Friday 31 July 2020

A(nother) Flying Ant Day in Suffolk

I have been keeping my eye on a number of ants' nests in our wild garden for some days. There appeared to be little activity until yesterday afternoon. We were having a cup of tea and a slice of chocolate cake when we noticed plumes of insects rising into the air. A few minutes later our regular garden birds, especially the Blue tits and Blackbirds, started swooping and fluttering for the airborne ants. It was quite a spectacle to watch.  

David made a short video recording which you can view here:

Saturday 25 July 2020

Mating Butterflies

The butterflies in the garden were very 'busy' today despite strong winds and very overcast conditions. I hope this means our local population will eventually increase!

We also had a fleeting visit from a White Plume moth. Perhaps it mistook the overcast conditions for evening. Sadly it came and went too quickly for my camera, but what a stunning sight! It could have been Tinkerbell from Peter Pan...

Wednesday 22 July 2020

Damselfly Deliberations

Photo credit: David Gill 2020

I posted my photograph of this damselfly in my previous post about Aldeburgh sightings

My somewhat limited damselfly ID skills are rather rusty at present as I have only seen about five of these insects this season due to my shielding. Two of you offered identifications for which I am very grateful. However, I am left with a dilemma: is this a Small Red-eyed Damselfly or is it a female Common Blue? 

I have decided to pursue the matter a little further by (a) posting further photographs, the ones in this post which were taken by David (and used with his permission!), and (b) posting the photos on iSpot so that others also have the chance to have a look and offer an opinion. I will let you know how I get on. Meanwhile, please feel free, as ever, to let me know your thoughts in the Comments section. Thank you!

Photo credit: David Gill 2020

Photo credit: David Gill 2020

Photo credit: David Gill 2020

P.S. Update as of 23 July 2020. Many thanks to A.J. Parr, the Dragonfly Recorder for Suffolk, who has informed me that this is a female Small Red-eyed Damselfly, quite probably part of a local (Thorpeness) population. He explains that a female Common Blue would have 'only one, not two, dark streaks on the side of the thorax'.

Monday 20 July 2020

A 'Floral' Afternoon on the Beach at Aldeburgh

We spent a little time on the beach at Aldeburgh yesterday afternoon. As expected there were a lot of people out and about on the footpath that runs between the car park and the beach, but there were very few people on the shingle and only three in the sea. As you can see there was nobody in the vicinity of the iconic Scallop.

My thanks to Conehead54 for advising me that this is Fennel (see comments)

There were few birds about, just the odd gull overhead and a single juvenile on the beach. There did not seem to many insects either, so I decided to photograph some of the plants. Many, if not most of these, are fragile and rare; and consequently cannot be picked.

I think this is Restharrow

This may be Common Restharrow. I find I am a bit rusty on my wildflower names. The insect is probably a Cinnamon Bug. I hadn't realised it was there until I uploaded the photograph.

Possibly a Blue-tailed Damselfly: what do you think? (* see below)

There was a straggly clump of bramble near the footpath, and David noticed this rather well-camouflaged damselfly.  

The leaves in the photo above look similar to a Bindweed. But I really don't know whether I am on the right track with this red and yellow bud.

There were a few clumps of Ragwort, so we kept a close eye out for Cinnabar caterpillars. I am wondering if the insect in the photo above is a type of (possibly damaged) Earwig. Do let me know if you recognise it, and meanwhile, I shall post it on the iSpot site. 

Lady's bedstraw?

There seem to be quite a few yellow plants along this stretch of coast. I presume there must be a reason: could it be linked to salt-tolerance?

Yellow Toadflax

I always get confused when it comes to saxifrages and stonecrops. I wonder whether the clump of vegetation below may be related to Biting Stonecrop.

White Campion is fairly distinct, but Sea Campion and Bladder Campion are not so easy to tell apart. However, I believe the plant below is Sea Campion. There were quite a few clumps on the shingle ridge.

