Friday, 25 May 2018

Bush Cricket Nymph

Slightly enlarged

I saw a couple of tiny crickets in the garden today. I wondered why they didn't seem to jump. I guess this is because they are still nymphs. I understand there are a number of larval stages which involve moulting and the development of the wings. I'm wondering if these are Dark Bush Crickets, but I know virtually nothing about these insects, though I have just learned a new word!

The long antennae seemed to be in a spin in the photo above!

 The insect above favoured the woodbine while the one below had settled on the Euphorbia.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

My First Mint Moth of 2018

I was delighted to find a Mint Moth (Pyrausta aurata) in the garden this morning. We have seen these small creatures here before, but only infrequently. Each forewing is about the size of a little fingernail, possibly smaller. The strange thing is that to my knowledge we do not have any mint or thyme, but I guess these herbs may grow in neighbouring gardens.  

I had to be quite patient while the moth rested on the underside of a nettle: you can just see it in the photo above. 

After a few minutes of fluttering around and landing once or twice in shady patches of undergrowth, it perched on a Daisy in full sunshine, allowing me a good view. 

You can just make out its proboscis in the photo above so perhaps our Daisies were acceptable as mint substitutes. You can also see the distinctive markings of the underwings and the narrow stripes on the abdomen. 

This shows the insect with its wings together. You can see a fringe around the edges.

Dock bugs fighting and mating

I have noticed a number of Dock bugs (Coreus marginatus) on our dock leaves for some days now. I can almost guarantee they will be there when I go and look. This morning, however, I found that there was a tussle going on, presumably because the third insect was trying to remove the second so that it could mate with the first. This all seemed quite brutal to me. I filmed a short video on my camera, but haven't worked out how to upload it. That may not be such a bad thing...

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

A Second Large Red Damselfly

This is the second Large Red damselfly in our garden this year: I believe it is a male. Look at the silken threads. 

It is always a joy when the Ceanothus comes in to flower at the edge of the decking: you can see how much pollen has been collected already!

There were several Zebra Spiders moving around: the photo below shows one who paused momentarily from its jumping activities, so I grabbed my camera.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Small Butterflies at Sutton Hoo (and a Holly Blue in the Garden)

There were a few butterflies fluttering about at Sutton Hoo, but not in the numbers we had hoped to see. We watched a couple of skittish Speckled Woods, but they didn't pause for the camera. However, Small Coppers always put on a good show despite their tiny size, and there were several about, some of them flying in pairs.  

There were no tours round the royal burial mounds, which surprised us on a sunny afternoon, but it was lovely to see the trees back in leaf and blossom. 

We had a good view of Woodbridge over the river Deben. You can see all the dandelion clocks in the foreground. 

The soil at Sutton Hoo is sandy, and this suits a butterfly that is even smaller, I believe, than the Small Copper, namely the Small Heath. We noticed a few of these exquisite creatures. In some ways the Small Heath resembles the Gatekeeper, but it is much smaller and has one white spot on each forewing instead of a pair. 

The Small Copper below looked rather ragged, but perhaps most of the 'marks' are grains of sand as I suspect the adult butterfly had only recently emerged. 

 It was a joy to hear and watch a couple of Skylarks.


21 May 2018

Having enjoyed sightings of the Small Copper and Small Heath at NT Sutton Hoo, it was lovely to find a Holly Blue in our own garden - and one that actually stopped to perch for a few seconds.  

If you are in the UK, you might like to vote for your iconic insect on the BugLife site here. I was torn between two in the England list!

Monday, 21 May 2018

Kestrel and Small Copper Butterfly at Dunwich Heath

Despite a grey evening in Aldeburgh on Saturday, we had lovely weather over the weekend. We had hardly stepped on to the heath before we noticed this Kestrel. We often see one here so it was not a surprising sighting, but these birds always stop me in my tracks and make me think of The Windhover by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

I was really hoping to see butterflies, but perhaps the nearby bank of cloud was keeping the temperatures down just a bit too much.

However, I keep a sharp eye open (and a sharp ear in case we heard the scuttle of a lizard), and was rewarded with this beautiful Small Copper, perching on a pile of dead bracken, twigs and leaves. 

There did not appear to many people about, but first appearances can be deceptive. The sound of voices drew nearer and a group of about forty walkers hurried past.

I apologise for the quality of this next record shot. But you will just be able to make out the Whitethroat who was singing away near the coastguard cottages,

... just across the road from this little patch of Thrift.

Clumps of Sea Kale were colonising the beach below.

Dunwich Heath and Minsmere, which adjoins the heath, are home to a number of sand-loving insects such as the Bee-wolf and Antlion. There were one or two insects flying along the edge of the sandy path and one or two holes like this one...

It took a bit of patient waiting as the insects were pretty skittish, but a bee-like creature landed eventually. I don't know what it is but wonder if it might be a species of mining bee: please leave a comment if you have an idea. And on the subject of sand-loving bees, there is a wonderful photo here of a Pantaloon Bee at Minsmere.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Ruby Tiger Moth

I have kept an eagle eye out for moths ever since our encounter with the Red Underwing at Oxburgh Hall. That particular insect made me realise how much there is to these shy insects in terms of hidden colour as you will see if you click here. And then today I found what I think may be a young Ruby Tiger moth nestling in the lawn on our home patch. I may, of course, be quite wrong in my identification, but my guess has now been endorsed on iSpot. Please enlighten me if you think I am barking up the wrong tree!

