Friday, 9 September 2016

Tree Following for August and Early September 2016

 Welcome to my Tree Following post for August and early September 2016. 

These tree posts form part of a wider project initiated by Lucy Corrander from the Loose and Leafy blog and continued by Pat at The Squirrelbasket

I am based in Suffolk, UK, where I have been keeping an eye on a Silver birch, B. pendula. I have added in a small Cherry sapling,
Prunus avium Sylvia, for my second tree.

You will find the other Tree Follower links by clicking through to the Mr Linky button here ... so do take the chance to have a look at the new posts!


It has occurred to me for a while that my Tree Following posts are becoming a little unwieldy. I haven't entirely decided to what to do about this yet, but am thinking along the lines of keeping the extensive (and ever growing) list of sightings made so far, 'in, on, under and around' my trees, in a separate post. Please watch this space. 

We have had a busy month and I am already running a little behind schedule, so I shall focus on a limited number of sightings.

First and foremost, in another year when butterfly sightings have largely been 'down', I am thrilled to report that we had a new garden record: a Painted Lady landed by the Silver Birch on 13 August. 

These are such fine insects, and you can read about their migration here

While I am on the subject of butterflies, do take a look at the recently released 2015 report for the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme report. There are a few bright patches but the general butterfly trend seems to be a downward one, making it all the more crucial that we plant flowers to provide nectar and preserve existing habitats. 

As for the Silver Birch itself, it is scattering vast quantities of seeds to the winds. When the sun is in the right direction, I find myself watching these miniature keys as they flit hither and thither. A number ended up in the rather extensive web of a large spider next to the Cherry Tree. I wished I had had my camera with me at that point so that I could have tried to identify the splendid web-maker. 

Silver Birch

This evening at 7pm I watched a fairly large dragonfly (it was too fast for me to see it properly) circling round beneath the foliage of the Silver Birch. It has been a warm day here, with cloud and bright spells, and I can only guess that the dragonfly was hoovering up mouthfuls of small midges or flies that flitted around the lower branches. We occasionally have dragonflies in the garden as we live in close proximity to a local nature reserve with a stream, but I have never seen them here at dusk before. 

The small Cherry Tree has continued to grow upwards. Something is still eating its leaves, but the general picture is one of health. It looks as though we might need to trim the Euonymus back again...

Cherry Tree from above

I can hardly believe that the next TF post will be in October, though, having said that, we are already on to our second crop of (wild) Blackberries. The first crop fell victim to the rain and turned mouldy, but the birds and butterflies are thoroughly enjoying the new batch of fruit.

This photo of the Comma was taken this evening, when...

... I also noticed this ?toadstool near the Cherry.

All aboard for the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness...

And finally ...


Friday, 2 September 2016

Kingfisher Sighting, Norfolk

I have always hoped that I would have the chance to photograph a Kingfisher. My few sightings to date have been fleeting ones, and I had never had the pleasure of seeing one of these stunning birds on a perch before.

We visited Gooderstone Water Gardens in Norfolk over the weekend; and there, just outside the Kingfisher Hide, was ... a Kingfisher.

The Latin name is Alcedo atthis. The first word links up with the more familiar 'halcyon', derived from two Greek words and meaning 'conceived at sea'. According to mythology, halcyon birds bred on nests out in the ocean. The computer colour, cyan, derives from the Greek word, kuaneos, meaning 'dark blue'.

How can turquoise feathers really be a dusky brown? I have always found the phenomenon of iridescence and semi-iridescence a fascinating one! 

The view from the hide at Gooderstone, with two perfect Kingfisher perching sticks

The water gardens at Gooderstone, Norfolk

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Dragonfly Days ~ Southern Hawker

Butterfly numbers are said to be down, but it seems to me that this has not been a brilliant summer for Dragonflies or Damselflies either. We were delighted to see our first Southern Hawker on Dunwich Heath last week. 

The close-up below shows the characteristic yellow triangle at S2.

