Moths – A Whiter Shade of Pale

It’s apparently been National Moth Week this last week, although I’ve only just realised that today – a bit late. Fortunately I’d run the moth trap at the weekend anyway, so I was sort of participating in Moth Week, albeit unwittingly!

My star moth from this weekend was this beautiful white one – the Yellow Tail. It does have a yellow abdomen which it sticks out when disturbed, but personally I’d have called it something that described its beautiful white wings a bit better. But whatever the name, it’s a lovely moth and I was so happy to finally get one in our garden.

Yellow Tail

Two weeks ago I’d got another first for the garden which I’d initially thought was a Yellow Tail, until I realised it didn’t have one! Closer inspection revealed it to be a White Satin (whoever named this one was more on my wavelength), which has a lovely sheen to its wings and stripy little front legs.

White Satin

Feeling on a bit of a roll with the white moths, I raided the photos to see what other ones we’ve had. The most obvious was the White Ermine. We get these most summers and they really are stunning – and easy to identify making them the perfect moth in my book!

White Ermine

The next white moth I could think of was the other type of Ermines we get. These tiny micro moths feed on fruit trees and turn up in the moth trap regularly, but they are really difficult to identify. The books advise that you should breed them up from the food plant to be certain of the species, but that doesn’t help when you’ve just caught one in a trap. The trap was right next to our apple tree, so this maybe an Apple Ermine, but we have plum trees nearby too, so it could be an Orchard Ermine. We may even be getting both species.

Apple Ermine

The final white moth of the day is the Leopard Moth. I’ve not seen one in the garden yet this year (although I did see one on the Wildlife Trust’s Moth Breakfast back in June), so this is a photo from last year. These are crazy unmistakable looking moths.


I find these white moths really hard to photograph, mainly because I’m no good with camera settings so do most of it on auto. Trouble with using auto on white moths is that it struggles with the exposure as they are often too white against whatever background they’re on and the photos can look blown. The White Satin was particularly awkward as it flew out of the pot and landed on the black tripod leg. The only way to photograph it was to take the camera off the tripod – adding my shakiness to the equation. So that’s today’s excuses dealt with!

Out and About – Prestbury Hill

It’s taken me over a week to write this latest post, partly because I’ve kept getting side-tracked by things in the garden and partly because we’ve had friends staying – so I had to spend time tidying the house (although I doubt they could tell that) and drinking Prosecco! But over a week ago now, Chris and I headed down to Prestbury Hill, near Cheltenham in search of the Chalkhill Blue and Dark Green Fritillary butterflies. Prestbury Hill is, as its name suggests, high up, with stunning views over Cheltenham racecourse.

View 1

The reserve is run by Butterfly Conservation and consists of 2 areas of limestone grassland. The sloping grasslands are full of wildflowers and insects and would be a lovely place to walk even if you weren’t into butterflies. I particularly liked these Cotton Thistles, with their huge spiralling flower heads.


Thistle 2

Although we went looking for butterflies, the first insect of interest we spotted was this beautiful Brassy Longhorn moth – I’ve no idea how they manage to fly with such long antennae?

Brassy Longhorn moth

Although on these walks we tend to be looking down, or at least across for butterflies, Chris did look up long enough to spot this Red Kite soaring above us. Not a great photo as it was difficult to do against the bright sky. There were buzzards too, but as we see those fairly regularly at home, the kite got all the attention.


Kite 2

We followed the paths for quite a while, spotting lots of Marbled Whites and Large Skippers, while we searched for the blues and fritillaries.

Marbled White

Large Skipper

Eventually though we found the first prize of the day – a Dark Green Fritillary. It then took about 20 minutes of chasing about to get a photo to confirm that it was indeed our target photo. And then longer still to get another photo of it with its wings open, but it was well worth the hunt as it is a gorgeous butterfly.

Dark Green fritillary

Dark Green fritillary open 2

The reserve is divided into 2 sections, so having “bagged” our fritillary we headed over to the other half to look for the Chalkhill Blues. Turns out though our researcher (i.e. me) had got a bit ahead of herself as we were apparently a couple of weeks too early for these. Fortunately we met some butterfly enthusiasts who put us right before we spent hours pointlessly searching for them.

We did see some more fritillaries though, which we initially assumed were more of the Dark Green ones. It was only when we got back and downloaded the photos, that we realised these ones were actually Silver Washed Fritillaries. They look very similar when they’re flying around.

Silverwashed fritillary 2

Silverwashed fritillary

One final treat was finding several Small Heath butterflies. This had been a new species for us a few weeks ago and now they’re popping up everywhere!

