Blowing in the Wind

At the weekend, we finally got to go and see the Snake’s Head Fritillaries at Lugg Meadows near Hereford. I’ve been wanting to see these for ages now, but something always seems to crop up to stop us (last year the meadows were flooded for a start). So this year we booked on a guided walk with Herefordshire Wildlife Trust to go in search of these nationally scarce plants. Lugg Meadows are part of a very old system called Lammas Meadows, where the meadows are left through the summer to grow hay, which is then cut in late July (in time for Lammas Day 1st August), then animals allowed on to graze until the following year. In places like the Lugg Meadows, this practice has been going on for hundreds of years, possibly back to Roman times. So the history of these meadows predates Hereford Cathedral itself; they were even recorded in the Domesday Book.

Lammas Meadows were once much more common, but now very few remain in as good a condition as those by the river Lugg. The meadows were divided into strips of land, the hay from which would then be harvested by different people. These strips were marked by “dole stones” like the one below.

Our guide Peter was very entertaining and knowledgeable and despite the efforts of Storm Hannah trying to blow us over, took us straight to the relevant patch of the meadow to see the Snake’s Head Fritillaries. The meadows flood regularly, resulting in a rich soil and diverse flora. The fritillaries are nationally scarce, but are still doing well here. In most other similar sites, the Snake’s Head Fritillaries tend to be predominately purple, with just a few white ones. For some reason in the Lugg Meadows it is the other way around – the white flowers dominate with just a few purple ones.

With Storm Hannah blowing, it was perhaps not ideal conditions for taking photos of delicate flowers that were literally blowing in the wind, but we did our best.

The Latin name for the fritillaries Fritillaria meleagris apparently refers to the chequerboard pattern of spots on the normal purple variety.

I made a brief video clip to show how much the wind was making life difficult for steady photography.

Once we got our eye in, there were actually quite a few of the flowers nodding around in the wind. Apparently they had peaked a week or two before, but since the walk was pre-booked for today, we were happy to catch them at all.

While we oohed and ahhed over the flowers, we heard our first cuckoo of the year, which was a nice surprise. We couldn’t actually see the cuckoo, it was behind us somewhere in the trees. But we did see lots of these cuckoo flowers – one of the favourite food plants of the Orange-Tip butterfly – not that any butterflies were flying while the wind battered the meadows.

We returned to the car by crossing the meadows and walking alongside the river. We got the very briefest glimpse of a kingfisher as we walked. Such a brief glimpse, I’ve had to blow up the section of the photo just to prove there was really one there!

Herefordshire Wildlife Trust do a great job of managing these meadows. There is an area that has curlews nesting – access to this is restricted during the breeding season to try and help this struggling species. So all in all a very pleasant way of spending a Saturday afternoon.  Next year we can maybe go back under our own steam, now that we know the right area to look for the fritillaries and we can hopefully pick a weekend without a storm blowing!

Rehab Time

Yesterday must be right up there as one of the most interesting days this year. I got to spend the whole day at Vale Wildlife Hospital & Rehabilitation Centre near Tewkesbury. It was a one day course learning about hedgehog first aid, care & rehabilitation and the whole thing was fascinating!

The day started in the classroom with introductions – the other participants on the course included some experienced hedgehog carers, some planning on starting hedgehog rehabilitation and some who just loved the hedgehogs in their gardens and wanted to learn more.

Caroline, the charity founder, started with an overview of the legal issues surrounding wildlife rescue, which were much more complicated than I had realised. Then we had an introduction to some of the diseases/parasites that hedgehogs can suffer from; many of which can be transferred to humans, so careful hygiene is essential when handling hedgehogs (as it is with any animal).

We then ran through everything associated with the successful care and rehabilitation of hedgehogs. This covered everything from initial “is the rescue really necessary”, to examination & diagnosis, first aid, rehydration of dehydrated animals, feeding, care of hoglets,  treatments of parasites and other diseases, common injuries, record keeping, rehabilitation & release and sadly euthanasia.

