204/365 The summer Holly blues


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The Holly blue is one of several British butterflies that goes through more than one life cycle per year (you can read more about them here), and the second generation of these stunning little butterflies is now on the wing in my local reserves and wild places.

190723 summer holly blue (1)190723 summer holly blue (4)

I saw my first of the summer brood on 14 July at Grangemoor Park, and this perfect little female was feeding on bramble flowers when I visited Lavernock Nature Reserve on Saturday, 20 July. Look out for them on ivy bushes, as that’s where the second generation females lay their eggs.

190723 summer holly blue (2)190723 summer holly blue (3)

203/365 Juvenile Green woodpeckers


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Two visits in a row I’ve seen this juvenile Green woodpecker and its parent in the same area at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park. (You can tell it’s a juvenile by the dark streaking on its face and underparts.)

190722 green woodpecker (1)

it was checking out a Nuthatch further up the tree

It’s a small fenced off area where not too many people venture but that makes it all the more attractive to me. The lack of frequent foot traffic means it’s a good place to observe birds and butterflies, and I guess the adult woodpecker has also realised it’s a safer place for its offspring as the juvenile begins to make its own way in the world.

190722 green woodpecker (3)

the adult Green woodpecker

This is not the only juvenile Green woodpecker in the park at the moment. After seeing these two the other day, I also heard a lot of yaffling in another location and, as I approached, saw four Green woodpeckers fly up from the ground into the neighbouring trees. Whether that was two adults and two juveniles, or one adult and three juveniles, I’ve yet to discover.

190722 green woodpecker (2)

202/365 Sexing Gatekeepers


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The orange-and-brown Gatekeepers have been brightening my local wanderings for a couple of weeks now, eclipsing the now-fading Meadow browns and Ringlets with their newly emerged vibrancy, but I’m struggling to tell which are the males and which the females.

190721 gatekeeper male

It’s easy when they sit with their wings open, as the males have  dark streaks of colour through the centre of their upper wings. So, that’s a male posing perfectly in the photograph above and a female being not quite as co-operative in the image below.

190721 gatekeeper female

For some reason though – and I have spent several hours lately observing them – I don’t see females sitting open-winged very often. As butterfly observers in other parts of south Wales tell me they frequently see females perched open-winged in their areas, I’m wondering why there’s a difference locally. Is there an imbalance in the local population, with many more males than females? Are the males more aggressive here, so the females prefer not to advertise their presence? I don’t know the answers so if someone does, I’d love to know.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to spot which are male and female when their wings are closed. The females should be lighter in colour, I believe, but lightness and darkness are so subjective and very changeable, depending on the prevailing weather conditions and the habitat. Females are also a little larger but, again, it’s difficult to make that comparison unless you see the two sexes sitting side by side. Take the three butterflies above – I know the one of the left is a female as I saw her upper wings, and I would guess that the individual on the right is a male as it does look quite dark, but the one in the middle?

190721 gatekeeper female very faded

I’ll keep trying to improve my observation skills but, in a couple of weeks, the Gatekeepers will be looking as faded as the Meadow browns and Ringlets are now – like the female above, photographed in mid August – and then my queries will have to wait until the cycle begins again next year.

200/365 A pack of juveniles


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A pack of juveniles they may be but I saw no delinquents here.

190719 long-tailed tit (1)190719 long-tailed tit (2)

These are the cute little bundles of fluff known officially as Long-tailed tits, and yesterday, at Cosmeston, I followed a flock of perhaps 40 of these, with an assortment of Great and Blue tits and Chiffchaffs, all young birds, as they were feeding.

190719 long-tailed tit (3)190719 long-tailed tit (4)

Following a shrubby fence line, they pecked about amongst the low trees and bushes, and also ventured out into the field of wildflowers, perching precariously on the stems of tall umbellifers while surveying the surrounding plants for small insects and caterpillars.

190719 long-tailed tit (5)190719 long-tailed tit (6)

It was a great delight to watch them and, being young, they were not as wary of my presence as adults might be, so I managed to get some reasonable photos.

190719 long-tailed tit (7)190719 long-tailed tit (8)

199/365 Short and prickly


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During today’s walk around Cosmeston I spotted a plant I’ve not seen before – or, at least, I’ve not consciously noticed before. It’s so easy to just walk over the things growing under your feet – although, in this case, if you were walking barefoot you couldn’t help but notice it!

