151/366 Cinnamon bug

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This is a new bug to me. I saw one in April (but only got a blurry photo) and then found another earlier this week. Meet the Cinnamon bug (Corizus hyoscyami), also known as the Black and red squash bug. Though bugs can be difficult to identify, this one has very distinctive markings so is easier than most. In times past, the Cinnamon bug was only found along the southern coasts of England but it is now spreading north, and west into Wales, obviously. You can read more about this colourful mini-beast on the British bugs website.

200529 Cinnamon bug

150/366 Short bobs and Black Jacks

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When I saw this field of Ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata) nodding their flower heads in the gentle breeze, I had to make them my post for the day.

200529 ribwort plantain (1)

My Flora Britannica lists several common names for this plant, including Fighting cocks, Short bobs, Soldiers and sailors, and Black Jacks, which all come from the fact that the plant is apparently used for children’s games. This is not something I had heard of but it seems one variation of the game is similar to conkers, where kids try to knock off each other’s flower heads.

Though the gardeners amongst you may regard this as a pesky garden weed, I think it’s an attractive plant. Its flowers provide sustenance for insects like butterflies, moths and hoverflies and, if its seed heads are not chopped off, they provide food for seed-eating birds like Goldfinches. Interestingly, though, the Plantlife website says ‘ribwort plantain is surprisingly unpopular with slugs and snails [as] they find the leaves unpalatable.’

149/366 My favourite butterfly

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The highlight of yesterday’s walk to Lavernock Nature Reserve was seeing this little beauty, my first Small copper of the year.

200528 small copper (1)

They’re tiny butterflies but they punch well above their weight, fearlessly challenging any other butterflies that stray too close to their territory, as this one did today with a male Common blue.

200528 small copper (2)

This Small copper was in pristine condition so, presumably, had very recently emerged. The vibrancy and intensity of its copper colour was simply stunning.

200528 small copper (3)

148/366 Tiny surprises

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When you’re bright red, it’s hard to hide in the grass but it was still a nice surprise to spot this lovely Cardinal beetle, and it didn’t seem to mind me picking it up for a closer look.

200527 cardinal beetle

I was looking for the pupa cases of moths on a Wych elm when I spotted this weevil. It looked to me like a Nettle weevil, so it was a bit of a surprise to find it up in a tree.

200527 weevil

Speaking of weevils … As my eyesight is not very good, I sometimes don’t notice very small creatures, and this is a case in point. I had spotted the hoverfly, Eristalis nemorum, so took a few photos of that and didn’t spot the teeny weeny weevil until I looked at the photos on my laptop when I got home.

200527 eristalis nemorum

And the same is also true of the smaller bug in this wild rose. I saw the Swollen-thighed beetle, on the right, but not the other creature, until later. I love these little surprises from Mother Nature.

200527 wild rose and insects

147/366 Disappearing in plain sight

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I have a new favourite field, only discovered in recent months while I’ve been exploring new, less crowded, local footpaths for my exercise walks, and it’s exciting discovering, as the season progresses, what is living in this field. As I emerged from woodland into the field yesterday, a little burst of orange flashed across in front of my feet, and I knew immediately this was my first Large skipper of the year.

200526 large skipper (1)

Despite their bright colouring, I find skippers are very good at disappearing in plain sight, so I took a couple of steps back, got my camera ready and waited. Less than 60 seconds had passed before the skipper bounced up from the long grass where it had been resting and flitted down on to the path again.

200526 large skipper (2)

A second male then entered the territory of the first and they spiralled up into the air briefly, before separating and returning to their own patches, spat over.

200526 large skipper (3)

I lingered a while to watch both butterflies, flying, perching, feeding, before I continued my walk. And to my delight, I found yet another male further along the track, so I assume ‘my’ field is home to a small but healthy colony of Large skippers. I’m already looking forward to seeing them again when next I walk that way.

146/366 Deceased

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I’ve seen a few Grass snakes before but only when I’ve been on organised reptile rambles so I wasn’t entirely sure whether this quite small, sadly deceased creature was a Grass snake or a Slow worm. My Twitter pals quickly confirmed it was indeed a snake.

200525 grass snake (1)

I found it in a local lane during this morning’s walk. It must have been basking in the sun when it was run over by a passing vehicle. Isn’t its skin amazing?

200525 grass snake (2)

145/366 Common spotteds

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The occasional smatterings of rain we’ve had in the last few days have eased, ever so slightly, the drought conditions hereabouts, and the flush of new growth that was evident during this morning’s early walk through the fields at Cosmeston included my first Common spotted orchids of the year. Superb!

200524 common spotted orchid (1)200524 common spotted orchid (2)200524 common spotted orchid (3)200524 common spotted orchid (4)

144/366 Junior

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This juvenile Robin was hopping along the path in front of me yesterday, busily searching for snacks, staying a few hops ahead but not too concerned about the much larger ‘wildlife’ behind it.

200523 juvenile robin (1)

Its mottled brown colouring helped to camouflage it while it was still in the nest and continues to protect it now that it’s out foraging on its own. It almost ‘disappeared’ completely when it eventually ducked into the bushes alongside the path, though I could still see its beady eye watching me.

200523 juvenile robin (2)

Juvenile Robins don’t get their distinctive red breast feathers until they’re a few months old and undergo their first moult. By that time, hopefully, they’ll be ready to fight off or rapidly flee from the territorial disputes their adult colouring might prompt.

200523 juvenile robin (3)

143/366 The des res

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Birds have some odd ideas about what constitutes their des res. Last year’s winner in the weirdest places to nest stakes was the Blue tit pair who’d chosen to raise their brood in a cigarette disposal unit on the wall of a public toilet block.

200522 blue tit nest

So far this year, the leading contenders are the Coal tits whose cheerily cheeping young are huddled cosily into an air ventilation duct underneath a local church.

200522 coal tit nest

142/366 Moths made my day

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I’d hoped the sunny skies and warmth would bring out more butterflies during yesterday’s exercise walk but they were few and far between at Grangemoor Park, and I think that’s weather related.

200521 latticed heath (1)

Earlier this year, we had almost constant, often heavy rain that saturated the ground and turned everywhere to mud, and now the ground is being baked dry and hard by a subsequent lack of rain. This cycle seems to be having a marked effect on plant growth and insect emergence – at least that’s what I’m seeing, or, rather, not seeing.

200521 latticed heath (2)

The good news at Grangemoor, though, was the abundance of Latticed heath moths, more than I’ve spotted in one day before. Though they do have a habit of flitting very quickly away just as I get ready to take their photo, they are lovely creatures, and seeing so many certainly made my day.

200521 latticed heath (3)