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Monday, 8 June 2015

Few butterflies around but at least the Odonata have woken up!

My OH decided recently to dust off his bike, pump up the tyres and get out for some rides around the local lanes in the early evening. I'm really pleased he thought to do this, as we have no chance of our usual outings for bird and wildlife spotting this spring and summer, and he's been working his socks off doing all my chores as well as his own for more than three months. So far he's spotted several bunnies, a fox, a hare, a deer and a Yellowhammer - a bird that we don't see very often. Thankfully he took his camera (a PowerShot SX40) so got some pics of the deer.

Roe deer, very zoomed in across a maize field and taken by my OH.

Thursday was a lovely warm sunny day (27c) but I'm amazed how few butterflies are around. I did see a Swallowtail and a Hummingbird Hawkmoth but was most excited to see my first (ordinary old!) Meadow Brown of the year. For those not in Europe these are common over the summer months and not the most colourful as you'll see in the following photo, but it felt like summer had properly arrived. It's cooled down again but at least we've had a few nice sunny days, although the garden is drying out alarmingly quickly and there's a brownish patch over the sand filter bed, which is needing watering already, as it's new grass sown last autumn. The lake overflow is down to a trickle now.

Not a very good picture but the only one I got -
a Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina), surprisingly in my woodland!

Damselflies always seem quite late emerging around my lake and I didn't see my first one until I think the last day of May, but now there are quite a few Blue-tailed damsels flying around and mating already, and Friday I saw a male Large Red damselfly as well as a male Beautiful Demoiselle flying rapidly around. This makes up for the lack of flutterbies! I've seen a few dragonflies too, but too distant to have a clue as to species.

Male Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula).

This wild corner is by the seating area and lots of damselflies
rest on the vegetation here - not to mention all the other
insects who like the wild flowers, so gives me something to watch!

Whilst on the subject of pond life, there are still tons of tadpoles. This is only the second time in our 10.5 years here that there have been so many, and I'm hoping to see lots of little froglets like I did that last time - but get photos of them this time! Already some of the tadpoles have legs forming.

Tadpoles taken with SX50 but I need to try again with my DSLR with the polarising filter!

I've been spending a fair bit of time looking closely at my Pollinator Meadow (aka the Bug Bar), and I've sensibly decided to note all the insect and spider species which I spot over the course of the growing season. Of course I can't ID all the different bees, flies and hoverflies which visit, but I'll do my best. I realise I should also note all the plants growing here, so I've a few wildflowers to try to ID properly - I can tell when something's a cranesbill or maybe a storksbill, but which actual species I never know. So that will keep me busy.... :-) I'll report on that when it all goes quiet at the end of autumn.

Unfortunately the Mullein Moth caterpillars have disappeared, and now I know why at least one of them has gone.....

Poor catty, but a wasp's gotta eat too! The black shriveled thing on the top
of the leaf is the remains of a caterpillar moult.

Paper Wasp, (Polistes sp. ?) eating a Mullein Moth caterpillar.

A few other buggy finds here and there..... this next one is still in the Pollinator Meadow on the Hedge Woundwort, only I hadn't noticed those eggs when I took the photo!

What came first, the bug or the egg?
I'm assuming they are mating in a spot where someone else laid these eggs!
Woundwort Shieldbugs (Eysarcoris venustissimus).

Also on the Verbascum - a cricket of some sort - Speckled Bush Cricket?

Checkered Beetle (Trichodes apiarius) - these beetles lay their eggs
in the nests of some solitary bees species, and also in bee hives,
so their larvae eat the bee larvae.

Clockwise from top left: Longhorn Beetle (Corymbia rubra?), unknown tiny spider,
unknown - a true bug? and unknown cricket.

Hoverfly - possibly Eristalis sp. and may be E. tenax, the Drone Fly.

Same Hoverfly as above, feeding on a blackberry flower.

Health update

I now know why I've been so tired of late - I received a prescription in the post from my Oncologist, and when I looked up what this weekly jab I need to have is, it's for anaemia! I have to have that coupled with a daily iron/Vit C pill. I haven't been checked for my iron levels since before I started chemo, but a bit of googling shows that there are different types of anaemia and most people having chemo develop anaemia at some stage, as the chemicals are screwing up your red and white blood cells, amongst other things. So the jabs are supposed to stimulate my bone marrow to produce more red blood cells and the iron helps this work somehow. I read all this stuff then promptly forget most of it when I'm trying to explain to others. Well, I'm not a doctor!

My perineal wound started healing up nicely but just like before, as soon as I was thinking this might actually be it, it might actually, really, finally, be healing.... it started oozing and niggling again! But this time the pain hasn't got any worse, just at the niggly level, which is irritating but I can cope with it.

I had my first jab last Weds and I haven't been quite as tired, but I'm still very up and down with days that are better and days that are worse. I did have one good day, and even one good day is to be thankful for these days. That was the hot day and I even got my fleece off (in 27c!), because I feel the cold so much.

