Coronavirus Garden Safari

As the UK ends the second week of lockdown in an attempt to limit the spread of the coranavirus, Covid-19, I count myself fortunate to have a garden. Spring has sprung and the increased warmth from the sun has induced flowers to open and insects to wake. Beautiful butterflies such as this peacock can be found sunning themselves.

Fluffy bee-flies with their improbably long proboscises are buzzing around.

The fabulously named hairy footed flower bees are flower bothering.

Bees are getting busy.

The birds too are busy building their nests, take care when trimming hedges. This pair of jackdaws have no need to keep to the 2m social distancing rules.

The blackbirds are stocking up on supplemental food such as the cat biscuits left over from the hedgehogs’ supper.

Fresh water is important for all of our garden wildlife such as birds and squirrels. A shallow dish on the ground for hedgehogs.

For the night owls there are owls.photo of tawny owl in tree

Also hedgehogs. Why not make a hedgehog feeder, create a gap in your fence and hope for some prickly visitors.hedgehog on lawn

Maybe even a bat or two.2 bats

Try to look out for flowers and wildlife in your garden or on your daily walk. Use the lockdown as an opportunity to learn new skills, stay in touch with loved ones, reconnect with old friends. Photo of buddleia over underpass

For more information on Covid-19 visit the NHS website. Stay home, keep 2m apart when out, wash your hands; these measures will hopefully protect the NHS from being overwhelmed, and protect vulnerable people from a killer disease. If you are one of those strange people who doesn’t care about the old and the sick dying don’t forget this kills young healthy people too, including valuable NHS workers. Let’s hope our new found admiration for “low skilled” low paid workers such as carers, shop workers and delivery drivers lasts. Take care of yourselves and others. With kindness and cooperation we will get through this.path through sand dunes

Big Butterfly Count 2019

There is still time to participate in one of the largest citizen science projects, the Big Butterfly Count 2019. You can log your butterfly sightings until 11th August, full details on the website.

Most of the usual suspects were present in the garden. There were at least four large white butterflies. New to my list was a gatekeeper, but I didn’t manage to get a photograph.photo of white butterfly on ivy

Holly blues.Photo of holly blue butterfly

Red admirals.Photo of red admiral butterfly

A peacock.Photo of peacock butterfly

Commas.Photo of comma butterfly

Speckled wood.Photo of speckled wood butterfly

As well as nectar rich flowers for the butterflies it is also important to have the larval foodplants. You can find lots of good advice here.

Big Butterfly Count 2017

I don’t think that this has been a very good summer for butterflies. After the mini heatwave in June the UK has seen a wet, windy and chilly July to coincide with the Big Butterfly Count. Sadly I have not seen a peacock butterfly here for a few years. photo of peacock butterfly

Most of the butterflies that I spotted this year were very busy flitting about rather than resting for photographs. I did record 1 large white, 1 green veined white, 2 speckled woods, 1 comma, 1 red admiral and 2 holly blues.

The 2016 results showed that butterflies are generally having a tough time and I expect this year to be no better. Butterfly conservation have a web page with information, ideas and links to help you to attract butterflies to your garden, even if you just have a window box. It is also important to think of food plants for their caterpillars.

Spring Things

So, spring seemed to burst into life before being hit by an icy blast again. Here are some of the things that came out in the sunshine. I will start with the dark purple tulips that I planted.Photo of purple tulip

Red tulips.Photo of tulips

Mini tulip.Photo of mini tulip

The comma butterfly posed nicely for me, while an orange tip butterfly thwarted my every effort.

The holly blue came out rather overexposed, but I was just grateful that I got a shot of it.Photo of holly blue butterfly

There were hoverflies, I think this is a Marmalade Hoverfly.

I thought that this was a sort of hoverfly, but it seems it is a sawfly.Photo of sawfly

I think this is a type of solitary bee.

Pretty sure this is an Ashy Mining Bee.Photo of ashy mining beeBee enjoying the last of the flowering currant.

I was rather pleased with this shot of a buff tailed bumblebee in flight. Sometimes I get lucky.buff tailed bumblebeeSome ladybirds were getting friendly with each other. Unfortunately, as they are non-native harlequins, they aren’t friendly to anything else.

Weeds? I don’t seen any weeds, just pretty flowers that feed our pollinators.

And finally, here is the lilac bush taken by flash at night. It gives off the most lovely scent day and night.Photo of lilac bush at night

Speckled Wood

This rather threadbare speckled wood butterfly, Pararge aegeria, is making the most of the last of August’s sunshine.Photo of speckled wood butterfly

This is a fairly common butterfly. As the name suggests, it favours woodland, but is often found in parks and gardens.Photo of speckled wood butterfly

The speckled wood can overwinter as either a larva or pupa. This means that there are adult butterflies flying between March and October. The adults feed on aphid honeydew in trees, whereas the caterpillars feed on grasses.Photo of speckled wood butterflyThe Big Butterfly Count saw a 25% decrease in speckled woods between 2014 and 2015. Although the general trend for this species has been an increase, there is concern that woodland loss will have a detrimental effect. We await the results of the 2016 count.

