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Saturday, 28 September 2013

What a fabulous week!

The weather warmed up suddenly last weekend and whilst it hasn't been sunny all the time, it's been great getting back into shorts and sandals again after a couple of weeks of cool gloomy weather. I do find myself becoming quite lazy on days like this - although many days were a pleasant kind of warmth as whilst the sun felt very hot, it was nice and cool and fresh in the shade, which was much more apparent than during the summer months. But hey, we never know when it will be the last of our warm weather for maybe six months, so lazing around is not so bad, is it? 

The only sad note this week was the departure of our swallows. It's inevitable but always seems a bit strange when I first notice they have gone as the skies seem so empty and so quiet.  But on the plus side, a little bit of warmth and the Painted Lady butterflies were back, along with many others. I've found some goodies this week, like this groovy caterpillar. It was curled up in one of the large plant saucers that I use as chicken feed bowls. Luckily for it, chickens are at times sensible and don't go near hairy caterpillars!

Sycamore Moth (Acronicta aceris) caterpillar all curled up.

Sycamore Moth (Acronicta aceris) caterpillar - I had to prod it gently with a leaf to
make it uncurl and I didn't see its face until I put it down into the grass.

On Tuesday I went to revisit my Butterfly Walk to collect the seeds of the Greater Burdock that I'd found so covered in butterflies earlier in the summer. There were not many wildflowers about and far fewer butterflies, but plenty of insects were feeding on the ripe blackberries, even though the berries were rather small and not very juicy, due to the dry soil where they are growing. (As an aside, my brother asked me if I remembered us throwing the dry sticky seed heads of Burdock at each other as children. No. Still don't remember this plant.)

Comma (Polygonia c-album), very well camouflaged with their wings closed up like this.

A Green Bottle fly, a female Fever Fly (Dilophus febrilis) and
a Rose Chafer beetle (Cetonia aurata) all feeding from the same blackberry.

And at home a Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria)
feeding on my cultivated blackberries.

It was certainly a(nother!) week for butterflies as I spotted two completely new species in my garden! Both tiny, both 'blues' and I'm amazed that I even noticed them at all, as these tiny little things are so easy to miss in amongst the big showy butterflies that are flitting about on these Verbena flowers.

A male Brown Argus (Aricia agestis).

A male Long-tailed Blue (Lampides boeticus). These butterflies are
migratory and will likely have come up here from the south of France.

Here's one of my favourite hoverflies, the weirdly named and strange looking Heineken Hoverfly, which are abundant right now. Yes the Verbena bonariensis is still a hit with pollinating insects - that and the sedums have been the favourites of many this last week.

Heineken Hoverfly (Rhingia campestris) with its strange snout.

There seems to be some kind of pattern going on here with my cats terrorising my chickens and ducks! Bertie is being a naughty little boy and worrying the hens.

Bwark bwark!

And here are the sound effects in this 13 second video. I've only just figured out how to get them off my Canon camera and be able to view them on my computer (yeah I know but I just haven't a clue where computers are concerned and didn't have the right software installed) so don't expect me to be able to edit them yet. The last few seconds are unnecessary and I wonder if you can guess what happened?!


Some rotten insect bit my foot! lol :-)

I will leave you with yet more butterflies and and whether the forecasted rain ever arrives (so far no luck) I'm getting back into the kitchen for yet more preserving. I'm off to England the middle of next month and want to take jams and chutneys with me as gifts for family and friends!

How many Peacocks (Inachis io) can you fit on one Sedum plant?
Yes, the blur counts!

Oh, one last thing I discovered just this morning after I'd written all the rest. Really annoyingly I've just found two young Swallowtail caterpillars. These are the only ones I've seen other than the four that I raised, so I'm guessing these are the babies of my babies. It's annoying because I don't have time to get them to chrysalis stage before going away.... yet we're going nowhere next spring... so I could have overwintered them and had another chance to see an eclosion earlier next year. Damn!

This one had just had a moult, because its facial markings are very pale
(and I found the skin on the stem as well).

Well I'll just chat to them when I'm in the veg patch instead. :-)


  1. You are getting far too good at this sort of thing.
    Have you considered taking up something you are rubbish at?

    1. Umm I could take up filming and editing videos. :-) Or really doing any kind of technical 'stuff' with computers. Thanks Carl!

  2. Fabulous, indeed!!! The caterpillar is stunning! (I was really surprised to see how dull the moth is). I can imagine your excitement at seeing so many Peacocks! Great shot. Seeing all the activity in your and my garden makes us appreciate the the work needed to provide for them, doesn't it? It's so worth it! Oh...and Congrats on your first video! Loved it :-)

    All your images are wonderful and so much fun to see :-)

    1. Thank you Marianne! I forgot to put a link to the moth but nearly all the brightly coloured or hairy cats that I've found this year turn into very dull looking moths. The amount of Peacocks has calmed down now but that's good because there are lots of other species about. I found yet another Swallowtail caterpillar this afternoon and the poor thing was down to the last bit of green stalk on a dying dill plant, so I've moved it to a nice fresh plant along with the other two. I can enjoy them out there for now. Yup, a fair bit of work to keep the garden going both for us and for the critters, but look at how we are rewarded. :-)

      I had made a few videos with my compact camera way back of Hallie and last year of a parasitised caterpillar, but I'd never tried with my SX50 and I don't think I'd even think about my DSLR because I wouldn't be able to hold it steady enough with the macro lens on. But I'll find some software to use for editing and get into it a bit more, soon!

      Will check out the rest of your blog posts tomorrow as I've been jamming and still haven't prepared dinner yet! Thanks again. :-)

  3. Fantastic week for sure!!! Loved those peacocks and that yellow caterpillar is fabulous! Your photos just keep getting better and that little camera seems to be a real gem!
    Great stuff all around Mandy!

    1. Hi Nancy, thanks very much for commenting here! Glad you enjoyed my butterflies and caterpillar. It's a great camera for capturing butterflies so always with me when I am in the garden, getting a bit grubby now, lol! Thanks Nancy. :-)

  4. You have several more followers of your blog Mandy as I showed it to my relatives at last weekends family do. I have sent them all the link and my sister is now a big fan as is her husband who actually writes papers about hoverflies as he belongs to an association in Cornwall dedicated to this. His comment was that they were some of the best wild life etc... photos he had ever seen.


    1. Aww I'm blushing! :-) Thanks very much Philippa. I'm glad they enjoyed it and that's high praise from your brother in law. I love hoverflies but haven't taken many good enough photos this year as they never seem to stand still.... but then I have been chasing around more after dragonfies, butterflies and spiders this year, and learning more about them! :-)

    2. Something went wrong there as a line I typed was missed out!

      I also said that I showed your blog to a member of the science dept at work and his comment was that they were some of the best wild life etc... photos he had ever seen.


    3. Ahh - well I'm as pleased about that - doesn't really matter who said it ;-)
      I don't know why the comment missed your sentence out!

  5. Your photos are stunning! I love the wild looking caterpillar! Have a great trip :)

    1. Thanks so much Miss Lady Bug! The swallowtail caterpillar has grown enormously and it and another big one I found will be off to pupate somewhere soon. I haven't quite gone yet and have just made another post! But I will be going quiet eventually. :-)

  6. What a beautiful place. AND this site ain't to bad either Miss Mandy..
    Definitely a place I will visit again and again.....
    You have some amazing photos here. I am well impressed!


    1. Aww thank you so much you big sweetie pie! I'm glad you liked my photos of some of the buggy things I find about the place - plenty here to keep me busy! Cheers April :-) xx