My poetry chapbook, The Holy Place, (published by The Seventh Quarry and co-authored with John Dotson - details here) contains a short poem about the larva of the Isabella Tiger moth (Pyrrharctia isabella), which is often referred to as a woolly bear. Up until now I have never knowingly seen a Tiger Moth of any variety, so I count today as a bit of a red-letter day, particularly since the insect in my photos was spotted right here in our garden.

Our lawn has not be mown for a few days which has given these yellow dandelion-like flowers Mouse-ear Hawkweed heads (thank you, Conehead, for your ID) a chance to flourish. One year they seemed to be the magnet for some Skipper butterflies, and this year I suspect they may be partly responsible for the presence of the new moth.

I have studied the photo below as best I can (it isn't the best of photos for identification purposes), and am assuming that the usual spot (or spots) on the forewings has (or have) yet to develop.

What caught my eye were the bright rose shades on the hindwings as the moth flew towards the grass. Sadly these remain tucked away in my photos, unlike the 'fur' on the thorax, but you can see what they look like here. This species is not rare and may well be a familiar species to you. It is new to me (whatever if is!), and I hope you will share my joy!

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Another Garden First, The Speckled Wood Butterfly

I was delighted this morning to find another garden first in the form of a Speckled Wood butterfly. I wish I could say it was the one above (which was in Wicken Fen some time ago), but the butterfly was too quick for me today, and all I have as proof of its presence is the shaky record shot below. My hope, of course, is that more may follow.

In my haste I focused the camera on the leaf in the foreground. But never mind.

I think the plant is a tangled, rather unattractive species of wild Honeysuckle. We cut it back a bit each year as it tries to take over the decking. It is not as invasive, however, as the Mile-a-Minute (aka Russian Vine) which we inherited and are always trying to subdue!

I like to keep a reasonable amount of the Honeysuckle plant, though, because it seems to provide cover for the Ruby-tailed Wasps who usually make their home in or around one of the insect hotels. I have yet to see one of these wasps this year, but here are a couple of photos I took last summer...

More Twilight Visitors

I mentioned in a recent post that two hedgehogs had been visiting our garden after dark. It turns out that they are not the only animals to wait for the cover of twilight before making an entrance. Many of you who have dipped in and out of this blog over the years will know that we have a Silver Birch in our garden. We also have an Acer Negundo, another large Acer (purple-leaved, this time), a tall white Buddeia and a Hawthorn. These are the species around the edge, creating a sense of enclosure and height. They undoubtedly provide a leafy habitat for some of the small flying insects that are attractive to bats, for each year our vigil has been rewarded with the return of the bats (or with their emergence from the roost) after the long months of winter.

I have been on the look-out since the recent burst of warm weather, but until this evening my vigil had been in vain. I had discounted tonight as a 'bat night' on the grounds that it was cool and blustery. However, on the dot of 9.15 pm I thought I saw a familiar form through the glass. I switched off the light and peered out, and there circling round the middle of the garden were two fairly large bats. They were certainly not Pipistrelles, but that is all I can say: thirteen species of bat have been recorded in Suffolk and I am as yet far from an expert. The creatures did not stay for long, and, in any case, my vision blurred as darkness fell; but I am delighted to be able to say ...

'the bats are back!'

Monday, 14 May 2018

An Afternoon at Snape and Aldeburgh

The forecast was not very promising, but when we reached Snape Maltings yesterday afternoon the sun appeared and it was sufficiently warm for a small Common Lizard to venture out of the reedbed. Lizards are not only wary of humans but they are also protected under law, so this photo was taken with my zoom lens extended. The camera has focused on the thorax: what intricate designs these lovely reptiles have.

I have no idea whether the skin patterns are entirely for camouflage in this species or whether colour and appearance play any part in mating rituals. You can read about some Aegean Wall Lizard research on this topic here.

The photo above shows Snape in the hazy sunshine. 

Some creature, possibly a deer, has carved out a private path through the reeds.

Humans can walk through the reedbeds in the direction of Iken on this slatted boardwalk.

The light was very strange at this point, but the iconic tower of Iken Church, dedicated to St Botolph, was very prominent on the far side of the water.

Hawthorn, also known as May, blossom was bursting into flower. We left Snape, and since the afternoon was still dry, we moved on to Aldeburgh ... 

... where we were greeted by this rather fierce Herring Gull.

I am not sure what the blue line signifies, but this is where the gull chose to stand on patrol.

I saw a couple of people eating fish and chips in a car as we left, so perhaps the bird knew that it was in exactly the right place for its favourite snack.

It began to look as though the promised rain was on its way. In fact, we somehow seemed to avoid it, so perhaps the storm broke out at sea.

It is always a joy to see the emergence of summer flowers, and the Aldeburgh area has some unusual coastal varieties. This was the first Sea Campion I had encountered in 2018.

David walked on towards the martello tower. We could see Orford lighthouse in the distance and the eerie defence 'pagodas' on Orford Ness.

This was the view on the landward side of the path. This water-bound area, just south of Aldeburgh and around the river Alde, is known as Slaughden. It was once a vibrant commercial centre. The tide has already claimed so much of this fragile maritime environment.

Oystercatchers were calling on the landward side of the path,

 ... and a Mute Swan was doing a spot of preening. Look at the size of that webbed foot!
Meanwhile, out at sea ...

... the beautiful head of a seal was bobbing up and down. The photo above was the best my camera produce as the seal was quite a way out in the deeper channels and the light was very stormy.

Back home in the garden, it was good to see a variety of Soldier Beetle I had noted in May last year.

There were several Dandelion clocks on the lawn..

... a sign, I would like to think, that the settled sunny weather ...

... will return before long.