Champagne Ivy Part Two

Here is part two, hot on the heels of Part One, let’s keep it linear eh? Along with the buzzing things enjoying the ivy there were also some red admiral butterflies.Photo of red admiral butterfly on ivy

Some of these butterflies have migrated from continental Europe and even North Africa. The eggs laid by these late arrivals produce butterflies that can be seen in our gardens through to November. The late flowering ivy is therefore an important food source for them.Photo of red admiral butterfly on ivy

The main larval food plants are nettles, so if you want lots of red admirals flitting around your garden, leave a little wild patch of nettles and something for the ivy to grow up. They have been known to hibernate during winter in the south of England, though the sensible ones will attempt to migrate back to sunnier climes.Photo of red admiral butterfly on ivy

There were five red admiral butterflies on the ivy at any given time, but they did not position themselves well for a group photo.

Stuck for something to do for three and a half minutes? You can watch my video of a red admiral feeding on the ivy here.

Champagne Ivy Part One

“Champagne Ivy is my name …” sang Miriam Hopkins, arousing the base passions of Fredric Marsh in his definitive portrayal of Mr Hyde (Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde 1931). Ivy seems to have the same effect on bees.Photo of bee on ivy

Ivy only flowers if it is allowed to grow upwards, on a wall or tree for example. By flowering in autumn it provides a vital source of pollen and nectar for bees and other insects as they prepare for winter.Photo of bee landing on ivy

The ivy flowers were buzzing with honey bees, hoverflies, wasps, flies and butterflies in an insect feeding frenzy.

Lying in wait for any hapless flying insects, this spider knew a good place to set up her web.Photo of spider

Also prowling the ivy were these two harlequin ladybirds.

The ivy was definitely the bees knees and the tipple of choice.Photo of bee on ivy

If you have nothing to do for just over a minute you might like to watch my video here.

Hoglet Update

I am very pleased to report that the three hoglets are still around and getting rounder. There is also a fourth smaller hoglet that I hope will be able to gain enough weight to hibernate when winter comes. They need to weigh around 600g, so if you have young hedgehogs in your garden you can give them a helping hand by feeding them. There is some excellent advice here.Photo of young hedgehog

Penumbral Eclipse

The full Harvest moon of 16th September 2016 was a bit special. Photo of full moon

It coincided with a penumbral eclipse. A lunar eclipse occurs when the full moon lines up with the sun and the Earth, with the Earth’s shadow (umbra) shading the moon. With a penumbral eclipse it is the softer outer shadow of the Earth that is cast over the moon. Rather than a dramatic shadow or a chunk appearing to be taken out of the moon, all that is seen is a slight darkening of the moon.Photo of full moon

Of course if it is a cloudy night, as it often is in the UK then you don’t notice anything at all! There will be another chance to see one in February 2017.Photo of full moon and clouds

Cranefly Invasion

Apparently the UK is “bracing itself” for a cranefly invasion. So far I have found two bouncing around the porch light and this one resting on a shrub.Photo of crane fly

A damp winter and warm September have provided the perfect conditions for this insect and there could be billions of them. They are considered an agricultural pest as their larvae eat the roots of cereal crops. However, they do not bite, sting or spread disease so there is no need to be scared of them. They just make a really annoying noise if they are bouncing against your lampshade at night. They are also known as “daddy long legs”.

Early September Scenes

I have put together a few photographs that I took during the first part of September. First up; I was rather taken with the way these clouds were lit in the early morning.Photo of clouds

The River Wye was looking serene.Photo of the River Wye

The iron Hunderton railway bridge.Photo of Hunderton Bridge

Someone has grown some impressive sunflowers on their allotment.Photo of sunflowers

The snow berries, Symphoricarpos albus, are now forming. These are poisonous, but so irritating that they are invariably vomitted up before getting into the system. They are a member of the honeysuckle family and can be eaten by pheasants. Highly imaginative folk also thought they might be food for spirits and so they are also known as corpseberries.Photo of snow berries

 

Burly Busker

Usually buskers are to be seen, and heard, with guitars or other portable instruments, so I was rather surprised when I saw these guys.Photo of buskers playing dulcimer and guitar

I think the instrument the one is playing is a dulcimer. It must have been hard work dragging it to this position! In case you are wondering, they were playing “Strangers in the Night”.