190718 dwarf thistle (1)

It’s the Dwarf thistle (Cirsium acaule), and it’s easily identifiable as its single flower almost completely lacks a stem – the gorgeous purple flower sits right on top of a rosette of wavy and spiny edged leaves.

This thistle prefers to grow in low grasslands, particularly on calcareous soils, so it does tend to be quite localised but can be found in England as far north as Yorkshire and in south Wales.

190718 dwarf thistle (3)

198/365 Little and larger


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It’s time to check your local patch of Ragwort for these little critters, the caterpillars of the Cinnabar moth.


As adult moths, they’re bright red and black but as caterpillars they’re a striking combination of orange-and-black stripes, the patterns more visible the more they munch and grow.

For some reason there’s quite a size difference in this little bunch – perhaps a combination of broods hatched at different times that just happen to have chosen the same Ragwort plant to chew on.

190717 cinnabar caterpillars (4)

197/365 Butterflying at Slade Wood


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Yesterday, with my friend Sharon, I went to Slade Wood, in the neighbouring county of Gwent, for a walk and some butterflying.

190716 Slade Wood

The woodland was lovely and a haven from the hot sun but, for us, the best butterflying was to be had just wandering along the country lane leading to the woodland. With high hedges, abundant wildflowers and occasional blooming Buddleia bushes, backed by the tall woodland trees, it was heaven for butterflies. These are a few of the 12 species we saw …

190716 white admiral

My first White admirals of the year, the first I’ve seen in Wales; they seem to float over the vegetation.

190716 silver-washed fritillary

Those giant orange-and-brown speedsters, the Silver-washed fritillaries.

190716 red admiral

Red admiral extracting minerals from poo … mmmmm, delicious!

190716 comma

Comma, incredibly well camouflaged amongst the grasses and leaf litter, also heading for a slurp at the poo.

190716 peacock

Peacock, hiding its glorious bold colours away behind those closed wings.

190716 small tortoiseshell

Small tortoiseshell, a pretty little butterfly that I don’t see very often, so a delight to spot one of these.

196/365 Ether’s nild


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The damselfly and the devil – not a combination I’d have thought of but this, from Paul Evans, Field Notes from the Edge: Journeys through Britain’s secret wilderness (Rider, London, 2015) is fascinating:

In her novel Precious Bane, Mary Webb … used a Shropshire name for damselfly, ether’s nild: the ether or adder’s nild or needle because of its shape and stitching flight. Country lore had it that damselflies hovered over an adder coiled in the heath or bog as lookouts for their venomous master or mistress … Elsewhere called the Devil’s darning-needle, naughty children, scolding women and swearing men were warned that the damselfly would come and sew their eyes and mouths shut if they did not mend their ways.

190715 blue-tailed damselfly

The damselflies in my images are both Blue-tailed damselflies (Ischnura elegans). The females come in five different colour variations – this, with the reddish thorax, is called rufescens.

190715 blue-tailed damselfly rufescens

195/365 Imperial colours


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It occurs to me when looking at recent flower photos I’ve taken that the wildflowers currently in bloom have a very imperial look to them: masses of purple, the colour favoured by the emperors of Rome, and swathes of yellow, the colour that dominated the imperial wardrobe in China.

190714 1 marsh woundwort

Marsh woundwort (Stachys palustris), found growing in the wildflower meadows in Cardiff’s Hailey Park this week; once regarded as the most effective of the wound-healing woundwort family.

190714 dyers greenweed

Dyer’s greenweed (Genista tinctoria), plentiful at Lavernock Nature Reserve; also found in archaeological remains left by Vikings in York, proving its use as a yellow dye since at least the 9th century.

190714 rosebay willowherb

Rosebay willowherb (Chamerion angustifolium), firing up the conservation areas at Cathays Cemetery; nicknamed ‘bombweed’ during World War II when it grew in the London ruins created by German bombing raids.

190714 yellow loosestrife

Yellow loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris), ablaze beside the River Taff in Cardiff; named in honour of Macedonian King Lysimachus who supposedly fed it to his cattle to calm them, hence lose + strife!

The interesting snippets about these plants were mostly extracted from my Flora Britannica.