One of my biggest problems at the moment is trying to deal with constipation, as I'm now taking three drugs which can all cause it - and trying to get the right balance between drugs and laxatives is almost impossible. So it tends to be one or the other! Now I'm just waiting and hoping for more energy. I don't actually see my Oncologist for another two weeks so it's a bit annoying as I've got a lot of questions now, which I ought to write down before I forget!


  1. Such beautiful photos and really love those tadpoles. But I love the health updates the most as I worry about you so. Love Ya Mandy

  2. Super photos Millymollymandy. Hope your energy returns soon, take care.

    1. Thanks Ian. Just been for a walk around with my camera but it's so windy there's not much chance of taking photos of anything!

  3. Lovely to see you're getting some lovely close up pics permitting. And that means you are getting about a bit. Hoping your energy levels increase soon.

    1. Hi Debrazzawoman - I'm certainly more bendy at the waist now than I was a few months back, but it helps that the vegetation has grown, so plenty of bugs are several feet off the ground! I have got down on one knee occasionally but I need a really good oiling, pass the WD40! Thanks my dear. :-)

  4. So many lovely insects! Flutters seem thin on the ground here too- chilly windy weather I expect. No Meadow Browns here either :o(

    Califig works well as a natural laxative- might be worth a try if you haven't already. xxx

    1. Hi CT - we are having strong winds too, so probably just as well there are few flutters as it would be impossible to photograph them! Such a shame as it's lovely and sunny.

      My hubby did ask at the pharmacy if they had anything that was easier to take than Macrogol which is a dissolveable powder and tastes disgusting, but they came up with some prune flavoured disgusting liquid in a sachet..... however they did say you can put the Macrogol in fruit juice or squash, so I can now take it easier. I wonder why they didn't suggest syrup of figs? That actually tastes quite nice, if memory serves me right. I tried hubby's Senakot but got stomach ache, and the pharmacy said it was strong stuff. Hey ho! :-/

  5. Some brilliant pics Mandy. Particularly like the hoverfly photos. The common hoverflies here seem to be a lot smaller (judging by the blackberry flower) and they aren't too happy about me trying to creep up on them. 27 degrees! - doesn't the sand in the garden turn to glass?

    PS dig out that polariser :-)

    1. Hi Nick - these are honey bee size hoverflies, but there are plenty of much smaller ones too. I didn't find it too hot even though I did a bit of work in the veg patch, which is usually boiling at those temps. Shows how much this frail skinny body is feeling the cold! (So glad I'm not having these chemo drugs in winter, especially with the tingly hands touching cold things).

      Yeah I know about the polariser - I did use it with my DSLR on my previous tadpole photo and I could see a huge difference. But you know how it goes, you don't wander around the garden with several cameras or several lenses..... :-)

  6. Just caught up with today's blog posting and the last one Mandy. Lovely photos and all those tadpoles! Good to hear that K is getting about on his bike.
    As an ex haematology technician albeit 35 years ago I would imagine you are having B12 injections.
    I think they take a while to work but hopefully your energy levels will increase now.
    We are coming over to France next Tuesday and we haven't booked a return as we plan to do a bit of a Tour De France, not on bikes I hasten to add! Maybe, if we are up your way, we could call in some time. I'd phone first of course to see whether it is convenient for you.
    Take care both of you.

    Philippa x

    1. Hi Philippa - I've just this minute learned how to copy and paste with my Kindle - so here's some bumph about the jab I'm having, which isn't vit B12.
      "NeoRecormon injections contain the active ingredient epoetin beta, which is a synthetic version of the naturally-occurring hormone erythropoietin. Erythropoietin is produced by healthy kidneys. It stimulates the bone marrow to produce red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body."

      Phew it worked, it's not easy to do! Anyway, thanks and great to hear you are getting over here again. Your grass shouldn't be so long this time. By all means phone but I don't guarantee I'll be up to seeing you - it rather depends on when I'm having my chemo. Also sometimes I feel like rubbish anyway. But hopefully it should be OK. Just don't look at my filthy windows, as although we have managed to keep the house reasonably clean (I can dust, K vacs), the windows are disgusting!!! :-) xx

    2. It was 35 years ago so I'm obviously very out of date about blood related things. It sounds like an interesting intervention so hopefully it will do the trick and stimulate your bone marrow.
      Our trip over and the length of time we stay is very much dependant on how Alan's Mum is as she needs a lot of support these days due to ill health etc...
      I'll give you plenty of notice if we are planning to come but obviously it depends on how you are etc.... We will catch up one of these days and it will be great when we actually manage it.
      I bet our windows are worse than yours, neither of us enjoy cleaning windows so it's way down our list of priorities.

      P xx

    3. Well you remembered more than I ever knew - three things can cause deficiency type of anaemia, iron, B12 and folic acid. Funnily enough I get folic acid as part of my chemo drug mix, not sure why but I think it helps the other drugs to work better. Or something. :-)
      I hope you won't have to return early due to Alan's mum being more poorly.