Friday, 19 August 2016

A Walled Garden of Wildflowers at NT Ickworth

Hoverfly on an umbellifer

NT Ickworth, here in Suffolk, has a walled garden, currently boasting a superb display of Dahlias around the edge. However, it is the huge expanse in the centre that catches the eye for it has largely been given over to a mass planting (by Urban Forestry) of wildflower seeds. These were sown in April.

This post comprises a scattering of the photos I took when I was there last weekend. The wildflower petals were beginning to fade and seedheads were becoming prominent. There was still plenty of pollen about for the insects ...

The seed mix, which has apparently been on sale at Ickworth, includes Cornflower (a particular favourite of mine), Poppy, Borage (a hit with the bees), Golden Tickseed, Red Flax, Corn Marigold and other species.

My understanding is that the 2015 and 2016 seasons of wild flowers will give way to other kinds of planting once the flowers have helped to prepare the soil. But for now it is a walled paradise, and in a summer that has not seen many insects, a veritable haven for bees and hoverflies.

Bee on Golden Tickseed

I love the complementary blues and golds ...

The view from the bench

Another pollinator at work ...

... and another Hoverfly

Looking up to the 200+ year old wall and the church beyond

... and looking across to the far side of the garden


Umbellifer (which one?)

More Poppies (see the 'pepperpot' seedpod)

This reminds me (in a small scale way) of the swathes of Sunflower fields on the road to Edirne from Istanbul!

More Cornflowers ... and 'pepperpots'!

The Royal Horticultural Society offers advice on its website - here - for those who may be considering a wildflower meadow (or patch) of their own. The RSPB site also has suggestions.

My homepatch is a suburban garden so it will not be sowing a meadow, but I plan to plant a wildflower seed mix next spring in our 'wild corner' of grass and nettles, in the hope that it may add colour and help to give wildlife a home.

NT Ickworth, Horringer, Bury St Edmunds

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

(What seems to be a) Red Underwing Moth at NT Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk

A flint-faced wall provides the perfect camouflage

We were having a picnic lunch last Saturday by the church wall in the Oxburgh Hall car park when we noticed this fine but camouflaged creature. It was large and although it remained pretty still, we observed some small movements.

I looked and looked at moth pictures on my return home without much success. Eventually my eyes alighted on a photograph of a Red Underwing, and I felt fairly confident that this was the species in question.

Sadly we never saw even the tiniest flash of red which is there to warn predators, but the outer markings alone seem to make this a likely ID when considered alongside the identification offered on the iSpot site.

Just look at those stripes on the legs! But what a shame we failed to see a parting of the wings.

Apparently this species frequently rests on walls. It is just one of the 300 varieties of Noctuid Moths, the largest family of macro-moths here in Great Britain. We noticed the moth near the trees in the background of the photo below. The churchyard of the 14th century church of St John the Evangelist lies beyond.

Oxburgh Hall lies in the Breckland village of Oxborough. You can read about it here.

NT Oxburgh Hall

Postscript: on the subject of moths, I found this extraordinary article about camouflage, genes and pigment adaptation to surroundings. Do take a look!

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Butterflies at NT Oxburgh Hall

The Big Butterfly Count finished on 7 August, although records can still be submitted until the end of the month. We did a count on 6 August at NT Oxburgh Hall, and you can see the results in the chart below.

We were particularly thrilled to see the Painted Ladies drawing nectar from the Heliotrope in the parterre garden.

NT Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk - parterre garden

This is our list, but, of course, we continued to see other butterflies (which were not counted) after the allocated 15 minutes. The photos below the chart show a mix of the counted butterflies and the ones that escaped the survey.

Painted lady

NT Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk

Brimstone in the flower border

Plants on which to feast the eye

A Comma in the wood

These magnificent Large White larvae were feasting on the Nasturtiums

Peacock on the Buddleia

Gatekeeper, to match the wall

We also saw a large moth, which I shall try to identify before posting its photo. Watch this space. I have posted it on iSpot, but think I have now worked out what it is ...