Wednesday, 19 July 2017

18th July - A Rub Dub, Just Relaxin' In The Tub

The heat returned on Monday, lots more sunshine, and afternoon temperatures up to just below 30 degrees.  Another feature of the day was the emergence of millions of flying ants all around the country.  Even weather radar was picking up the clouds as they emerged from the ground.  Helen and I decided to go out late afternoon for a walk, and as we set off from the house there were still plenty of ants about.  This had not gone unnoticed by a Green Woodpecker that came up from the grass, onto a small tree, and then flying away from us.  Not one of my best photographs but I had to find someway to mark flying ants day.

It was to be the usual route, along Gradwell and then into Old Down across the fields.  In the paddocks before crossing the field was a Song Thrush which appeared to still be feeding young as it foraged the grass along side the hedge.

In the woods as we came into an area of sunlight the Meadow Browns and the Gatekeepers were still around in good numbers, however new as a very smart Peacock on the bramble flowers.

Along the main path towards Swelling Hill the long grass here is attractive to the skippers, and I found an Essex Skipper resting on a dried grass stem, the first of the year

While there were plenty of Gatekeepers about and it is easy now to overlook them, this one sitting with wings open on the seed head of another grass.

Red Admirals have also been around in good numbers this year, they could be seen chasing other butterflies up into the canopy, but would also come to rest on the bramble leaves in the sunshine.

They have a very powerful flight, and as they pass you their white marking flash against the dark background of the trees.

As we walked along the path it is best to keep checking the bramble as butterflies continually fly up.  While watching the Gatekeepers fly away I noticed one deeper orange butterfly continuing to sit in the sun.  Slightly smaller, and with more markings it turned out to be another first for the year, the Small Copper.

Along with Small, Large and Green-veined Whites, in the short time we had walked through the wood we had seen eleven species, and this soon became twelve when I found a Large Skipper.

Just before the way out of the wood yet another Red Admiral basked in the sunshine.

There was very little else about as we walked home.

On Tuesday through out the day it was warm and humid, but as is the way in this country, the heat was to spark off thunderstorms.  Early evening they had not arrived in Four Marks, but the blue skies had been replaced by a blanket of grey cloud.  It was though still very warm and humid.

From inside the house, with all the windows open I could hear the contact calls of Long-tailed Tits, and as I came down stairs I could see a group of at least eight juvenile birds around the feeders.  Then they moved to the bird bath, and along with juvenile Great Tits, Blue Tits and a single Coal Tit, they started to approach the water.  It was clear they wanted to bathe, but a combination of wariness, and perhaps experience contributed to quiet an amusing situation.

By the time I had got my camera the Coal Tit had moved on, but the Long-tailed Tits and Blue Tits were still around.  The Blue Tits were a little more confident and adept at washing.

Showing the long-tailed Tits what they need to do.

It seemed the Long-tailed Tit knew it had to bend down and shake itself, what it didn't seem to understand was the need to do it in the water.

By the side of the bath they were settling on the perch, and it looked as if they were taking turns to use the diving board to jump into the water.

Three of them lining up to get yet more instruction on how to bathe.

The Blue Tit has that surprised look as if to say what was that!

Finally they realise that to bathe you have to get into the water.

Another joins in, and there are now four around the bath.

They don't stay long, and returned to the tree, while a Blue Tit returns and are joined by a juvenile Great Tit.

But another two return, under the watchful eye of the Blue Tit, and end up looking like a pair of drowned rats.

As well as the stills I did manage some video, but as always as a last thought so all the main action was over.  But at least you get some idea of how cautious and uncertain they were, and also you can see another trying to wash out of water.

While all this was going on the Robin sat looking at us in the tree, expecting us to put out the mealworms!

The rain finally came, but the tits all stayed in the trees going from feeder to the leaves.  The thunderstorms arrived with a vengeance during the night with plenty of lightning and loud thunder accompanied by some torrential rain.  This year the summer has been very good and the storm didn't seem to make you feel down. it was almost welcomed, and enjoyed.  That may not be the case if the good weather has gone, but somehow I don't think so.

Monday, 17 July 2017

16th July - Let It Never Be Said

A different week with one day of very heavy intense rain, but in all still warm and mostly dry.  Around the garden things are beginning to quieten down, the Blackbird seems to have finally finished breeding, three broods apparently being enough.  We only see him early in the morning, and he is definitely going into a full moult.  The Robins remain busy coming for the mealworms, and taking them away into the conifer hedge next door.

Every so often there will be the calls of Long-tailed Tits, and Helen did see young birds on the feeders.  The commonest calls belong to those of the Siskins, announcing their arrival, and annoyance if the feeders are not full up.  Another regular visitor is the the Bullfinch family, the males vibrant colours standing out in the dark of the trees.

At the bottom of the garden the Ragwort has grown, and this has attracted several Gatekeepers, while the lavender bushes seem alive as the bees continually forage the flower heads.

A few walks through Old Down has not produced anything of real interest, just the continued huge numbers of Meadow Browns, the numbers now being swelled by the equally numerous Gatekeepers.  Another butterfly doing well this year appears to be the Red Admiral, they can be seen flying loops around the trees, and chasing away other butterflies.

With it still being quiet I turned once again the the moth trap, the warm weather being ideal conditions and this week saw some more interesting specimens, not least this one.  It was interesting for the way that it sat.

This is Endotricha Flammealis, common name rose-flounced tabby, and is a species of snout moth. It likes to nectar on buddleia of which there is a lot around the garden, and is quite common around gardens in southern England.  However it is the resting position of this moth that I found fascinating.  The front part of the body is raised up on the forelegs, and the wings held at an angle, with the edges touching the resting surface, as you can just make out from this photograph, almost tiny dragon like!

Next was a moth I haven't seen before, a Yellow-tail.  So called because under the white of the wings, the abdomen is yellow.

The female has the yellow tail and is larger than the male.  She has yellow hairs at the base of her abdomen which is used to cover the newly laid eggs.  Fairly common in the UK, it flies in July and August and can be found in lots of different habitats.

A Scalloped Oak was next, although this managed to escape as I tried to get it out.  Fortunately it didn't go too far.  It can have a range of colours and markings, but consistently has the two black spots on the wings that help to identify it.

This next moth has turned up on several occasions recently but has always managed to get away and avoid the camera.  This time I was more careful to ensure it didn't escape.  This is the Ruby Tiger, and the pinkish red abdomen is quite striking.

Its name is more appropriate in southern England, as moving north the body colour becomes a lot greyer.  Yet another common moth, it can also be seen flying by day.  Here you can see why it was able to escape all those previous times.

There is a species of Elephant moth, that is called a Small Elephant moth, and every year I think I have caught one as the size of the Elephant moths can vary considerably.  This one was very small, and I was convinced it had to be a Small Elephant, but when I referred to the books the multi stripe markings on the thorax and single pink stripe on the abdomen were so very obviously belonging to the Elephant Moth.  Still they are great to see, and hard to imagine that these beauties are flying around in the dark while we are all asleep.

Finally there were two beautifully marked moths, first the Buff Arches, named for the wings that are a combination of smooth grey and white with orange-brown arches. They have a liking for Bramble which is about in abundance around the hedgerows and woods.

The other was a Nut-tree Tussock, which is on the wing from April to June and July to September in the south, it is double brooded.  The colour of the forewings can vary from grey as is found here to a washed brown.  The larvae feed on beech, oak, birch and acer.

So a quiet period at present, hopefully things will pick up later in the month, but we are well and truly in the middle of the the warm dog days of summer at the moment.