      I won't worry about my windows then - they are covered in old cobwebs with fluffy bits from the willow catkins stuck in them! It's very low on our priorities list too, and thinking about it, I NEVER look at anyone else's windows and think about if they are dirty or clean, I just don't notice. But my own seem in my face and I see every speck of dirt, haha! :-)

  7. What a lovely long update this is Mandy ;-) Awe, just for one moment, I thought you'd spotted that deer in your garden. Good on hubby for getting on his bike...I should really do the same but keep making excuses as to why it would be better tomorrow.
    Swallowtail and then good is that? Bugger! Why did I type that? I hate it when people say that ;-) What I meant was...that's very good ;-)

    Nice for you that the damselflies have emerged and demoiselle too! Not seen a single dragonfly here yet that I recall.
    Those woundwort eggs that you didn't notice? I have just been writing exactly the same thing for my next update...about even with the macro lens, I don't always spot things until I look on the PC.

    REALLY green with envy over that Trichodes beetle. What a beauty that is Mandy. I think your hoverfly is probably E.pertinax with that pale front tarsus....;-)

    Some really nice finds and excellent photos here again Mandy. Really enjoyed reading all about your garden too...

    All the best


    1. Thanks so much JJ. I didn't know that ID detail between E. tenax and E. pertinax - Garden Safari has a page showing the difference between the two and also ID tips for other Eristalis species. I see quite a few different Eristalis species here. I'll update my labelling when I get on the desktop later.

      I've got hubby 's photos of wildlife to put on my computer and go through cos he's got quite a few pics from his bike rides and a Beautiful Demoiselle from here. Bug and wildlife photography is catching! :-)

      I only encountered the Trichodes beetle last year, but think it was the other species (name forgotten for the moment); it has very similar markings. They are hard to captive cos they are very hairy which seems to make them shiny, and of course I see them in full sun on flowers! And then when you get close, they fly off to another flower..... Well it wouldn't be as much fun if it were not challenging, would it? Haha ;-)

      Looking forward to seeing your bug eggs and post.

  8. Great post and photos. Also, sending healing thoughts to you and yours...pleased to hear there has been good days this week, I hope they get more and more as you continue to recover.

    1. Thanks very much Ian. Just being able to sit at my computer for longer and get my photos organised is a blessing! It doesn't take much energy but it's a step in the right direction. Just need the horrible wind here to die down to make going in the garden more pleasant - practically impossible for photos of flowers or bugs at the moment! :-)

  9. A really interesting post with some wonderful macro shots - love the Checkered Beetle in particular :) Not many butterflies around here either - although I see Holly Blue most days and the odd "white" whizzes past without stopping. Great to see your damselfly too - haven't seen any yet this year. Our frog tadpoles have all disappeared - OH thinks the newts are eating them!

    Glad to hear you are feeling a little better and having better days. At least you have an explanation now for the tiredness and I hope the treatments work quickly. I've taken tablets for strained back muscles which have given me constipation - I've found eating loads of prunes helps.

    1. Hi RR and thanks very much. I've just seen my first Small Tortoiseshell of the year out the window - went out and it and a Painted Lady were on some thyme! Course as soon as I tried to get closer they both flew off - but it was nice to see some butterflies at all. I too have seen the two you mentioned but they seem to be whizzing by at double speed, no doubt caused by the wind!

      I think I'd need a whole packet of prunes but I'd get stomach ache if I ate that much dried fruit. :-)

  10. Lovely post Mandy, and wonderful photos, have seen my first Damselflies at the park to day and 6+ Speckled Wood, they seem very late was getting a little worried there were not going to be any this year. Looked again to day and I still have not seen one single Sheild bug yet !
    Liking all your frog tadpoles, do they all move out on mass when they become frogs ? just asking as I have seen this happen, they left the pond, travelled some distance and went into a field...
    Hope you continue to feel better, by the end of the summer you could be doing cartwheels round your garden:)
    Amanda xx

    1. Hi Amanda and thanks! It's strange that you haven't seen any shield bugs yet - mind you nearly all the ones I've seen are in my Pollinator Meadow - it's really attracting insects of all kinds.

      The only time I saw froglets develop and leave the pond was about 8 years ago, and I don't think they did it all together, as some tadpoles are more advanced than others. But there would be a handful of them hopping off into the vegetation of the garden whenever I looked. Unfortunately that year it was very hot and dry and I kept finding dead dried up ones. This year it's not so dry or hot, rain is due too, so I hope they have more chance. Not sure about cartwheels, haven't been able to do them for about 30 years plus!!! :-) xx

  11. I have not seen a Meadow Brown yet Mandy, last year I couldn't move for them.
    Hope the injections continue to work.
    Scoff down plenty of Spinach, Rocket and Watercress. "like what I do". {:))
    Keeps the Haemoglobin level up, which I have to to do as mine is always at the minimum.

    1. Thanks Roy - they were really abundant here too - never seen so many of them before! My anaemia is chemo induced so most likely not an iron deficiency, although leafy greens are always good for you anyway.Unfortunately I'm not growing any of those veg but enjoying eating home grown lettuce - that and strawbs (not together!) are all that's coming out the veg patch at the moment. I'm looking forward to our new potatoes. Hopefully summer type food will stimulate my appetite, be nice to have some BBQ weather though!:-)