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Saturday, 14 September 2013

Poultry problems and nature notes

Poor old Freddie the cockerel is no more. He got some weird thing wrong with his eyes which just closed up, rendering him blind.  By the second day he wasn't even interested in drinking any more and there really wasn't any option. His eyes seemed very sunken and it was hard to actually try to open up his eyelids (or chicken equivalent thereof). He'd had a good old life - I don't know how old he was as we rehomed him from friends about three years ago as he was fighting with his son - and they'd taken him on from someone else several years before.

As for the two newbies, they had to be separated from the three remaining hens as the evil Andrea has decided she is top hen now and had pecked one of them under the eye, and I'd found her on day two with an eye all swollen shut and cheek all puffed up! Luckily the duck shed was free so I put them in there, but that wasn't a long term solution as I couldn't let them outside. So we remembered the 'broody box' that we'd been given along with Freddie, a sort of mini coop that we could use if we had a broody sitting on eggs. It never did get used as none of the hens went broody after we finally had a chance of some eggs getting fertilised! So the newbies have been sleeping in there in a run of their own for the last two weeks. I'm trying to get them back with the others and have been letting them out together during the day. Now we've had rain (at long last, after six weeks of bone dry) I've found this mini coop is not at all waterproof so they are going to have to go in with the others in the shed tonight, whether they like it or not....

Freddie two years ago meeting Andrea for the first time.

Onto the nature news - the wild birds are quiet now and not even much interested in the food we put out, but that's because like for us and our fruit and veg harvest, this is the time of plenty and there's tons of seed, fruit and bugs about to keep the birds happy. Mum was really happy to get to see a kingfisher when she was here (and I was happy to get a shot out of the kitchen window of it actually perching in full view over the scummy looking pond). The little warbler which I think must be a chiffchaff is still flitting about in my veggie patch happily eating my pollinators, thanks to all the flowers in there, and the swallows are still about. They won't be for much longer, and I noticed some grouping on the tops of trees, but zooming in on them I think they were youngsters. I've seen some being fed on the wing, so they've got to mature really fast before their long flight to Africa very soon.

Top left: Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
Top right: a warbler, most probably Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)
Bottom: Swallows (Hirundo rustica)

I've found a few more Odonata to add to my list of species seen here. The Common Darter below has been around quite a number of times and is an easy one to photograph as they like to perch and just dart out to grab a passing fly or midge, then back they settle on the same perch again. Sometimes I've managed to creep quite close.

Common Darter dragonfly (Sympetrum striolatum).

This damselfly is a little different from the others as it is one of the few species that rest with their wings open. Usually the way to tell the difference between dragonflies and damselflies (quite apart from the obvious size difference), is the way they hold their wings at rest - dragonflies always with their wings held open. This one has two or more common names (Willow Emerald Damselfly or Western Willow Spreadwing) and seems to have two latin names as well - according to Wikipedia it is now called Chalcolestes viridis, formely Lestes viridis, but google it and it's mostly still being called the latter everywhere else!

Chalcolestes viridis, formely Lestes viridis.

Very probably a Chalcolestes/Lestes viridis caught in a web
by a Cross Orb Weaver (Araneus diadematus) spider.
Unfortunately for me all happening inside the spent flower head of my Smoke Bush!

One of the kittens found the caterpillar below. We've been taking them out on harnesses for walks about the place before letting them out on their own, and I came running when my OH informed that Harry had found a 'big fat slug'. Hmmm with horns? I didn't know what it was at the time, although I knew it wasn't a slug, and it was flapping about like it was rather cross and angry - haven't met slugs doing that! I'm glad to know we have these Hawkmoths here as we have five lime trees (Tilia not the citrus fruit!) and although the caterpillars are green, they turn this colour when they are ready to pupate and go on walkabout looking for a suitable place to do so.

Lime Hawkmoth caterpillar (Mimas tiliae).

Just slipping in a photo of a Hummingbird Hawkmoth (Macroglossum stellatarum)
which I took recently!

This next one came as a nice surprise because out of the various colourful Tiger Moths I might expect to see in Europe, I've only ever seen the Jersey Tiger, which is a frequent visitor to my garden. This one, the Garden Tiger Moth, was just sitting on the dry soil in my veg patch a few days ago. It may have been on its last legs because we had quite a photo shoot without it attempting to fly off.