In the afternoon we had two practical sessions. First looking down a microscope to examine hedgehog poo for signs of parasites. Not as easy as it sounds and it must take a while to get your eye in with this. Second was practising giving subcutaneous fluids to a hedgehog. Obviously we couldn’t practise on a live animal, but we all got to have a go on a deceased individual (sad to think that not all the hedgehogs could be saved, but at least we got to learn something from a couple of those that didn’t make it). Dehydration is a major problem for many rescued hedgehogs, so learning to do this properly is vital for anyone considering their rehabilitation, but not something that should be tried without proper instruction.

The Vale Centre cares for all manner of wildlife, not just hedgehogs. As part of the course we got a guided tour of their facilities. Just seeing the scale of simple things like food prep or laundry (an awful lot of dirty animal bedding) really brought it home how much work they do. There is of course a lot of much more technical equipment, like this heated x-ray table.

Warmth is often a critical factor in the survival of the rescued animals, particularly for baby ones. Brooders such as this one, allow them to be kept constantly warm, until they are big enough to regulate their own body temperatures.

The small mammal and hedgehog wards are fitted out with row upon row of cages, each with their own patient records on clipboards, just as you would find in a human hospital.

Each animal patient has a unique identifying number and the staff record daily weights and observations, flagging up any that are cause for concern. Colour coded tabs allow instant identification of those needing fluids, or medication, or assessment, or samples etc.

While we were getting our tour a young squirrel was being syringe fed (although we were supposed to all be objective and unsentimental, a collective “awwh” went up in the room).

A more adult looking squirrel was either interested in the syringe food, or interested in us – not sure which.

Hedgehogs account for a large proportion of the animals admitted to Vale. Last year of the approximate 4500 animals admitted, over 1000 were hedgehogs. This year they look to be getting similar numbers and the wards certainly had plenty of hoggy patients. Of course being nocturnal animals most of them were fast asleep in their cages, burrowed into nests of shredded newspaper. But I did spot one venturing out of his sleeping chamber. The hedgehog cages are split into two connecting “rooms”, one a sleeping chamber and one for the food and water.

Birds account for about 70% of Vale’s admissions, many of them baby ones. A young sparrowhawk and a duck were admitted while we were there. These baby pigeons were just two in the indoor bird ward yesterday.

Outdoors there were yet more birds, from small birds like sparrows and pigeons, up to swans and gulls. All waiting to be strong enough to be rehabilitated – it is vital that they regain the strength in their flight muscles before being released.

Vale’s ethos is very much about rehabilitation. Animals are nursed back to health so that they can not only be released again, but be released with quality of life equivalent to what they would have naturally.  If this can’t be achieved, then sadly euthanasia may be the only option.

There are one or two exceptions, such as this stunning European Eagle Owl. This bird is not native to Britain so cannot be released into the wild here.

And finally an unlikely looking trio of a fallow deer, an emu and a rhea, all of which will be living out their natural days at Vale.

Although our course was aimed primarily at hedgehogs, it was great to see some of the other work the centre does too. I would recommend this course to anyone considering caring for one or more hedgehogs. This and of course getting some practical volunteering experience with an already established hedgehog rescuer if you can.

When I was a little girl I wanted to be a vet, but was probably way too lazy to study hard enough. I realise now with hindsight that I probably wouldn’t have had the emotional strength to make a very good vet, even if I had worked hard enough. People who work with animals, like the amazing staff at Vale, have to care for the animals whilst at the same time making really difficult decisions on a day to day basis. It would be so easy to make choices for an animal to make the person choosing feel better, rather than thinking what is really right for the animal. The staff at Vale always put the interests of the animals first and I have huge respect for them.

To find out more about Vale Wildlife Hospital and the work they do, check out their website: http://www.valewildlife.org.uk/     Charities like this cost a fortune to run, but do such an amazing job – any and all donations would be very welcome.