I don't often encounter Groundsel these days, but we came across a small specimen (below) near the upper edge of the beach. 

And here is the juvenile gull!

I love the patterning on its scapulars and coverts.

Lichen is usually an indicator of clear air. Aldeburgh is considered a healthy, if bracing, place to live. 

The sea, the sea...

I'm guessing this is a variety of Yarrow above.

The yellow flowers of the Horned Poppy are unmistakable.  

We noticed a couple of 'mermaid's purses'.  

There were  several clumps of this yellow plant in the photo below; and in one of the dandelion-like flower heads, I noticed what I thought at first was a small moth. Closer inspection suggested a bee of some sort, and I hope someone on iSpot will be able to enlighten me. I apologise for the poor quality: stem and insect were rocking to and fro in the wind.

The photo below shows how empty the beach had become by about 4.30 in the afternoon. The village with the tower is Thorpeness.

Sea Kale, in the pictures above and below, seems to grow well here on the stony beach.

It is a plant protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 and should not be picked.

I am always intrigued by these lookout poles. In my childhood we knew them as 'bear poles'.

We kept looking at the stems of Ragwort...

... and eventually found one 6-spot Burnet moth ...

... and a single striped Cinnabar caterpillar. 

The plant in the photo below is the Sea Pea, another legally-protected plant that is well adapted to the harsh terrain. Its low-lying nature means that it is sheltered from the force of the winds on this exposed east coast. 

And finally, as we returned to the point where the beach joins the path, I noticed a few red Poppies. 

P.S. My thanks to the author of Odo-meter and Imperfect and Tense blogs for informing me that the damselfly seems to be a female Small Red-eyed specimen, a variety new to me. Further thanks to Conehead54 for indicating that the same damselfly is a female Common Blue. I will see if we have a better photograph which may possibly make a more definitive ID possible. Watch this space! 

Saturday 18 July 2020

Big Butterfly Count (and a new homepatch species)

I had a tip-off that these beautiful butterflies were on the wing in our area, but it came as a surprise when we found one in our garden yesterday. I have not seen many Brown Argus butterflies in my life, and the few I have spotted have all been in Cambridgeshire at NT Wicken Fen. We have only knowingly had one Common Blue, a male, in our garden so far this year, but I wondered at first if the new sighting could be a female. I checked this website and came to the conclusion that this was unlikely on account of the marked dark spot on the wing and the markings on the outer hindwing, but since four kind folk have now agreed with my Brown Argus ID, I think this is probably what it is (but do feel free to say otherwise - with explanation, please!). 

Yesterday marked the start of the Big Butterfly Count, organised by Butterfly Conservation. This citizen-science survey made the national BBC News here in England so I hope there will be a good response, particularly since many species are in decline. David and I did two fifteen minute counts this afternoon on a quiet lane bordered by fields and hedges, now that my 'government shielding' advice allows for time beyond the garden in the company of another adult.  

Meanwhile, I continue to count butterflies in the garden for the Garden Butterfly Survey

Oh, and on another note entirely, the BATS were back in the garden last night. It is only the second time we have seen them this year. I saw two, both too large for Pipistrelles, and David saw more at the front of the house. I wonder what they are...

Wednesday 8 July 2020

Latest Lepidopteran Garden Sightings

We had a short burst of sunshine yesterday morning, and were delighted to find our first Gatekeeper of the year in the garden.

We also noticed this moth, which I'm guessing is a Silver Y on account of the 'Y' markings, though it seemed an unusual pose for one of these insects. It was resting in dappled shade under the Silver Birch, and was tricky to photograph. 

A new flower, the mauve one below, has opened in the place where we planted the wildflower seeds given to us by Butterfly Conservation (Suffolk branch). I'm assuming this IS Corncockle rather than the yellow one, which I now think is Corn Marigold. Please correct me if I still haven't got these names sorted! I hope the weather will improve so that insects are attracted to these latest blooms.