Bumbling about on the Michaelmas Daisies

The Michaelmas daisies are proving popular with our pollinators. After the visit by the solitary bee a couple of days ago, it was the turn of this bumblebee.Photo of bumblebee on daisy

I believe it is a common carder bee, Bombus pascuorum. These are social bees that nest in holes, old bird nests, or in lawns. The queen will line the nest with moss and bond it with wax. The nest is filled with pollen and nectar for the larvae to feed on. Once the eggs are laid the queen will collect fibrous strands from plants and comb them into a covering for the eggs. This is where they get the name carder from, after a carder machine which combs fibres of wool or cotton to prepare them for spinning.Photo of bumblebee on daisy

They feed on a variety of flowers and will be found in pretty much any habitat that contains flowers.Photo of bumblebee on daisy

Slug Patrol

As the sun sets on another day, the slugs and snails come out to play. Fortunately we have natural slug control here. Photo of sunset

Firstly the hedgehogs, including this adorable young hoglet, patrol the garden for pests.Photo of young hedgehog

Later on the slug devouring night shift is joined by this beautiful frog. Photo of frog

Just look at those eyes, who wouldn’t want to kiss him?Photo of frog

Sun Bathing Beauties

Now that I have your attention! Of course I’m referring to the insect life, still making the most of the warmth of the sun before autumn sets in. Photo of speckled wood butterfly

This speckled wood butterfly is in slightly better condition than the previous one that I photographed.Photo of speckled wood butterfly

This honey bee is stripping the last of the golden rod of its nectar and pollen.Photo of honeybee on golden rod

This is some sort of a solitary bee on the Michaelmas daisy.Photo of bee on daisyMy attempts to identify exactly what sort of a solitary bee it is ended in failure.Photo of bee on daisy

Red Clover

The red variety of clover, Trifolium pratense is in evidence by the hedgerows at the moment.Photo of red clover

It is taller, with a larger flower head than white clover. It is grown as a fodder crop and it also fixes nitrogen in the soil, improving it for the next crop.Photo of red clover

The main pollinator of red clover is the long tongued bumblebee, Bombus hortorum. A long tongue is required to reach the nectar, although shorter tongued bees have been observed cheating, by biting a hole at the back of the floret.Photo of bumblebee in flower

And of course, if you find one with four leaves you are very lucky indeed.Photo of red clover

Froggy

“You ruddy hooligan!” Squeaked the frog, “That’s my home you’re destroying!”Photo of frog

“Yeah, well,” replied the gardener. “It is supposed to be a garden path, not a nature reserve.” The petulant reply belied the guilt the gardener felt as they cleared away the ivy, moss and litter to reveal stark lifeless crazy paving.

Mellow Fruitfulness

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;

~John KeatsPhoto of blackberries

There was certainly an abundance of mellow fruitfulness amongst the hedgerows on this warm but dank September day. Just look at the size of those juicy ripening blackberries!Photo of blackberries in hedge

The dog roses have turned to rosehips.Photo of rosehips

The hawthorn blossom to berries.Photo of hawthorn berries

The blackthorn blossom to sloes. Safely tucked away behind those brambles and rose thorns, so no sloe gin for me this year.Photo of rose hips and sloesThe blackberries and rosehips themselves are also pretty well defended.Photo of blackberries and rosehips

Gazing up into our favourite horse chestnut tree ….Photo of horse chestnut tree

…we see that the conkers are coming along nicely too.Photo of conkers

The bright yellow ragwort flowers have turned to seed.

The trees are still green and leafy, but for how much longer.

The farmer has planted his winter crop.

People walk their dogs through the fields, as the sun sets slowly over the horizon.Photo of field at sunset

Cyclamen

The cyclamen are flowering now. They are members of the family Primulaceae, along with primroses. They are native to Europe and the Middle East and prefer shady areas in which to grow.Photo of cyclamen flower

A friend on Twitter likened the flowers to butterflies. The flowers start off drooping and furled, then they open out and the petals stretch upwards, delicate and shining.

The name derives from the Latin, cyclam─źnos, meaning circle, due to the round tuber whence the leaves and flower stems grow. They are also known as sowbread as it was thought that pigs enjoyed uprooting and eating the tubers, which resemble little loaves of bread. Modern anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that pigs don’t actually like them. They are also poisonous to cats and dogs. However, the caterpiller of the gothic moth feeds on them.Photo of cyclamen opening

Once they have stopped flowering the stems coil up and a fruit pod forms. This contains sticky seeds that attract ants, which is how they are dispersed.

Medieval herbalists used cyclamens to make various ointments and potions for all sorts of remedies from curing snake bites to speeding up labour.

Sky Show

Saturday 3rd September started reasonably enough with a pleasantly dappled pinkish dawn.Photo of dawn sky

Mrs Fancypants-Tail, the squirrel, stocked up on peanuts. It was just as well as it pretty much rained for the rest of the day.Photo of squirrel in tree

Then in the evening the muddy rainclouds combined with the setting sun to cast a weird and sickly orange glow over everything. The sky looked like this.Photo of orange sky

Then this.Photo of clouds at sunset

Then it turned vibrant pink.Photo of pink sky

Then it started getting more blueish.Photo of clouds at sunset

These ominous clouds barrelled in.Photo of clouds at sunset

Then it went black and rained again.Photo of rainclouds at sunset