I hadn’t seen any Dock bugs (Coreus marginatus) for a couple of months and then suddenly, at Cosmeston the other day, I saw 11 on one plant!
Now that I’ve read up on them, I understand the sightings gap: it seems adults mate and lay their eggs in the springtime, the nymphs munch away on dock and their other favourite plants for a couple of months and, by August, they have developed into new adults. And here they are …
Do you remember last Friday I blogged about the abundance of ladybirds at Cosmeston? They were feasting on the huge numbers of aphids on the Wild parsnip plants. Well, it turns out the ladybirds have had some competition for those aphids this week, as the migrating Willow warblers move through. I don’t think we need to worry though – there are more than enough aphids to go around!
‘The quickness of the wing deceives the eye.’ So write Brett Westwood and Stephen Moss in their brilliant book Wonderland: A year of Britain’s wildlife day by day (John Murray, London, 2017). They’re describing those butterflies that ‘fly so haphazardly and so fast that they are little more than hallucinations, a flicker of motion at the edge of our vision, making us question whether we’ve seen one at all.’
The Small copper (Lycaena phlaeas) is one such butterfly but, I find, with a pinch of stealth, a sprinkle of luck and a tablespoonful of patience, it will settle and even pose for photos. And the outcome is no hallucination but rather a delicious creation, even a gourmet would admire.
I googled ‘What do ladybirds eat?’ today because I was trying to work out why there are so many ladybirds – about a 50 / 50 split between 7-spots and Harlequins – on the Wild parsnip plants at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park. It turns out ladybirds are particularly keen on aphids and, as you can see in some of my photos, there are rather a lot of aphids on these plants. Good news for the ladybirds!
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, last Sunday’s birding didn’t only produce some nice bird sightings, it also featured an abundance of beautiful butterflies, including two newbies for me.
I’ve been keeping an eye out for Clouded yellows (Colias croceus) for a couple of months now, as these immigrants can fly in from the southern parts of Europe and even north Africa as early as June. The occasional sighting has been reported in my area, with one being seen at Lavernock as recently as last Friday, but I hadn’t managed to spot one myself … until last Sunday.
Ace birder Gareth spotted the first as we walked along the coastal path at Rumney Great Wharf, on the eastern side of Cardiff, and then a second was spotted soon afterwards. And then, as we retraced our steps back to the starting point of our walk, I spied two more, obviously a male and female engaged in their pre-mating aerial display. Luckily, their focus on mating meant I was able to get some open-wing photos, which, though not particularly sharp, are quite difficult with this butterfly, as it usually zooms along at quite a rate of knots.
The second butterfly, which was again spotted by Gareth, was a first-ever sighting for me. This is a Wall (Lasiommata megera, until recently called a Wall brown), so named because of its liking for sunning itself on rocks, banks and, you guessed it, walls (though this one was not living up to its name!).
This particular Wall had been in the wars and was missing half of one wing and a third of the other, but was still flying well enough. I’m not sure I would have spotted it myself as, in flight, it looked very much like a small Meadow brown or a Gatekeeper, so I’m particularly grateful for Gareth’s sharp eyes.
I’ve had a fabulous summer of butterfly sightings, with my species total now on 34, but will these two be the final two species I see for 2018? Only time will tell.
A google search on “Painted Ladies” will take you to San Francisco, as this is the name used by Americans to describe the local Victorian and Edwardian buildings, particularly houses, that have been repainted in multiple colours to highlight the details of their architectural style.
Britain’s Painted ladies have also been painted in multiple colours but not by human hands – these are the masterpieces of Mother Nature.
And they are not static – they fly, and not just around our local meadows and gardens – these beauties fly all the way from North Africa and the Middle East to dazzle us with their kaleidoscope of colour.
Some years – 2009 was one – these butterflies arrive in huge numbers – and I do mean huge. That summer, tens of millions of Painted ladies arrived in Britain and the skies were filled with fluttering colour. I hope I live to see such a sight.
At first glance I thought this big brute was a hoverfly, ’cause I know there are some very large hoverflies, but one look at those eyes told me otherwise. Meet Tachina grossa, the largest Tachnid fly in Britain and Europe.
As you can see, it feeds on pollen and nectar and, though it’s harmless to us humans, it’s no friend of moths. The female Tachina grossa lays her eggs on living larvae, in particular the large hairy caterpillars of the Oak eggar moth and the Fox moth. The fly larvae eat the caterpillars from the inside, eventually but not immediately killing them.
So, it may look kind of cute in the photograph below but I’m just glad I’m not a large hairy caterpillar.
Many of you probably knew that last Sunday 29 July was International Tiger Day but I’ll bet you didn’t know that Tuesday the 31st was Jersey Tiger Day!
Well, of course you didn’t because I just made that up. And why?
Because that was the day I saw my first Jersey Tiger moths for the year.
And I didn’t just see one – I saw three of these most gorgeous of moths.
Want to know why I was so delighted to see them? Read on …
The flower of the moment is Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica) or, at least it is at Lavernock Nature Reserve.
I’ve read that Fleabane usually grows in ditches and damp meadows so, despite the recent drought conditions, I guess there must be water somewhere below the wildflower meadows at Lavernock, as they are currently awash with these bright golden flowers. And, at a time when most other wildflowers have dried up and died off, the Fleabane is providing a much-needed source of pollen and nectar for butterflies and other assorted mini-beasties.