30 Days Wild – Day 17 – Blue is the Colour!

It’s Day 17 of 30 Days Wild and with blue skies above we went in search of the Large Blue Butterfly. The Large Blue is probably Britain’s rarest butterfly. It actually went extinct here in the 1970s, but thanks to great efforts by conservation bodies, it was reintroduced to a few sites in 1984. One of these sites is Daneway Banks in Gloucestershire and that’s where we headed today. Butterfly Conservation’s Gloucestershire Branch had an organised walk on and very kindly let us tag along.

Large Blues have a really intriguing life cycle. The eggs are laid on wild thyme or marjoram. The tiny caterpillars hatch and secret a substance that attracts a particular species of red ant. The ants carry them to their nests, where the caterpillars feed on the ant grubs. Eventually the new adults emerge and have to crawl out of the ants’ nests before they can open their wings!

Daneway Banks consists of limestone grassland that is carefully managed by the Wildlife Trusts, to support the Large Blue butterfly, which of course has the side effect of supporting lots of other wildlife too. It is up a steep bank and looked stunning today in the sunshine, with wildflowers and butterflies galore!

Apart from the chatter of excited would-be Large Blue spotters, the predominant sound for me was the chirruping of grasshoppers. There must be hundreds there judging by the noise, which I love – it is one of the true sounds of summer for me.

So two whole posses of us set off in search of the Large Blue. There is quite a camaraderie about going out with a bunch of people all interested in seeing the same thing! Over the day we saw about 13 species in total, but initially the Large Blue remained elusive. But there were other blues to tempt our fancy. There were several Common Blues, including this particularly tatty one.

Small Blues were also reasonably common, although very difficult to get a decent shot of.

While we searched for our elusive target we saw plenty of beautiful orchids, which at least don’t fly off! Most were these ones (possibly Common Spotted Orchids).

There were a few of these pretty purple ones, which I think may be Pyramidal Orchids?

We spotted this one perfect white one – not sure if it was a different species or just a colour variant.

Prize of the day went to this Bee Orchid though – absolutely gorgeous and unlike any we’d seen before.

But back to the butterflies – Meadow Browns & Marbled Whites were present in abundance, but none would pose for a photo. This Ringlet and Small Heath were more agreeable to it, although still a bit flighty.

Chris and I eventually spotted a blue butterfly that looked larger than the rest. It flew off towards another enthusiast who was much more knowledgeable than us and confirmed it was indeed a Large Blue. All three of us set off after it, joined by others as we hurried, only to lose it over a grassy bank. But at least we’d seen one, so that was progress!

Eventually we saw Andy – the group leader – waving us over. Unbelievably a mating pair of Large Blues had been found! Chris and I hurried over to join the excited throng. None of us wanted to get too close to disturb the loved up pair, but we did manage to take some photos at least. So here are our Large Blues.

We saw a couple more Large Blues over the next hour, but despite our spirited pursuits, none stopped long enough to be photographed. So unfortunately we never got a shot of one with its wings open  – perhaps that’s something for next time.

As we headed back towards the entrance though, Chris managed to grab a shot of one of the Large Skippers we’d been seeing all morning.

But the final surprise came right near the end – Chris spotted a Green Hairstreak! I didn’t believe him at first, but sure enough there it was –  a very definitely green butterfly.

I’d say seeing the Green Hairstreak was the perfect end to the trip, but actually the cold drink in the very nice pub (Daneway Inn), finished off a boiling hot day just perfectly too.

So we’ve bagged our 42nd species of butterfly and one of the most interesting ones to boot! Huge thanks to Butterfly Conservation Gloucestershire for letting us midlanders tag along. I hadn’t really dared hope that we’d ever see a Large Blue, but to see a mating pair is simply amazing. Fingers crossed it was a successful union and that Daneway Banks is blessed with many more generations of blues to come!

