A male Common Blue butterfly (Polyommatus icarus ), spotted one summer’s evening on my way home from the allotment. And despite the name, these butterflies are not at all common in our corner of Shropshire. Not only that, if you do happen to see one they don’t usually stay to have their photo taken. A very lucky shot then. And even in this next more distant view, still a magical sight:
You can find out more about them on the Butterfly Conservation website HERE
Ants and aphids have a good deal, otherwise known as a symbiotic relationship. Ants protect the aphids in return for giving them a squeeze, or at least stroking them with their antennae, in this way encouraging the voracious plant-consuming pests to excrete their honeydew waste. And ants can’t get enough of it. So they herd and manage and protect their aphid herds, moving them from harm’s way, seeing off predators, in particular ladybirds, whose eggs they will destroy.
In the next photos you can see the aphids have been ‘parked’ while the ant goes off to forage in the blossom and then patrol the ‘perimeter’.
Fascinating what one finds on the way home from the allotment. The photos were taken one evening last week so not the best light conditions.
I thought my photo of an Elephant hawk-moth, Deilephila elpenor, deserved another viewing, being both unusually pink (as for Jude’s Life in Colour this week) and bright lipstick pink and so good for a Becky-bright-square. The moth itself was a surprise arrival on the garden wall a couple of summers ago. In fact I think it was asleep when I found it. In real life it was about 6 centimetres across (2 and a half inches); a big moth, in other words. And in its caterpillar form it is even bigger, though at that stage it is mostly a dull sludgy colour with pink eye spots and a strange little horn on its tail end.
Hawk moths are nectar feeders and come equipped with especially long tongues to probe their favourite flowers. They are also speedy, precision fliers, so the colour scheme, gaudy when stationary, blends well among drifts of rose-pink rosebay willow herb where, in high summer, they best like to feed. The caterpillar, on the other hand, has very different eating habits. If they find themselves in a domestic garden they will eat fuchsias. The best response is to pop them in a container and find them a wild patch of rosebay willow herb, Himalayan balsam or bedstraw.
This week I’ve rather fallen by the wayside with Becky’s Square Tops challenge, but I had to post this for the final day. And to say a big thank you to Becky for being such a top host and giving us all so much fun during these very strange times.
Some of you will remember the ospreys from a trip Graham and I made last year to the Dyfi Estuary in mid-Wales. The Dyfi Osprey Project has an observation centre with cameras trained on an osprey nest and you can observe happenings there throughout the breeding season. Live streaming is back (link below) and three eggs have been laid. And now we’ve all got plenty of time to take a look. Hopefully, unlike the video in my previous post, it will not be subject to censorship!
Today we paid our respects to this very elderly oak tree. It has been growing in Attingham Park in Shropshire since the 1370 where it is now under the care of the National Trust and fondly known as the Repton Oak since it was already a veteran in 1797 when garden designer, Humphrey Repton landscaped the parkland for the Barons Berwick.
But just think of the span of human history it has lived through. When it popped shoot and radicle from its acorn Edward III was still on the throne, and the Hundred Years War between England and France was only half done. By the time it had grown to a sturdy sapling Geoffrey Chaucer was thinking of writing The Canterbury Tales and the peasants were in revolt against the draconian levels of taxation (raised to fight the war that did not end until 1453 and was actually the 116 years war).
The oak tree is still a great presence in the landscape though sadly its innards are decaying. But this is not all bad news since it provides an important haven for the rare Lesser Stag Beetle whose larvae feed on the rotting wood at the centre of such ancient trees.
A national treasure of a tree then: arboreal emblem of stalwart resilience. We must remember to pay another visit when it’s in leaf.
I usually do have a camera in my pocket when I go to the allotment, although gardening and snapping are not ideal co-activities given the photographer’s general grubbiness. Anyway, here are some of my favourite shots from the past few years: nature small but beautiful, and in no particular seasonal order. I especially love the header photo though – the winter sun caught in a windfall apple that has been hollowed out by blackbirds, so many natural forces at play here.
Also the fact that I caught a Common Blue butterfly, wings open and with a one-handed click and it turned out to be pretty much in focus, is hugely pleasing. These little butterflies flit about at high speed, and seem especially nervous if you point a camera at them.
Most perversely too, while my gardener self fumes at finding dandelions, thistles and bindweed in the garden, since they are the most difficult weeds to oust, I still admire their beauty, and in all their phases. And the bees clearly love thistle flowers too.
So much to see all around us. We only have to look.
I found the allotment teeming with bees and butterflies the other evening. As you can see, the butterflies really love the oregano flowers. The little blue butterfly was too skittish for me to get a good photo, but I’m assuming it is a small blue or a common blue.
So now for my mystery moth. These are rubbish photos due to the high speed whizzy movements of the subject. I’m thinking it is a hawk moth of some sort. It was out late the other morning, pile driving the phlox flowers with a very scary proboscis. Most unnerving. Over to you, Pete…
Can you see it? This slightly fuzzy macro shot has made a monster of the tiny little crab spider that is busy trying to hide from me. I should say that in real life it was less then one eighth of an inch (2mm) from top to toes. Even so, and you can’t see it very well from this angle, its abdomen had taken on the camouflage colours of the pinky-purple cosmos.
There’s just so much going on in the natural world around us, and most of it we miss entirely.