Thursday, 23 September 2021

'On a Knife Edge' Review



Back in May I blogged about this book on my Poetry and Other Writing blog. In case you missed it, I shall re-post my words here. Juliet Wilson has written a review of On a Knife Edge, which you can read here on her Crafty Green Poet blog. Do take a look. And thank you, CGP, for mentioning my own recent collection of poems, Driftwood by Starlight (The Seventh Quarry Press, 2021).   


On a Knife Edge was published by Suffolk Poetry Society as a response to the diminishing state of nature report. It forms part of a collaboration between the Society and The Lettering Arts Trust (Snape), where an exhibition of the same name opened in July. I am delighted to have two poems and a micro-poem about IUCN red-listed species included in the book. 

The topic resonates closely with Robert Macfarlane's work (supported by Jackie Morris and her artwork) in response to an increasing concern over the fact that 'nature words' (for the 'lost words', see here) were being removed from the 2007 edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary. Apparently space was needed for words deemed more valuable in a digital and technical age. You can read my post here about a previous exhibition at The Lettering Arts Trust on this subject. 

On a Knife Edge was primarily created by Derek Adams, Lynne Nesbit, Beth Soule and Colin Whyles. It can be purchased here

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Wasp Spiders and their Egg-Sacs

Female Wasp Spider, home patch

We first encountered these fascinating spiders (Argiope bruennichi) in September 2020. Between 5th and 9th September last year I recorded four females, the large striped ones, in our home patch. 

We have enjoyed watching them again this year, though we have never seen more than three at a given time. This morning we discovered a second egg-sac in the long grass, so we hope this means that there will be more Wasp Spiders in 2022. 

These spiders like natural grassland, and we suspect it is our lack of mowing, the result of a pledge we made at the Suffolk Wildlife Trust Summit, that has attracted them to our wild garden. The long grass has certainly attracted grasshoppers, a key food source.

The discovery of a new egg-sac seemed a good moment to post some of our Wasp Spider photos. I hope you enjoy them!

Female with prey


Female with egg-sac

Female near the stabilimentum

You can read about the 'ultra-violet reflective' stabilimentum or zigzag section of web here in the beginning of an article.

Underside of female (with egg-sac)

Female with egg-sac

Damp weather; female with parcel of prey


Evidence of two different spider species in close proximity 

Female upside-down, with egg-sac

Female and egg-sac


Underside of female. Stabilimentum 


Do you see the tiny spider on the right? Is this a different species?

The male Wasp Spider is much smaller than the female. It is light brown and has two yellow lines running along the underneath of the abdomen.

Is the same spider as the tiny curled creature in the photo above?

... and this? Do leave a comment if you know.

Wasp Spider egg-sac spotted on Sutton Heath near Woodbridge

My thanks to David (Gill) for a couple of the photographs in this post.

Sunday, 5 September 2021

Surprise Moth on the White Buddleia

I fear I am rather scraping the barrel with the quality of these photographs; but, once again, they serve as useful record shots. Our white buddleia has at long last come into its own this year, attracting the occasional Comma, Peacock, Painted Lady and Small Tortoiseshell butterfly, along with good numbers of Red Admiral and Small White. There have been plenty of bees on the higher branches. 

We were sitting outside on Thursday afternoon when a particularly 'fluttery' insect caught my attention and I knew almost instinctively that it was a Hummingbird Hawk-moth, a garden first for us. I am adding the sighting to my home-patch list. The moth was very skittish and hard to photograph. It did not hang around for long, but it was there and we both saw it. 

I last saw one of these beautiful insects here in Suffolk a few years ago. Prior to that, my sightings had been in the western Peloponnese - here. You can read more about the Hummingbird Hawk-moth here on the Butterfly Conservation site.


Monday, 30 August 2021

A Flutter of Butterflies

Painted Lady

It has not been a good season for butterflies here in our Suffolk garden, though we had a few Brown Argus earlier on and even a Green Hairstreak. However, Red Admirals seem to have flourished in recent days and even the white Buddleia has been awash with their colourful wings. 

We have been thrilled to see a few Painted Ladies, like the one in the picture above that landed on one of the old insect houses. This house has been taken over by ants; you can see their earthworks in the holes. Last summer this same insect house was the domain of Leafcutter bees, who were a joy to watch as they came in and out with their rolled-leaf parcels. 



Meadow Brown, numbers down on 2020

A rather travel-worn Red Admiral

Peacock, one of the few

Red Admiral, one of the many more numerous

Small White (we have had Large Whites, too)

Small Tortoiseshell, a slightly better 'garden season' for these

We also had a single male Brimstone a few days ago followed by a Speckled Wood, but they didn't stay around long enough for a photograph. 


