220/365 A bathroom visitor

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I had to stay home for a delivery for part of the day yesterday but finally managed to get out for a local ramble mid afternoon. When I returned home, despite having closed all the windows and locked my front door, I found an unexpected visitor sitting on my toilet seat.

190808 oak bush-cricket (1)

I knew it was a cricket of some kind (long antennae – though this little one has lost one of its antennae, so not a grasshopper) but I wasn’t sure which it was. Luckily, I found an excellent ID chart that I could download (from Orthoptera.org.uk here) and this list of features fit my visitor perfectly: long wings; pale green colour; 1.5-2cm; nocturnal and attracted to light, sometimes found indoors. It’s an Oak bush-cricket (Meconema thalassinum) and it has now been relocated outdoors.

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219/365 High on Hemp agrimony

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I’ve been spending a lot of time over the past couple of weeks staring at Hemp agrimony flowers. I’ve not yet found what I’ve been searching for – you’ll be the first to know when/if I do – but, in the meantime, here are just a few of the lovely creatures I’ve spotted nectaring on these pretty flowers: a Dingy footman moth, a Six-spot burnet moth and a Gatekeeper, a Painted lady, a Red admiral, a Ringlet, a Speckled wood and what might be a Willow beauty moth, but the jury’s still out on that one.

190807 dingy footman190807 gatekeeper 6-spot burnet190807 painted lady190807 red admiral190807 ringlet190807 speckled wood190807 willow beauty maybe

218/365 Hopalong grasshopper

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I spotted this Common field grasshopper sitting on a gravestone in St Augustine’s churchyard yesterday. I see a huge number of grasshoppers and crickets but usually only as they’re hopping rapidly away from me. So, I was intrigued as to why this one didn’t jump away.

190806 common field grasshopper (1)

Looking closer, I noticed it had suffered some damage along its right side and had lost its large back leg on that side, so it was no longer able to leap. Luckily, it was still able to scuttle off into the grass – otherwise, it would have been a sitting target for a hungry bird, and that might well be how it got injured in the first place.

190806 common field grasshopper (2)

217/365 Second brood

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I don’t think it will be long before this young House martin fledges and heads out into the wide blue yonder.

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These nests are in a local street that I’ve blogged about previously, which I checked up on during a wander around the town today.

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Several of the nests were still occupied with, what I assume to be, second broods of chicks. There are actually two in this nest – you can just see the beak of the second on the left.

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When there are two nests sharing a ledge, there does seem to be the occasional spat with the neighbours, though I think junior, on the right, is more interested in whether adult, on the left, is bringing food.

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Finally, one of its parents has arrived bearing snacks.

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216/365 Ovipositing

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Oviposit: verb; a zoological term, relating especially to insects, which means to lay an egg or eggs. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word first came in to use in the early 19th century and is a combination of ‘ovi’ for egg and ‘posit’, from the Latin verb ponere, meaning to place.

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Today, at Lavernock Nature Reserve, I was eating my lunch while sitting on the bench near the dragonfly pond, when this female Emperor dragonfly came along and began ovipositing, carefully manoeuvring her body to place several eggs beneath each lily pad before moving on to the next. All the while, her mate was patrolling overhead to ensure no one interfered with this important process.

190804 female emperor (1)

215/365 Four go butterflying in Dorset

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Off we went again, our gallant gang of four, this time in search of the rare Brown hairstreak at Butterfly Conservation’s Alners Gorse reserve in Dorset.

190803 alners gorse

This reserve is beautiful, the colourful swathes of wildflowers reminiscent of a painting by Monet or Van Gogh, the wide range of trees providing diverse habitats for local wildlife and welcome shade for butterfliers on yet another hot summer’s day.

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Unfortunately, the Brown hairstreaks eluded us, and most of the other 20-odd people wandering around the reserve, staring intently, as we were, at bramble bushes, hedgerows and oak trees.

190803 essex skipper

One person, on turning a corner in the path, had almost bumped into a Brown, but the butterfly immediately flew off and wasn’t seen again. A couple said they’d seen one high in a tree but much tree staring failed to produce another sighting.

190803 purple hairstreak

Still, there were butterflies in abundance and my list for the day totalled a very respectable seventeen: Silver-washed fritillary, Purple hairstreak, Comma, Peacock, Red admiral, Painted lady, Essex skipper, Small skipper, Small white, Green-veined white, Common blue, Small copper, Brimstone, Meadow brown, Ringlet, Gatekeeper and Speckled wood. My companions also saw Marbled white, bringing the group total to eighteen – I was obviously staring at a tree at that time!

190803 red admiral

Alners Gorse is a well known site for Marsh fritillaries – now finished for this year, and we saw large numbers of other insects – hoverflies, bees, flies, crickets and grasshoppers, and several species of dragonfly, so it’s well worth a visit at any time of the year.

190803 small copper

214/365 Red-veined darter

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I’ve been holding off sharing images of this beautiful creature, hoping that I might spot a male and so be able to share both sexes. But as that hasn’t yet happened …

190802 red-veined darter (1)

This, I am reliably informed by dragonfly experts, is an older female Red-veined darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii) – the fact that she’s older can be determined by the reddish colouring along the top of her torso. Though the photo above was taken on 8 July and the photo below on 20 July, I think these may well be the same female, as the location was almost exactly the same, and I’ve seen no others in that general area. You can read more about her, and see images of the stunning red males, on the British Dragonflies website.

190802 red-veined darter (2)

213/365 A privilege of Painted Ladies

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190801 painted lady (1)

I’ve been pondering what the most descriptive collective noun might be for a group of Painted Ladies? Apparently, for butterflies, there are several possibilities including swarm, flutter, flight and kaleidoscope. The latter appeals because it conjures well the vision of a mass of beautiful, ever revolving colours. I thought of a ‘pleasure’ of Painted Ladies but the double entendre is a little tacky.

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Then, one of my Twitter acquaintances came up with ‘privilege’, which is just perfect, thank you, Martin. Because it certainly was a privilege to see 27 of these gorgeous creatures as I walked the fields at Cosmeston yesterday (and I’m sure there were a lot more than that). We’re not getting the thousands (perhaps hundreds of thousands) that have been arriving along England’s east coast in recent days, but it’s still a lot for this area and it was an absolute delight to see so many.

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212/365 The pollinators

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190731 pollinators

It seems unbelievable to me that some people still think that bees – in particular, honey bees, which are essentially a farmed species – are the only insects that pollinate flowers. You have only to look at a particular type of flower – in this case, umbellifers – to see the wide range of insects that visit and feed on them. And each of these little creatures gets covered in pollen while feeding so, when they fly on to the next flower, they are automatically contributing to flower pollination.

211/365 Hoppers

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190730 Rhodo leafhopper (1)

I made my annual visit to the Rhododendron bushes in one particular area of Cardiff’s Bute Park yesterday to check on these little critters, the Rhododendron leafhoppers, Graphocephala fennahi, and I’m delighted to report that the colony appears to be thriving. (You can read more about them in a previous blog here.)