Small Heath

So another great day out and another butterfly species ticked off the list. We will hopefully make it back to Prestbury sometime soon to see the Chalkhill Blues – so watch this space!

Hedgehog Update

Just a quick update on our garden hedgehogs. The good news is that we spotted 2 healthy looking adult hedgehogs in the garden last night as it was getting dark. One was more adventurous and came out for a bowl of catfood, the other stayed in the bushes waiting for us to go away.

Adult hedgehog

Whilst it was great to see that we still had our adult hedgehogs, I was then worried that perhaps I’d unnecessarily removed the 2 babies I found on the hot lawn earlier in the week. Of course there is no guarantee that the 2 adults we saw last night were the parents. I contacted the hedgehog rescue lady who reassured me that we’d done the right thing removing the babies from the heat as they could have become dehydrated, got fly strike, or even been predated. They certainly shouldn’t have been out by themselves in the middle of the hot afternoon. Better to have taken them to safety than take any chances.  She also assured me that the babies were doing well.

I’ll probably put the trail camera out over the weekend and hope we get some better footage of our hedgehog friends, so perhaps more updates next week.

Too Hot for Hedgehogs

It’s boiling in Malvern today as it is around much of the country. Fortunately I managed to escape work early and got home mid afternoon. And it was really lucky I did – I went out into the garden to find two baby hedgehogs sitting out in the heat on the lawn.


They were so small and although one was snuffling about the other wasn’t very lively – no wonder as the thermometer was saying 37°C!

I had a quick look around the garden but no sign of adults, so I phoned our local hedgehog rescue centre. Thank goodness the wonderful woman answered the phone and told me to grab them quick and phone her back. One convenient large plant pot later…


Fortunately the rescue lady was just around the corner so I took the babies down there straightaway. She weighed them – 82 and 90g, a male and a female – and estimated they were about 3 and a half weeks old as their teeth were just coming through. They were apparently in reasonable health and not dehydrated so she said the chances of them surviving were good.

Whilst I am relieved to hear these babies will probably make it, it is very sad to think that it probably means the mother is dead. We have been watching hedgehogs in the garden over the last few months and it’s really upsetting to think one of them may have died. Thank goodness I didn’t get home any later from work to find 2 dead baby hedgehogs in the heat on the lawn.

The lady at the rescue centre has taken my details and says when they are grown enough to survive we can have 2 back. She will apparently give us one of our original ones plus a different one (to avoid inbreeding between brother and sister). So at least that will hopefully be a happy ending. Hopefully I can give an update later in the year.

If anyone find a hedgehog in need of help in Malvern the rescue centre details can be found at It is run on a completely voluntary basis and relies on donations, so if anyone can help towards her running costs, please donate – either as a direct donation or by donating foods, cleaning materials etc.

Big Butterfly Count

Big Butterfly CountYesterday was the start of the 2016 Big Butterfly Count. One of my favourite “citizen science” projects; we’ve been doing this in the Too Lazy garden for a few years now. All you have to do is sit for 15 minutes and count the butterflies you see (only record the maximum number of a species you can see at any one time, so you don’t count the same individuals twice). You can do as many counts as you like in as many locations over the 3 week period the count runs.

So this afternoon I sat in the garden and counted the butterflies. Not a huge number; it was a bit of a dull day as so often seems to happen when the Butterfly Count is on. But I did see 5 individuals of three species – Large White, Meadow Brown and Ringlet. Best of all I saw a pair of Ringlets mating. This bodes well for future little Ringlets (would that make them Ringletlets?) in our garden.

Mating Ringlets

The meadow brown just whizzed through the garden and the Large Whites were way too flighty to get photos as usual. They may be one of the commonest species, but I find them the hardest to photograph.

So maybe not a spectacular start, but then the count isn’t about recording the highest numbers of butterflies. It’s about gathering long term data to assess the health of the UK’s butterfly populations. So my 5 butterflies still provide useful data.

More information on the Big Butterfly Count at:


One Year Older and One Year Weedier

Just realised Too Lazy To Weed is one year old today! 13th July 2015 I first dipped my toe in the world of blogging; at the time I wasn’t sure if I had enough to share from my perspective of lazy non-gardening and wildlife watching. But as I think I said in my very first blog post – there’s something going on in the garden all the time. And if not in the garden, then there are things to discover in the wonderful countryside around us.

I started blogging on a wet Monday in mid July – one year later and it is now a wet Wednesday in mid July; the weather at least hasn’t improved over the year. A few things have progressed though – I think we’re getting better at the photography; still by no means experts, but at least producing recognisable photos (apart from some dubious bee in wall ones below). I’ve learnt how to use a Trail Camera and Bat detector and both my moth and bee identification skills have improved a bit. The garden itself is looking increasingly wild and woolly – some of the weeds are now reaching triffid proportions and we lost the greenhouse for a while until I hacked my way back to it!