Painted Lady, wings closed


Monday, 16 August 2021

Common Blue Butterflies at Landguard, Felixstowe


We seem to have had a very breezy, and at times blustery, summer here in our corner of the east coast. Small butterflies, like the blues, tend to hide away in the long grass and are not easy to see. If they brave the elements by clinging to Viper's Bugloss, Ragwort or grass seedheads, they sway about and can be very difficult to photograph!  

But I love blue butterflies (which always bring to mind 'Blue-Butterfly Day', Robert Frost's springtime poem), and am always glad when I encounter them. The photographs in this post were taken this last weekend on the nature reserve at Landguard, which nestles between the North Sea and the container port of Felixstowe. We think we also saw one or two Brown Argus; these insects are not easy to distinguish from Common Blue females, and in such windy conditions, it was hard to be sure. However, I think the butterflies in these photos are all Common Blue. 


Sunday, 15 August 2021

Wasp Spider in the Garden ... at last!



Having kept a careful eye on last year's Wasp Spiders and then their extraordinary egg-sacs, we were beginning to think that the small 'colony' in our Suffolk garden had died out over the winter. This however was not the case, at least not the case entirely, for (while the photo below was taken in 2020) the photo above was taken yesterday. What fascinating arachnids these are! The one above shows the underside; and the one below, the top of the spider's abdomen.

As a postscript to this post I should add that some hours after taking the top photograph, we returned to 'check on' the spider, only to find a large wasp in the grass by the web. What we failed to ascertain was whether the spider was attacking the insect or the other way around. I rather thought the spider had had its day; but no, a little later on there it was, and the wasp had disappeared. Do leave a comment if you can explain what was going on. I have failed to find a website that explains how Wasp Spiders and wasps behave towards one another. 




Previous post (here): Tiger moths, Butterflies ... and Driftwood by Starlight, my new poetry collection.


Saturday, 14 August 2021

Tiger moths, Butterflies ... and 'Driftwood by Starlight', my new poetry collection



It seems a while since I last posted about wildlife on this blog. There are various reasons for this including the following: 

(a) having postponed last year's holiday, we finally got away to Cornwall.

(b) I have been busy with the launch of my new poetry collection and other (less exciting!) matters that accrued in the run up to it.

Anyway, the photographs show our favourite moth of the season so far, a Scarlet Tiger seen in the grounds of NT Cotehele, on the banks of the river Tamar. The moth was high up in a tree, which is why the photographs are fairly small. 

The photograph below shows the same species (I believe), also taken in Cornwall, this time at NT Trerice two years ago. This was our first sighting ever of the species, and on this occasion it opened its wings, displaying the reason for its name.



On the subject of lepidoptera, we took full advantage of the three weeks of the Big Butterfly Count organised by Butterfly Conservation. Each time we sat outside for coffee, lunch or mugs of tea we tried to do a 15 minute count, which was then submitted to the survey. 

This time last year we did much the same, and there were times when it was literally a case of take a bite, log a butterfly, take a sip, log two. It wasn't a bit like that this year; the butterflies arrived in dribs and drabs, but over the course of a week or so numbers began to mount. Even so, they don't look particularly good when set alongside those for 2020! My thanks to David for preparing these charts, which make most sense when you read them together. 



We are at last beginning to see a decent increase in Red Admirals, perhaps because the white Buddleia has finally begun to come out in our garden. We even had a male Brimstone earlier, the first for a while. 

I began this post with a Scarlet Tiger moth. One of the poems in my new collection concerns the larva of a different Tiger moth species. Driftwood by Starlight can be bought online (£6.99, $10) in The Seventh Quarry Press online shop (here). Some of you will know the Crafty Green Poet blog, where you can read a review (thank you, Juliet!).


Launch day

Driftwood by Starlight by Caroline Gill, published June 2021, available from The Seventh Quarry Press

'The beautifully-crafted poems in Caroline Gill's debut full-length collection more than live up to the appeal of its Cornish cove cover and title. With elegance and finesse, she masters a range of traditional forms, all of which beg to be read aloud so their musicality can be fully relished. In several poems, joy and wonder in the natural world co-exist with a deep, questioning concern for threatened species from the puffin to the fen raft spider, while Gill's imagery, particularly where birdlife's concerned – 'the curlew's bill of boomerang design', 'white/grenades explode as gannets pierce the sea' – surprises and delights in equal measure.'
Susan Richardson, author of Words the Turtle Taught Me 
(Cinnamon Press, 2018), shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award

Tuesday, 10 August 2021

Updated Home Patch Species List

Purple Hairstreak, summer 2020
I have been keeping a list since 2014 of the wildlife I see in our suburban Suffolk garden. For a creature to be counted in my list, it must be seen in our garden, or under or above it. This year I have been keeping an eye on the wildflowers that appear, too. I may decide to combine the two lists in due course.

