Fair Weather Friends

It’s finally feeling like November here today – it’s bloody freezing! Far too cold to contemplate going out in the garden; much better to stick to the safety of the sofa and trawl through this year’s photos looking for memories of warmer days. Butterflies must be the ultimate symbols of sunny weather and this year the other half and I set out to see as many of the British species as we could. We’re still only about half way, having now seen 28 of the fifty-something species. Well it’s sort of 28 and a half species, as we went looking for a Purple Emperor, but only managed to find one sad little wing lying on the ground!

We’re lucky living in Worcestershire to have access to so many great nature reserves. First stop was the Wyre Forest where we saw our first Pearl Bordered Fritillaries. This is one of the UK’s most threatened species and the Wyre Forest is managed to provide suitable habitat for them, with great success. We also managed to get our best photos yet of the Common Blue butterfly, thankfully not as endangered, but just as beautiful all the same.

Pearl Bordered Fritillary Common Blue

We’d hoped to see White Admirals at Monkwood, but figured it was a long shot; but as we got out of the car, two flew over our heads across the carpark. White Admirals are on the decline too, so we were really chuffed to have ticked them off the list. Spotting them turned out to be the easy bit, getting a photo a bit trickier. Fortunately Monkwood is full of other species that kept us snapping photos, such as some very obliging Large Skippers (left photo), who seemed so keen to be photographed they might as well have taken selfies. Eventually though one White Admiral settled long enough to get some decent shots.

Large Skipper White Admiral

Trench Wood provided our best views so far of Silver Washed Fritillaries – previously only seen in a pub carpark. These large stunning butterflies (photographed here with a Meadow Brown) are fairly common in Trench Wood and seem way to exotic for the Midlands!

Silver Washed Fritillary & Meadow Brown.jpg

Grafton Wood is a stronghold for the endangered Brown Hairstreak butterfly. This is a very small butterfly and notoriously difficult to see, let alone get a photo of, so we didn’t hold out much hope. What we hadn’t counted on was that you don’t have to spot the butterfly, you just have to spot the crowd of butterfly hunters, clustered round a particular bush. Sure enough a few polite questions later and we’d “bagged” our first brown hairstreak photos. It really is a beautiful creature, but has suffered greatly from habitat loss, so we’re very lucky to be able to see them at Grafton.

Brown Hairstreak

Sometimes though you don’t need to go very far at all to see something unusual. The other half came back from a walk one day, having taken a few photos of butterflies at the edge of his workplace. He downloaded them and then casually mentioned that “this one looks a bit different”. Turned out it was a White Letter Hairstreak – a new one for our list (or his list as of course I hadn’t actually seen it at this point). Butterfly envy then took hold, until I managed to bag one of these too and peace was restored.

White Letter Hairstreak

Top of the list for next season’s butterfly bagging – a complete and preferably living Purple Emperor!

Feathery Find

After the last post’s brief foray into the world of vertebrates, I’m back to my comfort zone of the spineless wonders of our home patch. Moth season is pretty much over, with very little appearing in the traps I’ve run the last few weeks. Instead our bathroom proved just too alluring for two of these little beauties. I don’t know whether it was the bathroom light or the 1970s tiles that we still haven’t got round to replacing that attracted them, but either way I was really chuffed when the other half managed to get this great shot of one.

Twenty plume moth

It’s a Twenty-plume Moth (Alucita hexadactyla) which feeds on honeysuckle, so no idea what it was hoping to find in our bathroom. Instead of having 4 regular mothy wings, this little thing has 6 delicately  feathered plumes for each of the 4 wings. It doesn’t take a maths genius to work out that its name should really be the Twenty-four-plume Moth, but at least the Latin name is a bit more accurate. They are actually classed as Micro moths and this one was less than 2cm across, which I know is hard to tell from the photo as we don’t tend to have rulers on our bathroom walls for scale – perhaps something to consider when we do eventually replace those tiles!

Birdie Buffets

It’s getting to that time of year where, although the insect action might be dying down, the birds are still going strong and eating us out of house and home. We do our best by our feathered friends, putting out suet blocks and peanuts and ordering in bird seed by the sack load. We have a nice healthy flock of House Sparrows who gorge themselves on most of it, but lately the Blue Tits and Coal Tits seem to be elbowing (or winging) their way in a bit more.

Blue Tit on feeder 2 Bird on feeder

Although the birds no doubt appreciate the buffet we lay on, at this time of year though they probably benefit just as much from our lack of weeding and pruning. This strategy of laziness on our part means there’s plenty of seeds to be had on the abundant teasel heads and buddleia bushes. Even we will be forced to hack these back eventually, but until the spring the birds can enjoy them.

Coal Tit on Teasel Coal Tit on Buddleia

DunnockOur strategy of no weeding and pruning extends to no sweeping up too (if you’re going to have a strategy it’s best to be consistent!) So leaves and other general autumnal detritus are gradually accumulating, providing shelter for any insects still kicking about. The seeming security of dead leaves doesn’t protect them though from our resident Dunnock, who likes to rootle about on the patio for whatever he can find.

Bird on bird bath 2There’s always been water available via the pond, which we try to ensure doesn’t get totally iced up in winter. Many of the birds though prefer our wonky guttering, which collects water to form the perfect bird bath. Having attempted to fix the gutters, we put up a new bird bath last month, naively thinking the birds would appreciate our efforts. After a month of nothing landing in it besides a shieldbug, I was delighted when a coal tit finally took to washing in it last week, although I haven’t seen him since (probably wallowing in the guttering somewhere).