Saturday 4 July 2020

National Meadows Day (in Miniature)

Today is National Meadows Day here in the UK. This particular 'celebration' has wild flowers has its focus, but I have added inverted commas as the news is not all good. I read on the magnificent meadows site about '7.5 million acres of meadows and flower-rich grasslands that have been lost since the 1930s'. The English Heritage site tells much the same story here.

Due to my shielding (which continues in many respects until August) I have not been out in a 'proper' meadow for far too long, so I have chosen to post a few pictures of our garden which is currently a micro-meadow with a path for my daily exercise. I share the path with Blackbirds and think it must help them to see what is lurking at the base of the long grass.

Is this a Carder bee of sorts?

We simply allowed the lawn to grow, and it was not only grass that grew but Knapweed,

You can see where the Nursery-web spiderlings hatched out: we watched it happen!

Ox-eye daisies,

and a plant with globular blue flower heads that looks as if it might be a garden escape, perhaps a species of Echinops or Eryngeum. Do let me know if you recognise it! It seems to attract ladybirds, and will, I hope, attract bees when the blue flowers open.

Last year's seed head with this year's pupa, which should darken soon.

It has been a joy to see more Meadow Browns than we have had before,

Ringlets, which we have not had before...

and more Skipper butterflies than there have been in previous years.

Butterfly Conservation's Suffolk branch supplied us with seeds for insects, which we grew in a trough. These are now a cluster of meadow flowers in the form of Cornflowers and Corn marigolds. I have also grown Poppies from seed.

I still recall Nursery School afternoons when the boys and girls my class marched off in a crocodile to Kippington Meadow in Kent. Part of our time in the meadow included forming a large circle to sing (and skip along to) 'In and out the dusty bluebells'. Meadows are so important for biodiversity and I feel sad that I have not been able to go out and see a bluebell this year. But I wonder how many children never have the chance to run wild among the buttercups and butterflies in swathes of long grass.

Friday 3 July 2020

Updated Home Patch Species List, 2020***

Garden wildlife during the lockdown, a selection

I am delighted to report that I have now counted 100 (+1) insect species in our suburban Suffolk garden. Insect number 101, spotted this morning, was rather spectacular, and a first sighting of this species for me. Sadly it flew over the fence before I could reach for my camera but never mind. I wonder what wildlife tomorrow will bring.

Before I post my list, I want to mention an insect that regretfully does not feature on it. The Glow-worm. My lockdown poetry project comes to an end this week since so many of the restrictions are being lifted here in England, but there is still time for you to sit down in a quiet place and write a 5-line poem inspired by the fabulous Glow-worm photos taken by Vicky Quantrill whose brother, Dr Tim Gardiner, entomologist and published writer, is Guest Poet on my lockdown site, The Glow of Emerald Light. Do click this link and see if you might like to submit a poem before 23.00 hrs on Wednesday 8 July. You will find a few guidelines and suggestions. Do read Tim's contribution to the project here.

And now to my updated list...

Avian sightings
  • HPb1   Great Spotted Woodpecker [O]  [early March, June 2020]
  • HPb2   Great tit [R] 2020
  • HPb3   Long-tailed tit [R] 2020
  • HPb4   Blackbird [R] 2020
  • HPb5   Song Thrush  [27 April 2019 - a pair] [27 March 2020]
  • HPb6   Blue tit [R] 2020
  • HPb7   Robin  [R]  2020
  • HPb8   Magpie [R] 2020
  • HPb9   Wood Pigeon  [R] 2020
  • HPb10 Dunnock [R] 2020
  • HPb11 Starling [R] 2020
  • HPb12 Carrion Crow [R] 2020
  • HPb13 Goldfinch [R] 2020
  • HPb14 Jay [O] 2020
  • HPb15 Green Woodpecker [O] seen in passing [May 2020]
  • HPb16 Wren [O] [27 March 2020]
  • HPb17 Bullfinch [19 January 2017] 2020
  • HPb18 Sparrowhawk [June 2020]
  • HPb19 Mallard 
  • HPb20 House Sparrow [1 June 2019] [June 2020]
  • HPb21 Chaffinch 2020
  • HPb22 Grey Heron [18 and 26 Feb 2020]
  • HPb23 Collared Dove [R] 2020
  • HPb24 Coal tit  
  • HPb25 Redwing [20 January 2017] 
  • HPb26 Kestrel  [8 June 2017]  
  • HPb27 Blackcap [Feb 2020]
  • HPb28 Greenfinch [6 Feb 2020]
  • HPb29 Swift [15 July 2020]

