  At last I was able to find some skippers.  Large at first, but there were also a few Small, that were very confiding, and interested in the thistle flowers.


Swallows were also flying around the field, and as a Chinook helicopter flew across with that thundering sound all the Wood Pigeons exploded from the trees in Dogford Wood.

I climbed back over the gate, and made my way back towards the car.  The bracken and bramble on the roadside was still in the sunshine, and once again there were several butterflies.  The vivid orange of the Comma always looks good against a lush green background, and this one was no exception as it sat on the frond of a Bracken.


By now it must have been cooling down, as I finally managed to find a settle Ringlet, enjoying the evening sunshine.


A relatively quiet walk this evening, but as I have so often said if you don't go out then you won't see anything.  No apologies for the number of butterfly pictures, I have to enjoy them while I can.  Not too long ago I was concerned there would be any butterflies, but as was predicted they have made a sterling comeback.

Post Script: Thanks (again) to Ian for identifying the mystery flower, it is Phacelia, probably Phacelia tanacetifolia, which was originally native to the Southwestern United States and northern Mexico, but it is now used in many places in agriculture as a cover crop, a bee plant, and attractant for other beneficial insects. It is planted alongside crop fields, where it is valued for its long, nectar-rich flowers which open in sequence, giving a long flowering period.  It is a good insectary plant, attracting pollinators such as honey bees.  This makes sense as it was planted alongside the Rapeseed, and was covered in lots of bees.

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