 

 

 

 

Hedgehog Awareness Week

Today marks the start of Hedgehog Awareness Week – an annual event focussed on all things hoggy, organised by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. I’ve been saving up hedgehog related news for a few weeks now, in readiness for Awareness Week and I’ve got a surprising amount to report!

The big news for me personally was that I handed my notice in at my previous job and had planned to have a bit of time off. That was until I spotted an admin job going at the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) – it was just too tempting to resist.  I applied and am absolutely thrilled to say I got the job! It’s only 2 days a week which is absolutely perfect for me as it gives me plenty of time to be not weeding the garden! So here is my new place of work:

The next big piece of news is that Meadow our foster hedgehog has now been released into the Too Lazy To Weed garden. I took him back to be checked over by Viv at Malvern Hedgehog Rescue before we released him. This is him in the cat basket on the way there.

Viv checked his weight (he’d actually put on a lot of weight as apparently the catfood he’d been on for the last few weeks was a bit rich for him – I’ll know better next time) and then gave the go ahead for him to be released into our garden. He’d been with us since January and in a way I was sorry to see him go, although obviously it was the right thing to do. We waited until dusk, then put the cat basket out under the apple tree where there was plenty of cover for him and just let him come out whenever he was ready. (I was tempted to have the Born Free theme tune playing the background but resisted) This is him emerging from the cat box and taking his first steps in our garden.

I left the trail cam out for the next couple of nights and sure enough he appeared, making a beeline for the food I’d put out. I’m fairly sure it’s him in these next 2 clips as it’s a pretty big hedgehog so I reckon that’s our boy!

Assuming it is him, he seems to be doing well and has obviously found somewhere safe to rest during the day and knows where I put food and water out each night. Live long and prosper Meadow!

I’d been putting the trail camera out in the hope of getting hoggy videos for a few weeks before Meadow’s release. Most of the footage was of course taken in the dark, but I got this one short film of a hedgehog in the very early hours of the morning in daylight (I think the camera’s clock was out by an hour or two though as it wasn’t this light at 04:30am). Hopefully he or she was just getting a last minute snack before hiding away for the day somewhere.

It’s never easy to distinguish the hedgehogs in the garden (apart from Meadow’s currently distinctive chubby form), so it’s difficult to know how many we get. But a lot of trail cam footage shows a pair of hogs, so we know we’ve got at least 2 (3 now with Meadow).

The first time two appeared together it looked like a fight! Don’t know if it was a territorial dispute between 2 males or an overly aggressive male and female, but the one managed to shove the other half way across the lawn.

The following night though there were 2 hogs again. Not so aggressive this time, although the one did seem to be seriously annoying the other. They circled round like this for well over an hour – was it perhaps the start of mating, with the female playing hard to get initially. Have to admire his persistence if it was courtship, although he did seem to get distracted by the food bowl quite often!

A few days after seeing the possible amorous antics on the trail cam, we spotted several areas of grass, flattened and twisted around – presumably the result of all the circling behaviour. You’ve heard of crop circles, we’ve got hedgehog circles!

So that’s all the news from our garden. If anyone wants to do something extra to support hedgehogs during Awareness Week, there are lots of things that can be done.

To support or encourage hedgehogs into your own garden, you can put out food (never bread or milk) and water. If you have a pond, make sure you install a ramp or some other means for hedgehogs to get out if they fall in. Make sure there are gaps in fences/walls so hedgehogs can come and go between gardens – they roam quite a bit during the night so ideally need a large network of gardens. Be super careful when mowing, particularly with strimmers which can inflict terrible injuries on hedgehogs.

If you don’t have a garden or at least don’t get hedgehogs in it, there are still lots of other ways of supporting them. You could join BHPS – your subscription will help support their work. Or you could simply Text HHOG17 to 70070 to donate £5 to the charity.