Mammal sightings
  • HPm1 (?Wood) Mouse
  • HPm2 Bat ... [1st 2015 sighting 7 May 2015] [Apr/May 2015]  [22 Jan 2017]  [Aug 2018]  [8 Aug 2019] [May, 17, 25 July 2020]
  • HPm3 Shrew 
  • HPm4 Grey Squirrel [R] and now [O] 2020
  • HPm5 Stoat
  • HPm6 Hedgehog  [9 Aug 2018] [1 June 2019]

Amphibian sightings
  • HPam1 Common Frog [26 May 2019] 

Reptile sightings
  • HPr1 Common Lizard (a first for the garden!) [1 August 2020]

Insect sightings 
  • HPi1 Small Tortoiseshell butterfly [March 2014] [27 Feb 2017]  2019: where are these butterflies?
  • HPi2 Buff-tailed Bumblebee [March 2014] [Jan/Feb 2016] [Mar/Apr 2016] [2017] 2020
  • HPi3 Brimstone butterfly [April 2014] [5 June 2019] 2020
  • HPi4 7-spot Ladybird [April 2014] [Oct 2014] [2015] [Jul/Aug 2015] [Sept/Oct 2015] [Mar/Apr 2016] 2020
  • HPi5 Small Skipper butterfly [July 2014] [26 July 2019] [20,21 June 2020]
  • HPi6 Meadow Brown butterfly [July 2014] [Jul/Aug 2015] [12 June 2020, six!]
  • HPi7 Large White butterfly [July 2014] [Jul/Aug 2016] [21 June 2020]
  • HPi8 14-spot Yellow Ladybirds [July 2014] [May 2019] [1 July 2020]
  • HPi9 Small White butterfly [May 2014] [Apr/May 2015] [Sept/Oct 2015 - larvae] [2 May 2019] 2020
  • HPi10 Orange tip butterfly [May 2014] 2020
  • HPi11 Harlequin ladybird  [May 2014] [October 2014] [Sept/Oct 2015] [1 April 2019, N.B. spotless] 
  • HPi12 Garden Chafer (Phyllopertha horticola) [June 2014] [June/July 2016] [18 May 2018]
  • HPi13 Ruby-tail Wasp [June 2014] [May/June 2015] [May/June 2016] [21 May 2017]  [May 2020]
  • HPi14 Blackfly [R]  2020
  • HPi15 Marmalade Hoverfly [July 2014] [Jul/Aug 2015] [Jul/Aug 2016] [20 June 2020]
  • HPi16 Gorse Shield bug [27 March 2020] New!
  • HPi17 Migrant Hawker dragonflies [July 2014]
  • HPi18 Gatekeeper butterfly [Jul/Aug 2016] [9 Aug 2019] 2020
  • HPi19 Comma butterfly [August 2014] [June/July 2016] [2017] [8 Aug 2019] 2020
  • HPi20 Red Admiral butterfly [August 2014] [October 2014] [Jul/Aug 2015] [8 Aug 2019] [14 June 2020]
  • HPi21 Peacock butterfly [August 2014] [Jul/Aug 2015] [Nov/Dec 2015] [8 Aug 2019] [27 March 2020]
  • HPi22 Green bottle flies [August 2014] [May/June 2015] 2020
  • HPi23 Ants [R] [27 March 2020]
  • HPi24 Squashbug aka Dock Bug, (Coreus marginatus ) [August 2014] [May 2018, mating]
  • HPi25 Birch Shieldbug (late instar?) [September 2014]
  • HPi26 Lacewing [October 2014] [Sept/Oct 2015]  [14 June 2020]
  • HPi27 Cereal Leaf Beetle [Apr/May 2015]
  • HPi28 Painted Lady [2018] [8 Aug 2019]
  • HPi29 Rosemary Beetle [[Sept/Oct 2015] [May/June 2016 - four] [May 2017]
  • HPi30 Hawthorn Shieldbug [May/June 2015] 
  • HPi31 Forest Shieldbug (Pentatoma rufipes) [Sept/Oct 2015] 
