Wednesday, 23 July 2014

22nd July - Time To Sit Back and Unwind

It has been hot, very hot for the last few days, and the best time to move about is late afternoon early evening, that is of course if it is not possible to get out in the early morning.  Early mornings would be good if there was open water and mud around here, but there isn't, and as a result the birds are not to be found.  In the garden certain calls come from deep within the trees, and you will get fleeting glimpses of tits dashing to and fro the feeders, hoping not to be seen while they moult and repair their tatty feathers, wrecked by the endless feeding of their young.

On the subject of feeding young, there are two birds that remain busy in that department, the House Martins continue to feed what must be quite sizeable broods now, they call as they come to the nest probably in the hope the young will fledge, but it must now be any day.  This is when the risk of the nest falling becomes a concern, the last two years we have come home to find the remains of the nest on the drive.

The other bird is the Blackbird.  As I walked up Reads Field I saw both males and females foraging under the dry leaves, and flying around with bills full of worms and insects.  They continue to feed what must be either the third or fourth brood this year.

The group of "teenage" Starlings continue to gather around the area, looking for trouble.

The buddleia are now in full flower, and as a result are proving a magnetic attraction to the bees and butterflies.  As I walked up the lane I noticed a Peacock on one frond.  Although a common butterfly  I love the way the wings look like a watercolour wash.

Another common butterfly was nectaring on the buddleia flowers, the Small Tortoiseshell.  Again seen from another angle, the transparency of the wings showing the orange colouring.

The night before I noticed that the field between Blackberry Lane and Alton Lane had not been cut for hay.  Over the last two years the field has been cut early, destroying any opportunity for the flowers to develop and attract the butterflies.  Last year the development site at Blackberry provided the habitat, but that has now been decimated by the construction work, so I approached the field optimistically, hoping that it was going to deliver.

A few paces into the field, and it did deliver a Common Blue out in the open on the knapweed.  I looked hard at this hoping to be able to claim Chalk-hill Blue, but I couldn't make the orange triangles go away on the hind wing

A little further and I came across Marbled Whites.  Beautiful butterflies they are actually not a "white" but are related to the "browns".  The gorgeous markings on the wings looked extra special in the evening sunlight.

I haven't had much luck photographing them this year, and they have had a very good flying season off the back of the hot weather this time last year.  I took the opportunity to get some more shots.

There is every indication that next year should be as good if not better as a result of the warm weather.

In amongst the grasses you could see little blurs of orange flying around like jet fighters, engaging in dog fights with butterflies twice there size, and in most cases chasing them off.  The Skippers were about.  This one is an Essex Skipper, you can see the black clubs on the end of the antennae.

A different flight style attracted my attention, a blur of red, and a more direct approach around the flowers.  As it settled the red turned to almost black, and red spots indicated a Six-spot Burnett moth

I made my way gently through the long grass and flowers disturbing many Meadow Browns.  I saw a group of Ragweed, always an attraction to insects, and as I approached I noticed a small orange butterfly.  Knowing instantly what it was I raised the camera but it was off.  A Small Copper.  I walked around to see if I could find it, but was unsuccessful so then decided to return to the same bit of Ragweed, and there it was nectaring on the flowers.

A gorgeous little butterfly, like the Marbled White it's colour does not identify the family, it is in fact a member of the "Blues".

The underneath of the wings shows a buff orange wash with brown spots.

I was now looking out for a Small Skipper, and found one nectaring on a clover head.  The proboscis would probe into the flower, then the butterfly would pull it out  by leaning back, just like a small child finishing off a drink with a straw.  A Small Skipper because of the brown clubs on the antennae.

I finally managed to pull myself away from the field, and made my way across Alton Lane, and down past the garden centre.  The field immediately after the garden centre was full of more Meadow Browns, and as I made my way to the next field I disturbed a Speckled Wood.  It was as if the butterflies were everywhere.  It was hot and quite sultry, and I couldn't help reflect on the difference from six months ago, when we never thought it would stop raining and a lot of people were flooded.  In the last two years we have experience a topsy turvy weather pattern.  In 2012 a dry winter and warm and dry spring followed by endless rain and flood s during the summer, then for this year a very wet winter followed by a hot and dry summer.  One has to wonder what this winter will bring.

