When the rain continues to fall and the wind to blow, what’s a bumblebee to do but find itself a nice, cosy shelter with food underfoot.
Braving the continuing rain, I walked a new path today, one seldom walked by others judging by how overgrown it was. The choice was a good one. As well as a couple of unexpected butterflies and some gorgeous orchids, I surprised a family of Whitethroats, the two parents and their three fledglings (two of them pictured here) browsing amongst the low shrubs, scratchy brambles and prickly gorse bushes. I froze and, after a couple of minutes, they ignored me and continued searching for snacks. It was a real delight to watch them.
First, the caterpillar. Now I know this is a bit like the chicken and egg debate – which came first? – but my sequence is chronological for 2019. This is the caterpillar / larva of a Burnet moth, most likely a Six-spot Burnet (Zygaena filipendulae), as they’re the species I’ve seen at this site in previous years. I only found out this week that they over-winter as caterpillars, and they’re now enjoying a final munch before beginning their transformation.
Second, the pupa. Some of the munchers have already begun their metamorphosis into moths. This week I’ve spotted quite a number of the papery cocoons they spin to house their pupae while they go through this process.
Third, the moth. In previous years, the Six-spots have begun to appear around the beginning of July but the weather conditions can have an effect on their emergence. So, eyes peeled for the appearance of these gorgeous creatures in a meadow near you very soon!
p.s. And if, by some chance, it’s actually a Five spot Burnet (Zygaena lonicerae), then it will look like this – you just have to count the dots!
Though garden escapees can falsely colour the picture, Britain has just two native irises – these are they …
Yellow iris (Iris pseudacorus)
Also known as Yellow flag iris, Jacob’s sword and a host of other vernacular names, the Yellow iris likes to bury its roots in the wet, often by ponds, streams and rivers but also in meadows where conditions under-root are damp and soggy. And that’s where I found these Yellow irises yesterday, in an area of damp ground inside a huge motorway roundabout north of Cardiff.
Stinking iris (Iris foetidissima)
Despite its (I think) unjustified name – apparently its leaves when rubbed, emit a smell like stale raw beef, but why would you rub its leaves? – this iris has the most exquisite delicate flowers. It can be found in a variety of habitats, from shady woodland rides to exposed cliff-tops – and that’s where I found this one, flowering happily alongside the coastal path at Lavernock.
I didn’t spot the fledgling Dipper at first, its pale brown, grey and yellow tones blending in perfectly with the dull hues of old concrete and rusty metal.
Then I spotted the adult Dipper flying towards the weir and, as soon as the young one opened its mouth, that bright orange gape was impossible to miss. It shouted ‘Feed me!’
Four times I watched the adult bird fly off downstream, desperately searching around stones and under water for more tasty titbits.
As soon as it had a mouthful, back to its chick it flew, to deposit the snacks into that wide and ravenous orange mouth. I really don’t know how bird parents find the energy to keep up their constant effort. What an incredible job they do in rearing their young!
There’s a man I’ve got to know during my wanders around the local country park, Lindsay, who feeds the birds on a (I think) daily basis. But it’s not the small birds – the robins, the tits, the finches – that he feeds; it’s the crows. He walks the same route, and the birds know it, and what time to expect him. These two crows, sitting on fence posts in the light rain, appear to be wondering where he is, scrutinising each passing human to see if it’s him, wondering if he will still come in the rain. Don’t worry, crows, I do believe he will!
You might well think that this seed clock belongs in an autumn blog post, rather than one from the lengthy days of early summer, but I saw this today at Lavernock Nature Reserve and couldn’t resist it. This is the fruit of Goat’s-beard (Tragopogon pratensis), a wildflower that is also known by the delightful name Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon because its bright yellow flowers always close up by midday.
I may have got rather wet during my walk around the east and west paddocks at Cosmeston this morning but it was worth it, as I wandered through an abundance of gorgeous orchids and other colourful wildflowers, spied numerous small insects munching on leaves, was charmed by the fluttering butterflies and meandering moths, and entertained by the myriad fledglings flitting through trees and bushes, harassing their parents for food.
I was wondering which of these delights might be today’s blog subject, when I spotted a bright yellow ‘something’ flying across the field in front of me. I quickly followed and, luckily, it settled on the ground so I was able to get photos. It was a Clouded yellow, a butterfly I’ve only seen half a dozen times before, a migrant to Britain which may well have been blown in by yesterday’s wild weather. Blog sorted: ‘On the wings of the storm II’, I thought, and continued my walk.
Then, just as I was nearing the top of the east paddock and about to head homewards, I made another chance discovery, a cracking dragonfly, a Black-tailed skimmer, another creature that I don’t see all that often. So, being spoilt for choice today, I thought I would share that with you as well.
There are two good things about the drenching and battering we’ve just suffered at the hands of the Spanish Storm Miguel: the first is that we really did need the rain, as the ground is already dry and cracked in places, and the second is that the strong winds may well be responsible for this glorious little lady I discovered at Cathays Cemetery today.
She (or, in fact, it may be a he) is a Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui), a butterfly which, according to the Butterfly Conservation website, ‘Each year … spreads northwards from the desert fringes of North Africa, the Middle East, and central Asia, recolonising mainland Europe and reaching Britain and Ireland.’ And s/he’s still looking quite pristine, despite that long journey.
This is one of my favourite moths, a Latticed heath (Chiasmia clathrata, from the Greek chiasma, meaning formed like a cross, and clathrum, meaning lattice or grate, a reference to the lovely interlaced and criss-crossing patterns on its wings).
As well as flying in the night time, the Latticed heath also flies by day, which is how I’m able to see them, though they’re very good at hiding in amongst the long grass and wildflowers. I saw my first for 2019 on 23 May at Cosmeston, and I’ve since seen them at most of my regular haunts, Grangemoor and Hamadryad Parks in Cardiff, and Lavernock Nature Reserve.
It’s a smallish moth, with a wingspan between 20 and 25mm, and can be found around clovers and trefoils and lucerne, which are the plants its caterpillars feed on. The first adults can be seen in May and June, and then there’s a second generation that flies in August and September.