A year ago I was getting all excited at the prospect of the Big Butterfly Count and this year is no different. The Big Count starts again this weekend, so I  hope the weather perks up a bit. Quite a few of the blog posts lately have been about our trips out and about, but I thought for this anniversary post I should maybe focus back on what’s going on in the garden. The butterflies have so far been few and far between, but the bees have been out in force. The lavender is at its best right now and the bees absolutely love it.

Honey Bee 1

This week there was a particularly rare sighting in the Too Lazy To Weed garden – the lawnmower came out! This bee (a leafcutter) was perhaps so amazed it had to land on the wheel to have a closer look – a good excuse for me to stop work at least!


I spent a lot of time at the weekend staring at our outside wall! We have a leafcutter bee (possibly even the one on the lawnmower above) nesting in there. I’ve seen on the internet wonderful photos that people have taken of bees emerging from holes in walls – all beautifully framed and in focus. Turns out it’s not that easy to do! The bee returned every 10-15 minutes so I was all set up with my tripod pointed at the hole. As soon as the bee appeared I clicked away, convinced I’d get award winning shots. Similarly as soon as it reappeared on its way back out I snapped away again. Not one perfectly focussed photo. Bees are apparently faster than either my camera and/or me. These blurry images were the best out of about 50 photos and an hour of my life staring at a wall!

Bee in wall 2

Bee in wall 1

One of my other bee recording efforts recently was to try and video them visiting the flowers in our mini meadow. We get plenty of bees there, so again I foolishly thought this would be easy. I set the trail camera up pointed at the flowers and left it for the day. As usual of course I’d forgotten to factor in the wind – blowing the flowers about and triggering the camera. 400 videos later of flailing flowers and I’d realised my mistake (I should have known this would happen, having had a similar problem with the bird feeder blowing in the wind earlier in the year). Amongst the flower flapping though the camera did at least manage to pick up a few bees – here are a couple of Buff Tailed Bumblebees enjoying the nectar buffet.

So one year on and I’m still getting just as much pleasure from watching the wildlife in our garden. Apart from the benefit to the wildlife itself of keeping an organic, natural (OK messy) garden, I think both Chris and I find it beneficial to our own wellbeing. Coming home from work and watching the bees on the lavender, or the birds stuffing themselves on the birdfeeder, or the bats swooping in the evening  (even if they are after my beloved moths!) is a great way of unwinding. Maybe everyone should have a lazy garden!

Malvern Meanderings

Today we decided to explore our local patch – so often it’s your local stuff that you ignore, thinking somehow that the grass is always greener (or the wildlife more exciting) elsewhere. But the Malvern Hills are not only beautiful, but a fantastic location for wildlife. We forget sometimes how lucky we are to live here.

We’ve been concentrating a bit lately on “bagging” some new butterfly species and had so far added 5 this year to our lifetime list. But there is one species we’d never seen that has a colony almost literally on our doorstep – the Grayling butterfly is found on the Malvern Hills, less than a mile from our house. The Grayling is now a priority species for conservation as it is in decline over much of its former range. The Malvern Hills Conservators are making great efforts to protect our local population and improve the habitat. So we set off today in the hope of seeing our local speciality.

The Grayling likes areas of bare rock and short grass. We headed up the hills following the path recommended by the West Midlands Butterfly Conservation guide and having reached the favoured location, Chris spotted one almost immediately sunbathing on the rocks.


The Graylings aren’t as flashy as the Purple Emperors we saw earlier in the week, they are more subtly beautiful. They are also masters of disguise and when they keep still they blend into the surroundings extremely well. We were lucky to spot this one. Fortunately it was intent on sunbathing and was also close to the path, so we got our usual bucket-load of photos.

Grayling 3

Grayling 2

The Graylings almost always sit with their wings upright with the forewing tucked behind the hindwing, which makes them look much smaller than they really are. We watched this one for ages and eventually while it was shifting position, we managed to get a shot with its forewing at least partially showing.

Grayling 2

We saw at least 2 other individuals on our walk, all basking on rocks. Lots of people walked by us and the butterflies while we were there, but I don’t suppose many of them realised what they were missing!

Feeling flushed with success (and also a good lunch at our local), we decided to try our luck back down on the flat ground at the edge of Malvern. There’s an area of rough ground by the road that is always good for butterflies and today was no exception. The Marbled Whites were out in force. Unfortunately it was extremely windy so although they were landing close by, the grass was blowing about so much it was hard to get decent photos. Here are a few of our better efforts.

