Monday, 22 June 2015

19th June - None Would Know What Bells They Can Be

Another strange weather week, from last Sunday it has been in different and nowhere near  the temperatures that would be expected for June.  It has though been relatively dry, and in the  garden where the flowers are sheltered and get sun they are beginning to grow.  The moth trap continues to be a frustration, nowhere near the numbers that I saw this time last year, but one or two of interest are beginning to turn up.  The first Peppered Moth of the year, beautifully camouflaged when sitting on the mortar in the brick wall.


A large Yellow Under-wing, once again the first of many likely this year.


And a moth that turns up in the trap. but has always managed to evade any attempt to photograph it as it flys off almost immediately, the Common Plume.

They are probably the most distinctive of the 'Plume' moths, and one of the largest. Not visible here as it is at rest but the wings are deeply divided into several 'fingers', each of which is finely feathered, or plumed.  This is the usual resting posture with the wings extended laterally and narrowly rolled up. Often they resemble a piece of dried grass, and may pass unnoticed by potential predators even when resting in exposed situations in daylight. 


Back from Germany on Thursday, on Friday I took the chance to pop into Old Down Wood.  I had heard that the Foxgloves were out in bloom and that they were putting on quite a spectacular show as I had predicted.   It was a nice sunny morning so I drove up to the pond, and after a quick look around the water headed off into the wood.

Walking along the main path towards the cross roads there were several butterflies about.  The first one I saw was a first for the year, a Meadow Brown.

The Meadow Brown is one of our commonest and most widespread butterflies, and will be a familiar sight throughout the summer months. 


Next was the Speckled Wood as usual around the shaded Bramble bushes.


And then finally a female Brimstone.  These must be coming to thee end of their first flying period and I think this one was looking for places to ovate.


As I walked down the main path there were pink foxglove spikes on either side. The bells were now in bloom and you could both see and hear the bees as they flew from bell to bell.


They looked quite spectacular in both the open sunshine and the dappled shade.


Common Foxglove is a native woodland plant, found throughout the UK.  The scientific name is Digitalis purpurea. Digitalis comes from the Latin for finger (digitus), which refers to the shape of the flowers and purpurea refers to the colour of the flowers, which are purple or deep pink.

Common Foxglove has many other names, including Fairy Bells, Fairy’s Petticoat, Dragon’s Mouth, Fox Finger, Dead Man’s Thimbles and Lady’s Gloves.


Some liken them to towering spires full of bells as they wave in the wind.


One of the alternative names - Dead Man’s Thimbles - gives a clue to the fact that the flowers, leaves, roots and seeds of the foxglove are all highly poisonous due to their effect on the heart. However, they have long been used in folk medicine, and in the 18th century a doctor called William Withering investigated their effects.  Withering’s work led to the eventual isolation and purification of digitoxin and digoxin, used in modern medicine as a treatment for heart conditions.



Although Foxgloves can be deadly for humans and other animals, they are a great nectar source for bees and also food for some moth caterpillars. Common Foxglove is the only foodplant for the Foxglove Pug moth, which flies in May and June. The caterpillars feed inside the flower, especially on the stamens, from late June to mid-August. They seal up the mouth of the flower, so are harder to spot.


The problem sometimes with photography is that the image you capture never really justifies the actual experience of being there and today was one of those days.  If you get the chance to witness this display then please do so, it is well worth it.

I walked around to the edge of the wood and looked across to the Kestrels.  Three chicks are now visible in the box.


Further on the field where last week the Roe Deer had been hiding has now been cut for hay, there was no sign whatsoever of the Roe Deer, hopefully they were able to safely make it over the fence into the wood.


I walked back to the car at the pond.  A single dragonfly was circling the lily pads but evaded any chance of identification.  There were also several Azure Damselflies around the Iris.

June is a quiet time, but there is always something around that can bring a smile to the face

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