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