There are also hundreds of hedgehog volunteer carers around the country – you could do something to help your local one. Donations of cash or food or other general supplies are always welcome. Our local one is Malvern Hedgehog Rescue and Viv there does amazing work caring for up to 100 rescue hogs at a time. Her website has loads of useful information: http://www.malvernhedgehogrescue.co.uk/

Another great example is Little Silver Hedgehog run by Emma. Not only does she rescue & rehabilitate lots of hedgehogs, her blog https://littlesilverhedgehog.wordpress.com/ is full of useful hoggy advice. In addition she makes beautiful silver jewellery that she sells to raise funds for the hedgehogs – I treated myself to this cute pendant to celebrate getting the job with BHPS.

And finally you could always just tweet or post a message on Facebook (or go old school and talk to people) showing your support for these lovely animals – they need all the help they can get.

In The Pink

This week I managed to combine a visit to Slimbridge Wetland Centre with meeting friends for lunch – a win-win day out in my book! Slimbridge is only an hour’s drive from us and is the most amazing wetland reserve, overflowing with birds both native and from abroad. If you’re into bird watching, it must be one of the top UK sites to visit. In the few hours we were there, we only managed to get round maybe less than half of it (probably due to too much time scoffing sandwiches and yapping in the café!)

I was trying to take photos as we meandered around, but there’s almost too much to take in and I kept forgetting to actually snap away. For some reason, when I got back and looked at the photos, I appear to have got a bit obsessed by flamingos! Nearly half the day’s photos seem to feature them. There are apparently 6 species, although I think I’ve only got 3 here (which vaguely irritates my OCD that having unwittingly got a bit obsessed, I didn’t then photograph them all!)

These first ones are Caribbean Flamingos – the brightest pink ones we saw. The colour always seems unnatural to me, but logically I know that it’s due to their food and that Slimbridge aren’t dying their flamingos for our gratification!

caribbean-flamingos

This next one is an Andean Flamingo and possibly my favourite of the ones we saw. The feathers are absolutely stunning. Unfortunately this species is classed as Threatened – mainly by hunting, mining activities and habitat loss.

andean-flamingo

The next two photos are of Lesser Flamingos. In the upper photo you can see the teeth or serrations along the edge of the beak that it uses to filter the food out of the water. The lower photo I included just because I like the way they sinuously wrap their necks around – it’s hard to tell where one bird ends and the next begins.

flamingo-head

flamingo-knot

Besides flamingos, there were birds everywhere – particularly geese and ducks. Many had clearly learnt that visitors = food, but this Bar-headed Goose was way too dignified for that and just sailed serenely by.

barr-headed-goose

There were lots of quite showy birds, but for some reason I really liked this South Georgian Pintail Duck. Nothing flashy, just quintessentially ducky!

south-georgian-pintail

Probably my favourite photo of the day is this seemingly two headed duck! (Ruddy Eider Ducks I think)

two-headed-duck

We listened to a very interesting talk by one of the WWT volunteers, all about the Great Cranes. Slimbridge has been heavily involved in a project to reintroduce these majestic birds into Britain. It’s hard to believe but these huge birds were once common here until they were hunted to extinction. Fortunately they survived in Europe and thanks to the efforts of the WWT, they have got a toehold back in Britain.

cranes

It’s not all birds at the wetland centre though. They have several mammals, including otters, a beaver, voles, shrews and these adorable harvest mice – the only ones who would pose nicely for photographs. Unfortunately they were behind glass, so the images aren’t great, but they were wonderful to watch – such quick inquisitive little creatures.

harvest-mouse

harvest-mouse-2

Final bird of the day though was this Spoon-billed Sandpiper – made entirely of Lego. They were setting up giant Lego animals while we were there for a children’s trail opening this Saturday. The lady who gave us the Crane talk had told us about these little birds (in non-Lego reality they are apparently tiny) and how the WWT is doing such valuable work to try and save them. This was the closest we got to seeing one though!

spoon-billed-sandpiper

You don’t have to be into birdwatching to enjoy Slimbridge, although it is obviously a bonus if you are. I’d definitely recommend it as a day out for anyone even remotely interested in wildlife and conservation. For more information go to: http://www.wwt.org.uk/wetland-centres/slimbridge/

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

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!