Big Butterfly Count 2016

It is the annual UK survey of butterflies again. It is running until 7th August and the details are on the Big Butterfly Count website.

Personally speaking, this year, the large white butterflies seem to be the most abundant in the garden.Photo of large white butterfly

The good old speckled wood was also around.Photo of speckled wood butterfly

The comma was sunbathing.Photo of comma butterfly

It is called a comma because of the distinctive white comma shaped mark on the underwing.Photo of comma butterfly underwing

I also saw some holly blue butterflies, but they were not willing to pose for photographs.  Here is one from a previous year.Photo of holly blue butterfly

I have not noticed that many butterflies around this year. I think that it has been too wet and windy for them. In previous years I have also managed to snap red admirals and peacocks.

Buddleia Invasion!

While walking around the City of Hereford, it is always worth looking upwards. There are some nice old buildings with fancy bits on them.Photo of old building in Hereford

There are also buddleia (buddleja) growing out of the drainpipes. Photo of Buddleia in drainpipe

Buddleia is also known as butterfly bush, as many species of butterfly are highly attracted to the flowers. A lot of people buy these plants for their gardens. They were introduced to Europe from China during the nineteenth century. They are considered to be an invasive species. It outcompetes native species and reduces biodiversity.Photo of buddleia flower

Here it is slowly invading a carpark.Photo of buddleia by carpark

And here it is again clambering inexorably into the underpass, ready to disperse its seeds onto unwary passers by. If you are wondering about the graffiti I mentioned it in a previous post, Urban Scrawl. At least the butterflies will be happy though.Photo of buddleia over underpass

Ivy Safari

Photo of ivy flowersOld lags of this blog will recall me extolling the virtues of ivy in a previous post, The Ivy is A-buzz. It is around this time of the year that the ivy becomes rather interesting and we can don our pith helmets and go on an ivy safari.

While most plants are hunkering down ready for winter, ivy produces flowers in the autumn. These are very rich in nectar, 49% sugar by some estimates, thereby attracting a range of insects. In order to produce flowers the ivy has to be allowed to climb up a structure such as a tree or other garden structure.

If you are lucky and the weather has been kind, you might find late season butterflies feasting on your ivy flowers; these could include commas, red admirals, speckled woods and holly blues. The latter also lay their eggs in ivy, which is the food source for its caterpillars.

Another insect that I was looking out for, but didn’t find, was the ivy bee, Colletes hederae. This bee was first recorded in the UK in 2001 and is most prevalent in the south of the country. There is more information about the bee and how to record any sightings on the BWARS website here.

So, what did I find? Honey bees and wasps were the most obvious stripy visitors.

I also found some drone hoverflies, Eristalis tenax. Named after their resemblance to drone bees, they are important pollinators in their own right. They do not sting, but the assumption that they do no doubt offers them protection from potential predators. I recommend visiting Ryan Clark’s ecology blog for information and lovely photographs of pollinators, but particularly check out his post on hoverflies here.

As well as providing nectar for insects and winter berries for birds, ivy also provides a good source of cover, or a sunbed, for other critters. For instance, I spotted this spotless harlequin ladybird.

Also wandering through the leaves was this shield bug. Kindly identified, via Twitter, as a gorse shield bug by Sinéad @chonchoille81 something I hadn’t considered as we have no gorse around here. This is its late summer colouring. They will also feed on members of the broom plant family. I have blogged about green shield bugs previously.

So there ends our safari. I hope that you will allow some ivy to grow in a patch of garden or up a wall then you can go on your own safari and let us know what you find. Remember, as with all explorations, “Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints.”

Photo of Chief Si'ahl

Chief Si’ahl – Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons

This quote has been attributed to Chief Si’ahl (Seattle) of the Duwamish tribe in 1854. Although there is some controversy over the translation, it is still a good piece of advice.

Big Butterfly Count 2015

The Big Butterfly Count 2015 is on now until 9th August.Photo of speckled wood butterfly

All of the information and resources you require can be found at the Big Butterfly Count website.

If you are not in the United Kingdom, why not carry out your own butterfly survey. Spending fifteen minutes in your garden or local green space counting butterflies can never be a waste of time. Consider it therapeutic mindful relaxation.

What? You want to take part in more citizen science? Photo of hedgehogIf you are driving off on your holidays in the UK why not take part in the Mammals on Roads survey? Details here.

Happy counting.