  • HPi32 Early Bumblebee [Mar/Apr 2016] 
  • HPi33 *Species of Miridae [Mar/Apr 2016]  
  • HPi34 Cranefly [R]  2020
  • HPi35 Crossocerus, wasps family Crabronidae [May/June 2016] 
  • HPi36 Wasp Beetle (Clytus arietis) [May/June 2016]
  • HPi37 Tree Bumblebee (Bombus (Pyrobombus) hypnorum) [May/June 2016] 
  • HPi38 Moth Least Black Arches (Nola confusalis) [May/June 2016] 
  • HPi39 Holly Blue Butterfly  [26 May 2017]  [27 April and 6 June 2019] 2020
  • HPi40 Dark Bush Cricket (nymph) [18 May 2017] [10 June 2019] [10 June 2020]
  • HPi41 Common Cockchafer  [18 May 2017] [14 June 2019] [10 June 2020]
  • HPi42 Scorpion Fly [May2017] [23 May 2017]  
  • HPi43 Soldier Beetle (Cantharis rustica [2017] [13 May 2018][2019] 2020
  • HPi44 Cabbage Bug (Eurydema (Eurydema) oleracea)  [2017]  [9 June 2017]  
  • HPi45 Light Brown Apple moth (Epiphyas postvittana) [2017] [23 May 2017] 
  • HPi46 Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula)   [9 May 2018] 
  • HPi47  Common Blue butterfly (Polyommatus icarus)   [11 May 2018] 2020
  • HPi48  Speckled Wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria)   [15 May 2018] 2020
  • HPi49  Ruby Tiger moth (Phragmatobia fuliginosa)   [18 May 2018] 2020
  • HPi50  Mint Moth (Pyrausta aurata)   [24 May 2018]  [2019] 2020
  • HPi51  Mullein Moth larva (Cucullia verbasci)   [14 June 2018] 
  • HPi52  Silver Y moth (two)   [August 2018] 14 July 2020
  • HPi53  Rove Beetle (Platydracus stercorarius)   [September 2018] 
  • HPi54 *Species of Nomada [27 April 2019] 
  • HPi55 Fire bug nymph [17 April 2019] 
  • HPi56 Pine Ladybird [1 April 2019]  2020
  • HPi57 Cinnabar moth [4 and 5 April 2019] [21 June 2020] 
  • HPi58 Small Red Damselfly [20 May 2019]  2020 
  • HPi59 *Tortoise Bug [3 June 2019]   
  • HPi60 *Cryptolaemus montrouzieri [6 June 2019] 
  • HPi61 *Varied Carpet Beetle (Anthrenus (Nathrenus) verbasci)  [6 June 2019] 2020
  • HPi62 *Empis tessellata [31 May 2019] 
  • HPi63 *Macrophya [22 May 2019] 
  • HPi64 *Bagworm moth case (Psychidae) [31 May 2019]  
  • HPi65 *Greater Bulb-Fly (Merodon equestris) [22 May 2019]  2020
  • HPi66 *Figwort Weevil larva (Cionus scrophulariae) [22 May 2019] 
  • HPi67 *Arge Sawfly (Arge cyanocrocea) [22 May 2019]  2020
  • HPi68 *Sarcophaga [16 May 2019]
  • HPi69 *Juniper Shield Bug (Cyphosthetus tristriatus) [16 May 2019] 
  • HPi70 *St Mark's Fly (Bibio marci) [28 April 2019] 
  • HPi71 Fairy Longhorn moth (Adela) [9 May 2019]  
  • HPi72 *Dagger Fly (Empis Tessellata) [13 May 2019]  
  • HPi73 *Honey bee (Apis mellifera) [31 May 2019]  2020
  • HPi74 *Rutpela maculata [14 June 2019] 