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: http://www.bigbutterflycount.org/

 

30 Days Wild – Day 19

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_19It’s very appropriate that the Day 19 graphic on the left here has butterflies, as that is exactly what we went looking for this afternoon – the Silver Studded Blue to be precise.  This is a butterfly neither of us had ever seen before and there is only one place in the West Midlands where you can still find them – Prees Heath in Shropshire.  At first sight it’s not the most promising site, being sandwiched between two A roads, but looks can be deceiving. Butterfly Conservation have been working on it to improve the heathland and grassland for the benefit of the wildlife and it has obviously paid off.

Heath

The Silver Studded Blue caterpillars feed mainly on heather and Bird’s Foot Trefoil, both of which we saw in abundance today.

Heather

Birds Foot Trefoil

It was a dull and cloudy day, so we were a bit sceptical that we’d see any – so were thrilled when we saw first one and eventually probably a dozen or more of these little beauties. The “silver studs” are actually more of a shiny blue, but they are still absolutely gorgeous little butterflies. Whether it was the dull weather, or just their nature, but the ones we saw were surprisingly docile and let us get really close up for photos.

Silver studded Blue

Silver studded Blue 2

It was a bit of a windy day and the butterflies were blowing about a bit on their heather stems for photography. I did try to video one – here is a very short clip below.

It took a bit longer to get a photo of one with its wings open, but eventually one obliged.

Silver studded Blue open

The Silver Studded Blues have an interesting life cycle that involves their caterpillars being taken into ants nests by the ants and tended to by their hosts, who in turn get a sugary solution from the caterpillars. The female butterflies deliberately choose sites near the ants to lay their eggs. Not sure if the photo below is the right kind of ant nest, but there were certainly plenty of them about.

Ant nest

We only saw two non-blue butterflies the whole time we were there. We got a few non-brilliant photos of them and I’d assumed at the time that they were Meadow Browns. But when we got home and looked at the photos properly, I started to get excited that they might be Small Heaths, a butterfly we’d never knowingly seen before. Thanks once more to the good people of the Facebook butterfly group, this has now been confirmed. This means we ticked off two brand new species for our butterfly checklist today – fantastic!

Small Heath

Once we’d had our fill of taking photos of the blue butterflies (several hundred photos later!) we could take in some of the other wildlife around us. Prees Heath is known to have Skylarks and we could hear lots of what we think were these increasingly rare birds all around us. We saw them a few times high in the sky above the heather, singing their hearts out. Mostly they were way too high to get a photo of, but I did manage this poor shot of one hovering – at least I think it’s a skylark!

Sky Lark

There were lots of thrushes also singing away beautifully. Again we’re not sure, but we think this is a Song Thrush.

Thrush

The area was full of large black birds – I think Crows. They let me get quite close, probably because they were big enough and tough enough not to be bothered by a little woman like me!

Crow

The whole heath is riddled with rabbit burrows – you have to be quite careful where you walk not to twist an ankle. The rabbits of course were not as bold as the crows, but I did eventually get one bunny to sit still long enough to get his portrait taken.

Rabbit

So our trip today was not only a triumph, but double the success we had hoped for – two brand new species for the price of one – Silver Studded Blue and Small Heath! I doubt we’ll have many butterfly expeditions that will be this successful.

Hawkweed 30 WEEDSAnd finally today’s weed for 30 Lazy Weeds from our garden – the dandelion look alike. I think it’s either a Catsear or a Hawkweed. Whichever it is, it is clearly very popular with the garden flies. Flies may not be the most charismatic of our garden insects, but they are all food for something, so fine by me. The yellow Catsear or Hawkweed is brightening up the un-mowed areas of our so called lawn and if the flies are happy with it, so are we.