Marbled White

Marbled White 2

Marbled White 3

There were several pairs dancing about in the wind, so I had hoped to get a mating pair. This was the closest I managed – not ideal, but at least there are two of them in one shot!

Marbled Whites

Marbled Whites weren’t the only butterflies around – Meadow Browns were particularly abundant.

Meadow Brown

There were also lots of Skippers – I think the top one is an Essex Skipper and the bottom one a Large Skipper, but happy to be corrected? Again the wind was blowing them about an awful lot, making the photography tricky. (excuses, excuses!)

Skipper 2

Large Skipper

As we headed back to the car, Chris spotted this day flying moth – a Mother Shipton. Really pleased to see this, as I’m pretty sure I’ve only seen it in books before. It is named after a 16th century witch because its wing markings look like an old crone with hooked nose and chin!

Mother Shipton

And finally a cricket. Not that this really fits in with the rest of today’s post, but it was such a nice photo it seemed a shame not to include it. And also I really like crickets!


His Imperial Majesty – The Purple Emperor

Today was all about the colour purple! We went in search of the Purple Emperor butterfly (affectionately known as His Imperial Majesty by butterfly enthusiasts) and found not only him but Purple Hairstreaks too! Since we first got into butterflies, the Emperor has been one of the species we’ve most wanted to see. It is not only one of our largest British butterflies, but arguably one of the most beautiful. We did go looking for it last year, but sadly saw just one lonely little wing on the ground, so today we set off hoping for better and all our butterfly dreams came true.

We’d seen that Butterfly Conservation Warwickshire had an organised walk at a site with Purple Emperors today, so we went along with fingers crossed. Almost immediately the walk leader announced there were a pair of Emperors up the path. Our group charged into the wood, but as usual Chris and I got side-tracked by other species (Purple Hairstreaks and Silver-washed Fritillaries), so missed them. Our expert though soon spotted another one in a tree and we got a few distant grainy photos. Our very nice walk leader then suggested that we could either stay where we were and would likely see some Emperors or we could go with him on the official walk. Chris and I decided to take our chances and stay put. (it wasn’t just laziness, honest!) No sooner had the group disappeared over the horizon into the wood, but a Purple Emperor landed right by my feet. Once I’d managed to splutter out a shout to Chris, we then took a lot (and I mean a lot) of photos. So here are some of our best, starting with a wobbly video of His Majesty.

The males come down in the mornings to gets salts and minerals from wet mud or in this case dog poo (not sounding so imperial now!) This one was so into his breakfast that he stayed for ages while we snapped away.

Purple Emperor Upright

Only the males have the purple sheen to the wings and even then it depends on how the light catches them. Sometimes the wings look almost black, other times just one wing glows blue and just occasionally when the angle is right both wings shine gloriously.

Purple Emperor

Purple Emperor 5

Purple Emperor 12

Purple Emperor 11

Purple Emperor 10

In these last 2 photos you can really see him sticking his proboscis into the dried up poo – each to their own!

Purple Emperor 7

Purple Emperor 8

There is probably only one thing better than seeing a Purple Emperor – seeing two! Unfortunately I had wandered off chasing another butterfly, but Chris managed to get two together. Not great photos as the second one didn’t hang around – probably flew off in search of a dog poo of his own.

Purple Emperor Pair

Purple Emperor Pair 2

We’d spotted a Purple Hairstreak as we first entered the wood and got a few typical shots of it with its wings vertical. This is a very small butterfly compared to the Emperor and spends most of its time up in the trees, so is easy to miss.

Purple Hairstreak

On the way back to the car, we spotted another one. We were delighted when it opened its wings and then even better settled on the ground allowing us to snap away. We’ve never seen these with their wings open before, so this was a real treat.

Purple Hairstreak 2

Purple Hairstreak 3

Purple Hairstreak 4

But all these purple beauties weren’t the only butterflies around today. We saw lots of Silver-washed Fritillaries, most of which were bombing about way too fast to get a photo, but one or two did settle long enough.

Silver washed fritillary

Silver washed fritillary 2

Just before we’d spotted our Purple Emperor we saw this White Admiral. We got all excited thinking it was the Emperor as they are pretty similar, although obviously lacking the purple sheen. Brambles must be the Admiral’s favourite flower, as we often see them on these.

White Admiral

White Admiral 2

Also spotted today were lots of Ringlets, Speckled Woods, some kind of very fast and consequently unidentified white and last but not least several of these Large Skippers.

Large Skipper 2

I think today will go down as one of our most successful butterfly walks ever! Thank you Butterfly Conservation Warwickshire for organising the walk and making our Imperial dreams come true!