  • HPi75 *Soldier Fly (Stratiomyidae) [12 June 2019] 
  • HPi76 *Small Dusty Wave moth (Idaea seriata) [31 May and 5 Sept 2019]
  • HPi77 *Planthopper (Issus Coleoptratus) [18 June 2019]  
  • HPi78 Sexton (Burying) Beetle [7 Aug 2019] 
  • HPi79 Small Copper [3 Aug 2019]  [10 May 2020]
  • HPi80 *Speckled Bush Cricket [3 Aug 2019] 
  • HPi81 Dark-edged Bee-fly (Bombylius major) [24 Mar 2020]
  • HPi82 *Rhyparochromus vulgaris Ground bug [2 April 2020] 
  • HPi83 *Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena (Andrena) fulva) [11 April 2020] 
  • HPi84 *Dolichovespula media [19 April 2020] 
  • HPi85 Mother Shipton moth [May 2020]
  • HPi86 Green Hairstreak [May 2020] 
  • HPi87 *Angle Shades moth [25 May 2020] 
  • HPi88 Green-veined White [Apr 2020]  
  • HPi89 Malachite beetle [June 2020]   
  • HPi90 Thick-legged Flower Beetle [June 2020]    
  • HPi91 Common Froghopper [12 June 2020]     
  • HPi92 Small Heath [13 June, 18 July 2020]    
  • HPi93 Stag Beetle (female) [13 June 2020]    
  • HPi94 Red-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius, m & f) [18 June 2020]    
  • HPi95 Long hoverfly Sphaerophoria scripta [18 June 2020]    
  • HPi96 Blue-tailed Damselfly [14 June 2020]    
  • HPi97 Common White Wave moth [13 June 2020]    
  • HPi98 Ringlet butterfly [25 June 2020]    
  • HPi99 Leaf-cutter bee (Megachile centuncularis)  [26 June 2020]   
  • HPi100 *Lesser Stag Beetle (Dorcus parallelipipedus) [27 June 2020] 
  • HPi101 Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth (see here) [3 July 2020]   
  • HPi102 Ichneumon Amblyteles armatorius [10 July 2020]  
  • HPi103 Emperor Dragonfly [16 July 2020] 
  • HPi104 Swallowtail moth [16 July 2020] 
  • HPi105 *Brown Argus (a first for the garden!) [18, 24 July 2020]
  • HPi106 *White-point moth (another first for the garden!) [18 July 2020]
  • HPi107 *Hairy-legged Mining Bee, aka Pantaloon bee (Dasypoda hirtipes) (yet another first for the garden!) [18 July 2020] 
  • HPi108 White Plume moth (and another first for the garden!) [25 July 2020]
  • HPm1 Brown Lipped Snail (Cepaea (Cepaea) nemoralis) [May/June 2016] 2020
  • HPm2 Field Slug (Deroceras) [May/June 2016] 
    • HPa1 Zebra Spider [Apr/May 2015] [May/June 2015] [Mar/Apr 2016] [May 2018] 2020
    • HPa2 Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus) [May/June 2015] [27 April 2019]
    • HPa3 *Cucumber spider (Arianella) [31 May 2019]  
    • HPa4 *Jumping spider (Heliophanus) [22 May 2019]  
    • HPa5 Crab spider, with pink stripes, aka 'White Death' (Misumena vatia) [9 Aug 2019]   
    • HPa6 Nursery Web spider (Heliophanus) [22 Mar 2020] Spiderlings hatch: 27 June 2020