* = an identification given via iSpot. 

[R] = a regular visitor

[O] = an occasional one. 


Incidentally, the Migrant Hawker sightings in the list below inspired one of the poems in my brand new poetry collection, Driftwood by Starlight, which is is now available in the online shop for The Seventh Quarry Press. Do take a look here


And now to my updated list...

Avian sightings

  • HPb1   Great Spotted Woodpecker [O]  [early March, June, Aug 2020]early Mar., 17 June 2021
  • HPb2   Great tit [R] 20202021
  • HPb3   Long-tailed tit [R] 20202021
  • HPb4   Blackbird [R] 20202021, with young
  • HPb5   Song Thrush  [27 April 2019 - a pair] [27 March 2020]
  • HPb6   Blue tit [R] 20202021, with young
  • HPb7   Robin  [R]  20202021, with young
  • HPb8   Magpie [R] 20202021
  • HPb9   Wood Pigeon  [R] 20202021
  • HPb10 Dunnock [R] 20202021
  • HPb11 Starling [R] 20202021, with young
  • HPb12 Carrion Crow [R] 20202021
  • HPb13 Goldfinch [R] 20202021, with young
  • HPb14 Jay [O] 2020  Mar. 2021 (two)
  • HPb15 Green Woodpecker [O] seen in passing [May 2020]
  • HPb16 Wren [O] [27 March 2020]2021
  • HPb17 Bullfinch [19 January 2017] 2020
  • HPb18 Sparrowhawk [June 2020] [25 Feb 2021]
  • HPb19 Mallard 
  • HPb20 House Sparrow [1 June 2019] [June 2020] Mar. 2021 several
  • HPb21 Chaffinch 2020 Mar. 2021
  • HPb22 Grey Heron [18 and 26 Feb 2020] early May 2021
  • HPb23 Collared Dove [R] 2020 2021
  • HPb24 Coal tit 2021
  • HPb25 Redwing [20 January 2017] Feb 2021
  • HPb26 Kestrel  [8 June 2017] 4 June 2021
  • HPb27 Blackcap [Feb 2020] 28 Feb, 7 Mar 2021
  • HPb28 Greenfinch [6 Feb 2020]
  • HPb29 Swift [15 July 2020]16 June 2021
  • HPb30 Buzzard [Sept 2020] 16 June 2021
  • HPb31 Fieldfares [a flock, garden first, February 2021]
  • HPb32 Common Gull Mar. 2021
  • Cuckoo - not listed as such because it just missed our garden, but for only the second time since we moved here nearly a decade ago, I not only heard one calling but also caught sight of it. [2 June 2021]
Mammal sightings
  • HPm1 (?Wood) Mouse Mar. 2021
  • HPm2 Bat ... [1st 2015 sighting 7 May 2015] [Apr/May 2015]  [22 Jan 2017]  [Aug 2018]  [8 Aug 2019] [May, 17, 25 July 2020] 18 May, 15 June, 26 Aug 2021
  • HPm3 Shrew 
  • HPm4 Grey Squirrel [R] and now [O] 2020 15 Mar, Aug 2021
  • HPm5 Stoat
  • HPm6 Hedgehog  [9 Aug 2018] [1 June 2019]

Amphibian sightings
  • HPam1 Common Frog [26 May 2019] 

Reptile sightings
  • HPr1 Common Lizard (two: new species for the garden!) [1, 8 August 2020]