Garden Tiger Moth (Arctia caja), showing its beautiful hind wings.

Garden Tiger Moth (Arctia caja) showing its hairy side!

I saw one of these caterpillars this morning, despite it being damp and miserable. I first encountered them last autumn and this is a photo from then as I was not inspired to get my camera out earlier!

Knot Grass Moth (Acronicta rumicis) caterpillar.

The moth below was spotted earlier in August but I haven't shared it yet. It is very small and I wish I could have got closer as it's a beauty!

Fiery Clearwing Moth (Pyropteron chrysidiforme).
Also damn Stipa grass - always in the way when taking photos.... :-)

Finally... now this won't look like much to you but it's probably one of the most exciting mothy things I've ever found in my garden. And it's just a hind wing! It puzzled me for a while because it is largish butterfly size, and I couldn't think of any butterfly it had come from, and looked through all my books for rare and exotic species that might have visited - wishful thinking on the butterfly front. Then I thought maybe it was from a hawkmoth as they are big moths, but no.... then as I was leafing through the pages for any other kind of large moth, I found it. You should have heard the sharp intake of breath.

It's from a Clifden Nonpareil! One of those huge, beautiful moths that you see in books and on the telly on nature programmes, never expecting to see one in real life. So finding a wing and knowing that one was around in my garden is pretty exciting stuff for me! The topside of the hind wing is shown on the top photo, where you can just see the blue colour (probably shouldn't have photographed it on the blue tablecloth but hey, I didn't even notice the blue colour until I saw the image on my computer!). It's also known as a Blue Underwing and here's a link which shows the moth - nothing that special with its wings closed but it is huge, and it's something I've always wanted to see. :-)

Hind wing from a Clifden Nonpareil Moth (Catocala fraxini).

I'll continue with recent butterfly sightings on another post as I have gone on for long enough. Currently sitting here listening to jam jars going 'pop' after making chutney, and about to go and sort out the hens. Wish me luck!


  1. Wonderful photographs, Mandy, you've certainly found your niche.
    Sandra x

    1. Thank you Sandra, yes I've become well and truly smitten by the bug now!

  2. Replies
    1. Hi Red, nice to see you and thanks for dropping by!

  3. Sorry to read about Freddy, I'm sure he had a good life with you though.
    Fabulous photos especially the Garden Tiger Moth.

    Philippa x

  4. Sorry I got Freddies name wrong!

    Philippa x

    1. haha I don't think he will mind... and I don't know why I spell it like that anyway. You do know he came from Chris, don't you? It was him who made the leaky broody box! Thanks Philippa, and the Tiger moth was a great surprise that I enjoyed. Busy with chutney and jam making right now and will set aside some for you!

    2. I did wonder if it was the one you got from Chris.

      Chutney and jam, how lovely, we'll have to try and meet up in October!


    3. But I'll be in England! From mid month to the end. Your code no. saved us about £30 and thank you again. By the way booked the slightly bigger cabin with TV for the daytime crossing as that made a lot more sense than for the overnight, when all we want to do is sleep, plus they are quite cheap during the day crossing. :-)

    4. Oh yes, I forgot about that!
      We've got a club cabin on our day crossing back for the same reason.
      Glad you saved some money.


    5. :-) We must meet at Easter and make that definite.

  5. Sorry about the loss .....Rest in Peace Freddy :-(

    As for your other critters? Wow! That Lime Hawkmoth larva is amazing and the Tiger Moth...stunning! What a fun photo op.

    As always...thanks for sharing your garden adventures :-)

    1. Hi Marianne and thanks, it is very quiet without the old boy and I rather miss him. He was really laid back and very well behaved! I would gladly rehome another cockerel but only from someone I trust as I don't want to find I'm taking on an aggressive cockerel that's going to attack me or others.

      Annoyed about the Lime Hawkmoth larva as I would have taken more care shooting it and watching it if I had known what it was!! I just took a few snaps and they didn't come out well but never mind, at least I know they are here. The Tiger Moth was very co-operative, which doesn't happen often so enjoyed 'playing' with it! Thanks :-)