I turned to walk the footpath alongside the Shetland Pony paddocks, as I did I was joined by the ponies, no doubt in the hope of food.  A Red Admiral settled on the bracken, and there was the chance for another different framing fo a common butterfly.

As I walked down the hill, not only was I accompanied by the ponies, I also was followed by quite a few Gatekeeper butterflies.  One finally stopped long enough for me to photograph it with wings open.

Butterflies are great but birds will always be my first love, and as I have said the birds around Four Marks in July become very sparse to see let alone photograph, so I was pleased to come across a party of young swallows feeding over the paddocks, and resting on the fence wires.

I crossed the road, and made my way up through Homestead Farm, more butterflies in the long grass, mainly Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers, but I found one Ringlet and it did settle for me.

While the grass on the footpath had been cut, the fields alongside the path had been left to grow.  The grass was long and turned to seed, but there were patches of flowers, mostly Knapweed, and Daisies, there were also a few Cornflowers and Poppies.

On the flowers were more butterflies, mostly Meadow Browns again, but there were a couple of Gatekeepers, and two Common Blues.  The Gatekeepers kept there wings closed, and you can see the detail on the under-wing.

The Blues too refused to show the open wings, but they look so beautiful with closed wings I couldn't get annoyed.  I love the sunlight catching the hairs on the hind-wing, gorgeous.

And the bokum of the surrounding leaves and flowers in this one

From here I walked across the road, and into the small paddock.  This has been left to wild flowers and looks superb.  A sign that the owner knows what he is doing is the cut strips through the meadow for the footpath, and around the outside.  The flowers of course attracted the butterflies, and a new one for the walk was the Comma, sitting in the sun on the hazel leaves.

As everywhere Meadow Browns were all over the trefoil and clover, but there were also a few Marbled Whites, and these behaved more in line with those I have seen earlier in the year.  That said there is something about a blurred picture of a butterfly.  Considering the camera speed was about 400th Second, the wings of a butterfly must move extremely fast to blur the picture.

It has been wonderful to see the fields and paddocks full of flowers and untouched by the mowers.  The number of butterflies this evening was a joy to see, and I reflected on this as I walked through the barley field towards Old Down.  However as I got closer that happy mood was dampened somewhat by a sign that greeted me by the style.

I am not sure what is going to happen now, I just hope it isn't in the same manner as last winter, and that this time more respect is paid to the paths and trees.  In many areas new trees have been planted, so I hope this is about the denser conifers, but then that is where the Buzzard nested this year.

I walked through the wood looking out for butterflies, but by now the sun was cooler, and the woods very sheltered.  I did though find this Inchneumon, I think it is the species Ophion Luteus.  These insects are all parasitoids, and most of the species will attack caterpillars of butterflies and moths, typically laying eggs in the caterpillar and the Ichneumon larvae then lives off the caterpillar.  I found it where I have seen the White Admirals.

I walked towards Gradwell, and in the open patches the sun was getting through, and there were at least a dozen Peacocks.  There has been a significant influx of both Peacock and Red Admiral along the south cost this summer, and this was a large number in one place, but that maybe because of the late sunshine.

The path out to Gradwell goes along side the barley field again, and there were plenty of skippers about.  This one, an Essex flew out into the field and settled on the almost ripe barley.

I walked back home along Brislands, and then up Lymington Rise.  As I came past the lawns I noticed movement on the grass.  The Juvenile Green Woodpecker, but this time all on its own.

It had found a patch of ants, so obviously had learnt well from its parents.  There is a certain prehistoric look about these birds, but great to find them out in the open, and approachable, even if sometimes they look quite scary.

Good to get out and about despite the lack of birds, the signs are there though, Swallows gathering is always a good sign.  The weather looks good to last to the weekend and beyond which is good for the butterflies and moths, and who knows, a Hobby?

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