Insect sightings 
  • HPi1 Small Tortoiseshell butterfly [March 2014] [27 Feb 2017]  2019, 2020: where are these butterflies?three, Aug 2021
  • HPi2 Buff-tailed Bumblebee [March 2014] [Jan/Feb 2016] [Mar/Apr 2016] [2017] 20202021
  • HPi3 Brimstone butterfly [April 2014] [5 June 2019] 20202021
  • HPi4 7-spot Ladybird [April 2014] [Oct 2014] [2015] [Jul/Aug 2015] [Sept/Oct 2015] [Mar/Apr 2016] 20202021
  • HPi5 Small Skipper butterfly [July 2014] [26 July 2019] [20,21 June 2020]2021
  • HPi6 Meadow Brown butterfly [July 2014] [Jul/Aug 2015] [12 June 2020, six!]2021
  • HPi7 Large White butterfly [July 2014] [Jul/Aug 2016] [21 June 2020]7 June 2021
  • 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] 20202021
  • HPi10 Orange tip butterfly [May 2014] 2020 11 May 2021
  • 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]2021
  • HPi18 Gatekeeper butterfly [Jul/Aug 2016] [9 Aug 2019] 20202021
  • HPi19 Comma butterfly [August 2014] [June/July 2016] [2017] [8 Aug 2019] 20202021
  • HPi20 Red Admiral butterfly [August 2014] [October 2014] [Jul/Aug 2015] [8 Aug 2019] [14 June 2020]Aug 2021
  • HPi21 Peacock butterfly [August 2014] [Jul/Aug 2015] [Nov/Dec 2015] [8 Aug 2019] [27 March 2020] [two on 25 March 2021
  • HPi22 Green bottle flies [August 2014] [May/June 2015] 2020
  • HPi23 Ants [R] [27 March 2020]2021
  • 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]three, Aug 2021
  • 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] 2021
  • HPi33 *Species of Miridae [Mar/Apr 2016]  
  • HPi34 Cranefly [R]  20202021
  • 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] 202026 May 2021
  • 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]5 June 2021
  • HPi42 Scorpion Fly [May2017] [23 May 2017]  8 June 2021
  • 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] 20202021
  • HPi48  Speckled Wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria)   [15 May 2018] 2020 24 May 2021
  • HPi49  Ruby Tiger moth (Phragmatobia fuliginosa)   [18 May 2018] 2020
  • HPi50  Mint Moth (Pyrausta aurata)   [24 May 2018]  [2019] 202015 June, 27 Aug 2021
  • HPi51  Mullein Moth larva (Cucullia verbasci)   [14 June 2018] 
  • HPi52  Silver Y moth (two)   [August 2018] 14 July 2020Aug 2021
  • HPi53  Rove Beetle (Platydracus stercorarius)   [September 2018] 
  • HPi54 *Green Long-horn moth 13 May 2021
  • HPi55 Fire bug nymph [17 April 2019] 
  • HPi56 Pine Ladybird [1 April 2019]  20202021
  • 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] 19 May 2021
  • HPi71 Fairy Longhorn moth (Adela) [9 May 2019] 2021
  • HPi72 *Dagger Fly (Empis Tessellata) [13 May 2019]  
  • HPi73 *Honey bee (Apis mellifera) [31 May 2019]  20202021
  • 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] 2 June 2021
  • 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] 13 Mar 2021
  • HPi83 *Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena (Andrena) fulva) [11 April 2020] 27 May 2021
  • HPi84 *Dolichovespula media [19 April 2020] 
  • HPi85 Mother Shipton moth [May 2020]
  • HPi86 Green Hairstreak [May 2020] 12 May, 9 June 2021
  • 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] 2021
  • 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]2021
  • HPi106 *White-point moth (another first for the garden!) [18 July 2020]
  • HPi107 *Hairy-legged Mining Bee, aka Pantaloon bee (Dasypoda hirtipes) (a first for the garden!) [18 July 2020] 
  • HPi108 White Plume moth (and another first for the garden!) [25, 27 July 2020]
  • HPi109 *Southern Hawker (female, and another first for the garden!) [8 Sept 2020]
  • HPi110 Field Grasshoppers [Aug and Sept 2020]
  • HPi111 Purple Hairstreak (a first for the garden!) [3 Aug 2020]  
  • HPi112 Rove Beetle, different from 53 above. Image below [25 February 2021]
  • HPi113 Meliscaeva auricollis. [25 March 2021]
  • HPi114 * Nomada marshamella [30 April 2021]
  • HPi115 Rhopalid bug Corizus hyoscyami [30 May 2021]
  • HPi116 Muslin moth [9 June 2021]
  • HPi117 Banded Demoiselle [15 June 2021]
  • HPi118 Box-tree moth [Aug 2021] 
  • HPi119 Hummingbird Hawk-moth  [3 September 2021]
  • HPm1 Brown Lipped Snail (Cepaea (Cepaea) nemoralis) [May/June 2016] 20202021
  • HPm2 Field Slug (Deroceras) [May/June 2016] 2021
  • 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, Sept 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) 2021
  • HPa7 *Noble False Widow 23 June 2021
  • HPa8 Wasp spider [new! four, 5-9 Sept 2020] three, Aug 2021... see photo below.